Cytotoxic activity of Fagonia cretica against human breast cancer cells


In many parts of the world, plants are directly utilised for their medicinal properties. Traditional medicine from Pakistan, India and the Far East is well documented and its history is embedded in folklore. It has been documented that an aqueous extract of the desert shrub, Fagonia cretica, is a popular treatment for breast cancer in Pakistan. The administration of an aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica is reported effective at reducing tumour size and improving the quality of life of breast cancer patients, is well tolerated and does not exhibit adverse effects like vomiting, diarrhoea or alopecia which are common side effects of standard cytotoxic therapy. In the past, many pharmacologically active and chemotherapeutic compounds have been isolated from plants which subsequently have proven to be successful in clinical trials and been used as primary compounds in therapeutic regimes. Fagonia cretica has historical use as a treatment for breast cancer, yet there is little scientific evidence which shows chemotherapeutic potential towards breast tumours. Preparation and analysis of an aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica may reveal novel chemotherapeutic agents that can be used to effectively target cancer cells. An understanding of the mechanism of any activity may improve our understanding of cancer cell biology and reveal novel therapeutic targets. This thesis describes for the first time that an aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica shows potent in vitro cytotoxic activity towards breast cancer epithelial cell lines which was not seen towards normal mammary epithelial cells. Elucidation and characterisation of the cytotoxic mechanism was undertaken by analysing DNA damage, cell cycle status, apoptosis, metabolic state and expression of transcription factors and their targets. Finally, methods for the isolation and identification of active compound(s) were developed using various chromatographic techniques. An aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica was able to reduce cell viability significantly in two phenotypically different breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231). This activity was markedly reduced in normal mammary epithelial cells (HMEpC). Further investigation into the mode of action revealed that extract treatment induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in both MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cell lines. This coincided with the formation of DNA double stranded breaks and the DNA repair marker ?-H2AX. In MCF-7 cells, ATM/ATR activation resulted in increased p53 expression and of its transcriptional targets p21 and bax, suggesting a role for a p53-mediated response. Furthermore, inhibition of extract-induced p53 expression with siRNA reduced the cytotoxic effect against MCF-7 cells. Extract treatment was also associated with increased FOXO3a expression in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells. In the absence of functional p53, siRNA knockdown of extract-induced FOXO3a expression was completely abrogated, suggesting that FOXO3a plays a vital role in extract-induced cytotoxicity. Isolation and characterisation of the active compound(s) within the extract was attempted using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry in conjunction with a cell viability assay. Multiple fractionations generated an active fraction that contained four major compounds as detected by mass spectrometry. However, none of these compounds were identified structurally or chemically due to constraints within the methodology.

Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Biosciences
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: DNA damage,FOXO3a,breast cancer,p53,cancer metabolism
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 08:40
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2013 13:06
Completed Date: 2012-09-03
Authors: Lam, Matthew


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