Integration of phytochemicals and phytotherapy into cancer precision medicine

Thomas Efferth, Mohamed E.M. Saeed, Elhaj Mirghani, Awadh Alim, Zahir Yassin, Elfatih Saeed _, Hassan E. Khalid and Salah Daak

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:50284-50304. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17466

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Thomas Efferth1, Mohamed E.M. Saeed1, Elhaj Mirghani2, Awadh Alim2, Zahir Yassin4, Elfatih Saeed5, Hassan E. Khalid6 and Salah Daak2,3

1 Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

2 Salah Wanasi Foundation for Cancer Research and Control, Khartoum, Sudan

3 Faculty of Medicine, International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan

4 Tayba Cancer Centre, Khartoum, Sudan

5 Federal Government of Sudan, Khartoum, Sudan

6 Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan

Correspondence to:

Thomas Efferth, email:

Keywords: drug resistance, network pharmacology, polypharmacology, targeted chemotherapy

Received: November 30, 2016 Accepted: February 18, 2017 Published: April 27, 2017


Concepts of individualized therapy in the 1970s and 1980s attempted to develop predictive in vitro tests for individual drug responsiveness without reaching clinical routine. Precision medicine attempts to device novel individual cancer therapy strategies. Using bioinformatics, relevant knowledge is extracted from huge data amounts. However, tumor heterogeneity challenges chemotherapy due to genetically and phenotypically different cell subpopulations, which may lead to refractory tumors. Natural products always served as vital resources for cancer therapy (e.g., Vinca alkaloids, camptothecin, paclitaxel, etc.) and are also sources for novel drugs. Targeted drugs developed to specifically address tumor-related proteins represent the basis of precision medicine. Natural products from plants represent excellent resource for targeted therapies. Phytochemicals and herbal mixtures act multi-specifically, i.e. they attack multiple targets at the same time. Network pharmacology facilitates the identification of the complexity of pharmacogenomic networks and new signaling networks that are distorted in tumors. In the present review, we give a conceptual overview, how the problem of drug resistance may be approached by integrating phytochemicals and phytotherapy into academic western medicine. Modern technology platforms (e.g. “-omics” technologies, DNA/RNA sequencing, and network pharmacology) can be applied for diverse treatment modalities such as cytotoxic and targeted chemotherapy as well as phytochemicals and phytotherapy. Thereby, these technologies represent an integrative momentum to merge the best of two worlds: clinical oncology and traditional medicine. In conclusion, the integration of phytochemicals and phytotherapy into cancer precision medicine represents a valuable asset to chemically synthesized chemicals and therapeutic antibodies.

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