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J Pineal Res. 2015 May;58(4):375-87. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12227. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

Melatonin as a treatment for gastrointestinal cancer: a review.

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State Key Laboratory of Cancer Biology, Department of Gastroenterology, Xijing Hospital, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, China; Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, China.


Gastrointestinal cancer is a disease that affects the population worldwide with high morbidity and mortality. Melatonin, an endogenously produced molecule, may provide a defense against a variety of cancer types. In particular, the ability of melatonin to inhibit gastrointestinal cancer is substantial. In this review, we first clarify the relationship between the disruption of the melatonin rhythm and gastrointestinal cancer (based on epidemiologic surveys and animal and human studies) and summarize the preventive effect of melatonin on carcinogenesis. Thereafter, the mechanisms through which melatonin exerts its anti-gastrointestinal cancer actions are explained, including inhibition of proliferation, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis, and promotion of apoptosis and cancer immunity. Moreover, we discuss the drug synergy effects and the role of melatonin receptors involved in the growth-inhibitory effects on gastrointestinal cancer. Taken together, the information compiled here serves as a comprehensive reference for the anti-gastrointestinal cancer actions of melatonin that have been identified to date and will hopefully aid in the design of further experimental and clinical studies and increase the awareness of melatonin as a therapeutic agent in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.


drug synergy; gastrointestinal cancer; melatonin; melatonin receptors

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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