Call Us for Patient Support (800) 333-8975

Study: Amazing African Flora Destroys Mesothelioma Cells

Herbs are one of the most common complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for cancer. Doctors may use remedies made from the entire plant or certain plant components to help the body heal itself or lessen the side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Herbs have been so successful in helping treat a range of conditions, that researchers are constantly investigating current and recently discovered herbs that they hope will one day be effective in curing rare cancers such as mesothelioma. One recent study on Kenyan flora sounds promising.

A group of researchers in Africa recently completed a study that investigated the cytotoxicity of 14 quinones including 3 anthraquinones, 1 naphthoquinone, and 10 benzoquinones, previously isolated from African medicinal plants. Quinones comprise the second largest class of anticancer agents among plant secondary metabolites. Naturally occurring quinones are widely distributed and they exhibit numerous biological activities such as antitumor, antiviral, antiplasmodial, neurological, antibacterial, antioxidant, and trypanocidal activities.

The study titled: “Cytotoxicity of Plumbagin, Rapanone and 12 other naturally occurring Quinones from Kenyan Flora towards human carcinoma cells,” concluded that the quinones, mostly emodin (2), naphthoquinone: plumbagin (4), and benzoquinones: rapanone (9), 2,5-dihydroxy-3-pentadecyl-2,5-cyclohexadiene-1,4-dione (10), 5-O-methylembelin (11), 1,2,4,5-tetraacetate-3-methyl-6-(14-nonadecenyl)-cyclohexadi-2,5-diene (13), demonstrated cytotoxicity against human carcinoma cell lines. These “potential cytotoxic compounds,” says the study, “deserve more investigations to develop novel antiproliferative drugs against human carcinoma.”

The most active compounds, naphthoquinone: plumbagin (4), and benzoquinones: rapanone (9), induced apoptosis (cell death), while naphthoquinone was more potent in all tested cancer cell lines than the anthraquinones and benzoquinones. Anthraquinone 2 and benzoquinones 9, 10, 11, and 13 displayed cytotoxic effects on all tested cancer cell lines. The cell lines tested include mesothelioma, small cell lung cancer, breast adenocarcinoma, colorectal adenocarcinoma, and hepatocarinoma (liver).

Another promising outcome of the study is many of the compounds were more toxic towards carcinoma cells than towards normal human cell lines, indicating their good selectivity.

It is important to note that naphthoquinone: plumbagin is already well known for its remarkable anticancer activities. Future research on the effects of naphthoquinone and other quinones on mesothelioma, specifically, may be on the horizon. This could potentially lead to the development of an effective treatment for the disease.

Notes About the Study

Results of this study were submitted to BioMed Central (BMC)/BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology on July 23, 2016 and published December 21, 2016. The research team, Drs. Victor Kuete, Leonidah K. Omosa, Viviane R. Sipowo Tala, Jacob O. Midiwo, Armelle T. Mbaveng, Sauda Swaleh, Oguzhan Karaosmanoglu, and Hulya Sivas, are affiliated with the departments of biochemistry, biology, chemistry, and health sciences at the University of Dschang, Anadolu University, University of Nairobi, and Université des Montagnes. Dr. Victor Kuete led the team.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talk to your doctor about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Studies for a number of investigational treatments are recruiting worldwide. 



American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2009. Print.

"Herbal Medicine." Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK, 02 Feb. 2015. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Kuete, Victor, Leonidah K. Omosa, Viviane R. Sipowo Tala, Jacob O. Midiwo, Armelle T. Mbaveng, Sauda Swaleh, Oguzhan Karaosmanoglu, and Hulya Sivas. "Cytotoxicity of Plumbagin, Rapanone and 12 Other Naturally Occurring Quinones from Kenyan Flora towards Human Carcinoma Cells." BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 17.1 (2016): n. pag. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

JJ, Lu, Bao JL, Wu GS, Xu WS, Huang MQ, Chen XP, and Wang YT. "Quinones Derived from Plant Secondary Metabolites as Anti-cancer Agents." U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Macao, China