Elvira de Mejia


Dr. de Mejia joined the University of Illinois in 2002; her research has made both fundamental and applied contributions to the development of bioactive compounds from foods with biological benefits to human health and their mechanism of action. She has served as member of National scientific committees at NSF and USDA. Fellow of the Mexican Academy of Sciences; she has received several academic awards for excellence in teaching, research and international reach.

The long-range goal of her research program is to enhance the health of individuals by identification and evaluation of benefits of bioactive compounds in plant foods. Her investigations elucidate how biologically active food compounds at the cellular and molecular levels decrease the risk of cancer focusing on the study of proteins, flavonoids and peptides and their effects on experimental models of cancer. Dr. de Mejia and her students have identified biologically active anti-cancer peptides such as lunasin and systematically investigated its role on the prevention of colon cancer metastasis. Lunasin reduces inflammation and resistance of colon cancer cells to the action of chemotherapeutic drugs and discovered that there is an integrin receptor for lunasin that facilitates its incorporation into cancer cells. Lunasin potentiates the effect of the drug oxaliplatin in causing cytotoxicity against human cancer cells. Lunasin was able to inhibit the outgrowth of metastasis. Dr. de Mejia’s scientific contributions have advanced the understanding of the potential health benefits of teas, and she is recognized as a world authority on tea bioactive compounds. Caffeoyl derivatives isolated and characterized from mate tea dramatically decreased several markers of inflammation which regulate genes that affect the cancer process through the production of important enzymes. Ultimately, colon cancer cells died with the induction of two specific enzymes, caspase-3 and caspase 8. Her current goals are to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which flavonoids inhibit the proliferation of pancreatic cancer using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. Her experiments will test the hypothesis that flavonoids inhibits GSK-3β activity, thereby decreasing NFκB activity and expression of genes involved in inflammation and cell proliferation and increasing expression of genes involved in cancer cell apoptosis.


Colon cancer, RGD peptides, tea bioactives, pancreatic cancer, flavonoids

More Information

Visit http://fshn.illinois.edu/people/elvira_de_mejia to learn more about Dr. de Mejia, including publication information.

*University of Illinois Cancer Center Member