Research Papers:

Bitter melon extract inhibits breast cancer growth in preclinical model by inducing autophagic cell death

Naoshad Muhammad, Robert Steele, Scott T. Isbell, Nancy Philips and Ratna B. Ray _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:66226-66236. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.19887

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Naoshad Muhammad1, Robert Steele1, T. Scott Isbell1, Nancy Philips1 and Ratna B. Ray1,2

1Department of Pathology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

2Cancer Center, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Correspondence to:

Ratna B. Ray, email: [email protected]

Keywords: bitter melon, breast cancer cells, autophagy, LC3B, AMPK

Received: May 07, 2017    Accepted: July 06, 2017    Published: August 03, 2017


Breast cancer is a major public health problem worldwide in women and current therapeutic strategies are not adequately effective for this deadly disease. We have previously shown the anti-proliferative activity of bitter melon extract (BME) in breast cancer cells. In this study, we observed that BME treatment induces autophagosome-bound Long chain 3 (LC3)-B and accumulates protein p62/SQSTM1 (p62) in breast cancer cells. Additionally, we observed that BME treatment in breast cancer cells increases phospho-AMPK expression and inhibits the mTOR/Akt signaling pathway. Subsequently, we demonstrated that BME feeding effectively inhibited breast cancer growth in syngeneic and xenograft mouse models. Further, we observed the increased p62 accumulation, induction of autophagy and apoptotic cell death in tumors from BME-fed animals. Taken together, our results demonstrate that BME treatment inhibits breast tumor growth, and this anti-tumor activity in breast cancer is, in part, mediated by induction of autophagy and modulation of the AMPK/mTOR pathway. The antitumor activity of BME by oral feeding in breast cancer models suggested the high potential for a clinical application.

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