Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCCHN) comprises more than 90% of all head and neck cancers. Despite the many recent advancements in cancer therapy, SCCHN survival has had little improvement with a 5-year survival rate of less than 50%. SCCHN is currently the 6th most common form of cancer in the United States and is rapidly becoming one of the most frequent cancers in developing nations. Red beetroot dye is a commonly used food additive to add a deep red color to commonly consumed foods like ice cream and yogurt. It also contains active anticancer chemical compounds such as betanins and betalains. These compounds are prepared by crushing the beetroots and mixing with water, ascorbic acid, citric acid, and dextrin. Previous work has shown that red beetroot dye can be effective in suppressing the development of multiorgan tumors in animal experiments, including up to 70% prevention of esophageal cancer in a rat chemoprevention study. No previous studies have evaluated the ability of red beetroot dye to inhibit the growth and proliferation of SCCHN. SCCHN cells were treated with increasing dose concentration of red beetroot dye and assessed for proliferation, apoptosis, cell cycle changes, and G1 protein expression changes. We observed dose dependent toxicity in SCCHN following red beetroot dye treatment with concomitant cell cycle arrest in the G1 and G2 cell cycle phases. Cell cycle arrest appeared to be more significant with p53 mutation. Decreased cell counts were induced by cells undergoing apoptosis and necrosis. UMSCC-17b (mutant p53) treated with increasing doses of red beetroot dye expressed lower levels of p53 and p21 by western blot analysis. Taken together, these results suggest that red beetroot dye may have significant potential as a chemopreventive or adjuvant treatment for SCCHN.

Citation Format: Daniel Lew, Kay Wrege, Gary Stoner, Jonathan M. Bock. Red beetroot dye inhibits proliferation in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2013 Apr 6-10; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2013;73(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 2267A. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2013-2267A