A phytochemical study of the flowers of Kaunia lasiophthalma G. (Asteraceae) yielded a novel triterpene (1) together with several known sesquiterpenoids. The structure of the new compound was elucidated by analysis of the spectroscopic data. The biosynthetic origin of 1 is proposed to be a dimerization of an oxidized derivative (3) of the germacrane sesquiterpene costunolide (2), also present in the flowers. The anticancer activity of 1 in the five breast cancer cell lines HCC1937, JIMT-1, L56Br-C1, MCF-7 and SK-BR-3 was compared with the cytotoxicity in the normal-like breast epithelial cell line MCF-10A. 1 exhibited high cytotoxicity in all investigated cancer cell lines with IC50 values ranging from 0.67 to 7.0 mu M, although it is lacking selectivity as the MCF-10A cells were almost as sensitive. (C) 2014 Phytochemical Society of Europe. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.