Potential molecular targets of tea polyphenols in human tumor cells: significance in cancer prevention

In Vivo. 2002 Nov-Dec;16(6):397-403.


Next to water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world, and the cancer-preventive effects of this beverage have been suggested. Epidemiological studies have shown decreased cancer occurrence in those individuals who drink green tea regularly. A wealth of research suggests numerous mechanisms of action to explain these observations. The most abundant and popular compound studied in tea research is (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which acts as a powerful antioxidant and can inhibit a number of tumor cell proliferation- and survival-related proteins. Tea polyphenols are known to inhibit the large multi-catalytic protease (the proteasome) and metaloproteionases, involved in tumor survival and metastasis, respectively. Additionally, tea polyphenols inhibit the activities of many tumor-associated protein kinases, including epidermal growth factor receptor, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, platelet-derived growth factor receptor, mitogen-activated protein kinase, and IkB kinase. Tea polyphenols have also been found to inhibit some cancer-related proteins that regulate DNA replication and transformation. At present, it is not known which of these activities of tea polyphenols are required for its cancer-preventive effects. However, by understanding the in vivo concentrations of tea polyphenols required to inhibit each of these activities, we may start to sort out in the future the mechanisms responsible for the cancer-preventive effects of tea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Catechin / therapeutic use
  • Chemoprevention
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / drug effects
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Metalloendopeptidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Multienzyme Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Multienzyme Complexes / drug effects
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Phenols / therapeutic use
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Polymers / pharmacology*
  • Polymers / therapeutic use
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Tea* / chemistry


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polymers
  • Tea
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex