Saffron- based crocin prevents early lesions of liver cancer: In vivo, in vitro and Network analyses

Amr Amin, Alaaeldin A. Hamza, Sayel Daoud, Kamal Khazanehdari, Ala’a Al Hrout, Badriya Baig, Amphun Chaiboonchoe, Thomas E. Adrian, Nazar Zaki, Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The angiogenesis inhibitor, sorafenib, remains the only available therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Only recently patents of VEGF receptors-3 inhibitors are developed. Thus, a novel approach against HCC is essential for a better therapeutic outcome. Objective: The aims of this study were to examine the chemopreventive action of saffron’s main biomolecule, crocin, against chemically-induced liver cancer in rats, and to explore the mechanisms by which crocin employs its anti-tumor effects. Method: We investigated the anti-cancer effect of crocin on an experimental carcinogenesis model of liver cancer by studying the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferation, pro-apoptotic activities of crocin in vivo. In addition, we provided a network analysis of differentially expressed genes in tissues of animals pre-treated with crocin in comparison to induced-HCC animals’ tissues. To further support our results, in vitro analysis was carried out. We assessed the effects of crocin on HepG2 cells viability by treating them with various concentrations of crocin; in addition, effects of crocin on cell cycle distribution of HepG2 cells were investigated. Results: Findings reported herein demonstrated the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic properties of crocin when administrated in induced- HCC model. Crocin exhibited anti-inflammatory properties where NF-kB, among other inflammatory markers, was inhibited. In vitro analysis confirmed crocin’s effect in HepG2 by arresting the cell cycle at S and G2/M phases, inducing apoptosis and down regulating inflammation. Network analysis identified NF-kB as a potential regulatory hub, and therefore, a candidate therapeutic drug target. Conclusion: Taken together, our findings introduce crocin as a candidate chemopreventive agent against HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-133
Number of pages13
JournalRecent Patents on Anti-Cancer Drug Discovery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Apoptosis
  • Crocin
  • Inflammation
  • Liver cancer
  • NF-κB
  • Network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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