Lunasin’s Story


The very first person to hear about the conceptual discovery of Lunasin was Dr. Galvez’s nephew Jan Michael Cruz.

One Researcher’s Source of Motivation   as told by Dr. Alfredo Galvez

It was a Sunday morning in early December 1996. I had just spent that Saturday night talking science, and sneaking into a Stanford laboratory at 1:00 AM with my postdoctoral friend to look up a scientific paper that provided the missing evidence I needed to move forward with my research on Lunasin.

On my way, back to Berkeley the following day, I decided to visit my family in Union City.  Nobody was answering the door and as I was about to leave my nephew Jan opened the door. Jan was only 18 years old and was quickly losing his battle with lung cancer.  He was out of breath and weak from the exertion, so I helped him sit on the couch and sat there talking with him while we waited for the others to come home from church. Despite the sleepless night, I was still on an adrenaline high from excitement. Poor Jan, with his labored breathing, had to listen to me talk non-stop about my research and how close I was to potentially discovering a new anti-cancer agent. I knew he did not understand most of what I said but he understood the implications because he whispered to me after I was done talking, “Tito, Good luck. I hope you can develop something to help me and others.” And I promised him that I will try my best.

Jan Michael died of lung cancer on a Saturday night in May 17, 1997. I was supposed to visit him that afternoon, but the fluorescent microscope I needed for my experiment was only available after 4:00 PM so I had to work until midnight. One of the pictures I took that night shows a breast cancer cell breaking apart and dying because of the lunasin gene. I call it the Jan-Jan picture (pictured above) and it was included in the very first publication describing the discovery of Lunasin in Nature Biotechnology (1999).

breast cancer


An Accident meeting a Prepared Mind (Louis Pasteur)

Discovering the Lunasin peptide was a matter of serendipity or a fortunate accident.  Dr. Galvez was discovering a revolutionary soy peptide during his initial laboratory research focus was on seed and cell development at University of California at Berkeley.   He isolated a protein from soy not knowing anything about it and in doing so began observing affects as it was binding to something in a cell.  Dr. Galvez saw that Lunasin causes a disruption in cell division similar to developing cell division.  So, he decided to look further and test his hypothesis of how Lunasin worked within cancer cells since they divide so rapidly.  Based on Dr. Galvez’s initial findings on the anti-cancer effects of Lunasin these first two main affects were published in the following research studies:

  • Transfection of Lunasin gene in mammalian cells causes anti-mitosis and apoptosis. Galvez & de Lumen. Nature Biotech. (1999) 17:495-500.
  • Lunasin peptide inhibits oncogene and carcinogen-induced tumor formation. Galvez et al., Cancer Research (2001) 61:7473-7478.