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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20994. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020994. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Antimetastatic effects of Phyllanthus on human lung (A549) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Current chemotherapeutic drugs kill cancer cells mainly by inducing apoptosis. However, they become ineffective once cancer cell has the ability to metastasize, hence the poor prognosis and high mortality rate. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the antimetastatic potential of Phyllanthus (P. niruri, P. urinaria, P. watsonii, and P. amarus) on lung and breast carcinoma cells.


Cytotoxicity of Phyllanthus plant extracts were first screened using the MTS reduction assay. They were shown to inhibit MCF-7 (breast carcinoma) and A549 (lung carcinoma) cells growth with IC(50) values ranging from 50-180 µg/ml and 65-470 µg/ml for methanolic and aqueous extracts respectively. In comparison, they have lower toxicity on normal cells with the cell viability percentage remaining above 50% when treated up to 1000 µg/ml for both extracts. After determining the non-toxic effective dose, several antimetastasis assays were carried out and Phyllanthus extracts were shown to effectively reduce invasion, migration, and adhesion of both MCF-7 and A549 cells in a dose-dependent manner, at concentrations ranging from 20-200 µg/ml for methanolic extracts and 50-500 µg/ml for aqueous extracts. This was followed by an evaluation of the possible modes of cell death that occurred along with the antimetastatic activity. Phyllanthus was shown to be capable of inducing apoptosis in conjunction with its antimetastastic action, with more than three fold increase of caspases-3 and -7, the presence of DNA-fragmentation and TUNEL-positive cells. The ability of Phyllanthus to exert antimetastatic activities is mostly associated to the presence of polyphenol compounds in its extracts.


The presence of polyphenol compounds in the Phyllanthus plant is critically important in the inhibition of the invasion, migration, and adhesion of cancer cells, along with the involvement of apoptosis induction. Hence, Phyllanthus could be a valuable candidate in the treatment of metastatic cancers.

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