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International Journal of Biomaterials
Volume 2018, Article ID 2952085, 29 pages
Review Article

Anticancer Activity of Chitosan, Chitosan Derivatives, and Their Mechanism of Action

1Department of Chemistry, Western Region Campus, Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University, Pokhara, Nepal
2Central Department of Chemistry, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Correspondence should be addressed to Paras Nath Yadav; moc.liamg@912vadaynp

Received 28 July 2018; Revised 26 November 2018; Accepted 4 December 2018; Published 30 December 2018

Academic Editor: Alexander Seifalian

Copyright © 2018 Hari Sharan Adhikari and Paras Nath Yadav. 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.


Tailoring of chitosan through the involvement of its amino, acetamido, and hydroxy groups can give derivatives of enhanced solubility and remarkable anticancer activity. The general mechanism of such activity is associated with the disturbances in normal functioning of cell cycle, interference to the central dogma of biological system from DNA to RNA to protein or enzymatic synthesis, and the disruption of hormonal path to biosynthesis to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Both chitosan and its various derivatives have been reported to selectively permeate through the cancer cell membranes and show anticancer activity through the cellular enzymatic, antiangiogenic, immunoenhancing, antioxidant defense mechanism, and apoptotic pathways. They get sequestered from noncancer cells and provide their enhanced bioavailability in cancer cells in a sustained release manner. This review presents the putative mechanisms of anticancer activity of chitosan and mechanistic approaches of structure activity relation upon the modification of chitosan through functionalization, complex formation, and graft copolymerization to give different derivatives.