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      Therapeutic Applications of Herbal Medicines for Cancer Patients

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          Abstract

          Medicinal herbs and their derivative phytocompounds are being increasingly recognized as useful complementary treatments for cancer. A large volume of clinical studies have reported the beneficial effects of herbal medicines on the survival, immune modulation, and quality of life (QOL) of cancer patients, when these herbal medicines are used in combination with conventional therapeutics. Here, we briefly review some examples of clinical studies that investigated the use of herbal medicines for various cancers and the development of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in this emerging research area. In addition, we also report recent studies on the biochemical and cellular mechanisms of herbal medicines in specific tumor microenvironments and the potential application of specific phytochemicals in cell-based cancer vaccine systems. This review should provide useful technological support for evidence-based application of herbal medicines in cancer therapy.

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          Most cited references 143

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          Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research.

          Curcuma longa (turmeric) has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory conditions. Turmeric constituents include the three curcuminoids: curcumin (diferuloylmethane; the primary constituent and the one responsible for its vibrant yellow color), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin, as well as volatile oils (tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone), sugars, proteins, and resins. While numerous pharmacological activities, including antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, have been attributed to curcumin, this article focuses on curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties and its use for inflammatory conditions. Curcumin's effect on cancer (from an anti-inflammatory perspective) will also be discussed; however, an exhaustive review of its many anticancer mechanisms is outside the scope of this article. Research has shown curcumin to be a highly pleiotropic molecule capable of interacting with numerous molecular targets involved in inflammation. Based on early cell culture and animal research, clinical trials indicate curcumin may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer. Because of curcumin's rapid plasma clearance and conjugation, its therapeutic usefulness has been somewhat limited, leading researchers to investigate the benefits of complexing curcumin with other substances to increase systemic bioavailability. Numerous in-progress clinical trials should provide an even deeper understanding of the mechanisms and therapeutic potential of curcumin.
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            The tumour microenvironment as a target for chemoprevention.

            New data indicate that primary dysfunction in the tumour microenvironment, in addition to epithelial dysfunction, can be crucial for carcinogenesis. These recent findings make a compelling case for targeting the microenvironment for cancer chemoprevention. We review new insights into the pathophysiology of the microenvironment and new approaches to control it with chemopreventive agents. The microenvironment of a cancer is an integral part of its anatomy and physiology, and functionally, one cannot totally dissociate this microenvironment from what have traditionally been called 'cancer cells'. Finally, we make suggestions for more effective clinical implementation of this knowledge in preventive strategies.
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              Legumes and soybeans: overview of their nutritional profiles and health effects.

              Legumes play an important role in the traditional diets of many regions throughout the world. In contrast in Western countries beans tend to play only a minor dietary role despite the fact that they are low in fat and are excellent sources of protein, dietary fiber, and a variety of micronutrients and phytochemicals. Soybeans are unique among the legumes because they are a concentrated source of isoflavones. Isoflavones have weak estrogenic properties and the isoflavone genistein influences signal transduction. Soyfoods and isoflavones have received considerable attention for their potential role in preventing and treating cancer and osteoporosis. The low breast cancer mortality rates in Asian countries and the putative antiestrogenic effects of isoflavones have fueled speculation that soyfood intake reduces breast cancer risk. The available epidemiologic data are limited and only weakly supportive of this hypothesis, however, particularly for postmenopausal breast cancer. The data suggesting that soy or isoflavones may reduce the risk of prostate cancer are more encouraging. The weak estrogenic effects of isoflavones and the similarity in chemical structure between soybean isoflavones and the synthetic isoflavone ipriflavone, which was shown to increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, suggest that soy or isoflavones may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Rodent studies tend to support this hypothesis, as do the limited preliminary data from humans. Given the nutrient profile and phytochemical contribution of beans, nutritionists should make a concerted effort to encourage the public to consume more beans in general and more soyfoods in particular.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
                Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
                ECAM
                Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM
                Hindawi Publishing Corporation
                1741-427X
                1741-4288
                2013
                11 July 2013
                11 July 2013
                : 2013
                Affiliations
                Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center, Academia Sinica, No. 128, Section 2, Academia Road, Nankang, Taipei 115, Taiwan
                Author notes

                Academic Editor: Yoshiharu Motoo

                Article
                10.1155/2013/302426
                3727181
                23956768
                Copyright © 2013 Shu-Yi Yin et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review Article

                Complementary & Alternative medicine

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