Bioactive tanshinones in Salvia miltiorrhiza inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro and in mice

Int J Cancer. 2011 Sep 1;129(5):1042-52. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25678. Epub 2010 Nov 3.


Searching for efficacious and safe agents for the chemoprevention and therapy of prostate cancer has become the top priority of research. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of a group of tanshinones from a Chinese herb Salvia Miltiorrhiza, cryptotanshinone (CT), tanshinone IIA (T2A) and tanshinone I (T1) on prostate cancer. The in vitro studies showed that these tanshinones inhibited the growth of human prostate cancer cell lines in a dose-dependent manner via cell cycle arrest and apoptosis induction. Among three compounds, T1 had the most potent activity with IC(50) s around 3-6 μM. On the other hand, tanshinones had much less adverse effects on the growth of normal prostate epithelial cells. The epigenetic pathway focused array assay identified Aurora A kinase as a possible target of tanshinone actions. The expression of Aurora A was overexpressed in prostate cancer cell lines. Moreover, knockdown of Aurora A in prostate cancer cells significantly decreased cell growth. Tanshinones significantly downregulated the Aurora A expression, suggesting Aurora A may be a functional target of tanshinones. Tanshinones, especially T1, also showed potent anti-angiogenesis activity in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, T1 inhibited the growth of DU145 prostate tumor in mice associated with induction of apoptosis, decrease of proliferation, inhibition of angiogenesis and downregulation of Aurora A, whereas it did not alter food intake or body weight. Our results support that T1 may be an efficacious and safe chemopreventive or therapeutic agent against prostate cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abietanes / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Aurora Kinase A
  • Aurora Kinases
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Phenanthrenes / therapeutic use
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Salvia miltiorrhiza / chemistry*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Abietanes
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Phenanthrenes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • tanshinone
  • cryptotanshinone
  • Aurka protein, mouse
  • Aurora Kinase A
  • Aurora Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases