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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 135048, 12 pages
Research Article

Antitumor Effects of Saffron-Derived Carotenoids in Prostate Cancer Cell Models

1Laboratory of Radiobiology, Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L’Aquila, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
2Section of Medical Pathophysiology, Food Science and Endocrinology, Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, 00161 Rome, Italy
3Area of Physiology, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Medicine and Regional Centre for Biomedical Research (CRIB), University of Castilla-La Mancha, 02006 Albacete, Spain
4Cátedra Química Agricola, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Avenida de España s/n., 02071 Albacete, Spain
5Department of Health Sciences, University of L’Aquila, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
6Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, Division of Radiotherapy, San Salvatore Hospital, University of L’Aquila, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
7Department of Clinical and Applied Sciences and Biotechnologies, School of Sexology, University of L’Aquila, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
8Albacete Science and Technology Park, Avenida de la Innovacion, 02006 Albacete, Spain

Received 6 February 2014; Accepted 12 April 2014; Published 11 May 2014

Academic Editor: Andrea Maria Isidori

Copyright © 2014 Claudio Festuccia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Crocus sativus L. extracts (saffron) are rich in carotenoids. Preclinical studies have shown that dietary intake of carotenoids has antitumor effects suggesting their potential preventive and/or therapeutic roles. We have recently reported that saffron (SE) and crocin (CR) exhibit anticancer activity by promoting cell cycle arrest in prostate cancer (PCa) cells. It has also been demonstrated that crocetin esters are produced after SE gastrointestinal digestion by CR hydrolysis. The aim of the present report was to investigate if SE, crocetin (CCT), and CR affected in vivo tumor growth of two aggressive PCa cell lines (PC3 and 22rv1) which were xenografted in male nude mice treated by oral gavage with SE, CR, and CCT. We demonstrated that the antitumor effects of CCT were higher when compared to CR and SE and treatments reverted the epithelial-mesenchymal transdifferentiation (EMT) as attested by the significant reduction of N-cadherin and beta-catenin expression and the increased expression of E-cadherin. Additionally, SE, CR, and CCT inhibited PCa cell invasion and migration through the downmodulation of metalloproteinase and urokinase expression/activity suggesting that these agents may affect metastatic processes. Our findings suggest that CR and CCT may be dietary phytochemicals with potential antitumor effects in biologically aggressive PCa cells.