Boswellic acid formulations are not suitable for treatment of pediatric high-grade glioma due to tumor promoting potential

Maria Wiese, Bente Pohlmeier, Klaudia Kubiak, Fatma E. el-Khouly, Maren Sitte, Angel M. Carcaboso, Joshua N. Baugh, Thomas Perwein, Gunther Nussbaumer, Michael Karremann, Gerrit H. Gielen, Gabriela Salinas, Christof M. Kramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and aim: Pediatric high-grade gliomas (pedHGG) comprise a very poor prognosis. Thus, parents of affected children are increasingly resorting to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), among those Boswellia extracts. However, nothing is known about the therapeutic effectiveness of their active substances, Boswellic acids (BA) in pedHGG. Thus, we aimed to investigate if the three main Boswellic acids (BA) present in Boswellia plants, alpha-boswellic acid (α-BA), beta-boswellic acid (β-BA) and 3-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) hold any promising potential for treatment of affected pedHGG patients. Experimental procedure: Histone 3 (H3)-wildtype and H3.3K27M-mutant pedHGG cell lines were treated with BA, either alone or in combination with radio-chemotherapy with temozolomide. Cell viability, stemness properties, apoptosis, in ovo tumor growth and the transcriptome was investigated upon BA treatment. Results and conclusion: Interestingly, α-BA and β-BA treatment promoted certain tumor properties in both pedHGG cells. AKBA treatment reduced cell viability and colony growth accompanied by induction of slight anti-inflammatory effects especially in H3.3K27M-mutant pedHGG cells. However, no effects on apoptosis and in ovo tumor growth were found. In conclusion, besides positive anti-tumor effects of AKBA, tumor promoting effects were observed upon treatment with α-BA and β-BA. Thus, only pure AKBA formulations may be used to exploit any potential positive effects in pedHGG patients. In conclusion, the use of commercially available supplements with a mixture of different BA cannot be recommended due to detrimental effects of certain BA whereas pure AKBA formulations might hold some potential as therapeutic supplement for treatment of pedHGG patients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023


  • 3-Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA)
  • Alpha-boswellic acid (α-BA)
  • Beta-boswellic acid (β-BA)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)

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