Marine anticancer agents: An overview with a particular focus on their chemical classes

Marilia Barreca, Virginia Spanò, Alessandra Montalbano, Mercedes Cueto, Ana R. Díaz Marrero, Irem Deniz, Ayşegül Erdoğan, Lada Lukić Bilela, Corentin Moulin, Elisabeth Taffin-De-Givenchy, Filippo Spriano, Giuseppe Perale, Mohamed Mehiri, Ana Rotter, Olivier P. Thomas, Paola Barraja, Susana P. Gaudêncio, Francesco Bertoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
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The marine environment is a rich source of biologically active molecules for the treatment of human diseases, especially cancer. The adaptation to unique environmental conditions led marine organisms to evolve different pathways than their terrestrial counterparts, thus producing unique chemicals with a broad diversity and complexity. So far, more than 36,000 compounds have been isolated from marine micro- and macro-organisms including but not limited to fungi, bacteria, microalgae, macroalgae, sponges, corals, mollusks and tunicates, with hundreds of new marine natural products (MNPs) being discovered every year. Marine-based pharmaceuticals have started to impact modern pharmacology and different anti-cancer drugs derived from marine compounds have been approved for clinical use, such as: cytarabine, vidarabine, nelarabine (prodrug of ara-G), fludarabine phosphate (pro-drug of ara-A), trabectedin, eribulin mesylate, brentuximab vedotin, polatuzumab vedotin, enfortumab vedotin, belantamab mafodotin, plitidepsin, and lurbinectedin. This review focuses on the bioactive molecules derived from the marine environment with anticancer activity, discussing their families, origin, structural features and therapeutic use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number619
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020


  • Anticancer
  • Clinical pipeline
  • Drug discovery
  • Marine drugs
  • Marine natural products


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