Insight Approaches of Medicinal Plants for the Discovery of Anticancer Drugs

  • Diana Cláudia Gouveia Alves PintoEmail author
  • Ana Maria Loureiro Seca
  • Artur Manuel Soares Silva


Cancer is one of the most serious illnesses of our civilization. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimated that 14.1 million new cancer cases were diagnosed and that 8.2 million patients died from this disease worldwide in 2012 alone. Therefore, there is an urgent need for novel anticancer agents as well as new treatment strategies. Natural products have been valuable sources of new therapeutic agents. Thus, the aim of present chapter is to provide an overview of the anticancer natural compounds highlighting the successful cases with clinical application such as Taxol, vincristine and omacetaxine mepesuccinate; those involved in clinical trials such as parthenolide, betulinic acid, ingenol mebutate and curcumin; and the ones with high degree of activity and safety profile such as resveratrol, ursolic acid, tetrandrine and triptolide. For each one of these compounds, it will be presented and discussed its natural origin, cell target, mechanism of action, pharmacologic aspects as well as the structural modifications that improve its anticancer properties in order to summarize the recent medicinal advances of natural anticancer compounds and their analogues. All these aspects aim to draw our readers’ attention to the plants and/or their secondary metabolites therapeutic potential and in consequence value the plants’ role in anticancer drug discovery.


Cancer Clinical trials Natural compounds Medicinal plants Secondary metabolites 



Thanks are due to FCT/MEC for the financial support of the QOPNA research unit (FCT UID/QUI/00062/2013) and the cE3c centre (FCT UID/BIA/00329/2013) through national funds and, where applicable, co-financed by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Cláudia Gouveia Alves Pinto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ana Maria Loureiro Seca
    • 1
    • 2
  • Artur Manuel Soares Silva
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and QOPNAUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for EcologyEvolution and Environmental Changes/Azorean Biodiversity Group & University of AzoresPonta DelgadaPortugal

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