Tumor specific cytotoxicity of arctigenin isolated from herbal plant Arctium lappa L.
The effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy is often limited by the toxicity to other tissues in the body. Therefore, the identification of non-toxic chemotherapeutics from herbal medicines remains to be an attractive goal to advance cancer treatments. This study evaluated the cytotoxicity profiles of 364 herbal plant extracts, using various cancer and normal cell lines. The screening found occurrence of A549 (human lung adenocarcinoma) specific cytotoxicity in nine species of herbal plants, especially in the extract of Arctium lappa L. Moreover, purification of the selective cytotoxicity in the extract of Arctium lappa L. resulted in the identification of arctigenin as tumor specific agent that showed cytotoxicity to lung cancer (A549), liver cancer (HepG2) and stomach cancer (KATO III) cells, while no cytotoxicity to several normal cell lines. Arctigenin specifically inhibited the proliferation of cancer cells, which might consequently lead to the induction of apoptosis. In conclusion, this study found that arctigenin was one of cancer specific phytochemicals, and in part responsible for the tumor selective cytotoxicity of the herbal medicine.