Research expected to boost development of cancer drugs
Researchers from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, University of Turku
and the Foundation for the Finnish Cancer Institute have produced new
knowledge about flavonoid effects on cancer cells. This research could explain
why certain flavonoids curb the growth of cancer cells.
are compounds that can be found in, for example, berries, fruit and vegetables
and have potential health-promoting qualities. The research findings were
published in Carcinogenesis on 2nd of June 2009 (DOI: BGP101).
According to international research, a diet that contains large amounts of
certain flavonoids, such as quercetin and lycopene, can reduce the risk of
cardiovascular diseases. Flavonoids have also been discovered to act as
inhibitors of free radicals and so have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and
anti-cancer effects. Although these effects are well known, what are the
mechanisms of action of flavonoids inside the cell has remained largely
The research group headed by Dr. Marko Kallio,
Special Research Scientist at VTT, sought for new natural compounds affecting
the cell division among a library consisting 1,500 compounds. In the work, the
team utilised VTT’s automated high-throughput screening facility and a novel
functional cell-based assay designed to detect erroneous exit from the cell
division phase. The most effective small molecule identified was a flavonoid
called fisetin, which can be found in, for example, berries, fruits and red
The group discovered that fisetin prevented normal
cell division in cancer cell and generated chromosome-level errors that
increased death rate of the cancer cell. The research group also proved that
the observed errors in cell division were due to direct inhibition of Aurora-B
kinase activity by fisetin in the cells. This is a significant discovery, as
Aurora B is a key regulator of cell division and a major research target for
several pharmaceutical companies developing new cancer drugs.
the further experiments currently underway, Dr. Kallio’s group aims to find
out whether the anticancer effects of fisetin could be intensified or is the
compound harmful to normal cells when present in high concentrations.
are compounds that occur naturally in berries, vegetables and fruits, and
which have been discovered to have beneficial health effects. Plants generate
flavonoids as protection against fungal diseases and bacteria. The main
sources of flavonoids in the Finnish diet are onions, berries, tea and apples.
information on VTT's research: Cancer
biology, high-throughput screening and bioactivity