Tetrandrine, a Chinese plant-derived alkaloid, is a potential candidate for cancer chemotherapy

Ting Liu, Xin Liu and Wenhua Li _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:40800-40815. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.8315

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Ting Liu1, Xin Liu2 and Wenhua Li1

1 College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, P. R. China

2 Ministry of Education Laboratory of Combinatorial Biosynthesis and Drug Discovery, College of Pharmacy, Wuhan University, Wuhan, P. R. China

Correspondence to:

Wenhua Li, email:

Keywords: tetrandrine, natural product, cancer, chemotherapy

Received: October 15, 2015 Accepted: March 10, 2016 Published: March 24, 2016


Cancer is a disease caused by the abnormal proliferation and differentiation of cells governed by tumorigenic factors. Chemotherapy is one of the major cancer treatment strategies, and it functions by targeting the physiological capabilities of cancer cells, including sustained proliferation and angiogenesis, the evasion of programmed cell death, tissue invasion and metastasis. Remarkably, natural products have garnered increased attention in the chemotherapy drug discovery field because they are biologically friendly and have high therapeutic effects. Tetrandrine, isolated from the root of Stephania tetrandra S Moore, is a traditional Chinese clinical agent for silicosis, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. Recently, the novel anti-tumor effects of tetrandrine have been widely investigated. More impressive is that tetrandrine affects multiple biological activities of cancer cells, including the inhibition of proliferation, angiogenesis, migration, and invasion; the induction of apoptosis and autophagy; the reversal of multidrug resistance (MDR); and the enhancement of radiation sensitization. This review focuses on introducing the latest information about the anti-tumor effects of tetrandrine on various cancers and its underlying mechanism. Moreover, we discuss the nanoparticle delivery system being developed for tetrandrine and the anti-tumor effects of other bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid derivatives on cancer cells. All current evidence demonstrates that tetrandrine is a promising candidate as a cancer chemotherapeutic.

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