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Anticancer activity of a sub-fraction of dichloromethane extract of Strobilanthes crispus on human breast and prostate cancer cells in vitro

Nik Soriani Yaacob1*, Nurraihana Hamzah2, Nik Nursyazni Nik Mohamed Kamal1, Siti Amalina Zainal Abidin1, Choon Sheen Lai2, Visweswaran Navaratnam2 and Mohd Nor Norazmi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemical Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia Health Campus, 16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia

2 Centre for Drug Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Minden, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

3 School of Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia Health Campus, 16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:42  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-42

Published: 5 August 2010



The leaves of Strobilanthes crispus (S. crispus) which is native to the regions of Madagascar to the Malay Archipelago, are used in folk medicine for their antidiabetic, diuretic, anticancer and blood pressure lowering properties. Crude extracts of this plant have been found to be cytotoxic to human cancer cell lines and protective against chemically-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in rats. In this study, the cytotoxicity of various sub-fractions of dichloromethane extract isolated from the leaves of S. crispus was determined and the anticancer activity of one of the bioactive sub-fractions, SC/D-F9, was further analysed in breast and prostate cancer cell lines.


The dichloromethane extract of S. crispus was chromatographed on silica gel by flash column chromatography. The ability of the various sub-fractions obtained to induce cell death of MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, PC-3 and DU-145 cell lines was determined using the LDH assay. The dose-response effect and the EC50 values of the active sub-fraction, SC/D-F9, were determined. Apoptosis was detected using Annexin V antibody and propidium iodide staining and analysed by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, while caspase 3/7 activity was detected using FLICA caspase inhibitor and analysed by fluorescence microscopy.


Selected sub-fractions of the dichloromethane extract induced death of MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, PC-3 and DU-145 cells. The sub-fraction SC/D-F9, consistently killed breast and prostate cancer cell lines with low EC50 values but is non-cytotoxic to the normal breast epithelial cell line, MCF-10A. SC/D-F9 displayed relatively higher cytotoxicity compared to tamoxifen, paclitaxel, docetaxel and doxorubicin. Cell death induced by SC/D-F9 occurred via apoptosis with the involvement of caspase 3 and/or 7.


A dichloromethane sub-fraction of S. crispus displayed potent anticancer activities in vitro that can be further exploited for the development of a potential therapeutic anticancer agent.