Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often has been regarded as an "alternative" therapy, as to which "mainstream" physicians or scientists have been skeptical, because there was little or no scientific proof about how it could work—until now.
National Foundation for Cancer Research scientist Yung-Chi Cheng, the Bronson Professor of Pharmacology at Yale University, has shown through phase I and phase II clinical trials that a formula comprised of four ancient Chinese herbs—collectively known as PHY906—when used in conjunction with chemotherapy reduces the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects caused by chemotherapy given to colon and rectal cancer patients. This is the first time that a Traditional Chinese Medicine formula has demonstrated clear patient benefits through the rigorous testing of clinical trials. These findings, culminating more than ten years of research by Dr. Cheng and his colleagues, were published in the August 2010 Issue of Science Translational Medicine.
When no one else would fund this research, NFCR did, by providing both "seed" funding and ten years of sustained funding. This support from NFCR enabled this team of scientists to complete their groundbreaking work and demonstrate through pre-clinical experiments that PHY906 enhances the anti-tumor activity of certain chemotherapy agents. The recently published results of their research strongly suggest that PHY906, used in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug, Irinotecan, not only enhances the anti-tumor activity of the drug, but the formula also restores intestinal cells damaged by chemotherapy—a finding that could lead to the alleviation of the adverse intestinal side effects experienced by patients.
Dr. Cheng was able both to monitor the consistency of PHY906 and prove the bio-availability of this formula. This opens the door for a variety of potential uses for PHY906 in connection with chemotherapy treatments for numerous types of cancer.
This breakthrough represents a paradigm shift in the way the cancer research community thinks about Traditional Chinese Medicine, opening minds to new approaches to treating cancer using these ancient medicines which have the potential to provide new and more effective options for treating cancer patients.
"This is a new paradigm of drug development," said Dr. Cheng. "With funding from the National Foundation for Cancer Research, our team at Yale was able to pursue this avenue of research when no one else would support it. We have now been able to prove that these traditional medicines actually do deliver real benefits that may improve the lives of cancer patients."
"Breakthroughs like this make basic science cancer research funding so rewarding," said Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., President of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. "What started out with a modest amount of funding from NFCR has turned into a major development in cancer treatment. We are so proud that our commitment to Dr. Cheng and his team at Yale University has resulted in real, promising new approaches to treating cancer."
About the National Foundation for Cancer Research
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer.
Since 1973, NFCR has provided over $275 million in support of discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education relating to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. For more information, please visit www.NFCR.org.