Compound kushen injection (CKI) is approved for use in China to treat various cancer tumours, usually as an adjunct to western chemotherapy - but how it works has not been known. This study, published in the journal Oncotarget, is one of the first to characterise the molecular action of a Traditional Chinese Medicine rather than breaking it down to its constituent parts.
"Most Traditional Chinese Medicine are based on hundreds or thousands of years of experience with their use in China," says study leader, Professor David Adelson, Director of the Zhendong Australia - China Centre for the Molecular Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
"There is often plenty of evidence that these medicines have a therapeutic benefit, but there isn't the understanding of how or why. If we broke down and tested the components of many Traditional Chinese Medicines, we would find that individual compounds don't have much activity on their own. It's the combination of compounds which can be effective, and potentially means few side-effects as well."