The increasing number of cancer patients, together with the side effects of current chemical treatments have encouraged the exploration of the potential of Iranian medicinal plants as a rich source of anticancer compounds.
In the current review, 114 medicinal plant species grown in Iran were selected and their major constituents, animal or cell targets, as well as possible anticancer mechanisms, were ascertained through searching pertinent keywords in the Scientific Information Database (SID), IranMedex, PubMed, Medline, Google Scholar, Science Direct, Web of Knowledge and Scopus databases.
Of the 114 species (with more emphasis on Asteraceae, Lamiaceae and Fabaceae as major plant families in Iran) that were reviewed, some were endemic plants of Iran, with others found in other countries. Besides valuable and well-known anticancer plants such as Taxus baccata and Catharanthus roseus, other species were included. Several compounds of these plants, such as organo-sulfur compounds, terpenoids, polyphenols, alkaloids, saponins, phenylethanoids, coumarins and polysaccharides have been proposed to exhibit anticancer effects. In general, apoptosis, cytotoxicity, cell cycle arrest, mitochondrial suppression, reductiob of DNA damage, vital enzyme inhibition and/or blocking angiogenesis were considered as the proposed mechanisms for the anticancer potential of the studied plants.
Investigating the bioactive anticancer components of Iranian medicinal plants, especially the endemic species, seems to be beneficial for achieving novel potential anticancer drugs that are better equipped to fight cancer.