Background: Breast cancer is associated with a high mortality rate around the world due to its
aggressiveness and high resistance to conventional therapies. Sanguinarine (SAN) and Chelerythrine (CHE) are
plant alkaloids extracted from Sanguinaria canadensis and Macleaya cordata, which have been studied for their
Objective: To determine the anticancer activities of Sanguinarine (SAN) and Chelerythrine (CHE) plant alkaloids.
Method: The MTT assay, the alkaline comet assay and cell cycle analyses by flow cytometry were performed.
Results: It was observed that SAN was cytotoxic to human breast adenocarcinoma cells (MCF-7) at concentrations
of 7.5 µM (24 and 48 hours), effectively reducing cell viability from the concentration of 10 µM for 24 hours and
7.5 µM for 48 hours, by the MTT test. CHE, in turn, was cytotoxic at concentrations of 10 and 20 µM (48 hours),
but did not compromise the cellular viability. The comet assay indicated that SAN was genotoxic to the MCF-7
cells, with a significant increment of damage at 10 µM, while none of the tested concentrations of CHE showed a
genotoxic effect. The flow cytometry analysis indicated that no cell cycle arrest was caused by both alkaloids, but
SAN 10 µM induced a sub-G1 cell population.
Conclusion: The results of cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and cell cycle monitoring that are presented in this paper
have suggested that SAN has more of a chemotherapeutic activity, as well as having the potential for the
development of new therapies for breast cancer, when compared to CHE.