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Qinghaosu, known as artemisinin (ARS), has been for over two millennia, one of the most common herbs prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). ARS was developed as an antimalarial drug and currently belongs to the established standard treatments of malaria as a combination therapy worldwide. In addition to the antimalarial bioactivity of ARS, anticancer activities have been shown both in vitro and in vivo. Like other natural products, ARS acts in a multi-specific manner also against hematological malignancies. The chemical structure of ARS is a sesquiterpene lactone, which contains an endoperoxide bridge essential for activity. The main mechanism of action of ARS and its derivatives (artesunate, dihydroartemisinin, artemether) toward leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma cells comprises oxidative stress response, inhibition of proliferation, induction of various types of cell death as apoptosis, autophagy, ferroptosis, inhibition of angiogenesis, and signal transducers, as NF-κB, MYC, amongst others. Therefore, new pharmaceutically active compounds, dimers, trimers, and hybrid molecules, could enhance the existing therapeutic alternatives in combating hematologic malignancies. Owing to the high potency and good tolerance without side effects of ARS-type drugs, combination therapies with standard chemotherapies could be applied in the future after further clinical trials in hematological malignancies.


R I Mancuso, M A Foglio, S T Olalla Saad. Artemisinin-type drugs for the treatment of hematological malignancies. Cancer chemotherapy and pharmacology. 2021 Jan;87(1):1-22

PMID: 33141328

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