Increasing attention is being paid to the possibility of applying cancer chemopreventive agents for individuals at high risk of neoplastic development. For this purpose by natural compounds have practical advantages with regard to availability, suitability for oral application, regulatory approval and mechanisms of action. Candidate substances such as phytochemicals present in foods and their derivatives have been identified by a combination of epidemiological and experimental studies. Plant constituents include vitamin derivatives, phenolic and flavonoid agents, organic sulfur compounds, isothiocyanates, curcumins, fatty acids and d-limonene. Examples of compounds from animals are unsaturated fatty acids and lactoferrin. Recent studies have indicated that mechanisms underlying chemopreventive potential may be combinations of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing, and anti-hormone effects, with modification of drug-metabolizing enzymes, influence on the cell cycle and cell differentiation, induction of apoptosis and suppression of proliferation and angiogenesis playing roles in the initiation and secondary modification stages of neoplastic development. Accordingly, natural agents are advantageous for application to humans because of their combined mild mechanism. Here we review naturally occurring compounds useful for cancer chemprevention based on in vivo studies with reference to their structures, sources and mechanisms of action.
2004 by The Japanese Society for the Study of Xenobiotics