Berberine for gastric cancer prevention and treatment: Multi-step actions on the Correa's cascade underlie its therapeutic effects

Pharmacol Res. 2022 Oct:184:106440. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2022.106440. Epub 2022 Sep 13.


Gastric carcinoma (GC) is a complex multifactorial disease occurring as sequential events commonly referred to as the Correa's cascade, a stepwise progression from non-active or chronic active gastritis, to gastric precancerous lesions, and finally, adenocarcinoma. Therefore, the identification of novel agents with multi-step actions on the Correa's cascade and those functioning as multiple phenotypic regulators are the future direction for drug discovery. Recently, berberine (BBR) has gained traction owing to its pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, antibacterial, and immunopotentiation activities. In this article, we investigated and summarized the multi-step actions of BBR on Correa's cascade and its underlying regulatory mechanism in gastric carcinogenesis for the first time, along with a discussion on the strength of BBR to prevent and treat GC. BBR was found to suppress H. pylori infection, control mucosal inflammation, and promote ulcer healing. In the gastric precancerous lesion phase, BBR could reverse mucosal atrophy and prevent lesions in intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia by regulating inflammatory cytokines, promoting cell apoptosis, regulating macrophage polarization, and regulating autophagy. Additionally, the therapeutic action of BBR on GC was partly realized through the inhibition of cell proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis; induction of apoptosis and autophagy, and enhancement of chemotherapeutic drug sensitivity. BBR exerted multi-step actions on the Correa's cascade, thereby halting and even reversing gastric carcinogenesis in some cases. Thus, BBR could be used to prevent and treat GC. In conclusion, the therapeutic strategy underlying BBR's multi-step action in the trilogy of Correa's cascade may include "prevention of gastric mucosal inflammation (Phase 1); reversal of gastric precancerous lesions (Phase 2), and rescue of GC (Phase 3)". The NF-κB, PI3K/Akt, and MAPK signaling pathways may be the key signaling transduction pathways underlying the treatment of gastric carcinogenesis using BBR. The advantage of BBR over conventional drugs is its multifaceted and long-term effects. This review is expected to provide preclinical evidence for using BBR to prevent gastric carcinogenesis and treat gastric cancer.

Keywords: Atrophic gastritis; Berberine; Berberine (PubChem CID: 2353); Correa’s cascade; Dysplasia; Gastric carcinoma; Gastric precancerous lesions; Intestinal metaplasia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Berberine* / pharmacology
  • Berberine* / therapeutic use
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cytokines / therapeutic use
  • Gastritis*
  • Gastritis, Atrophic* / pathology
  • Helicobacter Infections* / complications
  • Helicobacter Infections* / drug therapy
  • Helicobacter Infections* / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • NF-kappa B
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Precancerous Conditions* / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cytokines
  • NF-kappa B
  • Berberine
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt