Gliomas are the most frequent type of primary brain tumor in adults. Their highly proliferative nature, complex cellular composition, and ability to escape therapies have confronted investigators for years, hindering the advancement toward an effective treatment. Agents that are safe and can be administered as dietary supplements have always remained priority to be most feasible for cancer therapy. Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) is an essential ingredient of Ayurvedic preparations and is known to eliminate cancer cells derived from a variety of peripheral tissues. Although our previous studies have addressed the in vitro anti-proliferative and differentiation-inducing properties of ashwagandha on neuronal cell lines, in vivo studies validating the same are lacking. While exploring the mechanism of its action in vitro, we observed that the ashwagandha water extract (ASH-WEX) induced the G2/M phase blockade and caused the activation of multiple pro-apoptotic pathways, leading to suppression of cyclin D1, bcl-xl, and p-Akt, and reduced the expression of polysialylated form of neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) as well as the activity of matrix metalloproteinases. ASH-WEX reduced the intracranial tumor volumes in vivo and suppressed the tumor-promoting proteins p-nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), p-Akt, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), heat shock protein 70 (HSP70), PSA-NCAM, and cyclin D1 in the rat model of orthotopic glioma allograft. Reduction in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and upregulation of mortalin and neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) expression specifically in tumor-bearing tissue further indicated the anti-glioma efficacy of ASH-WEX in vivo. Combining this enhanced understanding of the molecular mechanisms of ASH-WEX in glioma with in vivo model system offers new opportunities to develop therapeutic strategy for safe, specific, and effective formulations for treating brain tumors.
Keywords: Apoptotic; Ashwagandha; Glioma; Intracranial; NCAM; p-Akt.