Author(s): Lai HC, Singh NP, Sasaki T
Artemisinin contains an endoperoxide moiety that can react with iron to form cytotoxic free radicals. Cancer cells contain significantly more intracellular free iron than normal cells and it has been shown that artemisinin and its analogs selectively cause apoptosis in many cancer cell lines. In addition, artemisinin compounds have been shown to have anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-metastasis, and growth inhibition effects. These properties make artemisinin compounds attractive cancer chemotherapeutic drug candidates. However, simple artemisinin analogs are less potent than traditional cancer chemotherapeutic agents and have short plasma half-lives, and would require high dosage and frequent administration to be effective for cancer treatment. More potent and target-selective artemisinin-compounds are being developed. These include artemisinin dimers and trimers, artemisinin hybrid compounds, and tagging of artemisinin compounds to molecules that are involved in the intracellular iron-delivery mechanism. These compounds are promising potent anticancer compounds that produce significantly less side effect than traditional chemotherapeutic agents.