Ancient brew may reduce gut damage after chemotherapy

Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:10pm EDT
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HONG KONG (Reuters) - An ancient Chinese brew may help reduce the intestinal damage caused by chemotherapy given to colon and rectal cancer patients, researchers said on Thursday.

To meet growing consumer demands, researchers in the field of traditional medicine are trying to prove the efficacy of ancient drugs using Western-style animal tests and human clinical trials.

In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers said they fed cancerous mice the Chinese brew after the rodents had been treated with irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug known to be toxic for the gut and a cause of diarrhea.

"The researchers treated cancerous mice with chemotherapy, which shrank tumors but also caused massive destruction in the intestinal lining of the animals," they said in a statement.

"After a few days of treatment with PHY906, the medicine restored the damaged intestinal linings in the mice."

PHY906 is the laboratory formulation of a 1,800-year-old Chinese formula containing peonies, a purple flower called skullcap, licorice and fruit from a buckthorn tree.

Called Huang Qin Tang, the brew has been used for a long time to treat diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

"Irinotecan reduces tumor growth by itself but if you combine with PHY906, it will further reduce tumor growth," said lead author Yung-Chi Cheng at the Yale University School of Medicine in the United States.

"By itself, PHY906 does not decrease tumor growth, it has to be used in combination with chemotherapy."   Continued...