CM NEWS – A centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine used commonly as a diuretic and fever fighting drug has been newly discovered as being able to inhibit tumour growth in mice with cervical cancer.
Long kui (??, Solanum nigrum Linne) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries because of its diuretic and antipyretic effects. The present study was done at the College of Environmental and Chemical Engineering at the Yanshan University in Hebei, China.
The study examined the effect of the crude polysaccharides isolated from long kui on tumour growth.
What are polysaccharides? Polysaccharides (sometimes called glycans) are relatively complex carbohydrates.
They are polymers made up of many monosaccharides joined together by glycosidic linkages. They are therefore very large, often branched, molecules. They tend to be amorphous, insoluble in water, and have no sweet taste.
When all the constituent monosaccharides are of the same type they are termed homopolysaccharides; when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are termed heteropolysaccharides.
Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.
The effect of long kui polysaccarides on a group of tumour-bearing mice with cervical cancer was observed after oral administration of long kui polysaccahrides for 12 days.
Analysis of the tumour inhibition mechanism indicated that the number of apoptotic tumour cells (cells died) increased significantly, i.e. more cancerous cells were killed.
Moreover, the expression of a gene Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2), which is believed to play a role in resisting conventional cancer treatment, dropped significantly. Mutated gene of p53, which originally is a tumour suppressor but its mutated form is found in most tumour types, also decreased.
On the other side of the token, the expression of cell-death promoting protein Bax increased.
What is Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2) gene? The Bcl-2 gene has been implicated in a number of cancers, including melanoma, breast, prostate, lung carcinomas, schizophrenia, and autoimmunity. It is also thought to be involved in resistance to conventional cancer treatment. This supports a role for decreased apoptosis in the pathogenesis of cancer.
Apoptosis plays a very important role in regulating a variety of diseases that have enormous social impacts. Bcl-2 is essential to the process of apoptosis because it suppresses the initiation of the cell-death process.
What is p53 gene? The p53 gene is a tumour suppressor gene, i.e., its activity stops the formation of tumours. If a person inherits only one functional copy of the p53 gene from their parents, they are predisposed to cancer and usually develop several independent tumours in a variety of tissues in early adulthood. This condition is rare, and is known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome. However, mutations in p53 are found in most tumour types, and so contribute to the complex network of molecular events leading to tumour formation. It is clear that p53 is just one component of a network of events that culminate in tumour formation.
What is more promising is that the long kui polysaccarides treatment can decrease the level of TNF-alpha, or tumour necrosis factor, in blood serum. These results indicated that the tumour growth inhibition of long kui polysaccarides might correlate with the reduction of TNF-alpha level of blood serum, which resulted in a massive necrosis (accidental death of cells) in tumour tissues and the up-regulation of Bax and down-regulation of Bcl-2 and mutant p53 gene expression, which triggered apoptosis in tumour cells.
What is TNF? Tumour necrosis factor is a protein produced by several of the body’s cell types, such as white blood cells, red blood cells, and other cells that line the blood vessels. It promotes the destruction of some types of cancer cells.
TNF is a type of cytokine released by white blood cells. Cytokines are a group of molecules that are released by many different cells to communicate with other cells and regulate the duration of an immune response.
There are many different kinds of cytokines, each with a different effect on specific target cells. Once a cell releases the cytokines, they bind to corresponding receptors located on target cells, thus causing a change to take place within the target cell.
Tumour necrosis factor is released by special white blood cells called macrophages. Although researchers are still investigating the exact mechanism by which TNF kills cancer cells, it is clear that TNF binds to receptors located on the surface of cancer cells, causing a change and then death of the cell. This was found to be true in animal models. As a result, researchers thought TNF might enhance the reaction of the human immune system to cancer cells.
In addition to tumour cell-killing activity, TNF-? has been noted for its role in the inflammatory response and the body’s resistance to pathogens.
The researchers conclude that long kui polysaccarides can be considered as a potential antitumour agent.
[Phytother Res. 2007 May 8]
AP – Western science and traditional Chinese medicine could be combined to enhance treatment of cancer and other diseases, an oncology professor told a medical forum Sunday.
But comprehensive clinical studies must be carried out and patients must be educated to accept the combination of methods, Tony Mok Shu Kam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told participants at a two-day medical forum in Singapore sponsored by the Lancet medical journal.
