Previous studies have suggested that resveratrol — the chemical compound found in grapes and red wine — may have anticancer properties. But now, a new study shows how the compound can stop a mutated protein, which is present in more than half of all breast cancer cases, from aggregating.
Recently, research has been paying increasing attention to this fascinating compound, as its unexpected health benefits are becoming evident.
When it comes to resveratrol's anticancer properties, previous studies have pointed to a link with a protein called p53. Mutant aggregates of this protein are found in over 50 percent of cancer tumors.
But until now, no study had yet shown that resveratrol actively stops mutant versions of this protein from aggregating, or that it stops cancer cells from multiplying and migrating to other parts of the body.
However, researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the State University of Rio de Janeiro, both in Brazil, have been able to demonstrate the above for the first time in the laboratory.
Danielly C. Ferraz da Costa is the first author of the paper, which has now been published in the journal Oncotarget.
Resveratrol stops mutated p53 aggregating
p53 has been dubbed the "guardian of the genome" because its natural role is to suppress tumors by killing off cancer cells and preserving healthy cells.
But, when mutated, p53 loses this ability and instead "gains" some harmful "powers." In its mutant form, it aggregates into amyloid "clumps," which led researchers to believe that "p53 aggregation may participate in some cancers through a mechanism similar to amyloid diseases."
In this new study, da Costa and colleagues applied a technique called fluorescence spectroscopy to examine, in vitro, the impact of resveratrol on mutant forms of p53.
Also, the researchers carried out immunofluorescence colocalization assays to test the efficacy of resveratrol on breast cancer cell lines that had different p53 mutations and on breast cancer cells with normal p53.
The team also implanted breast cancer cells into mice and tested the effect of resveratrol on the resulting tumors.
The laboratory tests revealed that resveratrol inhibited the aggregation of p53 in both human breast cancer cells and in the rodents' tumors.
Also, "Resveratrol significantly reduced the proliferative and migratory capabilities of these cells," write the authors.
"The findings," says da Costa, "bring scientists closer to the development of a drug capable of acting directly on the amyloid aggregation of the mutant p53."
Da Costa and her colleagues conclude:
"This study provides evidence that resveratrol directly modulates p53 and enhances our understanding of the mechanisms involved in p53 aggregation as a therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment. Our data indicate that resveratrol is a highly promising lead compound targeted against mutant p53 aggregation."
Next, the researchers are planning to determine which molecules derived from resveratrol are required for designing drugs that can target cancers with p53 mutations.