Genistein-containing supplements may stop tamoxifen

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Isoflavone-enhanced dietary supplements containing genistein may negate the tumor-fighting effects of tamoxifen, a commonly prescribed medication for women battling estrogen-dependent breast cancer, according to new findings appearing in the May 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

The research was led by William G. Helferich, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In a pre-clinical study, researchers divided 66 mice, with their ovaries removed, into six groups to monitor the effects of estrogen and various amounts of tamoxifen and genistein, an estrogen-like component found in legume plants. Estrogen and tamoxifen implants were put into the mice, and estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells were injected. Before adding genistein to the diet, the tamoxifen had stopped tumor growth. The addition of genistein resulted in enhanced growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and increases in estrogen-responsive gene markers.

Blood concentrations of genistein in these mice were similar to those levels that people can get by consuming isoflavone-rich dietary supplements, Helferich said.

Previous studies in rodents have suggested that exposure to genistein early in life may prevent or delay breast cancer, Helferich said. However, in a series of studies published last year, Helferichs laboratory demonstrated that various dietary products containing genistein can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent human breast tumors implanted into adult mice.

This new study takes our previous findings a step further, Helferich said. These results raise concern about consuming dietary isoflavone supplements in conjunction with tamoxifen in postmenopausal women who have estrogen-dependent breast cancer.

This study also applies to women who are self-medicating with dietary estrogenic supplements by showing the supplements could negate the protective benefit of tamoxifen, he added

Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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