Inhibition of proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 human breast cancer cells by flavonoids in the presence and absence of excess estrogen

Cancer Lett. 1997 Jan 30;112(2):127-33. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3835(96)04557-0.


The flavonoids are a group of naturally-occurring, low molecular weight compounds that are widespread in plants. Representatives of several different classes of flavonoids were tested for their effects on the proliferation of an estrogen receptor-positive human breast cancer cell line, MCF-7. The IC50S (concentration at which cell proliferation was inhibited by 50%), based on [3H]thymidine incorporation, ranged from 4.2 to 18.0 micrograms/mL. The cells were viable at these concentrations. The possibility that flavonoids may block cell proliferation by binding to the estrogen receptor was explored. The cells were depleted of endogenous steroids and incubated with individual flavonoids at their IC50 concentration. Half of the cells were exposed to an excess concentration of 17 beta-estradiol to see if this affected antiproliferation by the flavonoids. Of the flavonoids tested, only the inhibition of cell proliferation by genistein was reversed with the addition of excess, competing estrogen. Baicalein, galangin, hesperetin, naringenin and quercetin apparently exert their antiproliferative activity via some other mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Estradiol / metabolism*
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Genistein
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / metabolism
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Isoflavones
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Estradiol
  • Genistein