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Oncotarget. 2017 Nov 18;8(67):110756-110773. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.22502. eCollection 2017 Dec 19.

Cymbopogon citratus and Camellia sinensis extracts selectively induce apoptosis in cancer cells and reduce growth of lymphoma xenografts in vivo.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada.
Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada.


Cancer cells are reported to have elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and are highly dependent on cellular defense mechanisms against oxidative stress. Numerous nutraceuticals and natural polyphenolic compounds have a wide range of abilities to alter cellular redox states with potential implications in various diseases. Furthermore, therapeutic options for cancers are mostly nonselective treatments including genotoxic or tubulin-targeting compounds. Some of the natural extracts, containing multiple bioactive compounds, could target multiple pathways in cancer cells to selectively induce cell death. Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass) and Camellia sinensis (white tea) extracts have been shown to have medicinal properties, however, their activity against lymphoma and leukemia, as well as mechanistic details, have not been fully characterized. Herein, we report potent anti-cancer properties in dose and time-dependent manners of ethanolic lemongrass and hot water white tea extracts in lymphoma and leukemia models. Both extracts were able to effectively induce apoptosis selectively in these human cancer cell types. Interestingly, ethanolic lemongrass extract induces apoptosis primarily by the extrinsic pathway and was found to be dependent on the generation of ROS. Conversely, apoptotic induction by hot water white tea extract was independent of ROS. Furthermore, both of these extracts caused mitochondrial depolarization and decreased rates of oxygen consumption in lymphoma and leukemia cells, leading to cell death. Most importantly, both these extracts were effective in reducing tumor growth in human lymphoma xenograft models when administered orally. Thus, these natural extracts could have potential for being nontoxic alternatives for the treatment of cancer.


cancer; leukemia; lymphoma; nutraceuticals; oxidative stress

Conflict of interest statement

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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