Artemisinin–Second Career as Anticancer Drug?
World Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Artemisinin represents a showcase example not only for the activity of medicinal herbs deriving from traditional chinese medicine, but for phytotherapy in general. Its isolation from Sweet Wormwood (qinhao, Artemisia annua L.) represents the starting point for an unprecedent success story in the treatment of malaria worldwide. Beyond the therapeutic value against Plasmodium parasites, it turned out in recent years that the bioactivity of artemisinin is not restricted to malaria. We and others
... ia. We and others found that this sesquiterpenoid also exerts profound anticancer activity in vitro and in vivo. Artemisinin-type drugs exert multi-factorial cellular and molecular actions in cancer cells. Ferrous iron reacts with artemisinin, which leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species and ultimately to a plethora anticancer effects of artemisinins, e.g. expression of antioxidant response genes, cell cycle arrest (G1 as well as G2 phase arrests), DNA damage that is repaird by base excision repair, homogous recombination and non-homologous end-joining, as well as different modes of cell death (intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis, autophagy, necrosis, necroptosis, oncosis, and ferroptosis). Furthermore, artemisinins inhibit neoangiogenesis in tumors. The signaling of major transcription factors (NF-κB, MYC/MAX, AP-1, CREBP, mTOR etc.) and signaling pathways are affected by artemisinins (e.g. Wnt/ β-catenin pathway, AMPK pathway, metastatic pathways, nitric oxide signaling, and others). Several case reports on the compassionate use of artemisinins as well as clinical Phase I/II pilot studies indicate the clinical activity of artemisinins in veterinary and human cancer patients. Larger scale of Phase II and III clinical studies are required now to further develop artemisinin-type compounds as novel anticancer drugs.