Asian ginseng enhances the anti-proliferative effect of 5-fluorouracil on human colorectal cancer: Comparison between white and red ginseng

Anna B. Fishbein, Chong Zhi Wang, Xiao Li Li, Sangeeta R. Mehendale, Shi Sun, Han H. Aung, Chun Su Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations


Previous studies showed that Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, may have anti-cancer properties. However, there is limited data exploring the use of Asian ginseng as an adjuvant to chemotherapy, and minimal mechanistic studies related to their possible synergistic activities. In this study, the content of 8 ginsenosides, Rb1, Rb2, Rb3, Rc, Rd, Re, Rg1 and Rg3, in the extracts of white ginseng (WG) and red ginseng (RG) were determined by HPLC. Using HCT-116 human colorectal cancer cells, we compared the efficacy of WG and RG. We evaluated the synergy between ginseng and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), and explored the mechanism of their anti-proliferative effects. As single extract, WG or RG used at concentrations of 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 mg/mL, inhibited HCT-116 cell proliferation in a concentration-related manner. WG at 0.2 mg/mL did not show obvious synergy with 5-FU co-treatment, while RG at 0.2 and 0.3 mg/mL significantly enhanced the anti-proliferative effects of 5-FU at concentrations of 10, 50 and 100 μM (P < 0.05). Using flow cytometric assay, RG 0.3 mg/mL did not affect cancer cell apoptotic induction activity. However, the RG induced cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase, while 5-FU arrested the cell in the S phase. Different ginsenoside profiles are responsible for the observed differences in pharmacological effects. The effects of 8 ginsenosides on HCT-116 cells were assayed. Rd and Rg3 showed positive anti-proliferative effect. Our data suggested a potential for RG as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of colorectal cancer, via a synergistic action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-513
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Pharmacal Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009



  • 5-Fluorouracil
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell cycle
  • Human colorectal cancer
  • Panax ginseng
  • Red ginseng
  • White ginseng

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry

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