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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 952504, 8 pages
Research Article

Rhein Induces Apoptosis in Human Breast Cancer Cells

1Department of Biotechnology, Asia University, Taichung 413, Taiwan
2Institute of Bioinformatics and Structural Biology, Department of Medical Science, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu 300, Taiwan
3School of Pharmacy, China Medical University, Taichung 404, Taiwan
4Department of Biological Science and Technology, China Medical University, Taichung 404, Taiwan
5Department of Medical Laboratory Science and Biotechnology, China Medical University, Taichung 404, Taiwan
6Department of Medical Genetics and Medical Research, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung 404, Taiwan

Received 6 May 2011; Revised 19 July 2011; Accepted 12 August 2011

Academic Editor: Richard Pietras

Copyright © 2012 Ching-Yao Chang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Human breast cancers cells overexpressing HER2/neu are more aggressive tumors with poor prognosis, and resistance to chemotherapy. This study investigates antiproliferation effects of anthraquinone derivatives of rhubarb root on human breast cancer cells. Of 7 anthraquinone derivatives, only rhein showed antiproliferative and apoptotic effects on both HER2-overexpressing MCF-7 (MCF-7/HER2) and control vector MCF-7 (MCF-7/VEC) cells. Rhein induced dose- and time-dependent manners increase in caspase-9-mediated apoptosis correlating with activation of ROS-mediated activation of NF-κB- and p53-signaling pathways in both cell types. Therefore, this study highlighted rhein as processing anti-proliferative activity against HER2 overexpression or HER2-basal expression in breast cancer cells and playing important roles in apoptotic induction of human breast cancer cells.