Melatonin as a treatment for gastrointestinal cancer: A review

Zhenlong Xin, Shuai Jiang, Peng Jiang, Xiaolong Yan, Chongxi Fan, Shouyin Di, Guiling Wu, Yang Yang, Russel J. Reiter, Gang Ji

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Gastrointestinal cancer is a disease that affects the population worldwide with high morbidity and mortality. Melatonin, an endogenously produced molecule, may provide a defense against a variety of cancer types. In particular, the ability of melatonin to inhibit gastrointestinal cancer is substantial. In this review, we first clarify the relationship between the disruption of the melatonin rhythm and gastrointestinal cancer (based on epidemiologic surveys and animal and human studies) and summarize the preventive effect of melatonin on carcinogenesis. Thereafter, the mechanisms through which melatonin exerts its anti-gastrointestinal cancer actions are explained, including inhibition of proliferation, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis, and promotion of apoptosis and cancer immunity. Moreover, we discuss the drug synergy effects and the role of melatonin receptors involved in the growth-inhibitory effects on gastrointestinal cancer. Taken together, the information compiled here serves as a comprehensive reference for the anti-gastrointestinal cancer actions of melatonin that have been identified to date and will hopefully aid in the design of further experimental and clinical studies and increase the awareness of melatonin as a therapeutic agent in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-387
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of pineal research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • drug synergy
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • melatonin
  • melatonin receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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