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Anticancer potential of artemisia annua

Denica Koleva, Zekie Kasimova, Aylin Kerim, Ahmed Ahmed, Rositsa Chamova


Introduction: Cancer is one of the major challenges of medicine. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiother­apy are available treatment methods, but in many cases have limited efficacy. In recent years, the po­tential anticancerogenic effects of some plants have been investigated. One of these plants is Artemis­ia annua (AA) - sweet Wormwood. Its main chemical component is artemisinin.

Materials and methods: The aim of this article is a discussion of molecular mechanisms of antican­cer effects of artemisinin. A documentary approach is used. A literature analysis of articles, available in Pubmed and ClinicalKey is presented. The keywords used for collecting of data were: `artemis­inin cancer` (5 articles); `artemisinin mechanism of action`(3 articles) and `artemisinin breast can­cer` (4 articles).

Results: Pharmacochemical investigations claim that the potential anticancer mechanisms of arte­misinin are: endoperoxide moiety (the peroxide bridge of artemisinin can react with the ferrous atom and produce free oxygen radicals that leads to Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage in tumor cells); cell cycle arrest (inhibition of cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs)), resulting in arrest of cancer cell in Growth2 phase/Metaphase); stimulating apoptosis and autophagy (promoting the re­lease of cytochrome 3 and the overexpression of proapoptotic gene B-cell-lymphoma-associated-X-protein(BAX)) , but also by activating caspase-3 and caspase-9) and anti-metastatic activity (reduc­ing angiogenesis growth factors like vascular endothelial growth factor). In vivo studies by rats with breast cancer (BC) show that following an application of artemisinin there is impressive decrease in tumor cell volume. In vitro studies with adenocarcinoma cell line implanted rat mammary glands present that artemisinin significantly retards the growth of tumor cells.

Conclusion: In the future, after further investigation of its mechanisms of actions, safety and effi­ciency artemisinin and its derivatives could be a new class of anticancer agents as up-to-date there are randomized trials for colon cancer (Artesunate), acute myeloid leukemia (Artesunate+Dihydroar temisinin+Cytarabine) and BC.


cancer; artemis annua; mechanisms; phytotherapy



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