The widespread emergence of cancer and development of resistance to chemotherapeutic
agents is increasing the interest of scientists in the use of ethnomedicinal preparations and isolated
phytochemicals in the treatment and prevention of disease. Medicinal plants have been used in Pakistan
since prehistoric times.
The present review was designed to identify anticancer plants of ethnomedicinal significance and to
summarize the anticancer activities carried out on these medicinal plants to establish the pharmacological
and phytochemical basis of their use.
Pakistani anticancer medicinal plants of ethnopharmacological significance were reviewed. Conservation
status, worldwide distribution and ethno-botanical preparations of these medicinal plants
were also tabulated. These medicinal plants and their isolated phytochemicals were also explored for
their anticancer activities.
It was revealed that there were 108 anticancer medicinal plants used to treat different neoplastic
conditions on the folklore basis throughout Pakistan. Among these anticancer plants, 64 plants were
found to be investigated previously for anticancer activity through in vivo and in vitro methods. Several
ethnomedicinal plants have been validated for their anticancer activities through in vitro and
animal models. These medicinal plants and phytochemicals resulted in the inhibition of initiation,
progression or metastasis of neoplasm. Some medicinal plants (10) are endangered species.
Half of folkloric Pakistani plants have been validated for use against various cancers through in vitro
or in vivo methods. It is necessary to carry out further pharmacological and toxicological evaluation
of these folkloric anticancer plants of Pakistan. It is also necessary to identify and isolate further potential
phytochemicals so as to be evaluated in cancer patients.