Anti-Inflammatory and Anticancer Properties of Birch Bark-Derived Betulin: Recent Developments

Birch tree bark-derived betulin has attracted scientific interest already for several centuries, being one of the first natural products identified from plants. However, the cellular events regulated by betulin and precise molecular mechanisms under these processes have been begun to be understood only recently. Today, we know that betulin can exert important anticancer activities through modulation of diverse cellular pathways. In this review article, betulin-regulated molecular signaling is unraveled and presented with a special focus on its participation in anti-inflammatory processes, especially by modulating nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), prostaglandin/COX, and nuclear factor erythroid2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-mediated cascades. By regulating these diverse pathways, betulin can not only affect the development and progression of different cancers, but also enhance the antitumor action of traditional therapeutic modalities. It is expected that by overcoming the low bioavailability of betulin by encapsulating it into nanocarriers, this promising natural compound may provide novel possibilities for targeting inflammation-related cancers.

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