Chinese Herbal Medicine and Chemotherapy in the Treatment of Colon Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

We have been awarded a $70,243 one-year research grant from the prestigious Institute of East-West Medicine of New York to conduct a meta-analysis in which we will systematically identify all published randomized trials that provided patients who have colon cancer with Chinese herbs in combination with their chemotherapy.

Following our successful analysis of clinical trials testing combinations of herbal medicine and chemotherapy for lung cancer, we’re now turning our attention to colon cancer. In medical centers across Asia, patients being treated for colon cancer frequently use herbal medicine in combination with their chemotherapy. The Pine Street Foundation is now critically examining published studies to see whether Chinese herbal medicine, when added to chemotherapy, could measurably improve treatment outcomes for people with colon cancer, as compared to using the same chemotherapy alone.

We will be looking for the impact of Chinese herbal medicine on both immediate results (do people using herbal medicine experience less damage to white blood cells or less drug toxicity?) and long-term results (do people using herbal medicine live longer after treatment and is their quality of life better?), as compared to treatment with chemotherapy alone.

We will also be looking carefully at the quality of the published studies. Most of the studies we have located in our systematic search of the medical literature were published in China and one of our goals with this meta-analysis is to better understand the level of scientific quality of these studies; many researchers in the Western scientific community have criticized Chinese studies for their low quality of design and reporting.

By analyzing these studies, we’ll determine what study quality problems are most significant and where improvement is needed. Pine Street has three primary aims in conducting this meta-analysis. First, we are using the results of this study as a basis for designing a double-blinded, randomized trial for patients with colon cancer. Second, by pointing out where improvements in study methodology are needed, we hope to  contribute to the improvement in quality of clinical studies in China. Third, we want to educate readers outside of China on the vast quantity of research being conducted there, research that highlights the potential clinical benefits of integrative medical care.

We are in the final data analysis and manuscript drafting stage and expect to be publish this paper in 2014.

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