Antitumor effects of ursolic acid in a mouse model of postmenopausal breast cancer

Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(8):1074-86. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2010.492092.


Over the past two decades, bioactive natural compounds have been shown to be a plausible adjunct to the treatment of breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among American women. This study was designed to investigate the effects of ursolic acid (UA), a pentacyclic triterpene found in many foods and herbs, in a model of postmenopausal breast cancer. Ovariectomized C57BL/6 mice (n = 40) were randomized to receive control diet (AIN-93G) or diet supplemented with UA at 1 of 3 doses (wt/wt): 0.05%, 0.10%, or 0.25% (≈54, 106, or 266 mg/kg body weight/day, respectively). After 3 wk, syngeneic MMTV-Wnt-1 mammary tumor cells were injected in the mammary fat pad, and mice continued on their respective diets for 5 more wk. All UA doses decreased tumor cell proliferation, as assessed by Ki67 immunostaining; nevertheless, UA at 0.10% was most effective in inhibiting tumor take and decreasing tumor final tumor size. Modulation of Akt/mTOR signaling and induction of apoptosis appeared to mediate these effects on tumor growth. UA potently disrupted cell cycle progression and induced necrosis in a clonal MMTV-Wnt-1 mammary tumor cell line in vitro. This study supports the potential of UA as an antitumorigenic agent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / prevention & control
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Ovariectomy
  • Postmenopause*
  • Random Allocation
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology
  • Triterpenes / therapeutic use*
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Triterpenes
  • ursolic acid