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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2003 Sep;81(1):1-10.

Chemomodulatory influence of Ferula asafoetida on mammary epithelial differentiation, hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes, antioxidant profiles and N-methyl-N-nitrosourea-induced mammary carcinogenesis in rats.

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Cancer Biology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.


The present study was conducted to ascertain the modulatory influences of Ferula asafoetida L. (asafoetida, flavoring agent) on the mammary epithelial tissue differentiation, hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes, antioxidant profiles and N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU)-induced mammary carcinogenesis in Sprague-Dawley rats. Feeding with two doses of asafoetida (1.25 and 2.5% w/w in diet) showed a remarkable increase in the development and differentiation of ducts/ductules (p < 0.01-0.005), lobules (p < 0.005) and a decrease in terminal end buds (p < 0.05-0.005) as compared to both normal and MNU-treated control animals. To assess the biochemical parameters, effect of asafoetida on drug-metabolizing enzymes was evaluated in the liver of rats. Asafoetida treatment significantly reduced (p < 0.05) the levels of cytochrome P450 and b5. There was an enhancement in the activities of glutathione S-transferase (p < 0.05-0.005), DT-diaphorase (p < 0.05-0.01), superoxide dismutase (p < 0.01-0.005) and catalase (p < 0.05-0.005) and in the level of reduced glutathione (p < 0.05-0.005), followed by asafoetida treatment. Also, asafoetida significantly restored the level of antioxidant system, depleted by MNU-treatment. The strengthening of antioxidant system by the lower and higher doses of asafoetida in the presence and absence of MNU was further substantiated by a significant inhibition (p < 0.005) in lipid peroxidation as measured by thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) in the liver of rat. Further, in long-term animal studies, where MNU was used to induce mammary carcinogenesis, asafoetida treatment resulted in a significant reduction in the multiplicity (p < 0.001) and size of palpable mammary tumors (p < 0.005-0.001) and a delay in mean latency period of tumor appearance (p < 0.005). Together, these findings indicate the chemopreventive potential of asafoetida against MNU-induced mammary carcinogenesis. Thus, asafoetida needs further investigation with regard to identification and characterization of its active principle(s) and mechanism of action, for this compound to be developed as a potential chemopreventive agent for human cancers.

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