The fact that many chemotherapeutic drugs cause chemoresistance and side effects during the course of colorectal cancer treatment necessitates development of novel cytotoxic agents aiming to attenuate new molecular targets. Here, we show that Astragalus membranaceus (Fischer) Bge. var. mongolicus (Bge.) Hsiao (AM), a traditional Chinese medicine, can inhibit tumor growth in vivo and elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms. The antitumor effect of AM was assessed on the subcutaneous tumors of human colorectal cancer cell line HCT116 grafted into nude mice. The mice were treated with either water or 500 mg/kg AM once per day before being sacrificed for extraction of tumors, which were then subjected to microarray expression profiling. The gene expression of the extraction was then profiled using microarray analysis. The identified genes differentially expressed between treated mice and controls reveal that administration of AM suppresses chromosome organization, histone modification and regulation of macromolecule metabolic process. A separate analysis focused on differentially expressed microRNAs revealing involvement of macromolecule metabolism, and intracellular transport, as well as several cancer signaling pathways. For validation, the input of the identified genes to The Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures led to many chemopreventive agents of natural origin that produce similar gene expression profiles to that of AM. The demonstrated effectiveness of AM suggests a potential therapeutic drug for colorectal cancer.
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