BioScience Trends. 2018;12(3):220-239. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2018.01144)

An update on Chinese herbal medicines as adjuvant treatment of anticancer therapeutics.

Wang ZX, Qi FH, Cui YG, Zhao L, Sun XG, Tang W, Cai PP


Numerous studies have indicated that in cancer treatment Chinese herbal medicines in combination with chemo-, radio-, or targeted-therapy can be used to enhance the efficacy of and diminish the side effects and complications caused by these therapies. Therefore, an understanding of Chinese herbal medicines is needed by physicians and other health care providers. This review provides an update on Chinese herbal medicines as adjuvant treatment of anticancer therapeutics. First, some Chinese herbal medicines (e.g. Astragalus, Ginseng, Scutellaria barbata, TJ-41, TJ-48, PHY906, Huachansu injection, and Kanglaite injection) that are commonly used for treating the cancer and/or reducing the toxicity induced by chemo-, radio-, or targeted-therapy are discussed. These Chinese herbal medicines have been shown to possess great advantages in terms of suppressing tumor progression, increasing the sensitivity of chemo-, radio-, or targeted-therapeutics, improving an organism's immune system function, and lessening the damage caused by these therapeutics. Second, some clinical trials using Chinese herbal medicines as adjuvant improving cancer treatment related side effects and complications are reviewed. Some Chinese herbal medicines have a significant effect on reducing cancer-related fatigue and pain, improving peripheral neuropathy and gastrointestinal side effects including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, decrease the incidence of bone marrow suppression, protecting anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity and radiationinduced pneumonitis, and relieving EGFR-TKIs related acneiform eruptions and other side effects. This review of those medicines should contribute to an understanding of Chinese herbal medicines as adjuvant treatment for cancer and provide useful information for the development of more effective anti-cancer drugs. However, rigorously designed trials on potential Chinese herbal medicine must be further examined involving cancer treatment especially molecular targeted-therapy in the future.

KEYWORDS: Chinese herbal medicine, adjuvant treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy

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