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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2020, Vol. 18 ›› Issue (2): 92-113.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.01.001

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Nigerian antimalarial plants and their anticancer potential: A review

Kayode Ezekiel Adewolea    

  1. a. Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Medical Sciences Ondo, Ondo State, 234, Nigeria
  • Online:2020-03-10 Published:2019-12-31
  • Contact: Kayode Ezekiel Adewole E-mail:kayowolemi@gmail.com

Cancer is a leading cause of death globally, while malaria is the leading cause of death from parasitic diseases in Nigeria. Historically, plant remedies have been used to manage both cancer and malaria. Interestingly, the possibility of treating cancer with antimalarial remedies has long been reported, even though the two diseases appear to have little in common. However, a body of research has indicated the potential anticancer activity of both synthetic and nature-derived antimalarials. In Nigeria, over 100 plants are used for the management of malaria, but little is known for their potential role in combatting cancer. Therefore, this review is to highlight the documented anticancer activities of plants used to treat malaria in Nigeria, with the goal of supporting anticancer drug discovery. Scientific databases were used to research antimalarial plants through keyword searches. Of over 100 plants used to treat malaria in Nigeria, 56 have documented anticancer properties, containing alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, terpenes, terpenoids, quinones, anthraquinones, saponins, steroids, sterols, organo-sulfur compounds and other polyphenols as the major bioactive components. The major mechanisms of anticancer activity include induction of apoptosis and autophagy, arrest of cell growth, generation of reactive oxygen species and inhibition of angiogenesis. However, mechanistic and clinical investigations of the anticancer properties of most of the plants are still lacking. Notwithstanding the huge anticancer potential uncovered by the in vitro or in vivo studies and a few clinical studies, Nigerian antimalarial plants may provide a valuable resource, ready to be harnessed for anticancer drug development.

Key words: Anticancer, Cytotoxicity, Antimalarial, Medicinal plants, Nigeria

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