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J Pharm Pharmacol. 2010 Aug;62(8):1018-27. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2010.01135.x.

Antineoplastic effect of beta-elemene on prostate cancer cells and other types of solid tumour cells.

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  • 1School of Medicine, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.



beta-Elemene, a natural compound extracted from over 50 different Chinese medicinal herbs and plants, has been effective in the treatment of hyperplastic and proliferative disorders such as prostatic hypertrophy, hysteromyoma and neoplasms. Our previous studies have demonstrated that beta-elemene exhibits strong inhibitory activity in ovarian cancer cells. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of beta-elemene on prostate cancer cells as well as other types of tumour cells and to determine whether the effect of beta-elemene on prostate cancer cell death was mediated through the induction of apoptosis.


The MTT assay was used to evaluate the ability of beta-elemene to inhibit cellular proliferation in cancer cells. Cellular apoptosis was assessed by annexin V binding, TUNEL and ELISA-based assays. Caspase activity was measured using a caspases assay kit. The protein levels of Bcl-2, caspases, cytochrome c and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) were analysed by Western blotting.


Here, we showed that beta-elemene had an antiproliferative effect on androgen-insensitive prostate carcinoma DU145 and PC-3 cells. Treatment with beta-elemene also inhibited the growth of brain, breast, cervical, colon and lung carcinoma cells. The effect of beta-elemene on cancer cells was dose dependent, with IC50 values ranging from 47 to 95 microg/ml (230-465 microm). TUNEL assay and flow cytometric analysis using annxin V/propidium iodide staining revealed that the percentage of apoptotic prostate cancer cells was increased by beta-elemene in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Moreover, beta-elemene exposure resulted in a decreased Bcl-2 protein level, increased cytochrome c release, and activated PARP and caspase-3, -7, -9, and -10 in prostate cancer cells.


Overall, these findings suggest that beta-elemene exerts broad-spectrum antitumour activity against many types of solid carcinoma and supports a proposal of beta-elemene as a new potentially therapeutic drug for castration-resistant prostate cancer and other solid tumours.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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