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Patent awarded for ULM professor's research into olive oil treatment for breast cancer

Published April 19, 2021



University of Louisiana Monroe College of Pharmacy Professor Khalid El Sayed, Ph.D., left, discusses with graduate students the potential of olive oil in cancer treatments. A U.S. Patent was awarded to the UL System Board of Supervisors based on El Sayed's research.

Siddharth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services




The University of Louisiana Monroe is pleased to announce a U.S. Patent has been awarded based on research led by a ULM College of Pharmacy Professor.


Khalid El Sayed, Ph.D., a Professor of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry in the School of Basic Pharmaceutical and Toxicological Sciences, College of Pharmacy, piloted the research into a process to isolate oleocanthal from olive oil for use in breast cancer treatment and relapse prevention.


The patent was awarded to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. El Sayed; Abu Bakar Siddique, a postdoctoral fellow at ULM; and Hassan Y. Ebrahim of Cairo, Egypt, were listed as the inventors.


In Louisiana, breast cancer strikes 126 of every 100,000 women. That's the highest incident rate among cancers in women in the states. Breast cancer is the second most deadly, behind only lung cancer.


"Most current treatments hit both the target cells and healthy cells, causing patients morbidity" El Sayed said.


Although the chances of surviving a diagnosis are better today, the destruction of healthy cells and the inability to kill dormant tumor cells leave patients vulnerable to disease relapse.


The countries along the Mediterranean Sea have a noticeably lower rate of breast and colon cancers. El Sayed studied the Mediterranean people's eating habits and realized the diet made frequent use of virgin olive oil. Based on corroborating epidemiological evidence of the medical benefits of olive oil, El Sayed started his research.


In breaking down the olive oil molecules, El Sayed began focusing on oleocanthal, a natural phenolic compound found in the oil.


"It took a lot of trial and error. In looking at the chemical structure of the molecule, it became apparent that we could fish the oleocanthal from the oil. But it took eight years to figure out how to do it," El Sayed said. In the end, it was so simple.


"All we do is shake it with water, freeze, and entrap on a special resin"


That changes up the molecule, making oleocanthal separation feasible. With enough samples, El Sayed was able to experiment, and while studies using test tubes proved modest, he started oral dosages with mice. The findings: oleocanthal reduced the recurrence of most types of breast cancer in mice and limited the growth of other types of recurrent tumors.

The near future of oleocanthal as anticancer dietary supplement is bright and close.


El Sayed secured a grant from the National Cancer Institute-National Institutes of Health to fund research on the preventive and therapeutic benefits of oleocanthal in triple negative breast cancer recurrence. The award included a $240,000 share for ULM.


Earlier, the Board of Regents’ Industry Tie Research Subprogram awarded ULM a $225,000 grant to develop the olive phenolic oleocanthal as functional food and dietary supplement products with suitable pharmaceutical dosage forms for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease prevention.