Tibetan herbal formalae therapy for metastic/breast cancer?

Have there been tests or studies done on it?

Posted Answers


Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TM) relies on a diagnostic assessment including the pulse, tongue and urine as well as herbal and dietary therapies. No preclinical models exist for traditional medicines such as TM. The anecdotal effectiveness of TM for advanced metastatic breast cancer (MBC) has never been formally confirmed in a prospective clinical trial. We chose to evaluate the safety and feasibility of TM when administered in a manner closely resembling traditional practice as conducted by a recognized expert practitioner (co-author YD). For regulatory and logistical reasons, an Investigational New Drug License was obtained on 7 of numerous herbal formulae typically used by YD for MBC. Each formula contains 8 to 35 single herbal agents. Patients received TM as sole therapy and the protocol was later amended to include patients who were stable or slowly progressing on hormonal therapy. Based on the patientÆs history and TM examination, 2 to 4 formulae were chosen by YD and given 4 times a day. TM examination was repeated by YD every 3-4 months with changes in the formula as needed. Baseline and every 3 month tumor measurements were performed as well as monthly examinations and safety assessments. Patients were continued on TM until tumor progression. Eleven patients were enrolled and none experienced Grade III or IV toxicities. Of 9 patients evaluable for response, 1 had a partial response and 2 had stable disease for greater than 1 year. Details on the herbal regimens used and the clinical courses of patients will be presented. TM can be safely administered and trials to assess alternative medicine (AM) are feasible. Further studies and refinement of trial design will be necessary to ultimately assess the benefits of many commonly used AM approaches.


 Answer by prokopton


Tibetan Herbal Breast Cancer Treatment
Tibetan Herbal Treatment to be Tested in US Breast Cancer Study

Article date: 1999/06/03
June 3, 1999 - A traditional Tibetan diagnostic and treatment method for advanced breast cancer will be tested in a Western-style clinical trial starting this summer, the first time the herbal treatment approach has been scientifically studied for effectiveness and safety. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the trial, which will be conducted at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Yeshi Dhonden, a traditional Tibetan practitioner who regularly treats patients in the US, will collaborate with Western-trained physicians on the study of a modified version of the centuries-old approach. In the Tibetan method, the practitioner makes a diagnosis using methods such as pulse readings, examination of the tongue, and study of a urine specimen. An herbal treatment, which differs for each patient, is then prescribed. Although practitioners such as Dhonden traditionally chose combinations of herbs from a selection of at least 15 to 20 varieties, the number has been narrowed to seven for the clinical trial so researchers can more accurately study the effects of each, said Debu Tripathy, MD, principal investigator of the study. Dr. Tripathy is director of clinical research at the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at UCSF.

Dhonden will initially examine each of the 30 women to be enrolled in the study, while Dr. Tripathy and other researchers will evaluate them with Western techniques such as physical examinations, blood and liver tests, and computerized tomography (CT or "cat") scans. The researchers will follow up with the patients on a monthly basis throughout the year-long study, while Dhonden will examine them on two more occasions and may adjust the herbal formulas. The herbs, taken several times a day, are dried, ground, and pressed into marble-sized, chewable balls.

The objective of the study is to determine whether breast tumors shrink during treatment or whether cancer progresses, Dr. Tripathy said. The safety of the herbal combinations will also be studied.

Asymptomatic women diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer whose chances of successful treatment are low, and who are not in immediate need of chemotherapy or other standard therapies, are eligible for the study. Dr. Tripathy was inspired to conduct the study by one of his mentors, the late Helene Smith, PhD, a scientist who studied the genetics of breast cancer and also became one of Dhonden's patients. Dr. Smith knew that no two breast cancers were genetically identical and thought the Tibetan medical approach of a personalized diagnostic and treatment regimen might have merit and deserved investigation.

"I think it's great that there is going to be some rigorous, scientific evaluation of this," said Mary Ann Richardson, DrPH, co-principal investigator at the Center for Alternative Medicine Research in Cancer at the University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health. "They are trying to apply scientific methodology yet also maintain the traditional approach." She added scientific studies of herbal combinations and whole plants are increasingly important since many cancer patients are using them, with or without medical supervision.


 Answer by prokopton

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