Costunolide: A Potential Drug Molecule for Fighting Gastric Cancer

Nomrota Majumder ‘21

Figure 1: Costunolide may prove to be an effective drug at targeting gastric cancer cells

Costunolide, a sesquiterpene lactone extracted from Radix Aucklandiae, is shown to have powerful activity against multiple cancer forms. However, the effects of costunolide has not yet been investigated with gastric cancer, or the formation and growth of malignant cancer cells lining the stomach. As the fifth most common cancer in the world, and the third leading cause of cancer related death in the world, gastric cancer and its relationship to the underlying principles of apoptosis induced by costunolide was explored by a group of researchers using human gastric adenocarcinoma BGC-823 cells in vitro and in vivo.

Methodology of this project involved testing BGC-823 viability with an MTT assay, evaluating mitochondrial membrane potential and apoptosis with flow cytometry, and detecting the presence of apoptosis related proteins produced in BGC-823 with a standard western blot. The results conveyed that costunolide indeed inhibited the activity and viability of BGC-823 depending on the concentration of the cell type. Mitochondrial membrane potential additionally decreased significantly in these cells indicating low activity and low energy output. A western blot showed costunolide to increase the expression of the cleaving proteins Bax, cleaved caspase 9, cleaved caspase 7, cleaved caspase 3 and cleaved poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) proteins and decrease the expression of Bcl-2, pro-caspase 9, pro-caspase 7, pro-caspase 3 and PARP proteins. With all factors considered, researchers arrived to the conclusion that costunolide induces the mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in gastric adenocarcinoma BGC-823 cells and can possibly be a strong drug against gastric cancer. 

The fight against cancer is an ongoing one, and although no set cure has been invented, scientists are making groundbreaking strides in alleviating its symptoms. Gastric cancer especially can result in extremely uncomfortable abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, and indigestion, and costunolide may be the first step in providing relief and killing cancer in those diagnosed.


  1. Z. Yan, et. al., Costunolide induces mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in human gastric adenocarcinoma BGC-823 cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 1, 151(2019).
  2. Image retrieved from:

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