New research by a team of scientists in Israel shows that tomato lycopene in combination with other tomato phytonutrients may be more effective in treating breast cancer than lycopene alone.
Dr Joseph Levy and Dr Yoav Sharoni of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, Israel, who carried out the study said it confirmed their earlier results from work on LNCap human prostate cancer cells.
Using an in vitro model of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells, Levy and Sharoni incubated the cells with a combination of low concentrations of the tomato carotenoids phytoene, phytofluene and lycopene. These low concentrations reflect the blood concentrations found in Europeans or Americans with a low intake of tomato products. The cancer cell proliferation decreased dramatically in the breast cancer cell sample treated with this complex of tomato phytonutrients, the researchers reported.
They also found that breast cancer cells that were treated with the same low concentration (0.3mM/litre) of lycopene alone showed no significant decrease in proliferation. The same dramatic inhibition of cancer cells achieved by the combination of tomato phytonutrients, can be obtained when using lycopene alone, but only when in the higher concentrations of 2mM/litre.
They researchers explained that since such high lycopene levels in the blood are not found in humans, high supplemental therapeutic doses of lycopene alone would not provide practical benefit to cancer patients.
The authors concluded that the therapeutic benefits of the tomato may come from "Mother Nature's complex synergy of tomato phytonutrients and not from any one phytonutrient in isolation."
Levy will conduct a poster presentation featuring an abstract of the study at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Conference, taking place this week (14-18 October 2002) in Boston, Massachusetts. The abstract will also be published in AACR's October 2002 journal.
Israeli company LycoRed provides the standardised tomato extract Lyc-O-Mato which contains the natural combination of tomato lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene.