Can Ancient Herbs Treat Cancer? 3

Women with breast cancer have typically sought Chinese medical herbalists for relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation or to strengthen and balance their immune systems; some have even hoped for a cure. Some women may have been helped; others not. But with so many variables- the broad range of patients, quality and potency of the herbs available, types of formulations prescribed and the expertise of the herbalist- outcomes in informal settings were never a sure thing. And it’s the same kind of variability that has made clinical research so problematic. “Even though people are very interested in herbal therapy with a mixture of compounds,” says Tripathy, who is now a clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. During the research phase, Tripathy says, scientists often attempt to isolate one particular molecule or compound from the herbal extract- and the anticancer activity is lost. “There are herbal extracts in which the anticancer activity is actually due to the synergy between many of the compounds contained in that extract,” he says. And says Tagliaferri, the company is studying about two dozen other Chinese herbs with anticancer potential.
The FDA at least is eager to see more studies of botanical treatments of cancer. “We are not opposed to Chinese medicine,” says Dr. Shaw Chen, botanical review team leader at the FDA. “We just like to see clinical studies that meet our standards.” Chen agrees it can be tough to study the pharmacological activity of botanical compounds or to ensure consistency in quality, but Bionovo’s efforts, if fruitful, may help pave the way for other research. “A successful application to market for a cancer drug based on Chinese medicine will be encouragement to the industry,” he says. “I think the industry is watching for the first success story.”
herbal therapy
International acupuncture education

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