Lunasin, a soy peptide, keeps highly metastatic colon cancer cells from spreading by binding to a specific receptor, indicate recent research findings.

In the study yielding these results, mice with colon cancer were separated into four groups:

  • One group of mice was injected daily with lunasin.
  • One group was injected with the chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin.
  • One group received both lunasin and oxaliplatin.
  • One group served as control subjects.

According to researcher Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, an associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the lunasin-only mice had 50% fewer metastatic sites than seen in the control group (14 vs 28).

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“But an even more exciting result was seen in the group that received both lunasin and the chemotherapy drug—only five new cancer sites when compared with 28 in the control group,” affirmed de Mejia in a statement announcing the study results, which were published online by Cancer Letters.

The study demonstrated that lunasin can penetrate the cancer cell, cause cell death, and interact with at least one type of receptor in a cell that is ready to metastasize, pointed out University of Illinois postdoctoral fellow and lead study author Vermont P. Dia. Because new blood vessels cannot form and differentiate when the receptor is blocked and therefore the cancer cannot metastasize, binding such receptors has emerged as a promising therapeutic target.

The sixfold reduction in the number of new tumor sites was achieved with the amount of lunasin in only 25 g of soy protein daily. “Two glasses of soy milk a day generally provide half the amount of lunasin used in our study,” noted de Mejia. “It certainly seems feasible to create a lunasin-enriched product that people could consume in a preventive way.”