Sesamol, a major lignan in sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum): Anti-cancer properties and mechanisms of action

Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Jul 15;855:75-89. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2019.05.008. Epub 2019 May 4.


Sesamol is a natural phenolic compound and a major lignan isolated from sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) and sesame oil. The therapeutic potential of sesamol was investigated intensively, and there is compelling evidence that sesamol acts as a metabolic regulator that possesses antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-hepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and chemopreventive properties. Various studies have reported that sesamol exerts potent anti-cancer effects. Herein, we provide a comprehensive review that summarizes the in vitro and in vivo anti-cancer activity of sesamol in several cancer cell lines and animal models. The protective role that sesamol plays against oxidative stress through its radical scavenging ability and lipid peroxidation lowering potential is analyzed. The ability of sesamol to regulate apoptosis and various stages of the cell cycle is also outlined. Moreover, the signaling pathways that sesamol seems to target to execute its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-apoptotic/anti-proliferative roles are discussed. The signaling pathways that sesamol targets include the p53, MAPK, JNK, PI3K/AKT, TNFα, NF-κB, PPARγ, caspase-3, Nrf2, eNOS, and LOX pathways. The mechanisms of action that sesamol executes to deliver its anti-cancer effects are delineated. In sum, there is ample evidence suggesting that sesamol possesses potent anti-cancer properties in vitro and in vivo. A thorough understanding of the molecular targets of sesamol and the mechanisms of action underlying its anti-cancer effects is necessary for possible employment of sesamol as a chemotherapeutic agent in cancer prevention and therapy.

Keywords: Anti-cancer; Antioxidant; Apoptosis; Inflammation; Sesamol; Sesamum indicum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Benzodioxoles / pharmacology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Sesamum / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Phenols
  • sesamol