Study of the cytotoxicity of asiaticoside on rats and tumour cells

BMC Cancer. 2014 Mar 25;14:220. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-14-220.


Background: Cancer chemoprevention is considered one of the most promising areas in current cancer research, and asiaticoside, which is derived from the plant Centella asiatica, has a relative lack of systemic toxicity. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether asiaticoside is effective against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced carcinogenicity in vitro (MCF-7 and other cells) and in vivo (DMBA-induced rat cancer).

Methods: An MTT assay was performed involving the treatment of MCF-7 cells for 48 h with H2O2 alone and H2O2 + different asiaticoside concentrations. Flow cytometry was performed, and the level of caspase 3, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-1 (IL-1) were quantified. Adult female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were divided into five groups designated I (control), II (DMBA-induced cancer), III (pre- and post-treatment with asiaticoside (200 μg/animal) in DMBA-induced cancer), IV (post-treatment with asiaticoside in DMBA-induced cancer), and V (treated with asiaticoside alone, drug control). Twelve weeks post-DMBA, rats developed mammary tumours. Rats either were sacrificed or imaged with MIBI. Histological examination of tumour tissues was performed. Tumour MIBI uptake ratios were determined. The data are expressed as the means ± standard deviation. Appropriate t-test and ANOVA statistical methods were used to compare data.

Results: The IC50 of asiaticoside for MCF-7 cells was determined to be 40 μM. Asiaticoside has potential for hydrogen peroxide cytotoxicity, and the caspase-3 activity increased with increasing asiaticoside dose in MCF-7 cells treated for 48 h. The expression of the cytokines TNF-α and IL-1β was significantly decreased and correlated with MIBI uptake ratios in vitro and in vivo after asiaticoside administration.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that asiaticoside is effective in vitro and in vivo in inducing apoptosis and enhancing anti-tumour activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Triterpenes / administration & dosage
  • Triterpenes / toxicity*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Triterpenes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • asiaticoside