Background: Sanguinarine, a kind of benzophenanthridine alkaloid, is a natural compound with potential development value for its anticancer activity. Hundreds of studies have been carried out in vivo or in vitro, trying to make it feasible for the anticancer clinic medication of sanguinarine. However, sanguinarine was branded as a toxicant or even a carcinogen according to some toxicological experiments and cancer investigations.
Objective: Aiming at safety and effectiveness of sanguinarine, this article reviews the extant information on present studies of sanguinarine, and both anticancer carcinogenesis mechanism details are summarized. The future potential research directions of this valued compound are also discussed to provide reference for future drugs development.
Methods: PubMed, Web of Science, CNKI and WanFang databases were used to search current studies and experimental researches about anticancer effect or carcinogenic information of sanguinarine.
Results: Our results indicated that sanguinarine exhibited anticancer effect through anti-proliferation, anti-invasion, anti-angiogenesis and apoptosis within cancer lesion. Also, many clinical investigations indicated that sanguinarine and its related products might be associated to pre-carcinoma within oral or skin potentially.
Conclusion: Sanguinarine is a natural compound with good development value for its potent anticancer activity; however, its carcinogenesis effect should also be taken seriously. Studies on structural modification and analogue design should be carried out to improve its safety and efficiency in the future.