Phytoestrogen (+)-pinoresinol exerts antitumor activity in breast cancer cells with different oestrogen receptor statuses

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Sep 7;16(1):350. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1233-7.


Background: Consumption of virgin olive oil (VOO) has been associated with a low breast cancer incidence. Pinoresinol is a phytoestrogen that is typically found in VOO. Considering the role of oestrogen in breast cancer development and progression, we investigated the potential antitumor activity of pinoresinol in breast cancer cells.

Methods: To address this question, we treated MDA-MB-231 (oestrogen receptor [ER] negative) and MCF7 (ER+) human breast tumour cells and MCF10A human mammary epithelial cells (ER-) with different concentrations of pinoresinol. The cytotoxic activity, cell proliferation, cell cycle profile, apoptosis induction, reactive oxygen species production and DNA damage were assessed.

Results: Pinoresinol showed cytotoxic, anti-proliferative and pro-oxidant activity in human breast tumour cells, independent of their oestrogen receptor status. In addition, pinoresinol exerted antioxidant activity and prevented DNA damage associated with oxidative stress in human mammary epithelial cells.

Conclusions: Overall, the results suggest that pinoresinol may have antitumor activity in human breast cancer cells independently of oestrogen receptor status. Furthermore, the results show that the pinoresinol has the typical characteristics of a chemopreventive compound.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Chemopreventive; Cytotoxic activity; Polyphenols; Virgin olive oil.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Furans / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lignans / pharmacology*
  • Olive Oil / chemistry
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Furans
  • Lignans
  • Olive Oil
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • pinoresinol