Rhodiola crenulata induces death and inhibits growth of breast cancer cell lines

J Med Food. 2008 Sep;11(3):413-23. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2007.0736.


Diverse compounds from many different chemical classes are currently targeted in preclinical analyses for their ability to act as both chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agents. Phenolic phytochemicals from Rhodiola crenulata has such potential. This Rhodiola species is a perennial plant that grows in the Tundra, Siberia, and high-elevation regions of Tibet. The phenolic secondary metabolites isolated from R. crenulata were recently analyzed in a preclinical setting for their ability to treat lymphosarcomas and superficial bladder cancers. However, the effects of R. crenulata have yet to be examined for its implications in breast cancer prevention or for its chemotherapeutic abilities. Therefore this study investigated the effects of R. crenulata on breast cancer both in vivo and in vitro. Experiments using aggressive human-derived MDA-MB-231 and mouse-derived V14 breast cancer cell lines demonstrated that phenolic-enriched R. crenulata extract was capable of inhibiting the proliferation, motility, and invasion of these cells. In addition, the extracts induced autophagic-like vesicles in all cell lines, eventually leading to death of the tumor cell lines but not the immortal or normal human mammary epithelial cells. Finally, an in vivo experiment showed that phenolic-enriched dietary R. crenulata is effective in preventing the initiation of tumors and slowing down the tumor growth in mice bearing tumor grafts, thereby further demonstrating its possible potential for treatment of breast cancer progression and metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Caspases / pharmacology
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Phenols / therapeutic use
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Rhodiola / chemistry*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays / methods


  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Caspases