Camptothecin (CPT) was isolated by Wall and coworkers [86] from the Chinese tree Camptotheca acuminate and is used to treat gastric, rectal, colon and bladder cancers. Govindachari and Viswanathan [87] isolated camptothecin and 9-methoxy camptothecin from an unrelated plant, Mappia foetida (later called Nothapodytes nimmoniana). Subsequently it was also isolated from Merriliodendron megonpum, Nothapodytes nimmoniana (both from the family Icacinaceae), Ophrrohiza mugos, O. pumila (Rubiaceae), Eravatamia heyneana (Apocynaceae) and Mustuea bruno-nis (Loganiaceae) [103].

Camptothecins and its derivatives (9-amino CPT, 10-hydroxy CPT, camptothecin, topotecan, and irinotecan) are potent antitumour and DNA topoisomerase I inhibiting agents. The basic molecule had poor solubility in aqueous phase and was found to be too cytotoxic; therefore, attempts were made to develop new effective soluble derivatives [74]. Topotecan was approved for use in the USA in 1996, and other derivatives are in clinical trials [18].

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