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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 485042, 12 pages
Review Article

Alkaloids Isolated from Natural Herbs as the Anticancer Agents

State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine (University of Macau) and Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Avenue Padre Toma’s Pereira, Taipa 999078, Macao, China

Received 11 May 2012; Revised 17 July 2012; Accepted 30 July 2012

Academic Editor: Alvin J. Beitz

Copyright © 2012 Jin-Jian Lu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Alkaloids are important chemical compounds that serve as a rich reservoir for drug discovery. Several alkaloids isolated from natural herbs exhibit antiproliferation and antimetastasis effects on various types of cancers both in vitro and in vivo. Alkaloids, such as camptothecin and vinblastine, have already been successfully developed into anticancer drugs. This paper focuses on the naturally derived alkaloids with prospective anticancer properties, such as berberine, evodiamine, matrine, piperine, sanguinarine, and tetrandrine, and summarizes the mechanisms of action of these compounds. Based on the information in the literature that is summarized in this paper, the use of alkaloids as anticancer agents is very promising, but more research and clinical trials are necessary before final recommendations on specific alkaloids can be made.