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Clin Transl Oncol. 2006 Jan;8(1):15-21.

Mediterranean diet, olive oil and cancer.

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  • 1Medical Oncology, Institut Catala d'Oncologia, Hospital de Girona Dr. Josep Trueta, Girona, Spain.


Olive oil is an integral ingredient of the "Mediterranean diet" and accumulating evidence suggests that it may have a potential role in lowering the risk of several types of cancers. The mechanisms by which the cancer-preventing effects of olive oil can be performed, however, are not known. We recently hypothesized that a novel molecular explanation concerning the anti-cancer actions of olive oil may relate to the ability of its monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) oleic acid (OA; 18:1n-9) to specifically regulate cancer-related oncogenes. Supporting our hypothesis, exogenous supplementation of cultured breast cancer cells with physiological concentrations of OA was found to suppress the overexpression of HER2 (Her-2/neu, erbB-2), a well-characterized oncogene playing a key role in the etiology, progression and response to chemotherapy and endocrine therapy in approximately 20% of breast carcinomas. OA treatment was also found to synergistically enhance the efficacy of trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody binding with high affinity to the ectodomain (ECD) of the Her2-coded p185(HER2) oncoprotein. Moreover, OA exposure significantly diminished the proteolytic cleavage of the ECD of HER2 and, consequently, its activation status, a crucial molecular event that determines both the aggressive behavior and the response to trastuzumab of Her2-overexpressing breast carcinomas. Our most recent findings further reveal that OA exposure may suppresses HER2 at the transcriptional level by up-regulating the expression of the Ets protein PEA3 -a DNA-binding protein that specifically blocks HER2 promoter activity- in breast, ovarian and stomach cancer cell lines. This anti-HER2 property of OA offers a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism by which olive oil may regulate the malignant behavior of cancer cells. From a clinical perspective, it could provide an effective means of influencing the outcome of Her-2/neu-overexpressing human carcinomas with poor prognosis. Indeed, OA-induced transcriptional repression of HER2 oncogene may represent a novel genomic explanation linking "Mediterranean diet", olive oil and cancer as it seems to equally operate in various types of Her-2/neu-related carcinomas.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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