Researchers in the new cancer center will study the anti-tumor effects of different preparations of the herbs American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and notoginseng (Panax notoginseng), which are widely used for both the prevention and treatment of colon cancer.
“At least one-third of adults in the United States use some sort of dietary supplement and many of them take herbal remedies, such as ginseng, to supplement or substitute for conventional pharmacotherapy,” the center’s director, Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, the Cyrus Tang Professor of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. “Yet we know very little about how, when or even if these products are beneficial.”
Scientific investigation of the use of herbs for specific medical purposes is “still in its infancy” and lags far behind other biomedical research, Yuan added. “Considering their widespread use, the time has come to apply contemporary research principles and techniques to the study of botanical medications.” Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Yuan, a recognized expert in herbal medicine studies and director of the University of Chicago’s Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research, will work with two colleagues on three separate but interrelated projects designed to characterize the anti-tumor activities and mechanisms of action of the two types of ginseng and their active constituents. The first project will study the ability of ginseng to kill cancer cells and identify herbal constituents responsible for tumor cell death. The second project will focus on how ginseng extracts alter gene expression in tumor cells. The third project will concentrate on how ginseng manipulates the internal signals that cells use to regulate cell growth and cell death.
Nutrition Business Journal estimates that U.S. sales of ginseng slipped half of one percent to $95 million in 2007.
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NBJ’s Integrative Medicine and Dietary Supplements issue, which publishes this week, features an interview with NCCAM’s new director, Josephine Briggs, MD, who talks about her organization’s work to fund herbal and other supplement research. To order a copy of the issue or to subscribe to NBJ, go to www.nutritionbusinessjournal.com.