Modulation of cigarette smoke-related end-points in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis

Silvio De Flora, Francesco D'Agostini, Roumen Balansky, Anna Camoirano, Carlo Bennicelli, Maria Bagnasco, Cristina Cartiglia, Elena Tampa, Maria Grazia Longobardi, Ronald A. Lubet, Alberto Izzotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The epidemic of lung cancer and the increase of other tumours and chronic degenerative diseases associated with tobacco smoking have represented one of the most dramatic catastrophes of the 20th century. The control of this plague is one of the major challenges of preventive medicine for the next decades. The imperative goal is to refrain from smoking. However, chemoprevention by dietary and/or pharmacological agents provides a complementary strategy, which can be targeted not only to current smokers but also to former smokers and passive smokers. This article summarises the results of studies performed in our laboratories during the last 10 years, and provides new data generated in vitro, in experimental animals and in humans. We compared the ability of 63 putative chemopreventive agents to inhibit the bacterial mutagenicity of mainstream cigarette smoke. Modulation by ethanol and the mechanisms involved were also investigated both in vitro and in vivo. Several studies evaluated the effects of dietary chemopreventive agents towards smoke-related intermediate biomarkers in various cells, tissues and organs of rodents. The investigated end-points included metabolic parameters, adducts to haemoglobin, bulky adducts to nuclear DNA, oxidative DNA damage, adducts to mitochondrial DNA, apoptosis, cytogenetic damage in alveolar macrophages, bone marrow and peripheral blood erytrocytes, proliferation markers, and histopathological alterations. The agents tested in vivo included N-acetyl-L-cysteine, 1,2-dithiole-3-thione, oltipraz, phenethyl isothiocyanate, 5,6-benzoflavone, and sulindac. We started applying multigene expression analysis to chemoprevention research, and postulated that an optimal agent should not excessively alter per se the physiological background of gene expression but should be able to attenuate the alterations produced by cigarette smoke or other carcinogens. We are working to develop an animal model for the induction of lung tumours following exposure to cigarette smoke. The most encouraging results were so far obtained in models using A/J mice and Swiss albino mice. The same smoke-related biomarkers used in animal studies can conveniently be applied to human chemoprevention studies. We participated in trials evaluating the effects of N-acetyl-L-cysteine and oltipraz in smokers from Italy, The Netherlands, and the People's Republic of China. We are trying to develop a pharmacogenomic approach, e.g. based on genetic metabolic polymorphisms, aimed at predicting not only the risk of developing cancer but also the individual responsiveness to chemopreventive agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003


  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Chemoprevention
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Lung cancer
  • Multigene expression
  • Mutagenesis
  • Pharmacogenomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Molecular Biology


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