Reactive metabolites from carcinogens and oxidative stress can drive genetic mutations, genomic instability, neoplastic transformation, and ultimately carcinogenesis. Numerous dietary phytochemicals in vegetables/fruits have been shown to possess cancer chemopreventive effects in both preclinical animal models and human epidemiological studies. These phytochemicals could prevent the initiation of carcinogenesis via either direct scavenging of reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) or, more importantly, the induction of cellular defense detoxifying/antioxidant enzymes. These defense enzymes mediated by Nrf2-antioxidative stress and anti-inflammatory signaling pathways can contribute to cellular protection against ROS/RNS and reactive metabolites of carcinogens. In addition, these compounds would kill initiated/transformed cancer cells in vitro and in in vivo xenografts via diverse anti-cancer mechanisms. These mechanisms include the activation of signaling kinases (e.g., JNK), caspases and the mitochondria damage/cytochrome c pathways. Phytochemicals may also have anti-cancer effects by inhibiting the IKK/NF-κB pathway, inhibiting STAT3, and causing cell cycle arrest. In addition, other mechanisms may include epigenetic alterations (e.g., inhibition of HDACs, miRNAs, and the modification of the CpG methylation of cancer-related genes). In this review, we will discuss: the current advances in the study of Nrf2 signaling; Nrf2-deficient tumor mouse models; the epigenetic control of Nrf2 in tumorigenesis and chemoprevention; Nrf2-mediated cancer chemoprevention by naturally occurring dietary phytochemicals; and the mutation or hyper-expression of the Nrf2-Keap1 signaling pathway in advanced tumor cells. The future development of dietary phytochemicals for chemoprevention must integrate in vitro signaling mechanisms, relevant biomarkers of human diseases, and combinations of different phytochemicals and/or non-toxic therapeutic drugs, including NSAIDs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)
- Antioxidant response
- Cancer stem cell
- Dietary phytochemical