Tanshinones are a class of abietane diterpene compound isolated from Salvia miltiorrhiza (Danshen or Tanshen in Chinese), a well-known herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Since they were first identified in the 1930s, more than 40 lipophilic tanshinones and structurally related compounds have been isolated from Danshen. In recent decades, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the isolation, identification, synthesis and pharmacology of tanshinones. In addition to the well-studied cardiovascular activities, tanshinones have been investigated more recently for their anti-cancer activities in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we update the herbal and alternative sources of tanshinones, and the pharmacokinetics of selected tanshinones. We discuss anti-cancer properties and identify critical issues for future research. Whereas previous studies have suggested anti-cancer potential of tanshinones affecting multiple cellular processes and molecular targets in cell culture models, data from in vivo potency assessment experiments in preclinical models vary greatly due to lack of uniformity of solvent vehicles and routes of administration. Chemical modifications and novel formulations had been made to address the poor oral bioavailability of tanshinones. So far, human clinical trials have been far from ideal in their design and execution for the purpose of supporting an anti-cancer indication of tanshinones.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry