The Natural cAMP Elevating Compound Forskolin in Cancer Therapy: Is It Time?

J Cell Physiol. 2017 May;232(5):922-927. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25650. Epub 2016 Nov 20.


Cancer is a major public health problem and the second leading cause of mortality around the world. Although continuous advances in the science of oncology and cancer research are now leading to improved outcomes for many cancer patients, novel cancer treatment options are strongly demanded. Naturally occurring compounds from a variety of vegetables, fruits, and medicinal plants have been shown to exhibit various anticancer properties in a number of in vitro and in vivo studies and represent an attractive research area for the development of new therapeutic strategies to fight cancer. Forskolin is a diterpene produced by the roots of the Indian plant Coleus forskohlii. The natural compound forskolin has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and its safety has also been documented in conventional modern medicine. Forskolin directly activates the adenylate cyclase enzyme, that generates cAMP from ATP, thus, raising intracellular cAMP levels. Notably, cAMP signaling, through the PKA-dependent and/or -independent pathways, is very relevant to cancer and its targeting has shown a number of antitumor effects, including the induction of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, inhibition of cell growth and migration and enhancement of sensitivity to conventional antitumor drugs in cancer cells. Here, we describe some features of cAMP signaling that are relevant to cancer biology and address the state of the art concerning the natural cAMP elevating compound forskolin and its perspectives as an effective anticancer agent. J. Cell. Physiol. 232: 922-927, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colforsin / chemistry
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Colforsin / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Colforsin
  • Cyclic AMP