Cancer preventive and curative attributes of plants of the Cactaceae family: A review

Eli Harlev, Eviatar Nevo, Elaine Solowey, Anupam Bishayee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The ever-increasing occurrence of cancer and the severe side effects and limited efficacy of current cancer chemotherapy based on chemical drugs shift the attention toward drugs of plant origin. The Cactaceae family comprises more than 1500 species, but until recently only a few of them have been tested for their chemopreventive and anticancer attributes, leaving a wide unexplored area still waiting for researchers to investigate. Considering this fact, and also the promising results obtained with the relatively few plants of this family already tested, it should justly be expected that some plants of the Cactaceae family yet unexplored might possess outstanding anticancer attributes, exceeding those displayed by the plants already tested. This review presents in vitro and in vivo experimental evidence on cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic potential of bioactive phytoconstituents and extracts derived from cactus plants. It also examines the underlying biochemical and molecular mechanisms involved in the antineoplastic effects of plants of the Cactaceae family. Current limitation and future directions of research towards effective use of cacti to develop efficient and side effect-free future cancer-preventive and anticancer drugs are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-722
Number of pages10
JournalPlanta Medica
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013


  • Cactaceae
  • anticancer effects
  • antioxidant
  • apoptosis
  • cactus
  • chemoprevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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