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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2014, Article ID 721402, 12 pages
Research Article

Evaluating Medicinal Plants for Anticancer Activity

1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, 91120 Jerusalem, Israel
2Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center, Hadassah Medical Organization, 91120 Jerusalem, Israel
3Arava Institute of Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, 88840 DN Eilot, Israel

Received 29 July 2014; Revised 14 October 2014; Accepted 17 October 2014; Published 13 November 2014

Academic Editor: Thomas Efferth

Copyright © 2014 Elisha Solowey 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.


Plants have been used for medical purposes since the beginning of human history and are the basis of modern medicine. Most chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer treatment are molecules identified and isolated from plants or their synthetic derivatives. Our hypothesis was that whole plant extracts selected according to ethnobotanical sources of historical use might contain multiple molecules with antitumor activities that could be very effective in killing human cancer cells. This study examined the effects of three whole plant extracts (ethanol extraction) on human tumor cells. The extracts were from Urtica membranacea (Urticaceae), Artemesia monosperma (Asteraceae), and Origanum dayi post (Labiatae). All three plant extracts exhibited dose- and time-dependent killing capabilities in various human derived tumor cell lines and primary cultures established from patients’ biopsies. The killing activity was specific toward tumor cells, as the plant extracts had no effect on primary cultures of healthy human cells. Cell death caused by the whole plant extracts is via apoptosis. Plant extract 5 (Urtica membranacea) showed particularly strong anticancer capabilities since it inhibited actual tumor progression in a breast adenocarcinoma mouse model. Our results suggest that whole plant extracts are promising anticancer reagents.