Abstract. Background: Oral squamous cell carcinoma
(OSCC) is a challenging disease with a high mortality rate.
Natural products represent a valuable source for the
development of novel anticancer drugs. We investigated the
cytotoxic potential of essential oil from the leaves of a
medicinal plant, Levisticum officinale (lovage) on head and
neck squamous carcinoma cells (HNSCC). Materials and
Methods: Cytotoxicity of lovage essential oil was investigated
on the HNSCC cell line, UMSCC1. Additionally, we
performed pharmacogenomics analyses. Results: Lovage
essential oil extract had an IC50 value of 292.6 μg/ml. Genes
involved in apoptosis, cancer, cellular growth and cell cycle
regulation were the most prominently affected in microarray
analyses. The three pathways to be most significantly
regulated were extracellular signal-regulated kinase 5
(ERK5) signaling, integrin-linked kinase (ILK) signaling,
virus entry via endocytic pathways and p53 signaling.
Conclusion: Levisticum officinale essential oil inhibits
human HNSCC cell growth.
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is among the top ten
most commonly occurring carcinomas worldwide with a high
mortality rate. It was estimated that 35,720 people (25,240
men and 10,480 women) were diagnosed with cancer of the
oral cavity and pharynx in the United States of America in
2009 and that 7,600 would die of it (1). In spite of advances
in therapy, the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer patients has
remained at 50% over the past five decades (2). Various
multimodal therapy strategies including surgery, radiation and
chemotherapy determine the standard treatments for patients
with OSCC. However, the treatment of advanced-stage OSCC
is associated with morbidity and poor patient outcomes (3).
Therefore, alternative therapeutic strategies are called for.
As the majority of anticancer drugs are of natural origin,
natural products represent a valuable source for the
identification and development of novel treatment options for
cancer (4). During the past few decades, research has
focused on the health effects of phytochemicals and plant-
derived extracts. Plants of the genus Levisticum have been
attributed with anticancer activity (5, 6). Levisticum
officinale W. D. J. Koch (lovage) belongs to the family of
Apiaceae. The name lovage originates from the Latin word
ligusticus (meaning from Liguria, as the herb used to grow in
the Liguria region of northwest Italy).
Apiaceae is a large plant family with about 3,000 species.
This family includes many species with medicinal properties
which are frequently used in traditional medicine. A
common characteristic of this family is the presence of
bioactive secondary metabolites in all plant parts: essential
oils, polyphenols (flavonoids, phenolic acids), coumarins
(furano- and pyranocoumarins), saponins, alkaloids and
L. officinale has been used as a medicinal plant for
centuries due to its carminative, spasmolytic and diuretic
effect (8, 9). Clinically it is a potent diuretic (9). It is
approved by the German Commission E for use in lower
urinary tract infections and urinary gravel (10). The
antimycobacterial activity of L. officinale is rooted in its
Correspondence to: Professor Dr. Thomas Efferth, Department of
Pharmaceutical Biology, Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry,
University of Mainz, Staudingerweg 5, 55128 Mainz, Germany. Tel:
+49 61313925751, Fax: +49 61313923752, e-mail: efferth@uni-
Key Words: Levisticum officinale lovage, oral cavity squamous cell
carcinoma OCSCC, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
HNSCC, natural product, pharmacogenomics.
ANTICANCER RESEARCH 31: 185-192 (2011)
Chemical Composition and Antiproliferative Activity of
Essential Oil from the Leaves of a Medicinal Herb,
Levisticum officinale, against UMSCC1
Head and Neck Squamous Carcinoma Cells
SERKAN SERTEL1,2,3, TOLGA EICHHORN2,3, PETER K. PLINKERT1and THOMAS EFFERTH2,3
1Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany;
2Pharmaceutical Biology (C015), German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany;
3Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry,
University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany
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Received September 9, 2010
Revised December 6, 2010
Accepted December 7, 2010
Sertel et al: Antiproliferative Activity of Levisticum officinale Essential Oil