Author(s): Cragg GM, Boyd MR, Cardellina JH nd, Newman DJ, Snader KM,
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Abstract Between 1960 and 1981 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) screened 114,000 extracts of 35,000 plants, mainly collected in temperate regions. Of the three clinically active anticancer drugs so far discovered in that programme, none was isolated from a plant collected on an ethnobotanical basis, though various Taxus species, which are the source of taxol, are reported to have been used medicinally. Since 1986, the NCI has focused its collections in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide; collections cover a broad taxonomic range, though priority is given to medicinal plants when relevant information is available. As of August 1993, 21,881 extracts derived from over 10,500 samples had been tested in a screen for activity against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); 2320 of these extracts were of medicinal plant origin. Approximately 18\% of both the total number of extracts and the medicinal plant-derived extracts showed significant anti-HIV activity; in each instance about 90\% of the active extracts were aqueous. The activity of the aqueous extracts has been attributed mainly to the presence of polysaccharides or tannins. Four plant-derived compounds are in preclinical development at the NCI; only one of the four sources plants, obtained from a noncontract source, was collected on an ethnobotanical basis. At this stage the results indicate that the current NCI collection policy offers the best chances for the discovery and development of agents for the treatment of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and cancer.
This article was published in Ciba Found Symp
and referenced in Journal of Biodiversity, Bioprospecting and Development