Natural products and chemotherapeutic agents on cancer: prevention vs. treatment

Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(6):1555-8. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X1420002X.


Natural products play an important role in cancer therapeutics, and lately more attentions have been paid to the prevention of major lethal malignancies, such as colorectal cancer (CRC). After oral ingestion, botanicals' parent compounds can be converted to their metabolites by the enteric microbiome, and these metabolites may have different bioactivities and variable bioavailability. In this study, we used an active ginseng metabolite, protopanaxadiol (PPD), as an example to assess its colon cancer preventive effect by comparing its effect with the treatment effect of fluorouracil (5-FU). A xenograft tumor nude mouse model with human colon cancer cell inoculation was used. After preventive PPD or treatment 5-FU administration with the same dose (30 mg/kg), tumor growth inhibition was evaluated by both a Xenogen bioluminescence imaging technique and manual tumor size measurement. Our data showed that preventive PPD very significantly inhibited the tumor growth compared to 5-FU (p < 0.01). Our data suggest that the PPD is a promising cancer prevention agent. More studies are needed to explore the chemopreventive actions of PPD and its potential clinical utility.

Keywords: 5-FU; American Ginseng; Colorectal Cancer; Enteric Microbiome; Fluorouracil; Metabolite; PPD; Protopanaxadiol.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Letter
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic*
  • Biological Availability
  • Biological Products* / administration & dosage
  • Biological Products* / metabolism
  • Biological Products* / therapeutic use
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fluorouracil / metabolism
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use*
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Panax / chemistry*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Sapogenins / administration & dosage
  • Sapogenins / isolation & purification*
  • Sapogenins / metabolism
  • Sapogenins / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biological Products
  • Sapogenins
  • protopanaxadiol
  • Fluorouracil