Walnut has been known for its health benefits, including anti-cardiovascular disease and anti-oxidative properties. However, there is limited evidence elucidating its effects on cancer stem cells (CSCs) which represent a small subset of cancer cells that provide resistance against chemotherapy. This study aimed to evaluate the anti-CSCs potential of walnut phenolic extract (WPE) and its bioactive compounds, including (+)-catechin, chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid, and gallic acid. In the present study, CD133+CD44+ cells were isolated from HCT116 cells using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and then treated with WPE. As a result, survival of the CD133+CD44+ HCT116 cells was inhibited and cell differentiation was induced by WPE. In addition, WPE down-regulated the CSC markers, CD133, CD44, DLK1, and Notch1, as well as the β-catenin/p-GSK3β signaling pathway. WPE suppressed the self-renewal capacity of CSCs. Furthermore, the WPE exhibited stronger anti-CSC effects than its individual bioactive compounds. Finally, the WPE inhibited specific CSC markers in primary colon cancer cells isolated from primary colon tumor. These results suggest that WPE can suppress colon cancer by regulating the characteristics of colon CSCs.

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