2014 Volume 8 Issue 4 Pages 139-153
Cancer is the second leading cause of death by disease in the world. Chemotherapy is one of three major therapeutic methods for cancer treatment, but cancer cells gradually evolve resistance to chemotherapeutic reagents. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was used to fight against cancer. In recent years, a number of effective component mechanisms of TCM have been increasingly illuminated. As we know, chemical structures of reagents decide or affect their activities on target pathways. Thus, we classified some antitumor-related TCM components reported in the last five years into thirteen groups by their chemical structures, such as, alkaloids, diterpenoids, triterpenes, sesquiterpenes, anthraquinones, benzoquinones, flavonoids, berbamines, xanthones, saponins, steroids, polysaccharides, and glycosides. In various cancer cell lines, these constituents target dozens of signaling pathways in vitro and in vivo. Among these components, there are three sets: i) mainly apoptosis-related groups, such as, alkaloids, diterpenoids, anthraquinones, berbamines, and xanthones, target pathways like the mitochondrial pathway, NF-κB pathway, p53 pathway and so on; ii) mainly proliferation, invasion and metastasis-related groups, such as, triterpenes, sesquiterpenes, polysaccharides, and glycosides, target pathways like the mTOR pathway, β-catenin pathway, ERK pathway and so on; iii) both apoptosis and proliferation, invasion and metastasis-related groups, such as benzoquinones, flavonoids, saponins, and steroids, target the pathways in i) and ii) synchronously. These will provide association information between TCM components and signaling pathways to promote studies on mechanisms of effective constituents, target drug development, and combinational chemotherapy. TCM could be alternative medicine for cancer treatment in the future.