Antitumorigenic effects of limonene and perillyl alcohol against pancreatic and breast cancer

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1996;401:131-6. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4613-0399-2_10.


Perillyl alcohol is a natural product from cherries and other edible plants. Perillyl alcohol and d-limonene, a closely related dietary monoterpene, have chemotherapeutic activity against pancreatic, mammary, and prostatic tumors. In addition, perillyl alcohol, limonene, and other dietary monoterpenes have chemopreventive activity. Several mechanisms may account for the antitumorigenic effects of monoterpenes. For example, many monoterpenes inhibit the post-translational isoprenylation of cell growth-regulatory proteins such as Ras. Perillyl alcohol induces apoptosis without affecting the rate of DNA synthesis in both liver and pancreatic tumor cells. In addition, monoterpene-treated, regressing rat mammary tumors exhibit increased expression of transforming growth factor beta concomitant with tumor remodeling/redifferentiation to a more benign phenotype. Monoterpenes are effective, nontoxic dietary antitumor agents which act through a variety of mechanisms of action and hold promise as a novel class of antitumor drugs for human cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / metabolism
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Limonene
  • Monoterpenes*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Terpenes / chemistry
  • Terpenes / metabolism
  • Terpenes / therapeutic use*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Monoterpenes
  • Terpenes
  • perillyl alcohol
  • Limonene