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Molecular Mechanisms of Breast Cancer Risk Reduction by SM6Met, a Well Characterized Cyclopia Extract

Prof Ann Louw

Prof Ann Louw

Title of the project

Molecular mechanisms of breast cancer risk reduction by SM6Met, a well characterized Cyclopia extract.

Project Description

Globally and in South Africa breast cancer is the most frequent malignancy in women. Most breast cancers are oestrogen receptor (ER) positive and require oestrogen for growth and metastasis. Current pharmacological chemoprevention options for ER-positive breast cancer in high-risk patients target either oestrogen production, through aromatase inhibitors (AIs), or the ER, through selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).

Although these pharmacological chemoprevention options are effective, their high cost, low practicability and side-effect profile, make them unsuitable for chemoprevention aimed at the general population. Such public health interventions, which often include suitable dietary and lifestyle suggestions to the population, require low cost, high practicality and high tolerability.

A considerable amount of recent research in breast cancer chemoprevention has focused on natural products and dietary polyphenols. Phytoestrogenic extracts that contain plant compounds referred to as natural SERMs, are of particular interest as their pleiotropic mechanisms of action potentially broadens their spectrum of effects, while potentially increasing their efficacy through combinatorial or synergistic effects.

Cyclopia or honeybush tea contains phytoestrogens. Previous work from our laboratory has suggested that an extract prepared from Cyclopia, SM6Met, has several in vitro properties that may make it an effective chemopreventative agent for breast cancer. Furthermore, two in vivo rat studies have indicated that SM6Met indeed has the ability to modulate breast cancer. However, for the implementation of rational chemoprevention strategies it is essential not only to assess safety and efficacy of candidate chemopreventative agents but also to understand their mechanisms of action. Thus, the current project aims to investigate mechanisms of action involved in the chemopreventative action of SM6Met against breast cancer.

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