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J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Aug;19(8):714-20. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0295. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

Dangerous combinations: Ingestible CAM supplement use during chemotherapy in patients with ovarian cancer.

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Molecular Diagnostics Program, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington 98109-1024, USA.



Some ingestible complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) supplements, including herbal remedies, teas, and vitamins, have biological activities that make them likely to interact poorly with conventional chemotherapeutic treatments. This study surveyed women with ovarian cancer to document the extent to which women use ingestible CAM supplements and conventional chemotherapeutic treatments that are believed to be of potential concern when used together.


A total of 219 patients with ovarian cancer who received care from 1 of 2 participating conventional oncology practices were surveyed about CAM use during and after ovarian cancer treatment.


A total of 200 women reported having chemotherapy to treat their ovarian cancer. Of those, 79 (40%) reported using 1 or more CAM supplements that could be cause for concern when taken with 1 or more of the chemotherapy medications they were receiving. Many patients took multiple supplements of potential concern. Of these women, 42% (n=33) consulted with a conventional provider and 24% (n=19) consulted with a CAM provider about the contraindicated supplements they used.


Although it is not clear that any of these contraindicated combinations of CAM and conventional therapy actually caused adverse outcomes, increased toxicities, or reduced the effectiveness of primary therapies, all these effects are possible given the substances being used in combination. Research is needed to understand the real risk associated with CAM and conventional polypharmacy. If risks associated with CAM use prove substantial, then improved systems to assure that all women get advice regarding supplement use during ovarian cancer treatment will be needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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