Pancratistatin: a natural anti-cancer compound that targets mitochondria specifically in cancer cells to induce apoptosis

Apoptosis. 2005 May;10(3):619-30. doi: 10.1007/s10495-005-1896-x.


The major hurdle in the fight against cancer is the non-specific nature of current treatments. The search for specific drugs that are non-cytotoxic to normal cells and can effectively target cancer cells has lead some researchers to investigate the potential anti-cancer activity of natural compounds. Some natural compounds, such as Taxol, have been shown to possess some anti-cancer potential. Pancratistatin (PST) is a natural compound that was isolated from the spider lily Pancratium littorale and shown to exhibit antineoplastic activity. The specificity of PST to cancer cells and the mechanism of PST's action remain unknown. This study provides a detailed look at the effect of PST treatment on cancerous and normal cells. Our results indicate that PST induced apoptosis selectively in cancer cells and that the mitochondria may be the site of action of PST in cancer cells. A biochemical target available specifically in cancer cells may lead to the development of new and more effective cancer fighting agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Etoposide / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / drug effects
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Isoquinolines
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Etoposide
  • pancratistatin
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Paclitaxel