Effects of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancer

Br J Pharmacol. 2017 Jun;174(11):1226-1243. doi: 10.1111/bph.13627. Epub 2016 Oct 25.


Anthocyanins are a class of water-soluble flavonoids, which show a range of pharmacological effects, such as prevention of cardiovascular disease, obesity control and antitumour activity. Their potential antitumour effects are reported to be based on a wide variety of biological activities including antioxidant; anti-inflammation; anti-mutagenesis; induction of differentiation; inhibiting proliferation by modulating signal transduction pathways, inducing cell cycle arrest and stimulating apoptosis or autophagy of cancer cells; anti-invasion; anti-metastasis; reversing drug resistance of cancer cells and increasing their sensitivity to chemotherapy. In this review, the latest progress on the anticancer activities of anthocyanins and the underlying molecular mechanisms is summarized using data from basic research in vitro and in vivo, from clinical trials and taking into account theory and practice.

Linked articles: This article is part of a themed section on Principles of Pharmacological Research of Nutraceuticals. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v174.11/issuetoc.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Anthocyanins
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants