Fenugreek, a Naturally Occurring Edible Spice, Kills MCF-7 Human Breast Cancer Cells via an Apoptotic Pathway


There is growing use of anticancer complementary and alternative medicines worldwide. Trigonella foenum graecum (Fenugreek) is traditionally applied to treat disorders such as diabetes, high cholesterol, wounds, inflammation, and gastrointestinal ailments. Fenugreek is also reported to have anticancer properties due to its active beneficial chemical constituents. The mechanism of action of several anticancer drugs is based on their ability to induce apoptosis. The objective of the study was to characterize the downstream apoptotic genes targeted by FCE in MCF-7 human immortalized breast cells. FCE effectively killed MCF-7 cells through induction of apoptosis,confirmed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) and RT-PCR assays. When cells were exposed to 50 μg/mL FCE for 24 hours, 23.2% apoptotic cells resulted, while a 48-hour exposure to 50 μg/mL caused 73.8% apoptosis. This was associated with increased expression of Caspase 3, 8, 9, p53, Fas, FADD, Bax and Bak in a time-and dose-dependent manner, as determined by real-time quantitative PCR. In summary, the induction of apoptosis by FCE is effected by its ability to increase the expression of pro-apoptotic genes and the spice holds promise for consideration in complementary therapy forbreast cancer patients.