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Chemoprevention of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma with Natural Food Products

Research Scholar

Zhenzhen Xu, Comprehensive Cancer Center (China)
Michael Nicholl, Co-Researcher
Ronald Nines, Co-Researcher
Ni Shi, Co-Researcher
Tong Chen, Faculty Mentor


Zhenzhen Xu obtained her bachelor's degree in food science from China Agriculture University (CAU) in June 2007 and enrolled in a Master-PhD program in CAU in September 2007. She has four papers published to date, two published as the first author. Xu started her training in Tong Chen's research laboratory at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in September 2011. Her research has been focusing on identification of bioactive components in black raspberries and red cabbage and investigation of their cancer preventive effects. She currently has two papers in final stages of preparation.

What is the issue or problem addressed in your research?

Esophageal cancer ranks 6th in cancer-related death worldwide with more than 90% of all cases being esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The continued global expansion of alcohol and tobacco consumption, coupled with diets limited in fresh fruits and vegetables insures that esophageal SCC will remain a major health threat for decades to come. The overall 5-year survival rate of esophageal SCC in the United States is only 13%. Most patients present with advanced, metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis, thus, chemoprevention of esophageal cancer becomes the cornerstone as a means of cancer control.

What methodology did you use in your research?

Our laboratory has conducted extensive research on chemoprevention of esophageal SCC with natural food products including black raspberries, strawberries and red cabbage. In our previous studies, we found that freeze-dried black raspberries and strawberries inhibited chemical-induced esophageal cancer in rats. In a recent Phase II clinical study conducted in a region of China, where has the highest incidence of esophageal SCC, we found that dietary strawberries decreased histological grade of precancerous lesions in patients who have been diagnosed with esophageal dysplasia through suppressing cancer-related molecular events. This ongoing research project is to investigate the preventive effects of red cabbage extracts in human esophageal cancer cell line, KYSE-150. The esophageal cancer cells were treated with different doses of red cabbage extracts and were assessed at multiple time points after treatment. The cell proliferation assay, cell colony formation, Western blot and Real-time PCR were conducted to evaluate the effects of red cabbage extracts on biomarkers involved in esophageal tumor development in humans.

What are the purpose/rationale and implications of your research?

The outcomes of our studies are of great interest and have implications for the prevention of human esophageal cancer. Natural food products such as berries and red cabbage may offer a relatively nontoxic alternative to the prevention of esophageal cancer in humans.