Anti-cancer herb – Catharansus roseus is the new name of Vinca rosea. The common name of this plant is periwinkle. It is a perennial herb or subshrub that grows to a height of up to 1 m. Like other members of the Apocynaceae family, the plant’s sap is milky latex. The plant bears white, pink, and red showy flowers. It is cultivated mainly for its ornamental properties. Madagascar is regarded as the origin of the plant. The plant is planted in gardens in the warm, tropical parts of the world.
In folklore, the plant was regarded as useful in treating diabetes. In the 1950s, scientists discovered several highly toxic alkaloids useful in treating different types of cancer. Two alkaloids—vinblastine and vincristine—found in the plant’s leaves were especially valuable in preventing cell division, a property critical to arresting cancer growth. The first observations on the anticancer property of the plant were published in 1958 (Noble et al., 1958). Today, it is an anti-cancer herb whose medicinal properties have been validated in scientific trials.
Vincaleukoblastine and leurosine with antitumor properties were discovered in 1960 (Johnson et al., 1960; Cutts et al., 1960). Clinical trials on patients with these alkaloids were conducted, and found to possess anticancer property was validated (Warwick et al., 1960).
One derived compound, vincristine, has raised the survival rate in childhood leukemia from 10% in the 1960s to 90% today. Vinca alkaloids are useful in treating both malignant and nonmalignant cancer. They are now included in virtually every successful chemotherapy program (Neuss & Neuss, 1990). The action of the alkaloids is dose-independent when screened against colorectal cancer cell lines (Siddiqui et al., 2010). Vinca alkaloids are the second most used cancer drugs (Moudi et al., 2013).
Eli Lilly was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to find these molecules’ anticancer properties in experiments conducted on mice. They were one of the first companies that develop an effective chemotherapy treatment for leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. This medication helped raise the survival rates of patients substantially.