This review focuses on the discovery of cyclotides in the plant family Violaceae, their isolation and their anticancer effects. These macrocyclic plant peptides consist of about 30 amino acids, including three conserved disulfide bonds in a cystine knotted arrangement, which renders them a remarkable stability. Their unique structure, combined with a wide array of biological activities, makes them of great interest as possible leads in drug development or as carriers of grafted peptide sequences. Here we describe the work conducted in our laboratory, which started with the overall aim of identifying peptides and small proteins of the size 10-50 amino acid residues in plants with novel chemical structures and biological profiles with a potential for drug development or for use as pharmacological tools. Thus we developed a fractionation protocol to directly address major challenges encountered when dealing with plant material, such as removal of chlorophyll, polyphenols, and low molecular compounds omnipresent in plants. Using this protocol, we then discovered a suite of cyclotides, the varv peptides, from the plant Viola arvensis (Violaceae). Following this, separation methods directly targeting cyclotides were developed, e.g. by adsorption, ion exchange chromatography and solventsolvent partitioning, which then were used in the isolation of additional cyclotides. To structurally examine cyclotides we have also developed methods based on mass spectrometry for cyclotide sequencing and mapping of disulfide bonds. Finally, to assess structure-activity relationships, regarding their anti-cancer and cytotoxic effects that we focus upon, we have also characterized the three dimensional structure of cyclotides by homology modeling techniques.