Cancer continues to be the leading cause of death worldwide. Plants have a long history of use in the treatment of cancer. Honokiol (HNK) is an important bioactive compound found in the bark of Magnolia tree, and has been shown to inhibit cancer growth and metastasis in many cell types in vitro and in animal models. Resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy is the major obstacle for cure of cancer. Combination of HNK with many traditional chemotherapeutic drugs as well as radiation sensitizes cancer cells to apoptotic death, suggesting that HNK not only directly inhibits primary cancers and metastasis, but also has potential to overcome drug resistance. Ultimately, this may mean that HNK could be combined with traditional chemotherapies administered at lower doses to significantly reduce toxicity, meanwhile enhance efficacy. As a natural compound, HNK is composed of polyphenols and has been described in many studies targeting multiple key cell signaling molecules. Mitochondria are the main hub for cellular energy production and play an important role in cell survival, and are the key target identified for HNK to mediate cancer cell death, survival, and metastasis. In this review, we have summarized different aspects of HNK's anti-cancer effects from recent accumulated literature, as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms. This review is primarily focused on the effects of HNK on epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and signal transduction and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) signaling, as well as the broader regulation of mitochondrial function and cancer cell metabolism.
Keywords: Cancer Metastasis; Cancer Progression; Honokiol; Mitochondria; cancer cell metabolism.
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