Medical

Olive oil ingredient leads cancer cells to their death

Olive oil ingredient leads can...
A compound in extra-virgin olive oil has been found to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells (Photo: Shutterstock)
A compound in extra-virgin olive oil has been found to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells (Photo: Shutterstock)
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A compound in extra-virgin olive oil has been found to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells (Photo: Shutterstock)
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A compound in extra-virgin olive oil has been found to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

An ingredient found in extra-virgin olive oil called oleocanthal has been known as a compound capable of killing a variety of human cancer cells, but how this process actually played out was not understood. Now, a team of researchers has uncovered not only how oleocanthal destroys cancer cells, but that it is able to do so while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

Paul Breslin, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, had thought that oleocanthal killed the cancer cells by targeting a key protein in cancer cells that triggers apoptosis, a process that sees dangerous or damaged cells self-destruct by upsetting the balance of ions in the cell membranes. In investigating this theory, he teamed up with David Foster and Onica LeGendre, two cancer biologists from New York City's Hunter College to more closely examine the process.

"We needed to determine if oleocanthal was targeting that protein and causing the cells to die," says Breslin.

What first surprised the scientists was how quickly the oleocanthal destroyed the cancer cells. While apoptosis requires between 16 and 24 hours to take effect, the oleocanthal was killing off the cancer cells within 30 minutes to one hour. This led the team to believe that there were some other factors at play.

What they discovered was that the oleocanthal was piercing the cancer cell's vesicles, the containers that store the cell's waste. By puncturing these "dumpsters," as Breslin describes them, it creates an outpouring of enzymes that then cause the cell to die.

"Once you open one of those things, all hell breaks loose," says Breslin.

And when it came to the healthy cells, the researchers found that they remain completely unharmed. While the application of oleocanthal caused a temporary halt in their life cycles, after 24 hours they returned to normal.

With the testing thus far carried out in the lab, the researchers say that they will now look to establish the effects of oleocanthal on cancer cells in living animals.

The findings were published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Oncology.

Source: Rutgers University

9 comments
Stephen N Russell
Love olive oil & bread dipped, & olive oil in pasta mix or sauces & dips I eat my share.
Mark Smith
For Pete's sake, if this has potential, find out ASAP and get it out there! Time to eradicate cancer! Too bad it takes so long and so much money to get these things tested and to market.
ddavel544
I eat olive oil regularly, along with raw garlic. But from what I've been hearing, the AMA would rather irradiate cancer patients to speed them on their way to their death. Each cancer patient yields a minimum of 50 grand to the AMA.
StWils
Here is an example of how active compounds in foods can have a very prompt effect. There is a term "Functional Foods" that is intended to highlight the pharmacological effect of natural compounds in our food. Gizmag should look at the integration of related research such as the effects of Curcumin, a compound in the spice Turmeric. As well as the state of play in research into Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, and also Indian medicine and spices such as Curry. I look forward to see more of this! The Mediterranean diet has long been known to have powerful health value and this discovery is a great step forward.
Derek Howe
wow, this looks like great news, glad to see they are pushing forward to animal testing. Hopefully in a few years they will be able to move on to humans, and finally...dare I use the words: Cure Cancer.
Silver Fox
Why wait? If you've got cancer just up your consumption of virgin olive oil. What's the worst that could happen?
Gadgeteer
Human trials really shouldn't take as long as they do where something like this is concerned. Find some patients who are already in the terminal stages of their cancer. Let them give informed consent to be part of the study. They would almost certainly participate since they have nothing left to lose. At worst, it doesn't work. At best, they might live just a tiny bit longer and die knowing they helped advance research that helped others. But don't go overboard, guys. This is not a "cure for cancer." Read the linked article. Oleocanthal kills SOME cancer cells. Others are unaffected.
OGIS
Interesting article. I've also read research that indicates that THC in cannabis also does exactly the same thing. Not sure if they have discovered WHY, yet.
Alejandro Cr
It's easier to prevent than to treat. So just increase olive oil consumption now !