Journal of natural products

Antileukemic activity of genistein, a major isoflavone present in soy products.

PMID 18163589


Soy has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of various diseases, including cancer. The isoflavones present in soy have been shown in animal models to have cancer-preventing activity. However, the therapeutic effects of isoflavones against cancer are still unclear. We have evaluated the in vitro and in vivo antileukemic activity of genistein (1), a major isoflavone present in soy. We observed that it produced a dose- and time-dependent antineoplastic activity against myeloid and lymphoid leukemic cell lines. In addition, genistein treatment of the leukemic cells reactivated tumor suppressor genes that were silenced by aberrant DNA methylation. A genistein-enriched diet produced a moderate, but significant, antileukemic effect in mice. The limited extent of this in vivo response may have been due to the rapid metabolic inactivation of genistein in mice. Due to the longer half-life of genistein in humans, a soy-enriched diet has the potential to produce plasma levels of this isoflavone in the range of the concentrations used in vitro that produced an antileukemic activity.