Can licorice lick colon cancer?

J Clin Invest. 2009 Apr;119(4):760-3. doi: 10.1172/jci38936.


COX-2 promotes colon cancer. While both nonselective NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors reduce disease burden, their adverse gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects limit their therapeutic use. In this issue of the JCI, Zhang et al. used gene silencing and a derivative of licorice root to show that inhibition of the enzyme 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II(11betaHSD2) reduces tumor COX-2 activity, tumor growth, and metastasis by increasing the tonic glucocorticoid-mediated suppression of the COX-2 signaling pathway without the adverse effects associated with NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors (see the related article beginning on page 876). Their findings suggest that 11betaHSD2 inhibition may be a potential therapeutic option in colon cancer, warranting further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Glycyrrhiza*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Plant Extracts
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 2
  • Hydrocortisone