Background: The proposed central role of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in tumor development has been extended to explain the diverse oncologic phenomena such as multidrug resistance, metastasis and tumor recurrence in clinics. Due to the enhanced expression of ATP-binding cassette transporters and anti-apoptotic factors, stagnation on G0 phase and the strong ability of self-renewal, the CSCs were highly resistant to clinical anticancer drugs. Therefore, the discovery of new drug candidates that could effectively eradicate cancer stem cells afforded promising outcomes in cancer therapy.
Objective: Natural products and their synthetic analogues are a rich source of biologically active compounds and several of them have already been recognized as potent CSCs killers. We aim to provide a collection of recently identified natural products that suppressed the survival of the small invasive CSC populations and combated the drug resistance of these cells in chemotherapy.
Results: These anti-CSCs natural products included flavonoids, stilbenes, quinones, terpenoids, polyketide antibiotics, steroids and alkaloids. In the present review, we highlighted the therapeutic potential of natural products and their derivatives against the proliferation and drug resistance of CSCs, their working mechanisms and related structure- activity relationships.
Conclusion: Meanwhile, in this survey, several natural products with diverse cellular targets such as the naphthoquinone shikonin and the stilbene resveratrol were characterized as promising lead compounds for future development.