Researchers reviewed the literature for studies exploring the pharmacological profile of withaferin A focusing on its anticancer potential, as published in the journal Molecules.

They found that there are many in vitro and in vivo studies about withaferin A’s wide range of pharmacological profiles including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiherpetic, antifibrotic, immunosuppressive, and antileishmanial abilities. Many studies also underscored the potential of the compound in integrative cancer chemoprevention and cure.

The authors of the review, therefore, suggest that withaferin A should be advanced to clinical trials to further investigate its potential as a commercial drug for the treatment of different diseases including cancer.

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One study reported the RET inhibitory activity of withaferin A in medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) xenografts and showed that 8 mg/kg of intraperitoneal withaferin A inhibited tumor growth. Mutations in the RET proto-oncogene are associated with the development of MTC, a rare type of neuroendocrine tumor of the thyroid gland.

Withaferin A is a constituent of the plant Withania somnifera Dunal which is commonly known as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry, which is also commonly used as an Ayurvedic remedy and has many biological properties.

“One of the most promising hallmarks of [ashwagandha] is its anticancer and chemo-preventive potential, which has been affirmed from multiple studies,” the researchers wrote.

The potential anticancer effects of withaferin A include cancer chemopreventive effects, induction of apoptosis, antitumor induction activity, sensitization to chemotherapy, cancer-associated anti-inflammatory effects, and immunomodulation.

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Future research should define the spectrum of withaferin A’s pharmacology activities, the authors said, and toxicological evaluations should be conducted to determine its safety profile and to standardize its pharmacodynamic parameters. It’s important to design formulations of the compound that can be administered to patients to treat particular diseases including MTC.


Sultana T, Okla MK, Ahmed M, et al. Withaferin A: from ancient remedy to potential drug candidate. Molecules. 2021;20;26(24):7696. doi:10.3390/molecules26247696