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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Stata Norton, PhD (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: Chemicals derived from several species of plants are currently used to treat cancer and many more plant species contain chemicals that may be useful. This book is an extensive review of plant species that have been shown by in vitro or in vivo tests to have some anticancer activity. Introductory chapters discussing cancer and plant biochemistry are included for persons not familiar with current research. Most of the book is a survey of over 150 terrestrial plants containing anticancer chemicals. Cytotoxic chemicals from marine algae are reviewed in a separate chapter. Chemical structures of the anticancer chemicals and related compounds discussed in the book are given in an appendix.
Purpose: The editors state that this book is intended as an extensive review of plant genera and species with antitumor and antileukemic properties that have been documented scientifically. It is addressed to anyone seeking information on novel opportunities for therapy of cancer. It is not intended to be an in-depth review of specific compounds, but to serve as a resource of information on anticancer agents in plants. These objectives are met in the book.
Audience: The intended audience is the lay person as well as the medical expert interested in anticancer agents in plants. The introductory chapters on current treatment of cancer and on plant anatomy and biochemistry are included for the lay audience. However, these short chapters of background information are not likely to be a sufficient introduction to the rest of the book for anyone but the expert in antitumor agents. The authors have done a commendable review of the information on plants for the expert in the field.
Features: The entry on Glycyrrhiga glabra L. is an example of the information included on each of the plants. Commonly known as licorice, this plant is widely cultivated in temperate zones. In about two pages, a summary of the botanical appearance of the plant, traditional uses, portions used, active chemical ingredients and documented action against P-388 leukemia cells is presented. Further details cover related species of plants and other medical uses of licorice. There are 19 references to the scientific literature. The chapter on marine algae or "drugs from the sea" is organized differently, with algal species and cytotoxic metabolites presented in table form. Chemical structures are included for 23 cytotoxic metabolites from chlorophyta (green algae), 56 from rhodophyta (red algae), 52 from phaeophyta (brown algae) and 60 from microalgae (including dinoflagellates, diatoms and blue-green algae).
Assessment: This book is a contribution to the literature in that it brings together information on anticancer chemicals from a large number of terrestrial and marine plants. Most of these chemicals are not currently used as chemotherapeutic agents. This compilation may be very useful in the search for new and effective anticancer agents.