• Katie Floyd

Testing Sorghum Bran Extract Against Colon Cancer Cells

Updated: a day ago

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal (colon) cancer is one of the third most common cancers in the United States for both men and women (1). Yearly, about 140,000 people in the US are diagnosed with colon cancer, accounting for more than 50,000 deaths (2). Early stages of colon cancer and precancerous polyps do not always cause symptoms, which is why regular screenings are so important. The ACS and CDC recommends regular screenings starting at age 50 (1, 2).

Some colon cancer cases involve a family history of the disease, making certain individuals more susceptible (3), but approximately 70-75% of colon cancer is sporadic (4) and possibly preventable by a number of diet and lifestyle changes, and avoiding exposure to certain risk factors (3).

Researchers are constantly looking for new approaches to colon cancer prevention. These include changes in diet, such as increasing our intake fiber-rich grains, vegetables, and fruits, and lowering our consumption of red meat and processed meats (hot dogs and deli meats) (3, 4). Plant-based diets have been gaining popularity as a source of chemoprevention, in addition to whole grains that contain high amounts of bioactive phenolic compounds (4). One of these whole grains is sorghum.

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) is the world’s fifth most consumed cereal crop in the human diet. It contains an abundance of major nutrients (starch, proteins, lipids, minerals, and vitamins), as well as a high content of bioactive phenolic compounds (4). Sorghum is particularly rich in B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tannins). Eating an antioxidant-rich diet can have positive effects on our bodies, like lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation (5).

Researchers have explored the anticancer activity of polyphenol-rich sorghum on both colon and breast cancer cells (4). A recent article published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity further explored the anticancer properties of a high-phenolic sorghum bran extract on human colon cancer cells (4).

Their study discovered a variety of promising results for the dietary consumption of high phenolic sorghum bran against human colon cancer cells (4):

1) High Phenolic Sorghum Bran Extract Suppressed Proliferation of Human Colon Cancer Cells

The researchers treated four human colon cancer cell lines (HCT15, SW480, HCT116, and HT-29) with their sorghum bran extract then measured the cell proliferation in each line. The results showed that the extract suppressed cell proliferation in a dose- and time dependent manner in all four lines, with the highest growth inhibitory activity in HCT15 and SW480 cells.

2) High Phenolic Sorghum Bran Extract Induced Apoptosis of Human Colon Cancer Cells

Apoptosis is “a programed cell death induced by several internal and external signals including DNA damage, cell stress, and proapoptotic cytokines.” Apoptosis can be very beneficial (for example, by eliminating potential cancer cells) (6). After treating colon cancer cell lines with either 0, 1.25, and 2.5 mg/ml of the sorghum bran extract, results showed that apoptosis was triggered in three of the four cell lines.

HCT15 – 16.6% (control) to 28.9% (1.25 mg/ml) and 58.9% (2.5 mg/ml)

SW480 – 12.4% (control) to 19.1% (1.25 mg/ml) and 39.6% (2.5 mg/ml)

HCT116 – 12.8% (control) to 25.6% (1.25 mg/ml) and 48.4% (2.5 mg/ml)

3) High Phenolic Sorghum Bran Extract Induced Growth Arrest at S Phase in Human Colon Cancer Cells

According to the researchers, to test if the growth inhibition by the sorghum bran extract was associated with growth arrest, they measured changes in cell distribution in the cell cycle phases. Results indicated that “treatment with the high phenolic sorghum bran extract led to a significant increase in the number of cells in the S phase with a concomitant decrease in the number of cells in G1 phase, indicating an S phase arrest.”

4) High Phenolic Sorghum Bran Extract Suppressed Migration and Invasion of Human Colon Cancer Cells

Metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from the place where they originally formed to another part of the body (7). The initial step of metastasis is migration and invasion. Results indicated the sorghum bran extract caused a significant inhibition of migration and invasion.

5) High Phenolic Sorghum Bran Extract Induced DNA Damage and MAPK Activation in Human Colon Cancer


To determine if the sorghum bran extract induced DNA damage, the researchers measured the “phosphorylation of H2AX,” a marker of DNA double-strand breaks and DNA damage. Their results indicated the sorghum bran extract “significantly increased the phosphorylation of H2AX in a dose-dependent manner in HCT15, SW480, and HCT116 cells.”

Read the full study: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2020/2890536/


(1) Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer. (2021). American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

(2) Colorectal Cancer Awareness. (2021). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/colorectalawareness/index.htm

(3) Colorectal (Colon) Cancer. (August 21, 2020). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/colon-cancer

(4) Lee, S., Lee, J., Herald, T., Cox, S., Noronha, L., Perumal, R., Lee, H., & Smolensky, D. (2020). Anticancer Activity of a Novel High Phenolic Sorghum Bran in Human Colon Cancer Cells. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2020, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/2890536

(5) What Is Sorghum? A Unique Grain Reviewed. (November 26, 2019). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sorghum

(6) Apoptosis. (2021). Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/developmental-biology/apoptosis-in-development/a/apoptosis

(7) Metastasis. (2021). NIH: National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/metastasis

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