Research and development of cancer chemopreventive agents in China

J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1997:27:7-11.


Since the late 1970s, a comprehensive search for cancer chemopreventive agents has been established in our Institute. A series of new retinoids have been synthesized and screened on the basis of established methodologies of experimental chemoprevention in vitro as well as in vivo. Pharmacological studies demonstrated that N-4-(carboxyphenyl)retinamide (RII) induces cell differentiation of HL-60 cells and inhibits dimethylnitrosamine-induced carcinogenesis of the forestomach in mice, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced papilloma in mouse skin, and DMBA-induced carcinogenesis of the buccal pouch in Syrian golden hamsters. It significantly promoted lymphoblastic transformation and activated macrophages. In further studies, RII significantly inhibited ornithine decarboxylase activity. After 6 months of chronic toxicological studies in rats and dogs, RII was recommended for clinical trial. Phase II studies found that RII is effective in treating oral and vulvar leukoplakia. It is also effective in treating myelodysplastic syndrome and dysplasia of uterine cervix. The chalcone retinoidal compounds were discovered when the search for new retinoids with less toxicity and higher potency led to third-generation retinoids, which were synthesized and screened. Structure-activity relationship studies found that 3,5-di-tert-butyl-4-methoxy-4-carboxyl chalcone (R9158) is the most active inhibitor of a variety of cancer cells. It has no effect on the Colony Forming Unit-Granulocyte/Macrophage (CFU-GM) of bone marrow in mice. In in vivo studies, R9158 showed a remarkable inhibition of chondrosarcoma in rats. It had no cross-resistance to vincristine, but was cross-resistant to all-trans retinoic acid. Red ginseng, a processed Panax ginseng, is considered a typical tonic in traditional Chinese medicine. Our studies demonstrated that red ginseng extract inhibited DMBA-induced skin papilloma significantly. Experiments showed that glycyrrhetinic acid inhibited croton oil-induced ear edema in mice. It also inhibited epidermal ornithine decarboxylase as well as the rapid DNA damage induced by the carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P). Our pharmacological studies demonstrated that Chinese gallotannin inhibited the malignant transformation of B[a]P-induced V79 cells in vitro and B[a]P-induced pulmonary adenoma in A/J mice in vivo significantly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • China
  • Cricetinae
  • Dogs
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Mesocricetus
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Rats


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents