Cancer stem cells (CSCs), including those of advanced prostate cancer, are a suggested reason for tumor resistance toward conventional tumor therapy. Therefore, new therapeutic agents are urgently needed for targeting CSCs. Despite the minimal understanding of their modes of action, natural products and herbal therapies have been commonly used in the prevention and treatment of many cancers. Berberis libanotica Ehrenb (BLE) is a plant rich in alkaloids which may possess anti-cancer activity and a high potential for eliminating CSCs. We tested the effect of BLE on prostate cancer cells and our data indicated that this extract induced significant reduction in cell viability and inhibited the proliferation of human prostate cancer cell lines (DU145, PC3 and 22Rv1) in a dose- and time-dependent manner. BLE extract induced a perturbation of the cell cycle, leading to a G0-G1 arrest. Furthermore, we noted 50% cell death, characterized by the production of high levels of reactive oxidative species (ROS). Inhibition of cellular migration and invasion was also achieved upon treatment with BLE extract, suggesting a role in inhibiting metastasis. Interestingly, BLE extract had a major effect on CSCs. Cells were grown in a 3D sphere-formation assay to enrich for a population of cancer stem/progenitor cells. Our results showed a significant reduction in sphere formation ability. Three rounds of treatment with BLE extract were sufficient to eradicate the self-renewal ability of highly resistant CSCs. In conclusion, our results suggest a high therapeutic potential of BLE extract in targeting prostate cancer and its CSCs.
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