Breast cancer (BC) patients use alternative and natural remedies more than patients with other malignancies. Specifically, 63-83% use at least one type of alternative medicine and 25-63% use herbals and vitamins. Propolis is a naturopathic honeybee product, and CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester), is a major medicinal component of propolis. CAPE, in a concentration dependent fashion, inhibits MCF-7 (hormone receptor positive, HR+) and MDA-231 (a model of triple negative BC (TNBC) tumor growth, both in vitro and in vivo without much effect on normal mammary cells and strongly influences gene and protein expression. It induces cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and reduces expression of growth and transcription factors, including NF-κB. Notably, CAPE down-regulates mdr-1 gene, considered responsible for the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents. Further, CAPE dose-dependently suppresses VEGF formation by MDA-231 cells and formation of capillary-like tubes by endothelial cells, implicating inhibitory effects on angiogenesis. In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that CAPE inhibits MDA-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer growth via its apoptotic effects, and modulation of NF-κB, the cell cycle, and angiogenesis.
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