Antineoplastic effect of β-elemene on prostate cancer cells and other types of solid tumour cells

Qingdi Quentin Li, Gangduo Wang, Furong Huang, Malathi Banda, Eddie Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Objectives β-Elemene, a natural compound extracted from over 50 different Chinese medicinal herbs and plants, has been effective in the treatment of hyperplastic and proliferative disorders such as prostatic hypertrophy, hysteromyoma and neoplasms. Our previous studies have demonstrated that β-elemene exhibits strong inhibitory activity in ovarian cancer cells. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of β-elemene on prostate cancer cells as well as other types of tumour cells and to determine whether the effect of β-elemene on prostate cancer cell death was mediated through the induction of apoptosis. Methods The MTT assay was used to evaluate the ability of β-elemene to inhibit cellular proliferation in cancer cells. Cellular apoptosis was assessed by annexin V binding, TUNEL and ELISA-based assays. Caspase activity was measured using a caspases assay kit. The protein levels of Bcl-2, caspases, cytochrome c and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) were analysed by Western blotting. Key findings Here, we showed that β-elemene had an antiproliferative effect on androgen-insensitive prostate carcinoma DU145 and PC-3 cells. Treatment with β-elemene also inhibited the growth of brain, breast, cervical, colon and lung carcinoma cells. The effect of β-elemene on cancer cells was dose dependent, with IC50 values ranging from 47 to 95 μg/ml (230-465 μ m). TUNEL assay and flow cytometric analysis using annxin V/propidium iodide staining revealed that the percentage of apoptotic prostate cancer cells was increased by β-elemene in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Moreover, β-elemene exposure resulted in a decreased Bcl-2 protein level, increased cytochrome c release, and activated PARP and caspase-3, -7, -9, and -10 in prostate cancer cells. Conclusions Overall, these findings suggest that β-elemene exerts broad-spectrum antitumour activity against many types of solid carcinoma and supports a proposal of β-elemene as a new potentially therapeutic drug for castration-resistant prostate cancer and other solid tumours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1027
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese medicine
  • apoptosis
  • caspases
  • natural product
  • prostate cancer
  • β-elemene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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