Berberine has demonstrated cytotoxic activity in vitro against many strains of human cancer cells (Hwang et al 2006, Kettmann et al 2004, Kuo et al 2005). This is due in part to the reduction of COX-2 enzymes (Kuo et al 2005, Tai & Luo 2003), damage to the cytoplasmic membrane and DNA fragmentation (Letasiova et al 2005).

The antitumour effects of berberine were investigated on malignant brain tumours in an in vitro and in vivo model (Zhang et al 1990). Berberine (1 50 mg/mL) demonstrated an ability to kill 91 % of cells in six human malignant brain tumour cell lines and 10 mg/kg exhibited an 80.9% cell kill rate against solid brain tumours in vivo. The addition of berberine to 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1 -nitrosourea increased cytotoxicity.

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