Naturally Occurring Antineoplastic and Cytotoxic Agents

  • George R. Pettit


The earliest applications in cancer treatment of materials derived from natural products probably began with the development of man’s reasoning abilities. The general use of medicinal plants has been known for at least 60,000 years. Remains of a human body and plants placed in an Iraqi cave at that time have recently been found. Seven of the eight pollens discovered were identified as from medicinal plants.342 The Egyptian medical papyri, particularly the Ebers Papyrus of approximately 1550 b.c.,91 describe the use of plant materials for afflictions assumed to be cancer. Such recorded references begin with the Chinese Shen-Nung of the period 2838–2698 b.c., but these materials were probably well known much earlier. Indeed some of this information still forms an integral part of traditional Chinese medical treatment, and a variety of plant extracts are currently in use as supportive measures for contemporary cancer treatment.299 In this regard, modern development in China of medicinal agents from plants is greatly influenced by Mao’s view that “Chinese medicine and pharmacology are a great treasure house and must be explored and raised to a higher level.” While a member of the U.S.


National Cancer Institute Cancer Chemotherapy Fermentation Beer Cancer Chemotherapeutic Agent Biosynthetic Product 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • George R. Pettit
    • 1
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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