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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 5738694, 19 pages
Review Article

Anticancer Activities of Protopanaxadiol- and Protopanaxatriol-Type Ginsenosides and Their Metabolites

1State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Macau
2Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310053, China

Received 17 March 2016; Accepted 27 April 2016

Academic Editor: Ki-Wan Oh

Copyright © 2016 Xiao-Jia Chen 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.


Recently, most anticancer drugs are derived from natural resources such as marine, microbial, and botanical sources, but the low success rates of chemotherapies and the development of multidrug resistance emphasize the importance of discovering new compounds that are both safe and effective against cancer. Ginseng types, including Asian ginseng, American ginseng, and notoginseng, have been used traditionally to treat various diseases, due to their immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, antioxidative, and antitumor activities. Accumulating reports have shown that ginsenosides, the major active component of ginseng, were helpful for tumor treatment. 20(S)-Protopanaxadiol (PDS) and 20(S)-protopanaxatriol saponins (PTS) are two characteristic types of triterpenoid saponins in ginsenosides. PTS holds capacity to interfere with crucial metabolism, while PDS could affect cell cycle distribution and prodeath signaling. This review aims at providing an overview of PTS and PDS, as well as their metabolites, regarding their different anticancer effects with the proposal that these compounds might be potent additions to the current chemotherapeutic strategy against cancer.