Chinese Medicine Compound Investigated For Anti-Cancer Properties Interview with:

Professor David Adelson PhD Chair of Bioinformatics The University of Adelaide

Dr. David Adelson

Professor David Adelson PhD
Chair of Bioinformatics
The University of Adelaide What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of diseases, but with few exceptions, has not been linked to specific molecular mechanisms that might explain its mode of action. This is because the Chinese Medicine formulations are often combinations of multiple plant extracts and are thus complex molecular mixtures. Fractionation of these extracts to test individual components often demonstrates low or no activity for individual components of these mixtures.

We decided to use a Systems Biology approach to investigate a well characterized, injectable extract from two plants that has been commonly used in conjunction with Western chemotherapy to treat cancer patients in China. We do not fractionate the mixture, but test it “as is” in order to determine the molecular consequences of the complex mixture. We limited this study to a specific breast cancer cell line (MCF-7) in order to determine if this preparation, Compound Kushen Injection (CKI), can directly affect cancer cells.

We found that CKI can kill MCF-7 cells and can also alter gene expression patterns associated with cell cycle control and cell death. The gene expression networks/pathways altered by CKI are similar to those altered by the Western chemotherapeutic drug 5-Fluorouracil (5FU), but the specific genes in those pathways with expression altered by CKI are often different to those affected by 5FU. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are two main messages to take away from this report.

  • The first is that it is possible to detect medically relevant specific molecular perturbations resulting from treatment with complex plant extracts.
  • The second is that it appears that one of the effects of CKI is to directly perturb cancer cell cycle pathways. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We need to extend and expand this research in the short term. First to other cancer cell lines to look for common pathways (if any) affected by CKI across cancers.

Second, to examine the molecular effects of CKI on the immune system to see if it modulates immunity relevant to tumour biology. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Identification of candidate anti-cancer molecular mechanisms of compound kushen injection using functional genomics
Zhipeng Qu, Jian Cui,, Yuka Harata-Lee,, Thazin Nwe Aung, Qianjin Feng, Joy M. Raison, R. Daniel Kortschak, David L. Adelson
Department of Ge
DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.11788
Published: September 1, 2016

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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