Pumpkin seeds have been known in folk medicine as remedy for kidney, bladder and prostate disorders since centuries. Nevertheless, pumpkin research provides insufficient data to back up traditional beliefs of ethnomedical practice. The bioactivity of a hydro-ethanolic extract of pumpkin seeds from the Styrian pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo L. subsp. pepo var. styriaca, was investigated. As pumpkin seed extracts are standardized to cucurbitin, this compound was also tested. Transactivational activity was evaluated for human androgen receptor, estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor with in vitro yeast assays. Cell viability tests with prostate cancer cells, breast cancer cells, colorectal adenocarcinoma cells and a hyperplastic cell line from benign prostate hyperplasia tissue were performed. As model for non-hyperplastic cells, effects on cell viability were tested with a human dermal fibroblast cell line (HDF-5). No transactivational activity was found for human androgen receptor, estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor, for both, extract and cucurbitin. A cell growth inhibition of ~40-50% was observed for all cell lines, with the exception of HDF-5, which showed with ~20% much lower cell growth inhibition. Given the receptor status of some cell lines, a steroid-hormone receptor independent growth inhibiting effect can be assumed. The cell growth inhibition for fast growing cells together with the cell growth inhibition of prostate-, breast- and colon cancer cells corroborates the ethnomedical use of pumpkin seeds for a treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia. Moreover, due to the lack of androgenic activity, pumpkin seed applications can be regarded as safe for the prostate.
Keywords: Benign prostate hyperplasia; Cancer cells; Cell viability; Pumpkin; Steroid hormone receptors.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.