Olive oil oleuropein has anti-breast cancer properties with higher efficiency on ER-negative cells

Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Mar:53:310-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.12.009. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Breast cancer constitutes a major health problem for women worldwide. However, its incidence varies between populations and geographical locations. These variations could be diet-related, since there are several carcinogenic compounds in the modern diet, while natural products contain various anti-cancer elements. Several lines of evidence indicate that, in addition to their clear preventive effect, these compounds could also be used as therapeutic agents. In the present report we have shown that oleuropein, a pharmacologically safe natural product of olive leaf, has potent anti-breast cancer properties. Indeed, oleuropein exhibits specific cytotoxicity against breast cancer cells, with higher effect on the basal-like MDA-MB-231 cells than on the luminal MCF-7 cells. This effect is mediated through the induction of apoptosis via the mitochondrial pathway. Moreover, oleuropein inhibits cell proliferation by delaying the cell cycle at S phase and up-regulated the cyclin-dependent inhibitor p21. Furthermore, oleuropein inhibited the anti-apoptosis and pro-proliferation protein NF-κB and its main oncogenic target cyclin D1. This inhibition could explain the great effect of oleuropein on cell proliferation and cell death of breast cancer cells. Therefore, oleuropein warrants further investigations to prove its utility in preventing/treating breast cancer, especially the less-responsive basal-like type.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Pyrans / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids
  • NF-kappa B
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils
  • Pyrans
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Cyclin D1
  • oleuropein