Fisetin Demonstrates Potent Anti-Cancer Properties

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Fisetin is a unique polyphenol flavonoid found in many plants and fruits, especially strawberries and mangoes. Standardized fisetin extracts are available as a dietary supplement and have demonstrated a high level of neuro-protection and support for memory, as I documented in a previous article, Fisetin for Neuro-Protection. An impressive array of new studies shows that fisetin has strong anti-cancer activity.

Helping cancer cells die faster, while protecting non-cancer cells, is turning out to be the forte of many nutrients. Fisetin has now demonstrated this property against human breast cancer cells. It demonstrated the ability to help membranes of cancer cells rupture, interfere with how cancer cells make energy, along with activating various gene-related death signals. At the same time, none of these cell death properties take place in healthy cells. The researchers concluded that, “These data allow us to propose that fisetin appears as a new potential anticancer agent which can be applied to develop a clinical protocol of human breast cancers.”

I often explain that TNFa (tumor necrosis factor alpha) is involved with inflammation that is adverse. However, as the name implies, this inflammatory messenger was first discovered and named based on its ability to knock out cancer. TNFa activation in the right amount and at the right time does just that. However, in situations of poor health such as obesity, which is invariably associated with higher levels of TNFa, the TNFa loses its ability to kill cancer. You might say “TNFa resistance” is like insulin resistance, meaning that too much of something at the wrong time is like crying wolf and your body simply tunes it out. Researchers have found that TNFa transitions into a new molecule called Tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), which is required to activate the cancer-killing activity of TNFa and that the success of cancer cells to escape TRAIL is typical in tumor growth. A new study with prostate cancer cells shows that fisetin restores the ability of TRAIL to kill prostate cancer cells, leading the researchers to state, “Our data indicate the usefulness of fisetin in prostate cancer chemoprevention through enhancement of TRAIL-mediated apoptosis.”

P53 is a gene-signal that suppresses tumors. Its activity is typically lacking in cancer patients. NF-kappaB is the core inflammatory gene signal, which is typically too active in any type of cancer situation. Researchers working with bladder cancer cells have shown that fisetin helps boost p53 while helping to suppress NF-kappaB, two very helpful general mechanisms that would help guard against cancer.

It is a common theme of any cancer that various healthy gene-signaling pathways have been hijacked and perverted to aid the survival of the cancer. In a another prostate cancer example, this one involving the type of prostate cancer cells that are not treatable with androgen-suppressing therapy, it was found that fisetin could reclaim an important gene pathway, thus overcoming the hijacking and thereby assisting in the death of prostate cancer cells. The University of Wisconsin researchers said, “These results suggest that fisetin could be a useful chemotherapeutic agent in treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer.”

University of Wisconsin researchers have also shown that fisetin used similar mechanisms to help kill lung cancer cells. And they have shown that fisetin, once again interrupting cancer gene-signaling, is able to help kill melanoma cancer cells. They state, “Our data suggest that fisetin can be developed as an effective agent against melanoma because of its potential inhibitory effect on β-catenin/Mitf signaling.”

True enough, these are all cell studies. However, they lay a solid foundation for the intake of a nutrient to assist in prevention of cancer and to be potentially used along with appropriate therapy in the treatment of cancer. While no human dose is currently documented for this purpose at this time, it sure doesn’t hurt to have fisetin on your nutrient support team.

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