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Prostratin, a phorbol ester natural plant compound, has been demonstrated to exert an anti‑retroviral effect through activation of latent cluster of differentiation (CD)4+T lymphocytes and inhibition of viral entry into the cell through downregulation of chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) expression. However, the potential effect of prostratin on cancer is yet to be defined. As CXCR4 is well known to induce cancer migration, it was hypothesized that prostratin induces an anti‑cancer effect through inhibition of CXCR4 expression. The authors previously demonstrated that high stimulating conditions (sub‑minimal IL‑17, 0.1 ng/ml, synergized with high salt, Δ0.05 M NaCl) promote breast cancer cell proliferation and CXCR4 expression through upregulation of salt‑inducible kinase (SIK)‑3. The present study demonstrated that prostratin selectively exerted increased cytotoxicity (IC50 of 7 µM) when breast cancer cells were cultured in high stimulating conditions, compared with regular basal culture conditions (IC50 of 35 µM). Furthermore, the cytotoxic potential of prostratin was increased seven‑fold in the four breast cancer cell lines (MCF‑7, MDA‑MB‑231, BT‑20 and AU‑565) compared with the non‑malignant MCF10A breast epithelial cell line. This suggested that prostratin specifically targets cancer cells over normal cells. Mechanistic studies revealed that prostratin inhibited CXCR4 expression in breast cancer cells through downregulation of SIK3 expression. Overall, the data suggest that prostratin is a novel drug target for the pro‑oncogenic factor SIK3. These studies could form a basis for further research to evaluate the anticancer effect of prostratin in a combinatorial chemotherapeutic regimen.