Phytosterol Pygeum africanum regulates prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo



Prostate cancer is an important public health problem. It is an excellent candidate disease for chemo-prevention because prostate cancer is typically slow growing and is usually diagnosed in elderly males. Pygeum africanum (Prunus africana or Rosaceae) is an African prune (plum) tree found in tropical Africa. An extract from the bark of Pygeum africanum has been used in Europe as a prevention and treatment of prostate disorders including benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). More recently in the USA, the phytotherapeutic preparations of Pygeum africanum and Saw palmetto have been marketed for prostate health including prostate cancer prevention and treatment.


The anti-cancer potential of Pygeum africanum has been tested both in vitro (PC-3 and LNCaP cells) and in␣vivo (TRAMP mouse model).


In tissue culture, ethanolic extracts (30%) of Pygeum africanum inhibited the growth of PC-3 and LNCaP cells; induced apoptosis and altered cell kinetics; down regulated ERα and PKC-α protein, and demonstrated good binding ability to both mouse uterine estrogen receptors and LNCaP human androgen receptors. TRAMP mice fed Pygeum africanum showed a significant reduction (P = 0.034) in prostate cancer incidence (35%) compared to casein fed mice (62.5%).


Pygeum africanum, which is widely used in Europe and USA for treatment of BPH, has a significant role in regulation of prostate cancer both in␣vitro and in␣vivo and therefore may be a useful supplement for people at high risk for developing prostate cancer.

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We would like to thank Dr. Wendy Applequest, Missouri Botanical Gardens for her kind assistance in obtaining the Pygeum africanum extract. We appreciate the help of Dr. George Rottinghaus, Department of Analytical chemistry, University of Missouri-Columbia in making the ethanol extract of Pygeum africanum. This work was supported by the Missouri University Center for Phytonutrient and Phytochemical Studies (MUCCPS), NIH Grant # P01-ES510535 and NIH grant # R01AT002978.

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Correspondence to Dennis B. Lubahn.

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Shenouda, N.S., Sakla, M.S., Newton, L.G. et al. Phytosterol Pygeum africanum regulates prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo . Endocr 31, 72–81 (2007).

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  • African herb
  • LNCaP
  • PC-3
  • TRAMP mice