Biotechnological Approaches for the Propagation of Anticancer Plants and the Production of Vital Compounds

  • Sandra Gonçalves
  • Anabela RomanoEmail author


Plants are a tremendous source of bioactive compounds with significance in many fields from medical to agrochemical. Among plant bioactive compounds, there are some important anticancer compounds clinically used in cancer therapy or used as model compounds for chemical synthesis of potent analogs. Although these compounds have great pharmacological value, their exploitation is limited by the slow-growing nature of the plant species, the low production yields, and unpredictable variability. Moreover, due to the over collection, some anticancer species are in risk of extinction. Plant cell and tissue culture techniques have emerged as sustainable options for the propagation and conservation of medicinal plants also providing an environmentally friendly alternative method for the production of metabolites, when natural supply is limited. The aim of this chapter is to summarize the most relevant work focusing on the use of biotechnological approaches to the propagation of plants with anticancer properties and the production of valuable compounds. Our literature survey demonstrated that efforts have been mainly concentrated in species producing the compounds camptothecin, podophyllotoxin, taxol, vinblastine, and vincristine. An intensive research has been conducted on the optimization of growth conditions and application of several strategies to improve the production of anticancer compounds (particularly by elicitation) and on the elucidation of biosynthetic pathways and their regulation. In spite of all these investigations and the advantages of the production of plant compounds in vitro, there are only few examples of the production of anticancer compounds on an industrial level, and further in-depth studies are still required.


Camptothecin Cell suspensions Hairy roots Metabolic engineering Micropropragation 



S. Gonçalves acknowledges a grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), Portugal (SFRH/BPD/84112/2012), financed by POPH-QREN and subsidized by the European Science Foundation.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Sciences and Technology, MeditBioUniversity of AlgarveFaroPortugal

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