Anti-cancer effects of aloe-emodin: a systematic review

J Clin Transl Res. 2017 Sep 7;3(3):283-296. eCollection 2018 Jan 15.


Background: Anthraquinones are a possible treatment option for oncological patients due to their anti-cancer properties. Cancer patients often exhaust a plethora of resources that ultimately fail to provide fully curative measures. Alternative treatments are subsequently sought in the hope of finding a therapeutic remedy. Po¬tential regimens include aloe-emodin and its related derivatives. This review therefore summarizes the effects of aloe-emodin and other aloe components in light of their anti-proliferative and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Methods: A systematic search was performed in PubMed for aloe-emodin and cancer in humans. Sixty abstracts of in vitrostudies were selected and reviewed with subsequent screening of the full text. Thirty-eight articles were summarized.

Results: Aloe-emodin possesses multiple anti-proliferative and anti-carcinogenic properties in a host of human cancer cell lines, with often multiple vital pathways affected by the same molecule. The most notable effects include inhibition of cell proliferation, migration, and invasion; cycle arrest; induction of cell death; mitochondrial membrane and redox perturbations; and modulation of immune signaling. The effects of aloe-emodin are not ubiquitous across all cell lines but depend on cell type.

Conclusions: On the basis of this systematic review, the multiple consistent effects of aloe-emodin in hu¬man-derived cancer cell lines suggest that aloe-emodin is a potential anti-cancer agent that acts on cancer cells in a pleiotropic manner.

Relevance for patients: Cancer patients often utilize alternative therapies as a result of suboptimal efficacy of conventional treatments. Aloe-emodin might become a therapeutic option for cancer patients if the basic research is confirmed in clinical trials.

Keywords: aloe vera; anthraquinones; anti-cancer properties; immune signaling; in vitromolecular pharmacology; tumor biochemistry.