An effective new natural product in cancer chemotherapy - Homoharringtonine

Homoharringtonine is a cytotoxic alkaloid isolated from the evergreen tree cephalotaxus harringtonia native to the southern provinces of China. The principal mechanism of action of HHT is the inhibition of protein synthesis in a dose- and time-dependent manner by acting on the ribosomes of cancer cells. It blocks the progression of cells from G1 phase into S phase and from G2 phase into M phase.
It is synergestic or additive in vitro with AraC, amsacrine, actinomycin D and dexamethasone. Clinical studies have indicated that HHT is effective in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), but not acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and solid tumors. The dose limiting toxicities are hypotention and myelosuppression. Homoharringtonine has relatively mild extramedullary toxicities and no anthracycline-like cardiac toxicity, which make it a suitable candidate for the treatment of aged patients.
Pharmacological studies indicate that Homoharringtonine belongs to the category of multidrug resistance (MDR)-related drugs. The cells resistant to HHT are cross-resistant to anthracycline, vinca alkaloids, mitoxantrone, but not cis-platine and AraC. Multiple mechanisms, including the sequential emergence of overexpression of multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) and MDR1 genes, are involved in the cross-resistance of tumor cells to HHT.