Research Highlight

Tomatoes used as a weapon against gastric cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.7 Published online 23 January 2017

Researchers have isolated a prebiotic from tomato that can inhibit the growth of gastric cancer cells1. These pectic oligosaccharides have potential for use in therapies for gastric cancer.

Gastric cancer is the second biggest cause of death through cancer. Gastric cancer cells, like others,  use galectin 3, a specific protein to grow and spread to multiple organs, a process known as metastasis.

In search of an therapy to suppress the activity of galectin 3, scientists from the CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore extracted pectic oligosaccharides from raw tomato and treated gastric cancer cells with it. They also compared the anticancer activity of the oligosaccharides with that of anticancer drug, doxorubicin.

The oligosaccharides reduced levels of galectin 3 almost three-fold in gastric cancer cells, indicating anticancer activity and bioavailability of the oligosaccharides. Both the oligosaccharides and doxorubicin slowed cancer cell growth.

Unlike doxorubicin, which showed toxic effects on normal cells, the oligosaccharides selectively killed the cancer cells through apoptosis.

This study is first of its kind providing the precise properties of a galectin-3 inhibitor and indicating its potential use as metastasis inhibitor, the researchers say.


1. Kapoor, S. et al.  Pectic oligosaccharide from tomato exhibiting anticancer potential on a gastric cancer cell line: structure-function relationship. Carbohydr. Polymer. 160, 52-61 (2017)