Boswellic acids: privileged structures to develop lead compounds for anticancer drug discovery

Hidayat Hussain, Iftikhar Ali, Daijie Wang, Faruck L. Hakkim, Bernhard Westermann, Luay Rashan, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Ivan R. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Introduction: Cancer has been identified to be the second major cause of death internationally as exemplified by ca. 9.6 million deaths in 2018 along with ca. 18 million new patients in 2018 that have been recorded. Natural boswellic acids (BAs) and their source, frankincense, have been reported to possess in vitro and in vivo anticancer effects toward various cancer cells. Areas covered: This comprehensive review focuses on the importance of boswellic acids (BAs) for the establishment of future treatments of cancer. Moreover, potent semisynthetic derivatives of BAs have been described along with their mode of action. In addition, important structural features of the semisynthetic BAs required for cytotoxic effects are also discussed. Expert opinion: Numerous semisynthetic BAs illustrate excellent cytotoxic effects. Of note, compounds bearing cyanoenone moieties in ring A, endoperoxides and hybrids display increased and more potent cytotoxic effects compared with other semisynthetic BAs. Moreover, BAs have the potential to conjugate or couple with other anticancer compounds to synergistically increase their combined anticancer effects. In addition, to get derived BAs to become lead anticancer compounds, future research should focus on the preparation of ring A cyanoenones, endoperoxides, and C-24 amide analogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-867
Number of pages17
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Discovery
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
H Hussain supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the form of a fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Boswellic acids
  • anticancer
  • bas derivatives
  • frankincense
  • in vitro
  • in vivo


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