Ethnopharmacological relevance: Rhizoma Curcumae is a popular type of traditional Chinese medicine whose essential oils are widely used in the treatment of cancer in China. This review aims to systematically summarize and analyze the anti-cancer properties of terpenoids, the main components of essential oils in Rhizoma Curcumae, and thus enable the development of new anti-cancer drugs.
Materials and methods: Information on the recent progress of anti-cancer studies on terpenoids isolated from Rhizoma Curcumae, including β-elemene, δ-elemene, furanodiene, furanodienone, curcumol, and germacrone, was gathered and analyzed.
Results: Among these terpenoids, β-elemene is the most widely studied, whereas δ-elemene, furanodiene, furanodienone, curcumol, and germacrone have just recently attracted the attention of researchers. The anti-cancer effects of these terpenoids are related to the retardation of cell cycle arrest, the induction of apoptosis, and the inhibition of metastasis or tissue invasion, among others.
Conclusions: Most studies have focused on the in vitro data, and in vivo data is urgently needed. Further insight into the anti-cancer activity and the molecular basis of these compounds, combined with efforts in pharmaceutical chemistry and/or pharmaceutics, will potentially enable the development of new anti-cancer agents.
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