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Integr Cancer Ther. 2002 Mar;1(1):83-9.

Clinical corner: herb-drug interactions in cancer chemotherapy: theoretical concerns regarding drug metabolizing enzymes.

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Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care, 1800 Sherman, Suite 515, Evanston, IL 60201, USA.


Interactions between herbal medicines and conventional drugs have recently been reported; the most significant herb with such drug interactions is Saint John's wort, an inducer of cytochrome P450 3A3/4, an enzyme responsible for clearance of many clinically important drugs from the body. Foods (especially grapefruit) and habits or lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol consumption may also alter the metabolism of drugs through effects on the cytochrome P450 system. The authors review here the functioning of the drug-metabolizing enzymes and discuss their particular significance in cancer chemotherapy treatment. They then present the herbal medicines, foods, and lifestyle factors that induce or inhibit drug-metabolizing enzymes that are important for both cancer chemotherapy drugs and drugs used adjunctively in cancer treatment. It is notable that no actual herb-drug interactions have been reported clinically in cancer treatment, and their potential for interaction still must be regarded as theoretical. Although some chemotherapy patients may be interested in taking herbal medicines that could potentially interact with cancer chemotherapy agents, it may be wise to counsel them to use other means of addressing the problems for which they use specific herbs during the time they receive chemotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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