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Exp Ther Med. 2018 Aug;16(2):557-566. doi: 10.3892/etm.2018.6244. Epub 2018 May 31.

In vitro screening of cytotoxic activity of euphol from Euphorbia tirucalli on a large panel of human cancer-derived cell lines.

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Molecular Oncology Research Center, Barretos Cancer Hospital, Barretos, SP 14784 400, Brazil.
Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Braga 4710-057, Portugal.
ICVS/3B's PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga/Guimarães 4806-909, Portugal.
Medical Oncology Department, AC Camargo Cancer Center, São Paulo, SP 01509-010, Brazil.
Kyolab Laboratório de Pesquisa Farmacêutica Ltda, Valinhos, SP 13273-105, Brazil.


A large number of classic antineoplastic agents are derived from plants. Euphorbia tirucalli L. (Euphorbiaceae) is a subtropical and tropical plant, used in Brazilian folk medicine against many diseases, including cancer, yet little is known about its true anticancer properties. The present study evaluated the antitumor effect of the tetracyclic triterpene alcohol, euphol, the main constituent of E. tirucalli in a panel of 73 human cancer lines from 15 tumor types. The biological effect of euphol in pancreatic cells was also assessed. The combination index was further used to explore euphol interactions with standard drugs. Euphol showed a cytotoxicity effect against several cancer cell lines (IC50 range, 1.41-38.89 µM), particularly in esophageal squamous cell (11.08 µM) and pancreatic carcinoma cells (6.84 µM), followed by prostate, melanoma, and colon cancer. Cytotoxicity effects were seen in all cancer cell lines, with more than half deemed highly sensitive. Euphol inhibited proliferation, motility and colony formation in pancreatic cancer cells. Importantly, euphol exhibited synergistic interactions with gemcitabine and paclitaxel in pancreatic and esophageal cell lines, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this study constitutes the largest in vitro screening of euphol efficacy on cancer cell lines and revealed its in vitro anti-cancer properties, particularly in pancreatic and esophageal cell lines, suggesting that euphol, either as a single agent or in combination with conventional chemotherapy, is a potential anti-cancer drug.


Euphorbia tirucalli; anticancer; cytotoxic activity; esophageal; euphol; pancreatic

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