Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a type of cancer that affects the bone narrow, more specifically the blood-forming cells within (known as myeloid cells). The condition has subtle beginning, slow progression and presents with non-specific signs and symptoms, which is why they are often underestimated by the patients. They include excessive weakness and tiredness, recurrent infections, easy bruising and bleeding, abdominal discomfort. CML is often diagnosed by accident, when the patient is prescribed complete blood count (CBC) for another reason. Treatment of CML depends on its stage and may include targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, interferon, steam cells transplant.
Alternative medicine and Chinese herbal medicine
As every patient diagnosed with cancer, patients with CML are very concerned about their condition and often seek for alternative treatment methods. That is why numerous researches are aimed to prove the efficacy and safety of Traditional Chinese medicine in treating patients with various health issues.
A study conducted at China Medical University in collaboration with National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan and Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare made some encouraging conclusions, regarding the use of Traditional Chinese herbs by patients with CML. Two groups of 233 patients were studied- the first one received Chinese Herbal medicine (CHM), while the second one did not. Comparison at the end of the research showed that:
- Patients using Chinese herbal medicine in addition to their main therapy, showed extended survival (3.44 years for non-CHM patients, compared to 4.39 years for patients receiving CHM). Similar results were also obtained in other studies. (Chen, T.-C., L.-C. Chen, Y.-B. Huang, and C.-S. Chang. 2014. Imatinib adherence associated clinical outcomes of chronic myeloid leukaemia treatment in Taiwan. Int. J. Clin. Pharm. 36:172–181.)
- The advantages of Chinese herbal medicine are dose-dependent. The longer use of CHM treatment is associated with decreased mortality rates. Patients using CHM for more than 180 days showed greater reduction in mortality rates than those who received it for 30 days or less.
- Various herbal options showed efficacy in the management of CML. Single-herb products as well as herbal mixtures may be applied in patients with this condition.
These results encourage the further investigation of alternative Chinese herbal medicine in order to study the mechanisms of its positive impact on molecular level. Possible additional benefits and the most effective herb or herbal mixture amongst the different options currently available are yet to be determined. In conclusion CHM is a complementary treatment aimed to increase life expectancy with, unlike conventional medicine, very few side effects and contraindications.
1. Besa E, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Medscape, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/199425-overview
2. Fleischer T, Chang TT, Chiang JH et. al., Adjunctive Chinese Herbal Medicine therapy improves survival of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia: a nationwide population-based cohort study, Cancer medicine, 15 January 2016, DOI: 10.1002/cam4.627