“Traditional medicine was previously the standard medicine, and a large portion of cancer patients still use it,” Mok said referring to China. “We cannot discredit traditional medicines, because they are so old and they are still here, so there must be some virtue. But we must do something in a scientific fashion to prove it better.”
While a number of Chinese studies have been published on the efficacy of some common herbal medicines, Mok said their trials were too small or the methods too inconsistent to be approved in the West.
“We have to move forward and invest in high-quality studies,” Mok said.
Some traditional Eastern medicines have been proven effective through research and clinical trials. For example, Artemisin, used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese herbal medicine, is emerging as a drug of choice for treating drug-resistant malaria, an advance supported by the World Health Organization.
Mok referred to ongoing studies in the United States and Russia that are examining the use of kanglaite, commonly used as a supplement in Chinese diets and one of the top-selling anti-cancer traditional herbs. Another Western-led study is looking at the herb astragalus, used in China to boost the immune system during chemotherapy.
Another researcher worried that too many people in developing countries are being taken advantage of by untrained traditional healers.
“There are many people who are not trained. These people are out to make money,” Monika Bardhan of Malaysia’s NCI Cancer Hospital told The Associated Press.
She said too many people first go to traditional healers and pay exorbitant prices for concoctions with unproven ingredients. By the time they come to the hospital, it is often too late to treat them.
Bardhan said she is not against traditional medicine as long as patients are educated about what they are receiving and the doctors or healers are legitimate.
Mok said some hospitals in China were using both traditional and Western medicines — herbs and chemotherapy, or acupuncture and modern diagnostic imaging, for example — but more needed to be done to integrate the methods.
A key factor in the integration would be convincing users of traditional medicine that modern science is as good as or better than their centuries-old methods.
A 2004 study in China showed that 49% of women who were being treated for breast cancer with traditional Chinese medicine believed it to be an effective treatment for their disease.
Mok also referred to a Chinese trial he was involved in this year in which some prospective patients declined to be part of a placebo control study to test the effectiveness of a traditional medicine when they learned their chances of getting the medicine were only 50-50. They preferred to go to a traditional doctor who would definitely prescribe the treatment they sought.
Earth Times – Traditional Chinese medicine could help ease the side effects of chemotheraphy for cancer patients, according to a study carried out by researchers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, media reports said Saturday.
“A chemotherapy regimen can last a few months and many patients experience nausea, vomiting and fatigue,” The Business Times quoted Dr Tony Mok Shu Kam, professor of clinical oncology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying. “For some people, it can get quite bad.”
Chemotherapy involves chemical agents to stop cancer cells from growing and is widely used in treatments.
Mok, who will speak on Sunday at British medical journal Lancet’s forum in Singapore, said the latest study involved breast and colon cancer patients.
“All the selected patients were seen not only by an oncologist but by a traditional herbalist, who then prescribed an individualized herbal recipe,” Mok told the newspaper.
Depending on a code known only to the pharmacist, the patient received either the recipe or a placebo, Mok said. The study successfully demonstrated that herbal remedies can help ease the side effects.
Mok’s study is the latest in a wave of herbal medical research triggered in China in the mid-1990s with the appearance of Kanglaite, a drug containing a herbal extract which is China’s top-selling cancer treatment, the report said. It’s use has not been approved outside the country.
Mok cautioned that traditional Chinese medicine alone cannot effectively treat cancer and should not be used as a primary mode of treatment. Herbal remedies play an auxiliary role by helping to relieve symptoms associated with treatments.
“While it is true many herbs may have anti-cancer properties, that’s not the same as saying these herbs can cure or treat cancer,” Mok told the newspaper.
What is needed are high-quality clinical trials on traditional medicine, Mok stressed.
UCSF News – Massage and acupuncture are effective in decreasing pain and depression following surgery in cancer patients, according to a UCSF study.
The findings of the randomized controlled clinical trial are reported in the March 2007 issue of the “Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.” Read more
CM NEWS – The complex interaction of anti-canerous substances in mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi, ?? in Chinese, or reishi in Japanese, picture) and green tea has been shown to suppress progression and invasiveness of metastatic breast cancers, according to a study done at the Cancer Research Laboratory, Methodist Research Institute, Indianapolis. Read more