About this Research Topic
Cancer is still the second-leading cause of death in industrialized countries. The fate of many cancer patients, for whom cure of their disease is not a reality, is becoming ever more of an issue. The development of resistance to anticancer drugs and the severe side effects of current drugs prevent treatment with drug doses high enough for long-lasting remissions or sustainable cure. In addition to the situation in industrialized countries the incidence and mortality of cancer in developing countries is also increasing. Here, the situation is even worse since many patients are not able to afford the prices for expensive medication. There are unprecedented efforts to uncover new treatments and the knowledge on cancer has been tremendously increasing during the past decades. Medicinal plants are a fertile ground both to be used as phytotherapy and to isolate phytochemicals with interesting pharmacological features.
In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in cancer biology and clinical oncology from the rather non-specific cytotoxic action of the classical anticancer drugs such as alkylating agents etc. to target-specific action. Research on targeted chemotherapy resulted in the establishment of a panel of therapeutic small molecules and small molecule inhibitors in the clinic.
Natural products have always been a major source for drug development in cancer therapy. A considerable portion of anticancer drugs currently used in the clinic are of natural origin. Drugs of different classes are part of the armamentorium to fight cancer, e.g. Vinca alkaloids (vincristine, vinblastine) taxanes (paclitaxel, docetaxel), epipodophyllotoxions (etoposide, teniposide), camptothecins (topothecan, irinothecan), anthracyclines (doxorubicin, daunorubicin) and others.
The paradigm shift toward targeted anticancer drugs was mainly done on the basis of rational drug design by means of high throughput screenings, virtual drug screening and other hi-tech methods.
These efforts lead to numerous novel synthetic drugs, although numerous examples from the field of natural products can be listed, e.g. wortmannin as PI3K inhibitor, geldanamycin as HSP90 inhibitor and many others. Natural products and especially medicinal plants remain a major and indispensable source for drug development. In addition, traditional medicines throughout all cultures and countries worldwide knew plants capable to treat cancer or cancer-related symptoms.
Parallel to the development in targeted chemotherapy, the so-called “-omics” technologies were established in recent years. Systems biology, pharmacogenomics and network pharmacology became innovative novel technologies not only for the elucidation of modes of action and relevant signaling pathways of synthetic anticancer drugs, but also for phytochemicals and complex herbal mixtures. The holistic approach of the “omics-“ technologies has been estimated as breakthrough to investigate the complex modes of action of medicinal herbs. Yet this perspective has to be substantiated in the years to come.
The present Research Topic aims to give an overview of the most exciting progress in the field of traditional medicines, medicinal plant research, and molecular pharmacology of plant extracts and phytochemicals with innovative state-of-the-art techniques from cellular and molecular pharmacology, bioinformatical in silico techniques and microarray-based methods to demonstrate the full potential of medicinal herbs and natural products for cancer therapy in the 21st century. High quality manuscripts are welcome.
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