Research: WU and COLLEAGUES,

Listed in Issue 204


WU and COLLEAGUES, Dept. of Environmental Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, New York, 10016, USA studied the mode of action of CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester), a component of propolis in breast cancer growth.


Breast cancer (BC) patients use alternative and natural remedies more than patients with other malignancies.


Specifically, 63-83% use at least one type of alternative medicine and 25-63% use herbals and vitamins. Propolis is a naturopathic honeybee product, and CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester), is a major medicinal component of propolis.


CAPE, in a concentration dependent fashion, inhibits MCF-7 (hormone receptor positive, HR+) and MDA-231 (a model of triple negative BC (TNBC) tumour growth, both in vitro and in vivo without much effect on normal mammary cells and strongly influences gene and protein expression. It induces cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and reduces expression of growth and transcription factors, including NF-kappaB. Notably, CAPE down-regulates mdr-1 gene, considered responsible for the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents. Further, CAPE dose-dependently suppresses VEGF formation by MDA-231 cells and formation of capillary-like tubes by endothelial cells, implicating inhibitory effects on angiogenesis.


In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that CAPE inhibits MDA-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer growth via its apoptotic effects, and modulation of NF-kappaB, the cell cycle, and angiogenesis.


Wu J, Omene C, Karkoszka J, Bosland M, Eckard J, Klein CB, Frenkel K. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), derived from a honeybee product propolis, exhibits a diversity of anti-tumor effects in pre-clinical models of human breast cancer. Cancer Letters. 308(1):43-53, 2011 Sep 1. Other ID Source: NLM. NIHMS291156 [Available on 09/01/12] Source: NLM. PMC3144783 [Available on 09/01/12].


It always makes the heart of a molecular biologist sing when seeing the molecular mode of action of an entity such as CAPE, (caffeic acid phenethyl ester), a major medicinal component of propolis. This research demonstrates the modulation and inhibition of breast cancer growth by CAPE via apoptotic effects, modulation of NF-kappaB, the cell cycle, and angiogenesis. Hopefully this work will be translated into conventional oncology treatment.

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