Chinese red yeast rice inhibition of prostate tumor growth in SCID mice

Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Apr;4(4):608-15. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-10-0219. Epub 2011 Jan 28.


Prostate cancer is a slowly developing but very common cancer in males that may be amenable to preventive strategies that are not toxic. Chinese red yeast rice (RYR), a food herb made by fermenting Monascus purpureus Went yeast on white rice, contains a mixture of eight different monacolins that inhibit cholesterogenesis in addition to red pigments with antioxidant properties. Monacolin K is identical to lovastatin (LV), but LV unlike RYR can be used in individuals intolerant to statins due to muscle pain. Both LV and RYR inhibit de novo cholesterogenesis, which is critical to the growth of tumor cells. Long-term use of statin drugs has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. We have previously shown that RYR inhibited androgen-dependent and androgen receptor-overexpressing androgen-independent prostate cancer cell proliferation in vitro. This study was designed to determine whether RYR and LV inhibit prostate tumor growth in SCID mice. RYR significantly reduced tumor volumes of androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate xenograft tumors compared with animals receiving vehicle alone (P < 0.05). Inhibition by RYR was greater than that observed with LV at the dose found in RYR, showing that other compounds in RYR contributed to the antiproliferative effect. There was a significant correlation of tumor volume to serum cholesterol (P < 0.001). RYR decreased gene expression of androgen synthesizing enzymes (HSD3B2, AKR1C3, and SRD5A1) in both type of tumors (P < 0.05). Clinical studies of RYR for prostate cancer prevention in the increasing population of men undergoing active surveillance should be considered.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Lovastatin / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • red yeast rice
  • Cholesterol
  • Lovastatin
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen