Arsenic trioxide: insights into its evolution to an anticancer agent

  • Maneka Hoonjan
  • Vaibhav Jadhav
  • Purvi BhattEmail author


Arsenic and its various forms have been in use in ancient Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years. Arsenicals have gained importance for having remedial effects for various diseases from syphilis to cancer thus highlighting its role as a therapeutic agent even though it has been labelled as a potential ‘poison’. The ability of arsenic, specifically arsenic trioxide, to treat acute promyelocytic leukaemia has radically changed the perception of this poison and has been the main factor for the re-emergence of this candidate to Western medicine for the treatment of leukaemia and other solid tumours. This review highlights the glorious history of arsenic and its various forms with major emphasis on arsenic trioxide as a therapeutic agent. The mechanism of action, pathogenesis, pharmacokinetic profile, safety concerns, ongoing clinical trials and various new forms of arsenic trioxide are discussed. The review also outlines the therapeutic ability of this drug, discusses the latest developments and recent investigations and potential advancement of arsenic trioxide as nanoformulations that has made it emerge as a potential remedial agent.


Arsenic trioxide Acute promyelocytic leukaemia Cancer Solid tumour Nanotechnology In silico Anticancer drug 



Ms. Maneka Hoonjan is a recipient of the Senior Research Fellowship from the University Grants Commission-Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority (UGC-MANF), India, under the sanction number: MANF-2014-15-SIK-MAH-37834. The authors would like to thank Mr. Mitesh Joshi, NMIMS Sunandan Divatia School of Science for providing help with figure artwork.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© SBIC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, NMIMS Sunandan Divatia School of ScienceNMIMS (Deemed-to-be-University)MumbaiIndia

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