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Exploring the anti-cancer potential of medicinal plants in Ethiopia


Ethiopian and Swedish researchers investigated the toxicity of extracts from seven medicinal plants traditionally used to treat breast cancer in Ethiopia. The results of their study were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.

  • Traditional medicine is widely practiced in Ethiopia.
  • Certain plants like Sideroxylon oxyacanthum, Zanthoxylum chalybeum, Clematis simensis, Clematis longicauda, Dovyalis abyssinica, Vernonia leopoldi and Clerodendrum myricoides are used to treat breast cancer.
  • Prior to extraction, the researchers determined the water content of the plants. They then used methanol to obtain crude extracts which they tested for cytotoxicity in a dose response assay.
  • The researchers subjected the methanol extracts of the most toxic plants to further solvent-solvent fractionation to gain petroleum ether, hexane, chloroform, ethyl acetate and water fractions. These fractions were also tested for cytotoxicity.
  • The researchers reported that extracts from Z. chalybeum and C. myricoides were not toxic, but extracts from S. oxyacanthum, C. simensis and D. abyssinica showed cytotoxicity.
  • In different human breast cancer cell lines (JIMT-1, MCF-7 and HCC1937), the cytotoxic fractions had a half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 50 percent below 1 microgram per milliliter (ug/mL).
  • The researchers also found that the ethyl acetate fraction of V. leopoldi was the most cytotoxic fraction. It had an IC50 of 0.87 ug/mL in JIMT-1 cells.
  • The aqueous fraction of S. oxycanthum and the chloroform fraction of C. simensis also showed cytotoxicity against breast cancer cells.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that the medicinal plants used to treat breast cancer patients in Ethiopia have varying in vitro toxicity. They hope their findings can guide future researchers in choosing the best plant from which to isolate new compounds for cancer treatment.

Journal Reference:

Nigatu T, Daniel S, Endalamaw G, Beyene P, Stina O. CYTOTOXICITY OF SELECTED ETHIOPIAN MEDICINAL PLANTS USED IN TRADITIONAL BREAST CANCER TREATMENT AGAINST BREAST-DERIVED CELL LINES. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. 13 May 2019;13(9):188–198. DOI: 10.5897/jmpr2019.6772



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