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Last Updated: 05/06/13

International Partnerships and Collaborations

Many complementary and alternative medicine therapies originate as traditional medicines from other countries. OCCAM supports the following international partnerships and collaborations:

International Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine
for Cancer Treatment, China

Following a successful pilot study, the NCI is supporting a cooperative agreement to develop the International Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Treatment (ICTCM) that partners the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) with the Cancer Hospital, Fudan University in Shanghai, China (Project number: 3U19CA121503). While NCI has supported research in individual topics related to TCM, such as acupuncture, these are the first NCI grants to support the development of an international collaborative partnership to study multiple aspects of TCM. Researchers with the center will investigate the benefits of some traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments for cancer patients.

During the 2-year pilot study that began in 2003, the ICTCM investigated 3 aspects of TCM: a) herbal and natural treatments that target the disease and related symptoms; b) acupuncture for some side effects of cancer treatment; and c) the bio-behavioral effects of qigong and other mind/body interventions. This work was advanced further under a new 4-year cooperative agreement, which was also extended for two additional years. The investigators have completed Phase I clinical trials on huachansu (a TCM therapy derived from sterilized toad skin extract), acupuncture to prevent prolonged postoperative ileus, and qigong for women with breast cancer. Phase II clinical trials of huachansu combined with gemcitabine in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, and acupoint stimulation to prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting were finalized and data analyses are ongoing. A new study combining tai chi and qigong has been completed and a publication is in progress.

The phase I trial of huanchansu for the treatment of patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, non-small cell cancer, and pancreatic cancer has been completed. In this trial, huanchansu has shown to be well-tolerated and can result in disease stabilization in patient subsets.

A study on bufalin, a component of huachansu, has shown that Na+/K+-ATPase α3 might serve as a therapeutic target for bufalin in hepatocellular cancer, and its expression status may help predict sensitivity of HCC cells to bufalin treatment.

ICTCM has shown to be central in building new collaborative studies. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, PI and his team were able to secure a new grant with Fudan University entitled “Placebo Controlled Trial of Acupuncture to prevent Radiation-induced Xerostomia” (R01CA148707).


Meng Z, Yang P, Shen Y, Bei W, Zhang Y, Ge Y, Newman R, Cohen L, Liu L, Thornton B, Chang D, Liao Z, Kurzrock R. Pilot study of huachansu in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, nonsmall-cell lung cancer, or pancreatic cancer

Link of publication in Cancer:

Li H, Wang P, Gao Y, Zhu X, Liu L, Cohen L, Meng Z, and Yang P. Na+/K+-ATPase alpha 3 mediates sensitivity of hepatocellular carcinoma cells to bufalin. Oncology Reports 25: 825-830, 2011

Link to publication in Oncology Reports:

Meng ZQ, Garcia MK,Chiang JS, Peng HT, Shi YQ,Fu J, Liu LM, Liao ZX, Zhang Y, Bei WY, Thornton B,Palmer JL, McQuade J, Cohen L. Electro-acupuncture to prevent prolonged postoperative ileus: a randomized clinical trial. World J Gastroenterol 16: 104-11, 2010.

An abstract on a Phase II trial on huachansu and pancreatic cancer was presented at GI ASCO 2011. A publication is in progress.

Meng Z, Liu L, Shen Y, Yang P, Cohen L, Huo Y, Zhao Q, Ng CS, Chang DZ, Garrett CR. A randomized phase II study of gemcitabine plus the cardiac glycoside huachansu in the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer. J Clin Oncol 29: 2011 (suppl 4; abstr 284).

International Center for the Evaluation of East Asian Botanicals for Cancer, China

Investigators at Harvard University in collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University intend to systematically evaluate traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) botanicals for their anti-cancer properties (Project number: 5U19CA128534-04). The objectives are to establish and maintain a library of authenticated TCM botanical extracts for scientific evaluation, to create a high throughput and combinatorial screening core to test the botanicals individually and in combination for their activity in bioassays relating to cancer, and to test extracts and fractions with optimal activity in relevant animal tumor models. The Center consists of two projects: selective cytotoxicity and angiogenesis, and three cores: administrative, botanical acquisition and authentication, and screening and chemical characterization. The project was started in September 2006 with an expected end date of July 2011.

