Lycopene's Effects on Cancer Cell Functions within Monolayer and Spheroid Cultures

Nutr Cancer. 2016;68(2):350-63. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2016.1150498. Epub 2016 Mar 25.


Lycopene, a compound that blocks the action of free radicals and oxygen molecules, is found in tomatoes and tomato-based products and linked to a reduced incidence of cancer. Increasing willingness of patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle by supplemental intake of nutrients and acceptance of alternative therapeutics has boosted research into nutraceuticals. The potential of lycopene to prevent or treat cancer has been investigated, but outcomes are inconsistent and its mode of action is still unknown. Further studies are needed to understand the role of lycopene in cancer prevention and treatment. The impact of lycopene on viability, proliferation, migration, and invasion of five different cancer cell lines was determined using monolayer and spheroid cultures. Cell viability was significantly reduced upon lycopene treatment at physiologically attainable concentrations. Cell proliferation, migration, and invasion did not change upon lycopene treatment. Ovarian cancer spheroids initially showed a decreased proliferation and after 14 days increased cell viability upon lycopene treatment, confirming the potential of lycopene to reduce cancer cell growth in short-term cultures and also indicate enhanced cell viability over prolonged exposure. This study cannot substantiate that lycopene inhibits cell functions associated with tumor growth, even in a 3D cancer model that mimics the natural tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spheroids, Cellular
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene