Research Highlight

Cancer cure mimicking natural products

doi:10.1038/nindia.2010.169 Published online 30 November 2010

Taking cues from natural products, researchers have developed several new hybrid organic compounds that exhibit anticancer effects. The hybrid organic compounds inhibited the growth of cancer cells and proved most effective against cervical cancer cells.

In the design of new anticancer drugs, combining different compounds provides new hybrid molecules with interesting biological profiles. This led the researchers to turn their attention to two naturally occurring compounds — coumarins and chalcones.

In recent years, coumarins have been hailed for their anti-HIV, anticoagulant, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Chalcones, on the other hand, display interesting biological activities such as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, antimalarial and anticancer effects.

Inspired by this, the researchers designed and synthesized a series of novel compounds containing both coumarin and chalcone, and tested the anticancer activity of these compounds against four types of human cancer cells — oral, breast, cervical and lung cancer cells.

Among the 21 compounds screened, three compounds showed interesting anticancer effects. Of these, one showed around a 30-fold improvement in selective toxicity towards cervical cancer cells over normal mouse embryo fibroblast cells.

Although the mechanism by which the hybrid compounds kill cancer cells remains to be fully elucidated, previous studies have revealed that both coumarin and chalcone might destroy the microtubule structure in cancer cells.

"The study will provide an approach to develop new potent coumarin–chalcone hybrid prototypes for further optimization and development in the treatment of cancer," says Koneni Sashidhara.


  1. Sashidhara, V. K. et al. Synthesis and in vitro evaluation of novel coumarin–chalcone hybrids as potential anticancer agents. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 20, 7205-7211 (2010)  | Article | PubMed