Combining traditional forms of Chinese and Western medicine could offer new hope for developing new treatments for some cancers, say experts from universities in Cardiff and Peking.
Prof Wen Jiang from Cardiff University said they have discovered how a formula of traditional Chinese medicine works to stop cancer spreading.
The universities have been collaborating for two years.
Prof Jiang described the breakthrough as “ancient medicine, modern thinking”.
Experts from the Cardiff School of Medicine joined forces with Peking University in 2012 to test the health benefits of the Chinese herbal medicine called Yangzheng Xiaoji.
The formula, consisting of 14 herbs, has previously been shown to be beneficial to cancer patients but until this latest research, the way in which it works had remained unknown.
The joint research has investigated how the formula works and discovered that it blocks a pathway, stopping the spread of cancer cells in the body.
Prof Jiang, the director of the Cardiff University- Peking University Joint Cancer Institute at Cardiff, explained: “Traditional Chinese medicine where compounds are extracted from natural products or herbs have been practised for centuries in China, Korea, Japan and other countries in Asia.
“Although a few successes, most of the traditional remedies are short of scientific explanation which has inevitably led to scepticism – especially amongst traditionalists in the West.
“As a result, we set out to test the success of a Chinese medicine and then consider how combining it alongside traditional methods like chemotherapy could result in positive outcome for patients.”
The professor said the Chinese formula has been shown to be beneficial to patients with certain solid tumours, when used alone and in conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy.
He added: “It suggests that combining the formula with conventional as well as new therapies could hold the key to developing new treatments for cancer patients.
Clinical trials of the combined treatment for lung and other cancers have already begun and were providing positive results, Prof Jiang added.