Jun Panee Molecular Pathways of the Anti-Breast Cancer Effect of Bamboo Extract
Worldwide breast cancer (BC) rates have been rising since the 1940’s, and BC has become the most common cancer in American women[1-3]. Despite newer, more effective treatments and improvements in detection, nearly 40,000 deaths from BC occurred in the US in 2010. Native Hawaiian women, limited by socioeconomical ability and health insurance access, suffer a BC mortality rate that is 1.2 times greater than Caucasian women and over 2 times greater than Japanese women. Seventy percent (70%) of BC are estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), current preventive/therapeutic strategies focus on anti-estrogenic agents, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), or aromatase inhibitors. However, these therapies fail on ~40% of ER+ breast tumors  and are challenged by side effects, costs, and the identification of proper users. Therefore the development of new treatments with high cost efficiency, ease of dissemination, and cultural acceptance on this type of BC is an important addition to the established procedures.
Dr. Panee’s laboratory investigates the anti-BC effect of an extract from bamboo Phyllostachys edulis, which is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. The preliminary studies have shown that this bamboo extract (BEX) inhibits the incidence of 7,12-Dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced ER+ mammary tumors in rats. The ethanol-soluble fraction of BEX (termed as BEX1), with high content of polyphenols, was found to effectively inhibit the growth and induce apoptosis in ER+ human breast cancer cells. Two flavonoids, tricin and methyltricin, have been identified as active compounds. BEX is a product derived from an abundant and sustainable natural resource with built-in low cost.
The long-term goal of the research is to develop BEX into a safe, efficient, and cost-effective nutraceutical/pharmacological product for clinical application contributing to the reduction of health disparity in BC among Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, and African Americans. The purpose of the present project is to fully utilize the research resources provided by the RCMI Translational Research Network (RTRN) to carry out in-depth investigation on the molecular mechanisms of the anti-BC effect of BEX and the active compounds. Results obtained through this study will lay a solid scientific foundation for future translational application of this natural product.