Melatonin as an antitumor agent against liver cancer: An updated systematic review

Paula Fernández-Palanca, Carolina Méndez-Blanco, Flavia Fondevila, María J. Tuñón, Russel J. Reiter, José L. Mauriz, Javier González-Gallego

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is an indoleamine with antioxidant, chrono-biotic and anti-inflammatory properties; reduced levels of this hormone are associated with higher risk of cancer. Several beneficial effects of melatonin have been described in a broad number of tumors, including liver cancers. In this work we systematically reviewed the publications of the last 15 years that assessed the underlying mechanisms of melatonin activities against liver cancers, and its role as coadjuvant in the treatment of these tumors. Literature research was performed employ-ing PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science (WOS) databases and, after screening, 51 articles were included. Results from the selected studies denoted the useful actions of melatonin in preventing carcinogenesis and as a promising treatment option for the primary liver tumors hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), either alone or in combination with other com-pounds. Different processes were modulated by the indole, such as inhibition of oxidative stress, proliferation, angiogenesis and invasion, promotion of immune system response, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, as well as recovery of circadian rhythms and autophagy modulation. Taken together, the present systematic review highlights the evidence that document the potential role of melatonin in improving the landscape of liver tumor treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver cancer
  • Melatonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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