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Cancer Res. 2004 Sep 1;64(17):6225-32.

Hyperforin inhibits cancer invasion and metastasis.

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Department of Experimental Biomedical Sciences, Medical School of Padova, Italy.


Hyperforin (Hyp), the major lipophilic constituent of St. John's wort, was assayed as a stable dicyclohexylammonium salt (Hyp-DCHA) for cytotoxicity and inhibition of matrix proteinases, tumor invasion, and metastasis. Hyp-DCHA triggered apoptosis-associated cytotoxic effect in both murine (C-26, B16-LU8, and TRAMP-C1) and human (HT-1080 and SK-N-BE) tumor cells; its effect varied, with B16-LU8, HT-1080, and C-26 the most sensitive (IC50 = 5 to 8 micromol/L). At these concentrations, a marked and progressive decline of growth was observed in HT-1080 cells, whereas untransformed endothelial cells were only marginally affected. Hyp-DCHA inhibited in a dose-dependent and noncompetitive manner various proteinases instrumental to extracellular matrix degradation; the activity of leukocyte elastase was inhibited the most (IC50 = 3 micromol/L), followed by cathepsin G and urokinase-type plasminogen activator, whereas that of the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) 2 and 9 showed an IC50 > 100 micromol/L. Nevertheless, inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 constitutive activity and reduction of MMP-2 and MMP-9 secretion was triggered by 0.5 micromol/L Hyp-DCHA to various degrees in different cell lines, the most in C-26. Inhibition of C-26 and HT-1080 cell chemoinvasion (80 and 54%, respectively) through reconstituted basement membrane was observed at these doses. Finally, in mice that received i.v. injections of C-26 or B16-LU8 cells, daily i.p. administration of Hyp-DCHA-without reaching tumor-cytotoxic blood levels-remarkably reduced inflammatory infiltration, neovascularization, lung weight (-48%), and size of experimental metastases with C-26 (-38%) and number of lung metastases with B16-LU8 (-22%), with preservation of apparently healthy and active behavior. These observations qualify Hyp-DCHA as an interesting lead compound to prevent and contrast cancer spread and metastatic growth.

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