Background: The approval of Taxol® in 1993 marked the great entrance of terpenoids
in the anti-cancer area and this drug is still highly important in the treatment of refractory
ovarian, breast and other cancers. Over decades, other prominent natural terpenoids
have become indispensable for the modern pharmacotherapy of breast cancer. However,
given the rapid evolution of drug resistance, effective treatments for advanced breast cancers
requiring cytotoxic chemotherapy represent a major unmet clinical need. Therefore, innovative
agents effective in long-term chemotherapy are urgently needed.
Objective: This review examines recent advances/research about natural terpenoids, and
their mechanisms against female breast cancer over the period covering January 1st, 2012 to
December 31st, 2016.
Results: Carcinogenesis constitutes a multistep process wherein each stage is characterized
by distinct phenotypic changes. Numerous chemicals recorded in this review have been
shown to significantly inhibit proliferation, migration, apoptosis resistance, tumor angiogenesis
or metastasis in different breast cancer cells/tumours in vitro and in vivo. Targeting
simultaneously several or all these aspects/steps of cancer progression could be an advantage.
In line with this, phytochemicals such as thymoquinone (8), costunolide (46),
tanshinone IIA (132), triptolide (136), cucurbitacin B (179), celastrol (226) and lycopene
(238) had caught our attention.
Conclusion: These compounds appear to be promising to overcome breast cancer treatment
failure. However, despite the interesting activities, additional preclinical investigations are
needed in further breast cancer cell/tumor models in vitro and in vivo.