Several epidemiological and animal studies have suggested that polyphenols, a group of secondary plant metabolites occurring
mainly in the plant kingdom, may have a protective effect against some chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer. Polyphenols are
part of the human diet, being present in vegetal food and beverages. Among them, an olive biophenol named hydroxytyrosol [2-(3,4-
dihydroxyphenyl)ethanol, HTyr] has recently received particular attention because of its antioxidant, antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic, and
anti-inflammatory activities, which have the potential to specifically counteract all cancer hallmarks, thus representing the expectant biological
activities underlying the anti-tumor properties of this polyphenol. After a description of the synthetic procedures to prepare pure
HTyr, this review takes into consideration the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of HTyr as the result of its antioxidant,
antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory activities. In particular, the review is focused on the current knowledge of the main cellular and
molecular mechanisms used by HTyr to affect carcinogenesis, highlighting the specific oncogenic and inflammatory signaling pathways
potentially targeted by HTyr.
Keywords: Hydroxytyrosol, polyphenols, olive mill, olive oil wastewaters, synthesis, oxidation, proliferation, inflammation, signaling, cancer, carcinogenesis, anti-cancer activity.
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