Proliferative activity of Echinacea angustifolia root extracts on cancer cells: Interference with doxorubicin cytotoxicity

Author(s): Huntmer ED, Hawaleish FT, Christopher CCL


Doxorubicin is an anticancer drug that causes apoptosis in cells, but cardiotoxicity limits the cumulative dose that can remain in the blood. Echinacea extracts have been prescribed to supplement cancer chemotherapy. In a recent study, it was reported that Echinacea purpurea extracts protected noncancerous cells from apoptosis. Our study aimed to determine interference with doxorubicin chemotherapy, and if fractions and compounds from Echinacea angustifolia roots protected the cells. Cervical and breast cancer cells were treated with the Echinacea samples and doxorubicin. At 0.05 and 0.5 μM doxorubicin concentration, cynarine increased HeLa cell growth by 48–125% and 29–101%, respectively (p<0.01). At 0.05 μM doxorubicin concentration, chicoric acid increased cell growth by 23–100% (p<0.01). When MCF-7 cells were treated with Echinacea and doxorubicin, the ethyl acetate fraction increased cell growth by 20–25%, and chicoric acid increased cell growth by 10–15%. Cynarine showed proliferative activity on HeLa cells, but showed antiproliferative activity on MCF-7 cells. Results indicate that phenolic compounds are responsible for proliferative activity. Studies with individual compounds show that chicoric acid and cynarine interfered with cells treated with 0.5 μM doxorubicin. The results of this study show that Echinacea herbal medicines affect cell proliferation despite cancer treatment, and that herbal medicines require further study with respect to anticancer drugs.

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