Worldwide, breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women. It is estimated that one out of eight women in the United States is at risk of developing the disease during her lifetime. Despite the effectiveness of conventional treatments, their side effects call for a treatment modality with equal effect but with lesser side effects. In this context, herbal medicines have gained enormous attention. Fenugreek is one such herb which has been consumed in Asia, Europe and North Africa for a long time and has been reported to possess potent anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-neoplastic activity. Diosgenin is one of the biologically active constituent of fenugreek seeds. In the present study, the effect of diosgenin on breast cancer cell lines was investigated. Cytotoxic assays showed that diosgenin reduced the viability of both the ER positive MCF-7 cells (20.63% at 25μM concentration) and ER negative MDA 231 cells (20.4% at 25μM concentration). A significant induction of apoptosis by diosgenin was observed in both the breast cancer cell lines-MCF-7 (55% at 20μM and 98% at 40μM) and MDA 231 (52% at 20μM and 98% at 40μM). In MCF-7 cells diosgenin induced p53 protein expression and also down regulated ER activation. However, in MDA 231 cells diosgenin increased caspase activation (6-fold) and also down regulated Bcl-2 protein expression. These results suggest that diosgenin may have a potential as an anti cancer agent in breast cancer therapy irrespective of their ER status. The future studies are planned to further characterize the molecular pathways involved in the mechanism of action of diosgenin as an anti cancer agent effective against breast cancer.
[Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res, Volume 46, 2005]