The emergence of melatonin in oncology: Focus on colorectal cancer

Emilio Gil-Martín, Javier Egea, Russel J. Reiter, Alejandro Romero

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Within the last few decades, melatonin has increasingly emerged in clinical oncology as a naturally occurring bioactive molecule with substantial anticancer properties and a pharmacological profile optimal for joining the currently available pharmacopeia. In addition, extensive experimental data shows that this chronobiotic agent exerts oncostatic effects throughout all stages of tumor growth, from initial cell transformation to mitigation of malignant progression and metastasis; additionally, melatonin alleviates the side effects and improves the welfare of radio/chemotherapy-treated patients. Thus, the support of clinicians and oncologists for the use of melatonin in both the treatment and proactive prevention of cancer is gaining strength. Because of its epidemiological importance and symptomatic debut in advanced stages of difficult clinical management, colorectal cancer (CRC) is a preferential target for testing new therapies. In this regard, the development of effective forms of clinical intervention for the improvement of CRC outcome, specifically metastatic CRC, is urgent. At the same time, the need to reduce the costs of conventional anti-CRC therapy results is also imperative. In light of this status quo, the therapeutic potential of melatonin, and the direct and indirect critical processes of CRC malignancy it modulates, have aroused much interest. To illuminate the imminent future on CRC research, we focused our attention on the molecular mechanisms underlying the multiple oncostatic actions displayed by melatonin in the onset and evolution of CRC and summarized epidemiological evidence, as well as in vitro, in vivo and clinical findings that support the broadly protective potential demonstrated by melatonin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2239-2285
Number of pages47
JournalMedicinal Research Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • angiogenesis
  • apoptosis
  • circadian rhythms
  • colorectal cancer
  • epigenetics
  • inflammation
  • melatonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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