Ginseng Enhances the Effects of 5-FU and Irinotecan in Human Colon Cancer Cells

5-FU (5-fluorouracil) and irinotecan are two chemotherapeutic agents widely used for colorectal cancer (Pinedo and Peters, 1988; Smorenburg et al., 2006). We evaluated the synergistic tumoricidal effects of ginseng on 5-FU and irinotecan in various human colorectal cancer cell lines, SW-480, HCT-116 and HT-29. We observed that the ginseng extract significantly inhibited cancer cell growth in a concentration-dependent manner. Cell growth decreased more with the combined treatment of ginseng and 5-FU than with 5-FU alone, suggesting that ginseng as a potential chemo-adjuvant can reduce the dose of 5-FU needed to achieve desired effects and thereby decrease the dose-related toxicity of chemotherapy (Fishbein et al., 2009; Li et al., 2009b). Subsequently, this synergistic effect between panaxadiol, a purified ginseng component, and 5-FU has been demonstrated in the same settings (Li et al., 2009a).

Cell cycle analysis data showed that panaxadiol arrested cancer cells in the G1 phase, while 5-FU affected the cells in the S phase and/or the G2/M phases. These different cell cycle phases between the two test compounds could be considered as the basis of their synergistic action. This result can also be compared to those of panaxadiol and irinotecan: panaxadiol arrested cancer cells again in the G1 phase, while irinotecan affected the cells in the G2/M phases

Fishbein, A.B., C.Z. Wang, X.L. Li, S.R. Mehendale, S. Sun, H.H. Aung and C.S. Yuan. Asian ginseng enhances the anti-proliferative effect of 5-fluorouracil on human colorectal cancer: comparison between white and red ginseng. Arch. Pharm. Res. 32: 505–513, 2009.
Li, X.L., C.Z. Wang, S.R. Mehendale, S. Sun, Q. Wang and C.S. Yuan. Panaxadiol, a purified ginseng component, enhances the anti-cancer effects of 5-fluorouracil in human colorectal cancer cells. Cancer Chemother. Pharmacol. 64: 1097–1104, 2009a.
Li, X.L., C.Z. Wang, S. Sun, S.R. Mehendale, W. Du, T.C. He and C.S. Yuan. American ginseng berry enhances chemopreventive effect of 5-FU on human colorectal cancer cells. Oncol. Rep. 22: 943–952, 2009b.
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