Targeting cell signaling and apoptotic pathways by dietary agents: role in the prevention and treatment of cancer

Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(2):161-73. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2011.523502.


Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and around the world. Most modern drug-targeted therapies, besides being enormously expensive, are associated with serious side effects and morbidity. Still, the search continues for an ideal treatment that has minimal side effects and is cost-effective. Indeed, the design and development of chemopreventive agents that act on specific and/or multiple molecular and cellular targets is gaining support as a rational approach to prevent and treat cancer. We present evidence on numerous dietary agents identified from fruits and vegetables that act on multiple signal transduction and apoptotic cascades in various tumor cells and animal models. Some of the most interesting and well documented are turmeric (curcumin), resveratrol, silymarin, EGCG, and genistein. This review will provide an insight on the cellular and molecular mechanism(s) by which dietary agents modulate multiple signaling and apoptotic pathways in tumor cells and elucidate the role of these agents in both prevention and treatment of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis*
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Curcuma / chemistry
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Diet*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Genistein / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Resveratrol
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Silymarin / pharmacology
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology
  • United States
  • Vegetables / chemistry


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Silymarin
  • Stilbenes
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • Genistein
  • Curcumin
  • Resveratrol