Hormesis and synergy: pathways and mechanisms of quercetin in cancer prevention and management


R Burd, Department of Nutritional Science, University of Arizona, Shantz Building, Room 301, 117 E. 4th Street, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. E-mail: rburd@u.arizona.edu, Phone: +1-520-626-1863; Fax: +1-520-621-9446.


Quercetin is a unique dietary polyphenol because it can exert biphasic dose-responses on cells depending on its concentration. Cancer preventative effects of quercetin are observed at concentrations of approximately 1–40 µM and are likely mediated by quercetin's antioxidant properties. Pro-oxidant effects are present at cellular concentrations of 40–100 µM. However, at higher concentrations, many novel pathways in addition to ROS contribute to its effects. The potent bioactivity of quercetin has led to vigorous study of this compound and revealed numerous pathways that could interact synergistically to prevent or treat cancer. The effect of intake and concentration on emerging pathways and how they may interact are discussed in this review.