Soy Flavonoid (Genistein) May Help Prevent and Manage Colorectal Cancer
James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP
Researchers have known for some time that the Wnt signaling pathway within colorectal cells is overactive (hyperactive) in more than 85 percent of colorectal cancer cases. The Wnt signaling pathway is involved in cell replication. Thus, if it becomes overactive, cells multiply very quickly forming tumors and exhibit a tendency to spread through the body leading to metastasis. As such, researchers have been looking for a drug or natural agent that targets the Wnt signaling pathway, helping to block its overactive behavior.Recent studies have shown that a major flavonoid found in soy beans called genistein is an effective modulator of theWnt signaling through epigenetic mechanisms.
A recent study lead by a team of researchers from Mount Sinai, treated colon cancer cell lines with genistein and found that it inhibited cell growth and blocked Wnt signaling hyperactivity. Based on this evidence, Drs. Holcombe and Pintova,from Mount Sinai, indicated that they are launching a clinical trial later this year for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, which will utilizegenistein in combination with chemotherapy based on this research.
As the researchers state, “Genistein is a natural product with low toxicity and few side effects and our research shows that it may be beneficial in treating colorectal cancer,” according to Randall Holcombe, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division if Hematology and Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ” (1).
Observational studies of large populations (epidemiological studies) have suggested for a long time that consumption of soyfoods may contribute to the relatively low rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancers in countries such as China and Japan. As researchers point out, soybeans contain a number of anti-cancer agents. More specifically, soybeans are a unique dietary source of the isoflavonegenistein, which possesses weak estrogenic activity and has been shown to act in animal models as an anti-estrogen. Genistein is also a specific inhibitor of protein tyrosine kinases; it also inhibits DNA topoisomerases and other critical enzymes involved in signal transduction pathways linked to cancer development. In vitro studies also show thatgenistein suppresses the growth of a wide range of cancer cells.A recent National Cancer Institute workshop recommended that the role of soyfoods in cancerprevention be investigated (2).
I continue to be a proponent of including soy products in the diet, as a means to prevent cancer, in general. I recommend at least 3 soy-based meals or servings per week, which may include tofu, textured vegetable protein, edamame, miso etc. For those fighting prostate cancer, evidence suggests that taking soy supplements (standardized to soy isoflavone content) is a useful adjunctive measure. The same may be true for colorectal cancer, based on emerging evidence. One clinical trial also showed that soy isoflavone supplementation helped suppress breast cancer progression in women awaiting surgery for breast cancer. It remains a mystery to me why so many people are afraid to eat soy beans or foods derived from them, when the experimental and clinical evidence shows such powerful anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects
- Mount Sinai Medical Center (2013, April 11). Soy-based compound may reduce tumor cell proliferation in colorectal cancer. ScienceDaily
- Messina M.J, Persky V, Setchell K.D.R., Barnes S. Soy intake and cancer risk: A review of the in vitro and in vivo data. Nutrition and Cancer Volume 21, Issue 2, 1994