The estrogen receptor (ER) is a major target for the treatment of breast cancer cells. Genistein, a soy isoflavone, possesses a structure similar to estrogen and can both mimic and antagonize estrogen effects although at high concentrations it inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation. Hence, to enhance the anti-cancer activity of Genistein at lower concentrations, we have synthesized seven structurally modified derivatives of Genistein (MA-6, MA-8, MA-11, MA-19, MA-20, MA-21 and MA-22) based on the structural requirements for an optimal anti-cancer effect. Among those seven, three derivatives (MA-6, MA-8 and MA-19) showed high antiproliferative activity with IC 50 levels in the range of 1-2.5 μM, i.e., at much lower concentrations range than Genistein itself, in three ER-positive breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, 21PT and T47D) studied. In our analysis, we noticed that at IC 50 concentrations, the MA-6, MA-8 and MA-19 Genistein derivatives induced apoptosis, inhibited ER-α messenger RNA expression and increased the ratio of ER-β to ER-α levels in a manner comparable to the parent compound Genistein. Of note, these three modified Genistein derivatives exerted their effects at concentrations 10-15 times lower than the parent compound, decreasing the likelihood of significant ER- α pathway activation, which has been a concern for Genistein. Hence these compounds might play a useful role in breast cancer chemoprevention.
Genistein: The future of prevention and treatment of breast cancer?