Plant Alkaloid an Anticancer Derivative used in Chemotherapy Treatment

There are so many diseases that affect human population, and cancer is one of the types of diseases that cause the death of millions of people. Cancer affects all people and increases with age. Cancer is the type of disease wherein cells multiply beyond its normal limits. It can spread throughout the body through the blood and lymph. Cancer, although may be genetically inherited is also brought about by abnormalities in the genetic material of cells due to carcinogens, radiation and chemicals (Mount Carmel Health Ohio State University Medical Center and OhioHealth n.pag.).

Once diagnosed, cancer is commonly treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells, and prevent them from further spreading through the body. Chemotherapy is the main technology commonly used to treat cancer. It works by using chemicals to prevent further cell multiplication and destroy cancer cells. It is said to be the most efficient treatment because it can cure widespread cancer, unlike radiotherapy and surgery that target only localized cancer cells (Mount Carmel Health Ohio State University Medical Center and OhioHealth n.pag.). 

There are different types of chemotherapy Alkylating agents, Plant alkaloids, Antitumor antibiotics, Antimetabolites, Topoisomerase inhibitors and Miscellaneous Antineoplastics. The focus of this paper is on the use of plant alkaloids in chemotherapy for cancer. There are four types of plant alkaloids, namely Vinca alkaloids from periwinkle plant, taxanes from the bark of Pacific Yew tree, podophyllotoxins from May apple plant tree and Camptothecan analogs from the Asian Happy tree. These constituents are extracted from the given plants to be used as chemicals in chemotherapy (Lee n.pag.).   

This research paper will explain the role of plant alkaloid in chemotherapy treatment for cancer and explain how they are discovered and derived from the plant. Alkaloid derived from plants that is used for chemotherapy will be assessed according to its function, and will be compared to other chemicals used to treat cancer. 

As mentioned, chemotherapy is the most commonly used type of treatment for cancer, since it can target cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. It is important to understand the process by which chemotherapy is able to destroy cancer cells. 

Chemotherapy acts by damaging the DNA, which is the sole genetic material of the cell. It kills cancer by changing the structure of DNA that in effect will prevent DNA replication which is important in cell division. The S phase during cell division is important for DNA synthesis to occur. During chemotherapy, the S phase of the cell is inhibited, as the synthesis of new DNA is also inhibited (due to the blocking of nucleotide formation and pairing that is needed for DNA synthesis). Chemotherapy also functions by inhibiting mitotic division important in moving the original DNA and the replicated DNA to opposite sides needed for the cell to divide, thus preventing cancer cells from multiplying (Lee n.pag.). There are many constituents or chemicals used during chemotherapy, and plant alkaloid is one of them. They inhibit or stop cancer cells from further multiplying by preventing cell division. During mitosis, metaphase is the stage wherein the spindle fibers are located on opposite sides of the cell where they will hold the two sets of chromosomes needed to separate the cell. Mitotic spindles or spindle fibers are formed using the protein tubulin. Plant alkaloids bind to tubulin that prevents the formation of mitotic spindles, and consequently will prevent cell division (Ruddon n.pag.). 

Drugs derived from plant alkaloids are used to prevent several types of diseases from cancer cells such as Wilms tumor, lung, breast and prostate cancer. They are introduced to the patient intravenously. Examples of drugs derived from plant alkaloids are Vincristine, Vinblastine and Vinorelbine (Ruddon n.pag.). 

Although chemotherapy treatment is very effective in killing cancer cells, it can also bring harm to the patient since it also acts on normal cells. The chemical used in this treatment is very strong that it brings many side effects. Some of these are GIT (Gastrointestinal tract), hair loss, low blood counts, skin rashes and infertility (Lee n.pag.).During chemotherapy, normal and healthy cells also die that causes discomfort to the patient. Side effects affecting the GIT include nausea, diarrhea, constipation and loss of appetite. The esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and bladder are also organs of the GIT that are affected by chemotherapy (Lee n.pag.).  

Since chemotherapy affects fast growing cells, it can also kill RBCs produced in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the site wherein RBCs, WBCs and platelets mature and are created. Due to chemotherapy, these cells vital to the human body die that leads to problems like decreased production of healthy red blood cells that causes anemia. WBCs are important defense mechanism of the body that kills foreign bodies such as pathogens and bacteria, the decrease in count of WBCs will weaken the immune system of the body. Decrease in platelet count will destroy the ability of the blood to clot and thus slows down the ability of the person to heal faster (Lee n.pag.).  

Hair loss is another side effect brought about by chemotherapy as it destroys hair follicles that continuously grow and thus hinders the growth of hair. When the treatment is stopped, cells go again to their normal cycle that brings the hair back(Lee n.pag.).

Infertility is again a side effect of chemotherapy, since it is known to affect fast growing cells such as sperm and egg count. It may bring about temporary or permanent infertility both to men and women (Lee n.pag.).Alkaloid chemotherapy is effective for certain types of cancer. However, it cannot treat certain types of cancer such as those treated by alkylating agents Hodgkins disease, lymphomas, chronic leaukemias and cancers of the lungs, breast, prostate and ovary. As compared to chemotherapy by plant alkaloids, alkylating agents can cure a wide variety of cancer. Examples of alkylating agents are Cyclophosphamide and Mechlorethamine (Lee n.pag.).

Cancer is a type of disease that is up to present undergoing scientific studies to in order to find a better cure. Chemotherapy is a type of treatment most preferred since it can target cancers cells that have already spread since surgery and radiotherapy is specific only for localized cancers. Plant alkaloid chemotherapy works through the binding of alkaloid to the mitotic spindles important for cell division. The binding of tubulin prevents cell division which in turn inhibits the division of cancer cells. Although chemotherapy has cured cancer efficiently, scientists are still finding other treatment for the disease because chemotherapy is known to have a lot of side effects harmful to a person since it can also kill healthy cells such as RBCs, WBCs, platelets, sperm and egg cells. It can also kill hair follicles that cause hair loss.


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