Chinese Herbs Treat Toxic and Side Effects of Chemotherapy

March 28th, 2000

Advances in anti-cancer drugs have yielded higher rate of effectiveness. Yet the severe toxic and side effects often force the patients to stop chemotherapy. How to help patients fulfil chemotherapy remains a major medical challenge. Recently, the benefits of Chinese herbs as a combined therapy have drawn worldwide attention. For public information and medical education, results from different studies are summarized below:

1. Generalized Reactions: Weight loss and generalized fatigue are common among chemotherapy recipients. Chinese herbs of Fuzeng group can maintain the body weight and even slight weight gain. Group with combined Fuzeng herbs and chemotherapy had 0.1% weight loss; while control group had 3.3% (P>0.05). Combined herbal therapy group had 11% and 15% fatigue rate; while the chemo-only group had 32.7% and 35.4% in Karnofsky scale.

2. Digestive System Reactions: Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are among the commonest chemotherapy reactions. Severe loss of appetite in herbal combined group was 19% as compared to 51% in control group. In group combining spleen-kidney herbal tonics, the rates of appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were 7.5%, 8.5%, 5.6%, &1.2%; markedly lower than the uncombined chemo group, 34.9%, 32.6%, 15.3%, &6.3%, respectively. Qi-tonics herb treated group had 25.8% appetite loss, 19.2% vomiting, 20.2% abdominal distension, 7.3% diarrhea, & 3.9% GI tract bleeding; in the uncombined group, the rates were 81.4%, 74.4%, 62.8%, 23.3%, & 8.1%, respectively. The differences between the combined and uncombined groups are remarkable by any standards.

3. Peripheral Blood Changes: Bone marrow suppression and its life-threatening complications of severe infections, bleeding and exhaustion are often the main cause for withdrawal and failure of chemotherapy. 1). Fuzeng herb treated group showed 10.4% white cell count below 4x109/L ( 27.5% in control group); no significant difference in hemoglobin levels before and after chemotherapy ( marked changes in control group); and slight gain in platelet counts ( P>0.05) while the control group had significant reduction ( P<0.01 ). 2). Combined Qi tonic group showed 34.7% leukopenia and 16.2% anemia; while the control chemo-only group showed 75.6% and 37.2%, respectively. 3). Spleen-kidney tonics group showed 0.07% white cell counts <4x109/L and 0.03% platelet counts <80x109/L; while the uncombined group the rates are 33.3% and 16,5%, respectively.

4. Damage to Heart, Liver, and Kidney Functions: Chinese herbal therapy plays a protective role in damage to heart muscles, liver and kidney functions caused by chemotherapy. The herbal treated group showed 1.3% heart muscle injury, 6.0% liver function damage and 2.6% kidney function impairment; the rates in chemo-only group are 9.3%, 17.5%, and 5.8%, respectively.

5. Hair Loss: The rate of hair loss in chemotherapy is 29.1%; in herbal therapy 4.5% ( P<0.01 ).

6. Chemotherapy Fulfillment Rate: Combined herbal therapy can increase effective rate and fulfillment rate of chemotherapy. 1). In one study of 125 cancer cases, the fulfillment rate in herbal group was 89.1%;compared to 67.5% in uncombined group. 2). In 414 stomach cancer cases receiving spleen-kidney tonics, the chemo fulfillment rate was 94.4%; while the control group rate was 73.7%.( P<0.001). In 73 blood tonics treated cases, the fulfilment rate was 90.1%; while in the uncombined group, 74.3%. All 3 studies showed significant statistical differences.

7. Immune Function Tests: Chinese herbal therapy has a unique role in restoring immune function, which is depressed in most cancer patients and further impaired by chemotherapy. 1). In Fuzeng herbal group, T4 was up and T8 down, TH/TS ratio is 1.9; in untreated group, T4 was markedly low , T8 stable, TH/TS ratio 1.2. 2). Blood tonics markedly restore low TH/(Len3) value in cancer. 3). The NK cell activity was markedly increased or restored to normal with use of spleen-kidney tonics or blood tonics. 4). For stomach cancer, herbal group showed no suppression or even an increase of macrophage activity; marked decreased in the control group. In herb group, phagocytotic rates were up from 22.5 pre-chemo to 27.8 (P<0.05). 5). E-rosette formation and lymphocyte conversion rates were both markedly increased in group receiving spleen-kidney tonics. These results suggest that the increased immune function in Chinese herb group is realized mainly by increasing NK cells, macrophages, killer T cells, and TH/TS ratio.

8. Experimental Models: Chinese herbs also protect tumor-load animals in peripheral blood changes, increase of immune functions, enhanced tumor inhibition, clearance of harmful free radicals, and extending survival. The results are consistent with the clinical findings from humans and help provide material basis for Chinese herbs in cancer study.

In addition, Chinese herbs are the best and safest known treatment for toxic and side effects from radiotherapy. Enormous difference in result and life quality exists between cancer patients receiving Chinese herbs and those without. Above all, Chinese medicine is by itself an effective anti-cancer therapy with tremendous potential and advantages.