Natural and Synthetic Isothiocyanates Possess Anticancer Potential Against Liver and Prostate Cancer In Vitro

Anticancer Res. 2019 Jul;39(7):3469-3485. doi: 10.21873/anticanres.13493.


Background/aim: Isothiocyanates (ITCs) are phytochemicals with potential cancer-preventative properties derived from the breakdown of glucosinolates that exist in cruciferous vegetables. Studies, to date, have demonstrated that various ITCs possess the ability to act as anticancer agents in different cancer types. This study investigated the anticancer properties of dietary ITCs (allyl-ITC, benzyl-ITC, phenylethyl-ITC) and synthetic (phenylbutyl-ITC and phenylhexyl-ITC) on liver and prostate carcinoma cells in vitro.

Materials and methods: The effects of ITCs on cellular viability, migration, invasion, clonogenicity, apoptosis induction and reactive oxygen species generation were assessed in HepG2, DU145 and 22Rv1 cells.

Results: All ITCs reduced metabolic activity in each cell line with the most significant being phenylethyl-ITC. Both dietary and synthetic ITCs suppressed the migratory and invasive potential of all cell lines, inhibited colony-forming capability and induced apoptosis. Phenylethyl-ITC exposure resulted in the significant generation of reactive oxygen species.

Conclusion: These data highlight the potential advantages of utilizing ITCs to delay the carcinogenic process and the potential for dietary and synthetic ITCs to act as anticancer agents.

Keywords: Glucosinolates; apoptosis; clonogenicity; invasion; isothiocyanates; liver cancer; prostate cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Reactive Oxygen Species