Resveratrol: potential as anticancer agent

J Diet Suppl. 2012 Mar;9(1):45-56. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2011.650842.


Background: Cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths in the world. Current chemotherapeutic agents are associated with serious side effects in patients therefore researchers are trying to find an alternative agent that is effective against cancer as well as less toxic. Resveratrol (3,5,4'-trihydroxystilbene), commonly found in red wine and grape skins, is a phytoalexin agent that was originally extracted from the roots of Polygonum cuspidatum. Resveratrol is believed to work as a chemopreventive agent by producing its effect on cell apoptosis, antiproliferation, and anti-inflammation.

Purpose: To determine whether resveratrol is effective as an anticancer agent.

Methods: A systematic review was performed by searching various databases for primary, secondary, and tertiary references. Databases included PubMed, EBSCO, Cochrane, AccessPharmacy, and StatRef by using key terms of "resveratrol," "cancer," and "anticancer." Review search looked at both animal and human studies limited within 10 years.

Findings: The major mechanisms of actions through which resveratrol works include proapoptotic, antiproliferation, and anti-inflammation. Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have supported these mechanisms thus warranting further research in human studies for resveratrol's anticancer effects. Pharmacokinetic human studies suggest good tolerability in healthy subjects, although they have low absorptive characteristics.

Conclusion: Resveratrol appears to have anticancer effects. Additionally, these studies indicate that resveratrol's chemoprevention effect is dose and duration dependent. It has synergistic effect with anticancer drugs in vitro. Further human studies need to be done.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Fallopia japonica / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Resveratrol
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology
  • Stilbenes / therapeutic use*
  • Vitis / chemistry
  • Wine


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Plant Extracts
  • Stilbenes
  • Resveratrol