International journal of oncology

Methanol extract of the ethnopharmaceutical remedy Smilax spinosa exhibits anti-neoplastic activity.

PMID 22752086


Plants have been the source of several effective drugs for the treatment of cancer and over 60% of anticancer drugs originate from natural sources. Therefore, extracts of the rhizome of Smilax spinosa, an ethnomedicinal plant from Guatemala which is used for the treatment of inflammatory conditions, were investigated regarding their anti-neoplastic activities. By using several solvents the methanol extract was by far the most potent against HL60 cell proliferation (50% inhibition at 60 µg/ml). Furthermore, fractionation of this extract yielded fraction F2, which exhibited enforced pro-apoptotic activity, and activated CYP1A1. Proteins that are relevant for cell cycle progression and apoptosis, as well as proto-oncogenes were investigated by western blotting. This revealed that the methanol extract increased the levels of p21 and this may have caused cell cycle attenuation. The derivative fraction F2 induced apoptosis through the intrinsic pathway, which correlated with the inhibition of Stat3 phosphorylation and concomitant induction of caspase 9, then caspase 8 and caspase 3. In summary, the methanol extract and the derivative fraction F2 of S. spinosa showed anti-neoplastic effects in HL-60 cells and CYP1A1 activation in estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 breast cancer cells but not in estrogen-negative MDA-MB231 breast cancer cells. Based on our data Smilax spinosa may be a promising source for novel anticancer agents.