Using Herbal medicines to aid
conventional cancer treatment
Many herbs, dietary supplements, and even vitamins are
suspected of interfering with chemotherapy and radiation therapy,
and doctors now routinely advise patients who are undergoing
cancer treatment to avoid taking these products.
At the same time, cancer researchers have been intrigued by
the potent and beneficial biological activity shown by some natural products
and are testing ways to incorporate them into standard and experimental
treatment regimens, both to enhance the anticancer effects of therapy and
reduce the side effects.
Natural products, including foods like grapefruit juice,
are being studied for their ability to enhance cancer treatment
A Treatment More than 1,700 Years in the Making
Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng, Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology
at the Yale University School of Medicine, is interested in herbal compounds
that are used in traditional herbal medicine. Among other projects, his laboratory
has reformulated a herbal mixture that has been used for
more than 1,700 years to treat gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea,
nausea, and vomiting.
This reformulation, called PHY906, was originally tested to
lessen the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy, and, in a small,
early clinical study, the compound successfully reduced side effects in
patients with colon cancer who received the chemotherapy drugs irinotecan and 5-fluorouracil.
Dr. Cheng and his colleagues also observed a synergistic
anticancer effect when the compound was given in combination with irinotecan in animal studies—a result that was surprising,
said Dr. Cheng.
PHY906 alone had no effect on these tumors, but irinotecan plus PHY906 had greater antitumor activity than irinotecan alone. Now PHY906 is being tested for potential
anticancer activity in combination with traditional chemotherapy drugs in three
The formulation consist of the following four herbs liquorice, peony, Skullcap, and the date