The Potential of Flavonolignans in Prostate Cancer Management

Curr Med Chem. 2016;23(34):3925-3950. doi: 10.2174/0929867323666160823151833.


Background: The generic name "flavonolignan" was created in 1968 for a relatively small class of naturally occurring hybrid molecules biogenetically originated from ubiquitous flavonoids and lignans (phenylpropanoids). The first group of flavonolignans was extracted from Silybum marianum that has long been used for hepatoprotection. Recently, the medicinal merit of flavonolignans has been extended to the prostate cancer management.

Methods: Systematic interpretation and summarization of the relevant literature.

Results: Over forty naturally occurring flavonolignans have so far been obtained from various plants. Certain flavonolignans have been demonstrated by in vitro cell-based and in vivo animal-based experiments, and human clinical studies i) to possess effective chemopreventive function against various tumor promoters; ii) to show the anti-angiogenic efficacy; iii) to have potential in treating prostate cancer; iv) to sensitize prostate tumors to chemotherapeutic agents through down-regulation of P-glycoprotein and other mechanisms; and v) to be used by prostate cancer patients to protect or treat the hepatotoxicity caused by several chemotherapies. Certain flavonolignans can synergize with well-established chemotherapeutic agents for prostate cancer.

Conclusion: This review provides a systematic and in-depth overview of the promise and potential of flavonolignans in prostate cancer management, which covers their chemopreventive effect, chemotherapeutic treatment, mechanisms of actions, synthetic derivatives, structure-activity relationships, and the difference in inhibiting prostate cancer cell proliferation between certain flavonoligans and their respective flavonoid counterpart. This summarization aims to provide valuable insights into further and rational development of flavonolignans for prostate cancer management by interpreting the data reported in the literature.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Flavonolignans / chemistry
  • Flavonolignans / metabolism
  • Flavonolignans / therapeutic use*
  • Flavonolignans / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / chemistry
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use
  • Silymarin / toxicity
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Flavonolignans
  • Plant Extracts
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin