Lung Cancer:

2 April 2010

Background: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains a major global health problem because of its prevalence and poor prognosis. Treatment options are limited and there is a need to explore alterna- tives. This systematic review evaluates the role of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in association with chemotherapy for NSCLC.

Methods: English and Chinese databases were searched for RCTs comparing CHM with conventional biomedical treatment or placebo. Papers were reviewed systematically and data were analysed using standard Cochrane software Revman 5. Results: Fifteen Chinese trials involving 862 participants met the inclusion criteria. All trials were of poor quality with a considerable risk of bias. There was a significant improvement in quality of life (QoL) (increased Karnofsky Performance Status) (RR 1.83, 95% CI 1.41—2.38, p < 0.00001 for both stages III, IV only NSCLC and all stages NSCLC) and less anaemia (RR 0.37, 95% CI 0.15—0.91, p = 0.03 for stages III, IV only NSCLC; p = 0.005 for all stages NSCLC) and neutropenia (RR 0.42, 95% CI 0.22—0.82, p = 0.01 for stages III, IV only NSCLC; p < 0.00001 for all stages NSCLC) when CHM is combined with chemotherapy compared to chemotherapy alone. There was no significant difference in short term effectiveness and limited inconclusive data concerning long term survival. Five promising herbs have been identified. Conclusion: It is possible that oral CHM used in conjunction with chemotherapy may improve QoL in NSCLC. This needs to be examined further with more rigorous methodology.