Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cytotoxicity screening of Bangladeshi medicinal plant extracts on pancreatic cancer cells

Sherine George1, Siddharth V Bhalerao2, Erich A Lidstone1, Irfan S Ahmad34, Atiya Abbasi5, Brian T Cunningham123 and Kenneth L Watkin36*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

2 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

3 Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

4 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

5 International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, Pakistan

6 Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Bio-Imaging Science and Technology Group, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:52  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-52

Published: 17 September 2010



There has been a long standing interest in the identification of medicinal plants and derived natural products for developing cancer therapeutics. Our study focuses upon pancreatic cancer, due to its high mortality rate, that is attributed in part to the lack of an effective chemotherapeutic agent. Previous reports on the use of medicinal plant extracts either alone or alongside conventional anticancer agents in the treatment of this cancer have shown promising results. This work aims to investigate the therapeutic properties of a library of medicinal plants from Bangladesh.


56 extracts of 44 unique medicinal plants were studied. The extracts were screened for cytotoxicity against the pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell line Panc-1, using a label-free biosensor assay. The top cytotoxic extracts identified in this screen were tested on two additional pancreatic cancer cell lines (Mia-Paca2 and Capan-1) and a fibroblast cell line (Hs68) using an MTT proliferation assay. Finally, one of the most promising extracts was studied using a caspase-3 colorimetric assay to identify induction of apoptosis.


Crude extracts of Petunia punctata, Alternanthera sessilis, and Amoora chittagonga showed cytotoxicity to three cancer cell lines with IC50 values ranging between 20.3 - 31.4 μg/mL, 13.08 - 34.9 μg/mL, and 42.8 - 49.8 μg/mL, respectively. Furthermore, treatment of Panc-1 cells with Petunia punctata was shown to increase caspase-3 activity, indicating that the observed cytotoxicity was mediated via apoptosis. Only Amoora chittagonga showed low cytotoxicity to fibroblast cells with an IC50 value > 100 μg/mL.


Based upon the initial screening work reported here, further studies aimed at the identification of active components of these three extracts and the elucidation of their mechanisms as cancer therapeutics are warranted.