Chinese Medicine For Cancer  Part II

Laboratory studies suggest that traditional Chinese medicine increases the effectiveness of the conventional therapies without increasing toxicity.

In the treatment of cancers, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the main non-surgical treatment modalities. They are however associated with a lot of side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, immunosuppression, hair loss, mouth ulcers, bleeding, etc. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be used to either enhance the efficacy of these treatment options or to reduce their side effects.



Many clinical studies have been done to show the role of TCM in radiochemotherapy. Li et al. reviewed the outcomes of 2,964 studies which treated 253,434 patients with different types of cancers such as lung, liver, stomach, breast, colorectal, oesophageal and nasopharyngeal cancers. Their findings revealed that herbal medicine was the most commonly used TCM therapy (90.32%). Outcomes of such therapy were1:



  • Improvement in clinical symptoms in 1667 studies (56.24%).
  • Improvement in biomarkers of cancer severity in 1270 studies (42.85%)
  • Better quality of life in 1129 studies (38.08%)
  • Reduction in side effects of either chemotherapy or radiotherapy was reported in 1094 studies (36.91%)
  • Reduction in tumour size in 869 studies (29.32%).

In another analysis, McCulloch et al. reviewed 34 different clinical studies involving 2815 lung cancer patients. Twelve out of 34 studies reported a reduction in the risk of death at 12months while 30 studies showed higher tumour response following the use of TCM.2

Li et al. also carried out a detailed analysis of 24 different clinical studies involving 2,103 patients with advanced lung cancers. They revealed that when TCM was added to chemotherapy, the tumour responded better; toxic side effects of chemotherapy reduced; there was improvement in performance status and the survival rate within the first one year also increased.3




In a similar study, Zhong et al. analyzed 20 studies where colorectal cancers were treated with either chemotherapy with TCM or chemotherapy alone. They found a slower rate of disease progression, improved quality of life and an increase in 1-3 year survival rates in those treated with chemotherapy and TCM.4

The study of Gan et al, also revealed a decrease in the incidence of low white blood cells in gastric cancer patients treated with TCM while on chemotherapy.5


Reference list

  1. Li X, Yang G, Li X, et al. Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cancer Care: A Review of Controlled Clinical Studies Published in Chinese. El-Rifai W, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(4):e60338. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060338. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  2. McCulloch M, See C, Shu XJ, et al. Astragalus-based Chinese herbs and platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: Meta-analysis of randomized trials. J Clin Oncol. 2006:24(3):419-430. doi:10.1200/jco.2005.03.6392. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  3. Li SG, Chen HY, Ou-Yang CS, et al. The Efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine as an Adjunctive Therapy for Advanced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Minna JD, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(2):e57604. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057604. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  4. Zhong LL, Chen HY, Cho WC, Meng XM, Tong Y. The efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine as an adjunctive therapy for colorectal cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2012;20:240–252. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.02.004. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  5. Gan T, Wu Z, Tian L, Wang Y. Chinese herbal medicines for induction of remission in advanced or late gastric cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(1) CD005096. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd005096.pub3. Accessed October 11, 2017.


You might be interested

Book Now