Caffeic acid and its derivatives as potential modulators of oncogenic molecular pathways: New hope in the fight against cancer.
As a phenolic acid compound, caffeic acid (CA) can be isolated from different sources such as tea, wine and coffee. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) is naturally occurring derivative of CA isolated from propolis. This medicinal plant is well-known due to its significant therapeutic impact including its effectiveness as hepatoprotective, neuroprotective and anti-diabetic agent. Among them, anti-tumor activity of CA has attracted much attention, and this potential has been confirmed both in vitro and in vivo. CA can induce apoptosis in cancer cells via enhancing ROS levels and impairing mitochondrial function. Molecular pathways such as PI3K/Akt and AMPK with role in cancer progression, are affected by CA and its derivatives in cancer therapy. CA is advantageous in reducing aggressive behavior of tumors via suppressing metastasis by inhibiting epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition mechanism. Noteworthy, CA and CAPE can promote response of cancer cells to chemotherapy, and sensitize them to chemotherapy-mediated cell death. In order to improve capacity of CA and CAPE in cancer suppression, it has been co-administered with other anti-tumor compounds such as gallic acid and p-coumaric acid. Due to its poor bioavailability, nanocarriers have been developed for enhancing its ability in cancer suppression. These issues have been discussed in the present review with a focus on molecular pathways to pave the way for rapid translation of CA for clinical use.