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BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Dec 5;18(1):321. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2392-5.

Anti-metastatic and anti-proliferative activity of eugenol against triple negative and HER2 positive breast cancer cells.

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Pharmacology and toxicology department, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Experimental Medicine Department-MNGHA, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center/King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, 11426, Saudi Arabia.
Cancer Biology Department,Virology and Immunology Unit, National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Cairo, 11976, Egypt.



Eugenol is a natural phenolic compound and possesses anticancer and antibacterial activities. Breast cancer is a major global health problem, and most of the chemotherapeutic agents are highly toxic with long-term side effects. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the possibility of using eugenol as an anti-metastatic and anti-proliferative agent against MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells.


Breast cancer cell lines MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 were treated with eugenol and cell proliferation was measured using a real-time cell electronic sensing system. Annexin V analysis with flow cytometry was used to detect the effect of eugenol on cell death. In MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 cells, metastatic potential after eugenol treatment was examined using a wound-healing assay. Real-time PCR was used to study the effect of eugenol on the expression of anti-metastatic genes such as MMP2, MMP9, and TIMP-1, and genes involved in apoptosis including Caspase3, Caspase7, and Caspase9.


Treatment with 4 μM and 8 μM eugenol for 48 h significantly inhibited cell proliferation of MDA-MB-231, with an inhibition rate of 76.4%, whereas 5 μM and 10 μM of eugenol for 48 h significantly inhibited the proliferation of SK-BR-3 cells with an inhibition rate of 68.1%. Eugenol-treated cells showed significantly decreased MMP2 and MMP9 expression and an insignificant increase in TIMP1 expression in HER2 positive and triple negative breast cancer cells. Eugenol significantly increased the proportion of MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 cells in late apoptosis and increased the expression of Caspase3, Caspase7, and Caspase9.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to describe the anti-metastatic effect of eugenol against MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 breast cancer cell lines.


Anti-apoptotic; Anti-proliferative; Eugenol; Gene expression; Triple negative breast cancer

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