Cancer interception by interceptor molecules: mechanistic, preclinical and human translational studies with chlorophylls. Academic Article uri icon


  • Before 'cancer interception' was first advocated, 'interceptor molecules' had been conceived as a sub-category of preventive agents that interfered with the earliest initiation steps in carcinogenesis. Three decades ago, a seminal review cataloged over fifty synthetic agents and natural products that were known or putative interceptor molecules. Chlorophylls and their derivatives garnered much interest based on the potent antimutagenic activity in the Salmonella assay, and the subsequent mechanistic work that provided proof-of-concept for direct molecular complexes with planar aromatic carcinogens. As the 'interceptor molecule' hypothesis evolved, mechanistic experiments and preclinical studies supported the view that chlorophylls can interact with environmental heterocyclic amines, aflatoxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to limit their uptake and bioavailability in vivo. Support also came from human translational studies involving ultralow dose detection in healthy volunteers, as well as intervention in at-risk subjects. Antimutagenic and antigenotoxic effects of natural and synthetic chlorophylls against small alkylating agents also highlighted the fact that non-interceptor mechanisms existed. This gave impetus to investigations broadly related to free radical scavenging, anti-inflammatory effects, immune modulation and photodynamic therapy. Therapeutic aspects of chlorophylls also were investigated, with evidence for cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human cancer cells. As the science has evolved, new mechanistic leads continue to support the use and development of chlorophylls and their porphyrin derivatives for cancer interception, beyond the initial interest as interceptor molecules.

published proceedings

  • Genes Environ

author list (cited authors)

  • Dashwood, R. H.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Dashwood, Roderick H

publication date

  • January 2021