Friday, September 10, 2010

Can Chinese Herbs Treat Cancer?

Scuttelaria Barbata, Ban Zhi Lian
The Chinese herb Ban Zhi Lian may not be in everyone's lexicon, but to the 80 women with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, who are participating in the second phase of the BZL101 clinical trials, it represents hope and life.
For Bionovo, the drug discovery and development company in Emeryville, Calif., that's behind BZL101, there's hope too. The trial is the first FDA-validated clinical study of a potential cancer drug derived from a Chinese medicinal herb, says Dr. Mary Tagliaferri, a co-founder of the company, former practicing acupuncturist and a breast-cancer survivor. "Sixty-two percent of chemotherapy drugs come from natural products, and plants have been the basis of almost every new class of medication," she says. "It makes sense that these plants can act as anticancer agents."  For the whole story follow this link to Time Magazine.

Alex's Note:  This research is promising and important to validate Traditional use of Chinese herbs for cancer.   To be clear the way they are using the herb is in high-dosages as a single agent. 
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses multiple herbs in concert generally in lower doses and has for centuries.  I imagine that as the research on this herb goes forward they will eventually get away from the whole herb to use the extracts that are the most active against cancer.  This is where the patentable drugs can be derived.  That is good but part of the uniqueness of an herb like this one is that there toxicity profile is extremely low as a whole herb.  That will most probably not remain when it becomes a refined drug.  However as an anticancer pharmaceutical drug it will probably be more effective than the whole herb. 

As I have written about in previous posts, there are many times when anti-cancer herbs and formulas can be appropriately used within the context of conventional therapies.  Througout most of my chemotherapy I took this herb in a formula in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation.   This is how it is done in China - combining east and west.  

More Information about the study:

Deeper understanding of the herb on the Sloane Kettering Herbal Database 
Article for practitioners from Subuthi Dharmananda on Bai Hua She She Cao (Oldenlandia)  and Ban Zhi Lian (Scutellaria)