Medicinal plants are a plentiful source of bioactive molecules with much structural diversity.
In cancer treatment, molecules obtained from plants represent an attractive alternative to other treatments
because several plant-derived compounds have exhibited lower toxicity and higher selectivity
against cancer cells. In this review, we focus on the possible application of bioactive molecules obtained
from plants against more primitive cell populations in cancers, cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are
present in several kinds of tumors and are responsible for recurrences and metastases. Common anticancer
drugs exhibit lower effectiveness against cancer stem cells because of their biological features.
However, recently discovered natural phytometabolites exert cytotoxic effects on this rare population of
cells in cancers. Therefore, this review presents the latest research on promising compounds from plants
that can act as antitumor drugs and that mainly affect stem cell populations in cancers.
Keywords: Natural compounds, Cancer stem cells, ABC transporters, Wnt, Notch, Hedgehog, NF-κB.
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