Giacomo Castelvetro's salads. Anti-HER2 oncogene nutraceuticals since the 17th century?

Ramón Colomer, Ruth Lupu, Adriana Papadimitropoulou, Luciano Vellón, Alejandro Vázquez-Martín, Joan Brunet, Alberto Fernández-Gutiérrez, Antonio Segura-Carretero, Javier A. Menéndez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We are accumulating evidence to suggest that 17th century Renaissance foodways-largely based on the old "Mediterranean dietary traditions"-may provide new nutraceutical management strategies against HER2-positive breast cancer disease in the 21st century. Epidemiological and experimental studies begin to support the notion that "The Sacred Law of Salads" (i.e., "raw vegetables-plenty of generous (olive) oil")-originally proposed in 1614 by Giacomo Castelvetro in its book The Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy-might be considered the first (unintended) example of customised diets for breast cancer prevention based on individual genetic make-up (i.e., nutraceuticals against human breast carcinomas bearing HER2 oncogene amplification/overexpression). First, the so-called salad vegetables dietary pattern (i.e., a high consumption of raw vegetables and olive oil) appears to exert a protective effect mostly confined to the HER2-positive breast cancer subtype, with no significant influence on the occurrence of HER2-negative breast cancers. Second, all the main olive oil constituents (i.e., the ω-9 monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid and polyphenolic compounds such as the secoiridoid oleuropein or the lignan 1-[+]-acetoxypinoresinol] dramatically reduce HER2 expression and specifically induce apoptotic cell death in cultured HER2-positive breast cancer cells, with marginal effects against HER2-negative cells. Third, an olive oil-rich diet negatively influences experimental mammary tumorigenesis in rats likewise decreasing HER2 expression levels. If early 1600s Castelvetro's salads can be used as dietary protocols capable to protecting women against biologically aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer subtypes is an intriguing prospect that warrants to be evaluated in human pilot studies in the future. Here, at least, we would like to recognise Giacomo Castelvetro as the father of modern nutritional genomics in oncology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-34
Number of pages5
JournalClinical and Translational Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Breast Cancer
  • HER2
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Oleic Acid
  • Olive oil
  • Polyphenols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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