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Carcinogenesis. 2012 Jan;33(1):174-83. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgr244. Epub 2011 Oct 31.

Green tea catechin intervention of reactive oxygen species-mediated ERK pathway activation and chronically induced breast cell carcinogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Tennessee, 2407 River Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.


Long-term exposure to low doses of environmental carcinogens contributes to sporadic human breast cancers. Epidemiologic and experimental studies indicate that green tea catechins (GTCs) may intervene with breast cancer development. We have been developing a chronically induced breast cell carcinogenesis model wherein we repeatedly expose non-cancerous, human breast epithelial MCF10A cells to bioachievable picomolar concentrations of environmental carcinogens, such as 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), to progressively induce cellular acquisition of cancer-associated properties, as measurable end points. The model is then used as a target to identify non-cytotoxic preventive agents effective in suppression of cellular carcinogenesis. Here, we demonstrate, for the first time, a two-step strategy that initially used end points that were transiently induced by short-term exposure to NNK and B[a]P as targets to detect GTCs capable of blocking the acquisition of cancer-associated properties and subsequently used end points constantly induced by long-term exposure to carcinogens as targets to verify GTCs capable of suppressing carcinogenesis. We detected that short-term exposure to NNK and B[a]P resulted in elevation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), leading to Raf-independent extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway activation and subsequent induction of cell proliferation and DNA damage. These GTCs, at non-cytotoxic levels, were able to suppress chronically induced cellular carcinogenesis by blocking carcinogen-induced ROS elevation, ERK activation, cell proliferation and DNA damage in each exposure cycle. Our model may help accelerate the identification of preventive agents to intervene in carcinogenesis induced by long-term exposure to environmental carcinogens, thereby safely and effectively reducing the health risk of sporadic breast cancer.

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