Cucurbitacins are class of biochemical compounds (triterpenes) that some plants — notably members of the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes the common pumpkins and gourds produce and which function as a defence against herbivores.
Although the roots and the fruits of plant belong to these Cucurbitaceae species are very bitter, they have been used as folk medicines in some countries because of their wide spectrum of pharmacological activities such as anti-inflammation and anticancer effects. In the last ten years, cucurbitacins had been shown to inhibit proliferation and induced apoptosis utilizing a long array of in vitro and in vivo cancer cell models. Several molecular targets for cucurbitacins have been discovered, such as fibrous-actin, signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), cyclooxygenase-2, etc.