Enchancing effect of patented whey protein isolate (Immunocal) on cytotoxicity of an anticancer drug

Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):200-8. doi: 10.1207/S15327914NC382_9.


To determine the enhancing effect of a whey protein isolate on the cytotoxicity of a potential anticancer drug, baicalein, the human hepatoma cell line Hep G2 was assigned to grow in different media for four days, and cell growth and apoptosis were investigated. The control group was grown in normal medium; the other three groups were grown in whey protein isolate (Immunocal) medium, baicalein medium, and a combination of Immunocal and baicalein. As indicated by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide assay, survival rate was significantly lower in cells grown in baicalein + Immunocal than in cells grown in baicalein alone. In contrast, there was no significant difference in survival rate of the cells grown in Immunocal. In the investigation of apoptosis, cells grown in baicalein + Immunocal showed a higher phosphatidylserine exposure, lower mitochondrial transmembrane potential, and nearly 13 times more cells undergoing apoptosis than cells grown in baicalein alone. We also demonstrated that Immunocal reduced glutathione (GSH) in Hep G2 cells by 20-40% and regulated the elevation of GSH, which was in response to baicalein. In conclusion, Immunocal seemed to enhance the cytotoxicity of baicalein by inducing more apoptosis; this increase in apoptotic cells may be associated with the depletion of GSH in Hep G2 cells. This is the first study to demonstrate, in vitro, that Immunocal may function as an adjuvant in cancer treatments.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Culture Media
  • Drug Synergism
  • Flavanones*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glutathione / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Milk Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects*
  • Whey Proteins


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Culture Media
  • Flavanones
  • Flavonoids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Whey Proteins
  • baicalein
  • Glutathione