Oncostatic action of melatonin: facts and question marks.

: The paper presents the data concerning the in vivo effects of melatonin on experimentally-induced tumors in animals and the in vitro effects on animal and human tumor cells. The majority of experimental tumors responded to the melatonin treatment with growth inhibition. However, some negative or opposite results (i.e. stimulation of tumor instead of inhibition) were also reported. Some of the negative results can be attributed to the improper timing of melatonin administration. Melatonin was also shown to inhibit the growth of several animal and human tumor cell lines in vitro. On the basis of these experiments, a hypothesis of the oncostatic action of melatonin was put forward. The mechanism of the postulated action is complex and probably includes: 1) modulation of the endocrine system; 2) modulation of the immune system; 3) the direct oncostatic action of melatonin on tumor cells. The latter includes the recently discovered anti-oxidative action which probably plays an important role in the countering the DNA damage during the radiation challenge or the exposure to chemical carcinogens. It also includes the antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects exerted via melatonin receptors expressed by tumor cells. The involvement of the membrane melatonin receptors is mainly assumed. However, the recent data from our and other laboratories suggest also the involvement of RZR/ROR receptors (the putative melatonin nuclear receptors) in both melatonin-induced proliferation inhibition and apoptosis.