The Olive Biophenols Oleuropein and Hydroxytyrosol Selectively Reduce Proliferation, Influence the Cell Cycle, and Induce Apoptosis in Pancreatic Cancer Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jul 2;19(7):1937. doi: 10.3390/ijms19071937.


Current chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer only offer an increase in survival of up to six months. Additionally, they are highly toxic to normal tissues, drastically affecting the quality of life of patients. Therefore, the search for novel agents, which induce apoptosis in cancer cells while displaying limited toxicity towards normal cells, is paramount. The olive biophenols, oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, have displayed cytotoxicity towards cancer cells without affecting non-tumorigenic cells in cancers of the breast and prostate. However, their activity in pancreatic cancer has not been investigated. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the anti-pancreatic cancer potential of oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. Pancreatic cancer cells (MIA PaCa-2, BxPC-3, and CFPAC-1) and non-tumorigenic pancreas cells (HPDE) were treated with oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol to determine their effect on cell viability. Oleuropein displayed selective toxicity towards MIA PaCa-2 cells and hydroxytyrosol towards MIA PaCa-2 and HPDE cells. Subsequent analysis of Bcl-2 family proteins and caspase 3/7 activation determined that oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol induced apoptosis in MIA PaCa-2 cells, while oleuropein displayed a protective effect on HPDE cells. Gene expression analysis revealed putative mechanisms of action, which suggested that c-Jun and c-Fos are involved in oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol induced apoptosis of MIA PaCa-2 cells.

Keywords: HPDE; MIA PaCa-2; anti-cancer; chemoprevention; hydroxytyrosol; nutraceutical; oleuropein; olive; phenolic compound.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids / chemistry
  • Iridoids / pharmacology*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Olea / chemistry*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / chemistry
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / pharmacology


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethanol
  • oleuropein
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol