Affiliation: Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban – 4000, South Africa.
Throughout our evolution, the importance of natural products for medicine and health has been increasing and it continues to be a key source of novel anticancer drugs, leads and new chemical entities. Among natural products, tricyclic heteroaromatic alkaloids such as carbazoles are an important class of natural and semi-synthetic organic compounds. In the last few decades medicinal role of natural and semi-synthetic carbazoles has expanded significantly, especially as a vital heterocyclic class of antitumor agents. Some of the carbazoles that displayed potential anticancer activity have undergone clinical trials. However, complications arising due to multidrug resistance in clinical trials led to very few of the selected carbazoles being approved for cancer therapy. Planar, polycyclic and aromatic carbazoles exhibit anticancer activity via DNA intercalation. Further many carbazoles can be cytotoxic by inhibiting DNA-dependent enzymes such as telomerase and topoisomerase I/II.