The findings of these projects may have translational potential into clinical investigations for cancer treatment. It may establish a future model for systemically evaluating botanicals traditionally used for the treatment and prevention of cancer. In addition, this cooperative agreement affords the potential for an important public/private partnership to move the field of traditional Chinese herbal medicine significantly forward.


Eisenberg DM, Harris ES, Littlefield BA, Cao S, Craycroft JA, Scholten R, Bayliss P, Fu Y, Wang W, Qiao Y, Zhao Z, Chen H, Liu Y, Kaptchuk T, Hahn WC, Wang X, Roberts T, Shamu CE, Clardy J. Developing a library of authenticated Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) plants for systematic biological evaluation--rationale, methods and preliminary results from a Sino-American collaboration. Fitoterapia. 2011 Jan;82(1):17-33.

Intramural Research Collaboration with Guang An Men Hospital, Beijing, China

Two international visiting fellows from Guang An Men hospital in Beijing, China, have consecutively joined investigators from the Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation at NCI-Frederick to explore the anti-cancer activity and immune stimulating effects of the Sheng Qi Formula (SQF). SQF is a mixture of herbs often used at Guang An Men hospital to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy. A novel aspect of the project is the use of a murine model of inflammatory breast cancer to assess the impact of the herbal formula on the function of myeloid immunosuppressive cells.

Several key findings have been obtained from this collaborative project. Oral administration of SQF alone significantly inhibited tumor development in the 4T1 murine breast cancer model. The combination of SQF and Taxol showed a small additive effect. Likewise, cyclophosphamide had only additive effects when combined with SQF. However, when SQF was combined with gemcitabine, there was a synergistic inhibition of tumor growth, as well as reduced gemcitabine-related toxicity. Scientific articles describing these research results are in the planning stages of submission.

Another TCM herbal drug — Ku Shen Injection (KI) a mixture of two herbs (Sophora flavescens and Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae), has been investigated as part of this collaboration. KI is widely used in Chinese hospitals to control cancer pain and the side effects of chemotherapy. The data from studies of mice with implanted cancers has shown that KI can both reduce pain indicators and inhibit tumor growth. Currently, KI is also being studied for its potency in the inhibition of human prostate and breast cancer stem cells.

Intramural Research Collaboration with Kunming Institute of Botany, China

In July 2008, the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Ministry of Health of the Peoples Republic of China signed a research agreement to foster collaboration between researchers studying integrative medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Two groups at NCI, the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Natural Products Branch, have since established a partnership with the Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB) in China to determine if compounds isolated from various plants, including some TCM botanicals of the Yun Nan Province have anti-cancer properties.

KIB has provided 58 compounds to NCI for their screening on NCI‘s 60 human cell lines, as well as other studies looking at specific cellular metabolic pathways involved in growth of cancers. In addition, KIB has sent to NCI all of the chemical structures from a 1,000-compound list in pursuit of identifying more unique compounds to screen and study.

Intramural Research Collaboration with the Key Laboratory of Chemistry for Natural Products of Guizhou Province and Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

In March 2010, NCI officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Key Laboratory of Chemistry for Natural Products of Guizhou Province and Chinese Academy of Sciences, China. The MOU states that the Key Laboratory will provide compounds and extracts isolated from Traditional Chinese Medicine, folk/tribe medicine, and other Guizhou area specific botanicals to NCI for anti-cancer activity screening or other cellular pathway functional assays. Currently a group of 243 chemical compounds with determined structures isolated at the Guizhou Key Laboratory are being studied via the NCI 60 human cancer cell line screen for growth inhibitory activity, as well as in cellular pathway analysis studies targeting specific cellular signaling and metabolic pathways involved in growth of cancers.