Antioxidant Activity and Antiproliferative Effects of Lycium barbarum's (Goji berry) Fractions on Breast Cancer Cell Lines

Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2019 Mar 1;61(1):104-112. doi: 10.2478/folmed-2018-0053.


Background: Lycium barbarum has gained immense popularity over the past decade because of its antioxidant properties. There are many reports of observed health benefits of juice consumption, including prophylaxis in neoplastic disease and treatment of tumors.

Materials and methods: In this study, we isolated three fractions of Lycium barbarum fruits - total water, pectin-free and polysaccharide, and determined their antioxidant activity by ORAC and HORAC assays. We investigated the antiproliferative effects of Lycium barbarum's pectin-free and polysaccharide fraction on three different breast cell lines - MCF-10A (non-tumorigenic epithelial breast cell line), MCF-7 (breast cancer cell line, estrogen, progesterone receptors +, HER2-), and MDA-MB-231 (breast cancer cell line, triple negative), by the MTT dye reduction assay.

Results: The Lycium barbarum's pectin-free fraction showed concentration-dependent growth inhibition on the three cell lines, moreover, on cancer cells (MCF- 7 and MDA-MB-231) it was significantly more pronounced. The polysaccharide fraction showed negligible activity on the three cell lines, only the highest concentration (1000 μg/mL), suppressed the proliferation of MCF-7 cells. The combination of pectin-free and polysaccharide fraction on MCF-7 did not show the expected synergistic effect.

Conclusion: We found a relative correlation between the polyphenolic content of the extracts and the observed effects. The pectin-free extract had the highest content of polyphenols with the best antioxidant and antineoplastic activity against breast cancer cells. Addition of polysaccharide to the pectin-free fraction contributes to its pharmacological activity.

Keywords: Lycium barbarum; antioxidant; breast cancer; goji berry; growth inhibition; polysaccharide.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lycium* / chemistry
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Plant Extracts / analysis
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols / analysis
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Polysaccharides