Melatonin: An important anticancer agent in colorectal cancer

J Cell Physiol. 2020 Feb;235(2):804-817. doi: 10.1002/jcp.29049. Epub 2019 Jul 5.


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers among the elderly, which is also seen in the forms of hereditary syndromes occurring in younger individuals. Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the molecular and cellular pathobiology underlying colorectal cancer. These studies have found that cellular signaling pathways are at the core of colorectal cancer pathology. Because of this, new agents have been proposed as possible candidates to accompany routine therapy regimens. One of these agents is melatonin, a neuro-hormone known best for its essential role in upholding the circadian rhythm and orchestrating the many physiologic changes it accompanies. Melatonin is shown to be able to modulate many signaling pathways involved in many essential cell functions, which if deregulated cause an accelerated pace towards cancer. More so, melatonin is involved in the regulation of immune function, tumor microenvironment, and acts as an antioxidant agent. Many studies have focused on the beneficial effects of melatonin in colorectal cancers, such as induction of apoptosis, increased sensitivity to chemotherapy agents and radiotherapy, limiting cellular proliferation, migration, and invasion. The present review aims to illustrate the known significance of melatonin in colorectal cancer and to address possible clinical use.

Keywords: apoptosis; colorectal cancer; melatonin; proliferation; tumor progression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Melatonin