A Chinese herbal formula that was used more than 1,800 years ago was shown to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy but also increased its efficacy in mice, according to a study published in the August issue of the Science Translational Medicine.
The Chinese herbal formula, called Huang Qin Tang (黃芩湯)or PHY906, consists of four herbs: skullcap(黃芩), peony(芍藥), licorice(甘草), jujube(紅棗).
In the past, colorectal cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experienced great distress due to the side-effects, but Chinese herbal medicine such as PHY 905, which contains multiple biologically active compounds, might able to reduce toxicity by multiple mechanisms.
In the study, mice undergoing chemotherapy (irinotecan- Camptosar) that were given PHY 906 lost less weight and experienced more anti-tumor activity than mice not given the formula.
The investigators also evaluated the Chinese medicine in 17 colorectal cancer patients treated with chemotherapy and found results similar to those seen in mice.
This study of combining chemotherapy with herbs represents a marriage of Western and Eastern medicine to treat cancer.
Source: WL Lam. Science Translational Medicine, 2010
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