Products of Indonesian stingless bee kill human cancer cell lines

honey, propolis and bee pollen contain apigenin
New research published in the “Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine”, showed propolis obtained from Indonesian stingless bees fight cancer cells, in vitro. Dr. Kustiawan PM  and co-workers stated the need of further studies to revealing the beneficial effects of bee products such as, propolis, bee pollen and royal jelly.

Bioactive components found in propolis are apigenin, caffeic acid phenyl ester, kaempferol and naringenin and thus these may cause dying of affect cancer cells, in vitro. Here is the abstract of the article:

In vitro cytotoxicity of Indonesian stingless bee products against human cancer cell lines

Propolis, bee pollen and royal jelly are bee products that have been ascribed several medical properties in both traditional medicine and more recently in conventional medicine. It is used to prevent or reduce some diseases or symptoms, such as inflammation, heart disease and cancer.


To screen crude extracts of propolis, bee pollen and honey from four stingless bee species [Trigona incisa (T. incisa)], Timia apicalis, Trigona fusco-balteata and Trigona fuscibasis) native to East Kalimantan, Indonesia for cytotoxic activity against five human cancer cell lines (HepG2, SW620, ChaGo-I, KATO-III and BT474).


All samples were extracted with methanol, and then subpartitioned with n-hexane and ethyl acetate. Each crude extract was screened at 20 µg/mL for in vitro cytotoxicity against the cell lines using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay. In addition, four previously shown bioactive components from propolis (apigenin, caffeic acid phenyl ester, kaempferol and naringenin) and two chemotherapeutic drugs (doxorubicin and 5-fluorouracil) were used to evaluate the sensitivity of the cell lines.


Overall, crude extracts from propolis and honey had higher cytotoxic activities than bee pollen, but the activity was dependent upon the extraction solvent, bee species and cell line. Propolis extracts from T. incisa and Timia apicalis showed the highest and lowest cytotoxic activity, respectively. Only the HepG2 cell line was broadly sensitive to the honey extracts. For pure compounds, doxorubicin was the most cytotoxic, the four propolis compounds the least, but the ChaGo-I cell line was sensitive to kaempferol at 10 µg/mL and KATO-III was sensitive to kaempferol and apigenin at 10 µg/mL. All pure compounds were effective against the BT474 cell line.


Propolis from T. incisa and Trigona fusco-balteata contain an in vitro cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines. Further study is required, including the isolation and characterization of the active antiproliferative agent(s).

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Kustiawan PM, Puthong S, Arung ET, Chanchao C. In vitro cytotoxicity of Indonesian stingless bee products against human cancer cell lines. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 Jul;4(7):549-56.
doi: 10.12980/APJTB.4.2014APJTB-2013-0039.

Antiproliferative activity, Bee product, Cancer cell lines, Cytotoxicity, Ethyl acetate extract, Honey,
Methanol, Propolis, n-Hexane, apigenin, caffeic acid phenyl ester, kaempferol, naringenin


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