Targeting carcinogen metabolism by dietary cancer preventive compounds

Siwang Yu, Ah Ng Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Prevention is one of the most important and promising strategies to control cancer. Many dietary bioactive compounds, mostly phytochemicals, have been found to decrease the risk of carcinogenesis. Modulating the metabolism and disposition pathways of carcinogens represents one of the major mechanisms by which dietary compounds prevent carcinogenesis. In the present review, the specific molecular targets of dietary compounds within carcinogen metabolism, including various enzymes and transporters and their regulatory signaling pathways, are briefly reviewed. The expression of phase I enzymes, which presumably mostly activate carcinogens, is mainly regulated by xenobiotics sensing nuclear receptors such as AhR, CAR, PXR, and RXR. On the other hand, phase II enzymes catalyze the conjugations of carcinogens and generally are transcriptionally controlled by the Nrf2/ARE signaling pathways. The Nrf2/ARE signaling pathway, which regulates the expression of many detoxifying enzymes, is a major target of dietary compounds. The final excretion of carcinogens and their metabolites is mediated by phase III transporters, which share many regulatory mechanisms with phase I/II enzymes. Indeed, the expression of metabolizing enzymes and transporters is often coordinately regulated. Besides transcriptional regulation, the activities of phase I/II enzymes and phase III transporters could be directly activated or inhibited by dietary compounds. Furthermore, genetic polymorphisms have profound effects on the individual response to dietary compounds. Finally, the effects of cancer prevention and the risk of carcinogenesis are determined by the network composed of known/unknown molecular targets and signaling pathways and its interaction with various xenobiotics, including carcinogens, drugs, and diet. With the rapid advances in the post genomic sciences, it could be possible to decipher this network and better predict the clinical outcomes of cancer prevention by dietary bioactive compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-424
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Cancer Drug Targets
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Cancer Research


  • Dietary cancer preventive compounds
  • Metabolizing enzymes
  • Nrf2
  • Nuclear receptors
  • Phytochemicals
  • Polymorphism
  • Transporters


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