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J Nat Prod. 2010 Sep 24;73(9):1476-81. doi: 10.1021/np100112p.

Withaferin A, a cytotoxic steroid from Vassobia breviflora, induces apoptosis in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.


As part of a program to discover drug leads from plant biodiversity, the present investigation was undertaken to explore the anticancer potential of compounds derived from selected Latin American plants. Bioassay-guided fractionation of a crude extract of the aerial parts of Vassobia breviflora led to the isolation of the withanolide-type steroidal lactone withaferin A (1). This compound was tested for antiproliferative activity against the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines, MDA1986, JMAR, UM-SCC-2, and JHU011. The inhibitory concentrations to reduce cell viability to 50% (IC(50)) were determined by the MTS cytotoxicity assay, and 1 reduced cell viability with IC(50) values in the range 0.5-2.2 μM. A mechanistic study showed that 1 induces apoptosis and cell death in HNSCC cells as well as a cell-cycle shift from G(0)/G(1) to G(2)/M. Cells treated with 1 exhibited inactivation of Akt and a reduction in total Akt concentration. This investigation constitutes the first report of the antiproliferative activity of withaferin A (1) against head and neck squamous carcinoma.

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