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Am J Chin Med. 2010;38(6):1115-30.

Therapeutic effects of matrine on primary and metastatic breast cancer.

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The Hepatosplenic Surgery Center, Department of General Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, China.


Matrine, one of the main components extracted from a traditional Chinese herb, Sophora flavescens Ait, has displayed anti-cancer activity in several types of cancer cells. This study aims to evaluate the therapeutic benefits of matrine on primary and metastatic breast cancer. Matrine inhibited the viability of and induced apoptosis in human MCF-7 and mouse 4T1 breast cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner in vitro as shown by MTT assay, flow cytometry and laser scanning confocal microscopy. Administration of matrine inhibited the growth of primary tumors and their metastases to lungs and livers, in a dose-dependent manner, in a highly metastatic model of 4T1 breast cancer established in syngeneic Balb/c mice. Tumors from matrine-treated mice had a smaller proliferation index, shown by immunostaining with an anti-Ki-67 antibody, a greater apoptosis index, shown by TUNEL-staining, and a less microvessel density, shown by immunostaining with an anti-CD31 A antibody, compared to the controls. Western blot analysis of tumoral homogenates indicated that matrine therapy reduced the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax, downregulated the expressions of VEGF and VEGFR-2, and increased the activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9. This study suggests matrine may be a potent agent, from a natural resource, for treating metastatic breast cancer because of its anti-apoptotic, anti-proliferative and anti-angiogenic activities.

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