Arsenic and its combinations in cancer therapeutics

Ther Deliv. 2011 Jun;2(6):793-806. doi: 10.4155/tde.11.51.


Arsenic is a metalloid that is considered to be a paradox in terms of its role both as a carcinogen and as a therapeutic agent. Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been linked with the development of various pathological conditions including cancer. Nevertheless, the therapeutic potential of arsenic and its derivatives in a variety of diseases have been exploited in the past. However, its role and mechanism of action as a therapeutic agent still remain an active area of research and investigation. Our ongoing work also suggests varied responses in cancer cells exposed to lower versus higher concentrations of arsenic. Furthermore, the arsenic combinations with chemopreventive or anticancer agents have been observed to sensitize the cell for cell-cycle arrest and cell death. Here, we have provided the account of recent updates on the mechanism of action of arsenic and its derivatives that lead to various disorders, and its role as a therapeutic agent both as a single agent as well as in combination chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Arsenicals / administration & dosage
  • Arsenicals / pharmacology*
  • Arsenicals / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Arsenicals