ABSTRACT Background: Herbal compounds are attractive anticancer candidates due to their low toxicity. Pervious studies have demonstrated that Hibiscus sabdariffa is promising as an anticancer agent against several cancer types; however, its potential therapeutic role in breast cancer remains to be investigated. Materials and Methods: In the present study, the cytotoxic effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa aqueous extract (HSE) on a human breast adenocarcinoma cell line (MCF-7) and fetal foreskin fibroblast (HFFF) were investigated. Different concentrations of water extract of calyces were added and the percentage of cell survival was determined after 24, 48, and 72 hours using an MTT assay. Apoptosis induction was assessed by DNA fragmentation. Results: At the concentration of 0.5 mg/ml of the extract and following 72 hours of incubation, the number of viable MCF-7 cells was less than 50%. The extract was not cytotoxic against normal HFFF cells in all tested concentrations. Also, HSE induced apoptosis only in MCF-7 cells. Conclusions: These results suggest that HSE inhibits the growth of MCF-7 cells selectively in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. As this herbal substance has been shown to be nontoxic at very high doses in experimental animals, it might be a good anticancer drug candidate for breast cancer treatment.
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