Honokiol: A Review of Its Anticancer Potential and Mechanisms

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Dec 22;12(1):48. doi: 10.3390/cancers12010048.


Cancer is characterised by uncontrolled cell division and abnormal cell growth, which is largely caused by a variety of gene mutations. There are continuous efforts being made to develop effective cancer treatments as resistance to current anticancer drugs has been on the rise. Natural products represent a promising source in the search for anticancer treatments as they possess unique chemical structures and combinations of compounds that may be effective against cancer with a minimal toxicity profile or few side effects compared to standard anticancer therapy. Extensive research on natural products has shown that bioactive natural compounds target multiple cellular processes and pathways involved in cancer progression. In this review, we discuss honokiol, a plant bioactive compound that originates mainly from the Magnolia species. Various studies have proven that honokiol exerts broad-range anticancer activity in vitro and in vivo by regulating numerous signalling pathways. These include induction of G0/G1 and G2/M cell cycle arrest (via the regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) and cyclin proteins), epithelial-mesenchymal transition inhibition via the downregulation of mesenchymal markers and upregulation of epithelial markers. Additionally, honokiol possesses the capability to supress cell migration and invasion via the downregulation of several matrix-metalloproteinases (activation of 5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and KISS1/KISS1R signalling), inhibiting cell migration, invasion, and metastasis, as well as inducing anti-angiogenesis activity (via the down-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)). Combining these studies provides significant insights for the potential of honokiol to be a promising candidate natural compound for chemoprevention and treatment.

Keywords: anticancer; honokiol; mechanism; signalling pathway.

Publication types

  • Review