I have mentioned the P53 tumor-suppressor gene a number of times in my Anti-Aging Firewalls treatise, for example pointing out that “Resveratrol and curcumin activate the P53 gene in many strains of cancer cells, leading them to commit apoptosis.” Today’s news revealed new research findings regarding normal P53 genes and mutant P53 genes found in cancers.
First, how cruciferous vegetables work to defeat cancer
It has long been bandied about in alternative health circles that cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, watercress and broccoli tend to be cancer-preventative. But why this was so remained a mystery. A recent research report lends light on this mystery, indicating what might be the main biomolecular mechanism involved. These foods contain phenethyl isothiocyante (PEITC), a natural phytochemical. P53’s usual job is to stop a defective cell, one with DNA damage or expressing oncogenes, from dividing and possibly force the cell to kill itself. However, in many cancers the P53 gene is mutated and does not do that job. Instead, the mutated P53 allows the cancer to develop and spread. The reported research indicates that PEITC has a capability to selectively deplete mutant p53 leading to restoration of the wild type (normal) p53. In effect the P53 checkpoints against the cancer are restored by the PEITC phytosubstance. The press release concludes “This novel finding suggests that the PEITC and other compounds in the isothiocyante family could play important role in both cancer prevention and treatment of human cancers with mutant p53.”
Second, certain efforts to protect cancer-fighting P53 can backfire and also protect mutant cancer-promoting P53
News on a research report in the in the current issue of the journal Genes and Development points out a danger of trying to restore P53 function in a patient’s tumor without knowing what kind of P53 is involved, wild type or mutant. If the P53 is wild type, restoring its function could help zap the tumor. If mutant P53 is involved, however, the result could be the tumor thriving and spreading. “The importance of this study cannot be overemphasized,” the researchers concluded. Drugs that try to protect normal p53 by inhibiting the p53-degrading protein Mdm2 also would protect mutant p53 “with dire consequences.”
Taken together, the two studies point out the high relevance of phytochemicals like PEITC for P53 treatments of cancers – because they act differentially against mutated P53 and promote the restoration of wild-type P53. They can tell the difference between the bad guys and the good guys. P53 activation that can’t tell the difference is potentially dangerous.