A holistic approach to study the effects of natural antioxidants on inflammation and liver cancer

Susan Costantini, Giovanni Colonna, Giuseppe Castello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The limited effectiveness of chemotherapy and the high recurrence rate of cancers highlight the urgent need to identify new molecular targets and to develop new treatments. Numerous epidemiological studies have recently highlighted the existence of an inverse association between fruit and vegetable consumption, natural antioxidants, and cancer risk; in fact, antioxidant intake through diet or supplements of plant origin is strongly recommended for cancer prevention and cure. In general, antioxidants are substances of vegetable, mineral, or animal origin that neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their negative actions on the plasma membrane, proteins, and DNA. Hence, cancer can be prevented by the stimulation of the immune system to destroy cancer cells or to block their proliferation. Since living organisms may be studied as a whole complex system by the ‘omics sciences’ which tend toward understanding and describing the global information of genes, mRNA, proteins, and metabolites, our aim is to use bioinformatics and systems biology to study cytokinome, which plays an important role in the evolution of inflammatory processes and is also a key component in the evolution of cancer, a disease recognized as depending on chronic inflammation and also with the concomitant presence of type 2 diabetes and obesity. On the whole, we define cytokinome as the totality of these proteins and their interactions in and around biological cells. Understanding the complex interaction network of cytokines in patients affected by cancers should be very useful both to follow the evolution of cancer from its early stages and to define innovative therapeutic strategies by using systems biology approaches. In this paper, we review some results of our group in the light of the ‘omics’ logic, and in particular (1) the need for a global approach to study complex systems such as multifactorial cancer and, in particular, hepatocellular carcinoma, (2) the correlation between natural antioxidants, inflammation, and liver cancer, (3) the challenge and significance of the cytokinome profile, (4) the evaluation of the cytokinome profile of patients with type 2 diabetes and/or chronic hepatitis C infection, and (5) adipokine interactome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-323
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Treatment and Research
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Complex systems
  • Cytokinome
  • Inflammation
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Medicine(all)


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