, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 950-961
Date: 18 Mar 2010

Cancer Chemoprevention by Natural Products: How Far Have We Come?

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Since ancient times, natural products, herbs and spices have been used for preventing several diseases, including cancer. The term chemoprevention was coined in the late 1970s and referred to the prevention of cancer by selective use of phytochemicals or their analogs. The field utilizes experimental carcinogenesis models to examine the efficacy of chemopreventive agents in a stage-specific manner. The concept of using naturally derived chemicals as potential chemopreventive agents has advanced the field dramatically. Throughout the years, a vast number of chemopreventive agents present in natural products have been evaluated using various experimental models. A number of them have progressed to early clinical trials. More recently, the focus has been directed towards molecular targeting of chemopreventive agents to identify mechanism(s) of action of these newly discovered bioactive compounds. Moreover, it has been recognized that single agents may not always be sufficient to provide chemopreventive efficacy, and, therefore, the new concept of combination chemoprevention by multiple agents or by the consumption of “whole foods” has become an increasingly attractive area of study. Novel technologies, such as nanotechnology, along with a better understanding of cancer stem cells, are certain to continue the advancement of the field of cancer chemoprevention in years to come.