Novel therapeutic strategy for cancer and autoimmune conditions: Modulating cell metabolism and redox capacity

Xing Xing Fan, Hu Dan Pan, Ying Li, Rui Jin Guo, Elaine Lai Han Leung, Liang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Dysregulation of cell metabolism and redox balance is implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Because the cell proliferation and apoptotic regulatory pathways are interconnected with metabolic and redox signalling pathways, the current mono-target treatment is ineffective, and multi-drug resistance remains common. Complex diseases are often implicated in a network-based context of pathology; therefore, a new holistic intervention approach is required to block multi-crosstalk in such complicated circumstances. The use of therapeutic agents isolated from herbs to holistically modulate metabolism and redox state has been shown to relieve carcinoma growth and the inflammatory response in autoimmune disorders. Multiple clinically applied or novel herbal chemicals with metabolic and redox modulatory capacity as well as low toxicity have recently been identified. Moreover, new metabolic targets and mechanisms of drug action have been discovered, leading to the exploration of new pathways for drug repositioning, clinical biomarker spectra, clinical treatment strategies and drug development. Taken together with multiple supporting examples, the modulation of cell metabolism and the redox capacity using herbal chemicals is emerging as a new, alternative strategy for the holistic treatment of cancer and autoimmune disorders. In the future, the development of new diagnostic tools based on the detection of metabolic and redox biomarkers, reformulation of optimized herbal compositions using artificial intelligence, and the combination of herbs with mono-targeting drugs will reveal new potential for clinical application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-161
Number of pages14
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune condition
  • Cancer
  • Cell metabolism
  • Gut microbiome
  • Herbal medicine
  • Redox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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