Affiliation: Departamento de Farmacologia, Facultad de Farmacia, C/ Profesor Garcia Gonzalez s/n, 41012 Sevilla, Spain.
The protection against some forms of cancer provided by many common foods has been observed in multiple epidemiological studies. Non-nutritive dietary compounds, such as flavonoids, have been considered as the responsible agents for such observations and since then, much research activity has been done about their potential anticancer effect. As a result, these compounds have been shown to regulate proliferation and cell death pathways leading to cancer. Thus, flavonoids such as the synthetic flavone, flavopiridol; the soy isoflavonoid, genistein; the tea catechin epigallocatechin gallate; or the common dietary flavonol, quercetin, are emerging as prospective anticancer drug candidates and some of them have already entered in clinical trials. In view of the therapeutic potential of flavonoids, many researchers have tried to elucidate possible structure-activity relationships that might lead to new drug discovery. However, and possibly due to the information being very scattered, there is very little understanding about a possible relationship between the flavonoid structure and their anticancer activity. Besides their therapeutic potential, since lots of flavonoids are present in our diet, a greater understanding of their anticancer properties might also modify our dietary habits in order to attack cancer with an effective weapon, prevention. This paper seeks to show, in a brief but comprehensive way, the anticancer properties of flavonoids. Through an understanding of the cancer process and its treatment, flavonoids are studied as possible useful compounds in cancer prevention and cancer therapy. Furthermore, this review attempts to compile and discuss the literature studying structureactivity relationships, in order to show structural requirements implicated in the anticancer activity of flavonoids, which might help to rationalize their development as antitumor agents.