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Neem plant’s nimbolide targets prostate cancer

Treatment for one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world may be found in the ubiquitous neem plant, native to India and the Indian subcontinent.


MsNUS PhD candidate Ms Zhang Jingwen and Associate Professor Gautam Sethi, Department of Pharmacology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, with a neem plant leafstalk.
L-R: Ms Zhang Jingwen, NUS PhD candidate, and Associate Professor Gautam Sethi, Department of Pharmacology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, with a neem plant leafstalk. (Photo supplied by NUS.)

School of Biomedical Sciences Adjunct Professor Gautam Sethi, who is also an Associate Professor at the Department of Pharmacology at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS), is conducting research into the efficacy of the neem plant in treating prostate cancer. Professor Sethi has found that the consumption of the bioactive compound nimbolide, which is derived from the plant’s leaves, could significantly suppress the cancer’s development.

The nimbolide works by targeting glutathione reductase, an enzyme responsible for maintaining the antioxidant system that regulates the STAT3 gene in the body. This then inhibits STAT3 activation, which has been reported to contribute to prostate tumour growth and metastasis.

In this study, designed to analyse the potential role of nimbolide in the prevention of, and treatment for, prostate cancer, Professor Sethi and his team found that nimbolide, when given orally, can suppress cell invasion and migration of prostate cancer cells without any significant adverse effects. Over a period of 12 weeks, tumour size was reduced by up to 70 per cent and its metastasis, or spread, by up to 50 per cent.

Principal Investigator Associate Professor Gautam Sethi and NUS PhD candidate Ms Zhang Jingwen from the Department of Pharmacology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine led a research which found that a bioactive compound from the neem plant could significantly suppress development of prostate cancer.
L-R: Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Gautam Sethi, and NUS PhD candidate, Ms Zhang Jingwen, from the Department of Pharmacology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, led research which found that a bioactive compound from the neem plant could significantly suppress development of prostate cancer. (Photo supplied by NUS.)

“In this research, we have demonstrated that nimbolide can inhibit tumour cell viability – a cellular process that directly affects the ability of a cell to proliferate, grow, divide, or repair damaged cell components – and induce programmed cell death in prostate cancer cells,” Professor Sethi said.

“For our further research, we are looking to analyse the side effects of, and determine other potential molecular targets of, nimbolide. We are also keen to examine the efficacy of nimbolide when combined with other drugs for future prostate cancer therapy.”

Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. The most recent data on prostate cancer is from 2012, when more than 1.1 million cases were recorded globally and 20,065 cases were recorded in Australia.

Professor Sethi’s research findings were published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling in April 2016.