Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer in females and the third in males worldwide. Conventional therapy of CRC is limited by severe side effects and by the development of resistance. Therefore, additional therapies are needed in order to combat the problem of selectivity and drug resistance in CRC patients. Inula viscosa (IV) is a well-known medicinal perennial herb in traditional medicine. It is used for different therapeutic purposes, such as; topical anti-inflammatic, diuretic, hemostatic, antiseptic, antiphlogistic, and in the treatment of diabetes. Several studies attempted to reveal the anti-cancer activity of different extracts prepared by different organic solvents from different parts of the IV plant. The aim of the present study is to examine the potential beneficial effects of IV leaf aqueous extract on the growth of colon cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. The results indicated that exposure of colorectal cancer cells to IV extract, significantly reduced cell viability in a dose and time dependent manner. Moreover, treatment of cells with 300 μg/ml of IV extract induced apoptosis, as it was detected by Annexin V/FITC/PI, TUNEL assay, and the activation of caspases. In vivo studies revealed that treatment with 150 or 300 mg/kg IV extract inhibited tumor growth in mice transplanted with MC38 cells. Tumors' weight and volume were significantly (P < 0.001) reduced when compared to untreated-control group. Staining of the paraffin section of tumors revealed that IV treatment inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis. Additionally, no side effects such as; weight loss, behavior changes, ruffled fur or changes in kidney, and liver functions were observed. These results may indicate that active doses of IV extract are not toxic. Further studies are needed in order to identify the structure of the active compounds. Results from this study may contribute to the development of new and efficient strategies for treatment of human colon cancer.
Keywords: Inula viscosa; apoptosis; caspases; colorectal cancer; extract.