Objective: Tillandsia recurvata, also commonly known as Ball Moss, is endemic to Jamaica and some parts of the Caribbean and South America. The plant, despite being reported to be used in folk medicine, had not previously been evaluated for its anti-cancer potential. The aim of this study was to evaluate the anti-cancer activity of Ball Moss.
Methods: The anti-proliferation activity of the crude methanolic extract of the T recurvata was evaluated in vitro in five different histogenic cancer cell lines (prostate cancer – PC-3, breast cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, B-16 melanoma and a B-cell lymphoma from a transgenic mouse strain) using the trypan blue assay. The crude extract was also evaluated in vivo in tumour-bearing mice. Immunohistochemistry staining with Apoptag was used for histology and determination of apoptosis.
Results: The crude methanolic extract of T recurvata demonstrated anti-proliferation activity against all the cell lines, killing > 50% of the cells at a concentration of 2.5 μg/ml. Kaposi sarcoma xenograft tumours were inhibited by up to 75% compared to control in the in vivo study (p < 0.05). There was evidence of DNA fragmentation and a decrease in cell viability on histological studies. The methanolic extract showed no toxic effect in the mice at a dose of 200 mg/kg.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that T recurvata has great potential as an anti-cancer agent and that one of its mechanisms of cell kill and tumour inhibition is by the induction of apoptosis.