Numerous compounds originating from herbal medicine exhibit anti-cancer activities: anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-metastatic, anti-angiogenic, regulation of autophagy, reversal of multiple drug resistance mutation (MDR), immune modulation, and enhance chemotherapy effects in vitro and in vivo. This article reviews the most recent (since 2011) advances in understanding key herbal compounds with anti-cancer effects derived from Chinese herbal medicine with a focus on pharmacological effects, novel mechanism of action, relevant clinical studies, and innovative applications in combined therapy and immune modulation.
Dysfunction of mitochondria has long been observed in a number of human diseases, including cancer. An amazing feature of the structurally diverse bioactive components in herbs is that majority of them target mitochondria to provoke cancer cell specific death program.
Ginsenosides, the major pharmacologically active ingredients of ginseng, have been shown to have multiple medicinal effects including prominent anticancer activity. The mechanism of ROS-mediated anticancer activities of ginsenosides varies depending on the specific type of cancer cells involved. These multiple effects rather than a single may play a crucial role in emerging ginsenosides as a successful anticancer drug.
Numerous components of edible plants, collectively termed phytochemicals that have beneficial effects for health, are being reported increasingly in the scientific literature. Of those, flavonoids have attracted much attention by virtue of their wide variety of biological functions including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer activity.
The effective mechanism of TCM against hepatocarcinoma is related to inducing apoptosis, autophagy, anoikis and cell senescence, arresting cell cycle, regulating immune function, inhibiting metastasis and angiogenesis, reversing drug resistance and enhancing effects of chemotherapy. Herbs with traditional efficacy of tonifying Qi, blood and Yin, soothing liver-Qi stagnation, clearing heat and detoxifying and dissolving stasis, have been demonstrated to be potent to prevent hepatocarcinogenesis.