Two international visiting fellows from Guang An Men hospital in Beijing, China, have consecutively joined investigators from the Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation at NCI-Frederick to explore the anti-cancer activity and immune stimulating effects of the Sheng Qi Formula (SQF). SQF is a mixture of herbs often used at Guang An Men hospital to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy. A novel aspect of the project is the use of a murine model of inflammatory breast cancer to assess the impact of the herbal formula on the function of myeloid immunosuppressive cells.
Several key findings have been obtained from this collaborative project. Oral administration of SQF alone significantly inhibited tumor development in the 4T1 murine breast cancer model. The combination of SQF and Taxol showed a small additive effect. Likewise, cyclophosphamide had only additive effects when combined with SQF. However, when SQF was combined with gemcitabine, there was a synergistic inhibition of tumor growth, as well as reduced gemcitabine-related toxicity. Scientific articles describing these research results are in development.
Another TCM herbal drug - Ku Shen Injection (KI) a mixture of two herbs (Sophora flavescens and Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae), has been investigated as part of this collaboration. KI is widely used in Chinese hospitals to control cancer pain and the side effects of chemotherapy. The data from studies of mice with implanted cancers has shown that KI can both reduce pain indicators and inhibit tumor growth. Currently, KI is also being studied for its potency in the inhibition of human prostate and breast cancer stem cells.
In July 2008, the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Ministry of Health of the Peoples Republic of China signed a research agreement to foster collaboration between researchers studying integrative medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Two groups at NCI, the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Natural Products Branch, have since established a partnership with the Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB) in China to determine if compounds isolated from various plants, including some TCM botanicals of the Yunnan Province have anti-cancer properties.
KIB has provided 58 compounds to NCI for their screening on NCI‘s 60 human cell lines, as well as other studies looking at specific cellular metabolic pathways involved in growth of cancers. In addition, KIB has sent to NCI all of the chemical structures from a 1,000-compound list in pursuit of identifying more unique compounds to screen and study.
In March 2010, NCI officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Key Laboratory of Chemistry for Natural Products of Guizhou Province and Chinese Academy of Sciences, China. The MOU states that the Key Laboratory will provide compounds and extracts isolated from Traditional Chinese Medicine, folk/tribe medicine, and other Guizhou area specific botanicals to NCI for anti-cancer activity screening or other cellular pathway functional assays. Currently a group of 243 chemical compounds with determined structures isolated at the Guizhou Key Laboratory are being studied via the NCI 60 human cancer cell line screen for growth inhibitory activity, as well as in cellular pathway analysis studies targeting specific cellular signaling and metabolic pathways involved in growth of cancers.
The lack of dialog between conventional cancer researchers and practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be a hindrance to conducting high-quality and high-impact cancer CAM research. The NCI Best Case Series Program is one project, which attempts to build bridges between the research and practice communities, in order to identify potentially promising CAM approaches and move them into prospective research. However, relatively few CAM practitioners participate in this program.
In order to better understand some of the interests and concerns of these practitioners, OCCAM performed a survey of over 100 CAM practitioners. A majority of those surveyed reported they treated cancer patients. The results of this survey were published in FY2009 (see citation below). Also, as a result of findings from this survey along with other observations and assessments, a program announcement to solicit R03 grant applications (PA-09-168; http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/pa-09-168.html) was developed, approved, and released. One of the primary goals of this announcement is to provide a mechanism for applications that would support exploratory or pilot investigations of CAM practices.
Lee C, Zia F, Olaku O, Michie J, White JD. Survey of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners regarding cancer management and research. J Soc Integr Oncol 2009:7;26-34. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19476732/