Anticancer Drug Discovery and Development from Natural Products
Throughout the ages humans have relied on nature for their basic needs and not least, medicines. Plants have formed the basis of sophisticated traditional medicine systems that have been in existence
for thousands of years. The rst records, written on clay tablets in cuneiform, are from Mesopotamia and date from about 2600 BCE, whereas Egyptian medicine dates from about 2900 BCE, with the best-known Egyptian pharmaceutical record being the Ebers Papyrus dating from 1500 BCE.1 The Chinese Materia Medica has been extensively documented over the centuries, with the rst record (Wu Shi Er Bing Fang), containing 52 prescriptions, dating from about 1100 BCE,2 and documentation of the Indian Ayurvedic system dates from about 1000 BCE (Susruta and Charaka).3,4 In the ancient Western world, the Greeks contributed substantially to the rational development of the use of herbal drugs. The philosopher and natural scientist, Theophrastus (∼300 BCE), in his History of Plants, dealt with the medicinal qualities of herbs, and Dioscorides, a Greek physician (100 CE), during his travels with Roman armies, recorded the collection, storage, and use of medicinal herbs. Galen (130-200 CE), who practiced and taught pharmacy and medicine in Rome, published no less than 30 books on these subjects and is well known for his complex prescriptions and formulas used in compounding drugs, sometimes containing dozens of ingredients (“galenicals”).