Cancer Cell Signaling Pathways Targeted by Spice-Derived Nutraceuticals

Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(2):173-97. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.630551. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


Extensive research within the last half a century has revealed that cancer is caused by dysregulation of as many as 500 different gene products. Most natural products target multiple gene products and thus are ideally suited for prevention and treatment of various chronic diseases, including cancer. Dietary agents such as spices have been used extensively in the Eastern world for a variety of ailments for millennia, and five centuries ago they took a golden journey to the Western world. Various spice-derived nutraceuticals, including 1'-acetoxychavicol acetate, anethole, capsaicin, cardamonin, curcumin, dibenzoylmethane, diosgenin, eugenol, gambogic acid, gingerol, thymoquinone, ursolic acid, xanthohumol, and zerumbone derived from galangal, anise, red chili, black cardamom, turmeric, licorice, fenugreek, clove, kokum, ginger, black cumin, rosemary, hop, and pinecone ginger, respectively, are the focus of this review. The modulation of various transcription factors, growth factors, protein kinases, and inflammatory mediators by these spice-derived nutraceuticals are described. The anticancer potential through the modulation of various targets is also the subject of this review. Although they have always been used to improve taste and color and as a preservative, they are now also used for prevention and treatment of a wide variety of chronic inflammatory diseases, including cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Protein Kinases / drug effects
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Spices*
  • Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Transcription Factors
  • Protein Kinases