More strong evidence for the effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)… this time, for killing cancer cells. Compound Kushen Injection (CKI), or Yanshui Injection as it is sometimes called, is a TCM blend of herbs that is used in China to help treat different types of cancers. It is typically used in combination with chemotherapy. A 2015 meta-analysis of 16 trials published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine led researchers to conclude, “CKI appears to be able to improve total pain relief and quality of life and seems to have beneficial effects on reduction of side effects in patients compared with chemotherapy alone.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, “CKI induces apoptosis in and inhibits proliferation, migration, invasion and adhesion of tumor cells.” But scientists don’t fully understand its mechanism of action. A new study from University of Adelaide confirms CKI’s cancer-fighting properties and explores the molecular mechanism behind the medicinal herb’s effectiveness.
Holistic Medicine Requires Holistic Research
When determining the anti-cancer properties of traditional Chinese herbal medicines, researchers typically break the botanicals down into their constituent parts. The most recent CKI investigation followed a different approach when examining CKI against breast cancer cells in vitro.
The study was led by David Adelson, Director of the Zhendong Australia China Centre for the Molecular Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine, explains. Adelson explais: “If we broke down and tested the components of many traditional Chinese medicines, we would find that individual compounds don’t have much activity on their own. It’s the combination of compounds which can be effective, and potentially means few side effects as well.”
Researchers studied CKI—a combination of the herbs Kushen and Baituling—as a unit, looking at all components together rather than just a single constituent of the whole. Results showed that CKI affected the same pathways as Western chemotherapy but acted on different genes. CKI also triggered apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
Researchers hope that this new, holistic approach to identifying the molecular action of traditional Chinese medicines will open up new avenues for research, as well as the use of CKI and other Chinese herbs as potential cancer treatments for use in the West.