Chinese herb may help fight ovarian cancer

By Robyn Boyle, RPh, for MDLinx
Published December 13, 2017

Key Takeaways

With a renewed effort of maximizing efficacy and minimizing adverse effects in patients undergoing treatment for cancer, more research is being conducted into traditional Chinese medicine for fresh ideas. Recently, researchers in China reported in BioMed Research International that wogonin, a medicine long used in China to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases and tumors, may also have the potential to treat ovarian cancer.1

Wogonin is a plant flavonoid and the primary active ingredient of the Chinese herb Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi. Previous studies have reported that plant flavonoids have antitumor and anti-inflammatory effects; however, the molecular mechanisms of action are not well understood.2

A group of scientists lead by Jiang Ruibin from the Cancer Research Institute at the Zhejiang Cancer Hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, investigated the molecular and biological effects of wogonin in human ovarian cancer cells and found that it may work to fight ovarian cancer in a number of ways.

Estrogen stimulation, which plays a vital role in cancer development and progression,is regulated by estrogen receptor alpha (ER-α) for ovarian cancer.  “In this study, we present data showing the detailed mechanisms by which wogonin modulates the ER-α signaling pathway and inhibits cancer cell growth of ovarian carcinoma,” the authors explained.

In an effort to determine the effects of wogonin on the changes of cell cycling and apoptosis, researchers exposed A2780 cells to increasing concentrations of wogonin with and without methylpiperidinopyrazole (MPP)—dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was used as a control. A variety of assays were employed to determine possible mechanisms.

The investigators found that wogonin works in numerous ways. First, it dramatically inhibited cell proliferation of A2780 cells, and the inhibitory effect was dose-dependent. Wogonin also inhibited cancer cell abilities to invade and migrate in a dose-dependent manner.

The addition of MPP significantly enhanced inhibitory effects on invasiveness and survival of A2780 cells. Furthermore, it was noted that wogonin increased p53 expression and decreased the level of VEGF. Both p53 and VEGF play vital roles in cancer development and progression and are therapeutic targets for cancer treatment.

Treatment with wogonin or MPP increased apoptosis in A2780 cells; the combination resulted in a significant increase of the apoptosis-induction effect. Finally, both wogonin and MPP treatments led to dramatic cell-cycle arrest in A2780 ovarian cancer cells.

“The present data suggest a potential clinical impact of wogonin for ovarian cancer patients. However, further investigation of wogonin as an anticancer drug candidate is needed,” the authors concluded.

To read more about this study, click here


  1. Ruibin J, et al. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9381513.
  2. Huynh DL, et al. Chin J Nat Med. 2017;15(1):15-40.
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