Antitumor effects of traditional Chinese medicine targeting the cellular apoptotic pathway

Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015 May 21;9:2735-44. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S80902. eCollection 2015.


Defects in apoptosis are common phenomena in many types of cancer and are also a critical step in tumorigenesis. Targeting the apoptotic pathway has been considered an intriguing strategy for cancer therapy. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been used in the People's Republic of China for thousands of years, and many of the medicines have been confirmed to be effective in the treatment of a number of tumors. With increasing cancer rates worldwide, the antitumor effects of TCMs have attracted more and more attention globally. Many of the TCMs have been shown to have antitumor activity through multiple targets, and apoptosis pathway-related targets have been extensively studied and defined to be promising. This review focuses on several antitumor TCMs, especially those with clinical efficacy, based on their effects on the apoptotic signaling pathway. The problems with and prospects of development of TCMs as anticancer agents are also presented.

Keywords: antitumor effects; apoptotic pathway; traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal