Natural products and their derivatives are the most consistently successful source of drug leads. One of the most important families of natural compounds known for their medicinal value is the terpenoids. Terpenoids are found in higher plants, mosses, liverworts, algae and lichens, and also in insects, microbes or marine organisms; and have shown to exert anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumoral activities. In recent decades research activity into the clinical potential of this class of compounds in cancer has increased continuously. In the present review, molecular basis of the anti-tumoral action of terpenoids is presented with special emphasis on the latest progress in this field, including the recently elucidated findings about the potential of diterpenoids and triterpenoids as antitumoral agents. Furthermore, this review will summarize promising compounds that are being evaluated in clinical trials as potential chemotherapeutic agents.
Keywords: Angiogenesis, apoptosis, cancer, invasion, NF-kB, p53, PI3K/Akt, proliferation, terpenoids.