Hydroxyanthraquinones from plants have been used as both medicinal active ingredients and adulterants in slimming food supplements. Although sensible doses of certain natural hydroxyanthraquinones for laxative effects are generally safe in the short term, chronic intake has been related to tumorigenic, carcinogenic, and genotoxic effects. However, an increasing number of researchers are reporting the antiproliferative properties of the same ingredients in cancer cells, pointing towards a potential nutraceutical value for cancer prevention. Previous studies have evaluated anthraquinones’ anti-proliferative activity against various tumour cell lines and bioavailability in Caco-2 cells. However, there are scarce data about both their cytotoxicity in the later cell line and long-term stability. Therefore, this study will check the purity of several ‘aged’ samples using mutually complementary analytical techniques such as HPTLC and NMR assays as well as evaluate the anti-proliferative activity of the purest of these samples using the Caco-2 cell line. The chromatographic and spectroscopic analyses confirmed the long-term stability of those compounds, and their cytotoxic activity resulted in chrysazin (15 µg/mL) > catenarin (27.29 µg/mL) > rhein (49.55 µg/mL) > helminthosporin (52.91 µg/mL) > aloe-emodin (55.34 µg/mL). Our succinct review of the cytotoxicity of these compounds afforded two results: that this is the first clear report for catenarin being active in colon cancer cells and that this class of compounds needs to be better studied to clearly evaluate their benefit/risk profile in regard to both new chemo preventative nutraceuticals and anticancer therapies.
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