Immune system ‘trainable’, door opens for cancer vaccine: study

December 26, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

Mayo Clinic release – An international team of researchers led by Mayo Clinic have designed a technique that uses the body’s own cells and a virus to destroy cancer cells that spread from primary tumours to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. In addition, their study shows that this technology could be the basis for a new cancer vaccine to prevent cancer recurrence. Read more

Lingzhi can fight prostate cancer

December 15, 2007  
Filed under Cancer, Men's health

lingzhi, reishiCM NEWS, AFP – Israeli scientists claim that a wild mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine for a century, could treat prostate cancer, the University of Haifa said. Read more

How does ginseng kill cancer cells?

June 21, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWS – Ginseng, a herbal medicine used extensively for centuries in oriental medicine including Chinese, Korean and Japanese as a general tonic to promote longevity can be effective in combating cancer, diabetes, stress, fatigues and oxidants. These effects of ginseng are mainly attributed to a group of compounds called ginsenosides, which recent studies indicate that they might act in a similar way as steroid hormones. Read more

Ginseng, flaxseed may fight cancer, but shark cartilage worthless, studies say

June 2, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

AP – The first scientific tests of some popular alternative medicine products hint that American ginseng might lessen cancer fatigue and that flaxseed might slow the growth of prostate tumours.

But a big Canadian-U.S. study proved shark cartilage worthless against lung cancer, and doctors said people should not take it.

The research was reported Saturday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.

What is American ginseng? According to information offered by the University of Maryland Medical Centre, the American ginseng plant has leaves that grow in a circle around a straight stem. Yellowish-green umbrella-shaped flowers grow in the center and produce red berries. Wrinkles around the neck of the root tell how old the plant is. This is important because American ginseng is not ready for use until it has grown for four to six years. American ginseng is very expensive and is now being grown on farms in order to protect the wild American ginseng from over-harvesting.

American ginseng products are made from ginseng root and the long, thin offshoots called root hairs. The main chemical ingredients of American ginseng are ginsenosides and polysaccharide glycans (quinquefolans A, B, and C). American ginseng seems to be more relaxing than Asian ginseng, which may have stimulating effects.

American ginseng (dried) is available in water, water-and-alcohol, or alcohol liquid extracts, and in powders, capsules, and tablets. American ginseng is available with other herbs in several combination formulas.

How to take it


  • This herb is not recommended for use in children unless under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.


  • Fresh root: 1 – 2 g, once daily for up to 3 months
  • Dried root: 1/2 – 2 g, chew and swallow once daily
  • Tincture (1:5): 1 – 2 teaspoonfuls, 1 – 3 times daily
  • Fluid extract (1:1): 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoonfuls, 1 – 3 times daily
  • Standardized extract: 100 – 200 mg, 1 – 3 times daily, standardized to contain 4 – 5% ginsenosides

Reported side effects of taking ginseng include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Breast pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

To avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), even in people who do not have diabetes, you should take American ginseng with food.

People with hypertension should not take American ginseng products without specific guidance and instruction from a qualified health care provider. At the same time, people with low blood pressure as well as those with an acute illness or diabetes (because of the risk of a sudden drop in blood sugar), should use caution when taking ginseng.

The safety of taking American ginseng during pregnancy is unknown. Therefore, it is not recommended when pregnant or breastfeeding.

American ginseng should be discontinued at least 7 days prior to surgery. American ginseng can lower blood glucose levels and, therefore, create problems for patients fasting prior to surgery. In addition, American ginseng may act as a blood thinner, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding during or after the procedure.

The ginseng and flaxseed studies are small and preliminary, and specialists warned against making too much of them because the substances tested are not the same as what consumers find on store shelves.

flaxseed, prostate cancerBut the results suggest that some herbal remedies eventually may find niches for treating specific cancers, symptoms or side effects. Americans spend millions on these products, which are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, even though no good studies confirm the benefits they tout.

“One of the most common things patients ask me is about these things they have snookered away in their purses” and medicine chests, said Dr. Bruce Cheson, a cancer specialist at Georgetown University Hospital. “They’ll come in with big bags of this stuff.”

Some “natural” remedies such as laetrile or high doses vitamin C proved not helpful and even harmful for cancer patients once they were scientifically studied, he noted. Some keep chemotherapy from working as it should.

“Just because it is a vitamin or a leafy green does not ensure it does not have some harmful effects,” Cheson said.

Herbal products vary widely in their purity and the amount and type of active ingredients. These three federally funded studies used standardized compounds so they could say with some certainty whether they have any effect.

Debra Barton, a research nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tested powdered, four-year-old Wisconsin ginseng root, which is different from Asian ginseng and other varieties commonly sold, to treat the extreme tiredness that most people suffer from cancer or its treatment.

She randomly assigned 282 people with breast, lung, colon and other forms of cancer to take either 750, 1,000 or 2,000 milligrams of ginseng or dummy capsules daily for eight weeks. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received what.

One-fourth of those on the two highest doses said their fatigue was moderately or much better, compared with only 10 per cent of those on the low dose or dummy pills.

Results are promising, but it is too soon to recommend that people use ginseng, Barton said. A better idea is exercise, the one treatment already shown to help cancer fatigue, she said.

The flaxseed study was aimed at fighting prostate cancer, not treating a side effect. The edible seed has been used for hundreds of years in cereals and breads and is high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and in lignan, a substance that can affect hormone levels and perhaps squelch their cancer-promoting effects.

Four groups of about 40 men who were scheduled to have their prostates removed three weeks later were assigned to get either 30 grams of powdered flaxseed, a low-fat diet, both or neither until their surgery.

After the men’s prostates were removed, researchers found that tumours had been growing 30 to 40 per cent slower in the two groups taking flaxseed, based on how quickly cells were multiplying. Low-fat diets had no effect on this, said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried of Duke University Medical Center, who led the study.

“Our findings are compelling but they’re preliminary,” she cautioned.

But several doctors said flaxseed is nutritious and seems to have little downside other than a sawdust-like consistency, since it must be used ground or powdered because it has an inedible hull or coating.

Scientists plans to study flaxseed on men with prostate cancer that comes back after initial treatment, and Canadian scientists also are testing it for breast cancer, she said.

The shark cartilage study was done because Congress ordered it. Some very small early studies suggested high doses of it might extend survival of people with advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.

Dr. Charles Lu of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston tested Neovastat, a shark cartilage liquid extract that the Canadian company Aeterna-Zentaris was trying to develop as a regular pharmaceutical product.

All 379 people in the study, which was done throughout Canada and the United States, were given standard chemotherapy and radiation. Half also were given shark cartilage twice a day.

After about four years there was no difference in survival, which averaged 15 months for both groups.

On the Net:
Cancer meeting:
Cancer society:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:
Ginseng Board of Wisconsin:

Combined Western-traditional medicine could boost cancer treatment: expert

April 22, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

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.

Massage, acupuncutre ease pain after cancer surgery

April 4, 2007  
Filed under Acupuncture, Cancer

UCSF NewsMassage 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

Green tea, lingzhi mushroom limit invasiveness of breast cancer

March 4, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

lingzhi, ganoderma lucidum, breast cancerCM 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

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