Berberine presensitises cancer cells to radio, chemo.

Berberine presensitises cancer cells to radio, chemo.

Berberine, the herbal isoquinoline derivative alkaloid in Berberis and Goldenseal, has an important role of orthodox cancer treatment - it presensitises cancer cells to radiotherapy and chemotherapy while protecting healthy cells and organs.

Berberine improves the effectiveness of radiotherapy

Berberine has been shown (1) to amplify the cytoxic effects of radiotherapy by targeting cancer stem cells in breast cancers. The research showed that combining berberine with radiation therapy leads to a significant reduction in cell viability and OCT4 and SOX2 gene expression when compared with a radiation alone treated group.

This is not the first time berberine has been shown to improve radiotherapy. In 2012 Berberine was shown (2) to sensitise breast cancer cells, improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy. Indeed, a greater number of double strand DNA breaks occurred using a combination of radiotherapy and Berberine with breast cancer cells. This action occurs because berberine induces cell cycle arrest and downregulates the repair protein, RAD51.

This followed a 2011 study on Oesophageal cancer squamous cells, where even in low doses, Berberine could sensitise cancer cells by downregulating RAD51 with the result that Radiotherapy became more effective at damaging and killing more cancer cells (3).

In 2015, Berberine was shown to increase sensitivity to radiotherapy in prostate cancer cells because it damaged the hypoxic pocket defence of the tumours (4).

Berberine helps improve Chemotherapy too

In 2015, Berberine was shown to presensitise Ovarian cancer cells to the drug Cisplatin. Ovarian cancer cells had a significantly lower survival rate when pre-sensitised by Berberine. Indeed less cancer cells exhibited resistance to the chemotherapy drug (5).

Berberine protects healthy cells and organs

At the same time as presensitising cancer cells to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Berberine is a chemo-protector and radio-protector for healthy cells and organs such as the heart, liver and lungs (6).

Go to Berberine and cancer



  1. Breast Cancer Management; Vol 9 No 2; Sanaa A Benhawy et al;
  2. Jin Yang et al; Int J Mol Med; 2012, Nov 30(5) 1166-72;
  3. Qiao Liu et al; PLoS One, 2011 6(8).
  4. Qu Zhang et al;
  5. Chen Q et al; Berberine sensitises Ovarian cancer cells to Cisplatin; Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry;


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