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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2007 Feb;59(3):369-74. Epub 2006 Jun 24.

Cisplatin's tumoricidal effect on human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells was not attenuated by American ginseng.

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Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research, The Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, MC 4028, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



We previously observed that American ginseng berry and ginsenoside Re attenuated cisplatin-induced emesis in a rat model, suggesting that the herb may have a value in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting. However, it is not clear whether consuming ginseng concurrently with chemotherapy affects the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents. In this study, we explored if the ginseng extract and its constituents, ginsenosides Rb1, Rb3, and Re, alter tumoricidal activity of cisplatin in human cancer cells.


Tumoricidal effects of cisplatin, and/or American ginseng berry extract (AGBE) and ginsenosides Rb1, Rb3, and Re, on human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells were measured as cell proliferation in vitro. Cell counts were performed in MCF-7 cells pretreated with test agents for 72 h.


Cisplatin decreased MCF-7 cell proliferation significantly in a concentration-dependent manner. Compared to control group, cisplatin reduced the cell proliferations to 56.5+/-3.3% at 1 microg/ml, to 36.6+/-2.4% at 5 microg/ml, and to 26.9+/-2.4% at 15 microg/ml (P<0.01). AGBE also inhibited the cell proliferation significantly, although in a less extended manner. When the berry extract at 0.5 mg/ml was used with cisplatin at 1 microg/ml, a significant enhancement of cisplatin's activity was observed (35.8+/-2.5%; P<0.05). We also observed that Rb1 did not change cisplatin's activity; Rb3, at a higher concentration, increased cisplatin's anti-proliferation activity (48.0+/-1.2%; P<0.05); Re increased cisplatin's activity (Re 0.1 mg/ml, 48.0+/-2.8%; Re 0.3 mg/ml, 31.9+/-2.2%, P<0.01).


Our data suggest that AGBE and the tested ginsenosides do not attenuate cisplatin's tumoricidal activity in MCF-7 cells, but in fact may actually enhance it. Additionally, the ginseng extract and ginsenoside Re by themselves exerted anti-proliferative activity against MCF-7 cells. The herb might potentially serve a complementary role with the chemotherapeutic agents in treating cancer, in addition to decreasing chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting.

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