Research Article

The anti-proliferative effect of different tomato varieties on the human colon adenocarcinoma cells

Caroline Saunders

University of Reading


30 Nov 2008


18 Dec 2008


15 Apr 2009






colon cancer, tomato, flavonoids, naringenin, rutin


Epidemiological evidence suggests that diets rich in fruit and vegetables protect against the development of colon cancer, primarily due to their high levels of polyphenols, in particular a group known as flavonoids. Tomatoes contain significant amounts of the glycosides of the flavonoids quercetin and naringenin. Both quercetin and naringenin have been shown to exert anti-proliferative effects on colon cancer cells, although the effects of whole tomato polyphenol extracts are unclear. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of three tomato varieties, with differing levels of flavonoids and total phenolics, on the proliferation of human colon adenocarcinoma cells. We show that all three varieties were able to significantly inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, although this activity was found not to be linked to the levels of the flavonoids rutin and naringenin in the tomatoes, but rather to their total phenolic content. We show that the mechanism of growth inhibition was linked to the effects of tomato phenolics on the cell cycle, in that exposure of cells to the tomato extract induced a reduction in the percentage of cells in the S-phase, i.e. those actively synthesizing DNA. These data indicate that tomatoes may help to prevent colon cancer but that their flavonoid content does not appear to determine the magnitude of their biological effect.