A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Breast cancer is currently the most common cancer in women, and it accounts for 11.6% of all cancer diagnoses in 2018. Breast cancer patients frequently resort to alternative medicine in addition to conventional Western therapy. This study is to evaluate clinical effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) on breast cancer by conducting meta-analyses on 81 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with a total of 7215 subjects from eight databases. All RCTs compared patients using Western therapy alone and those using additional CHM therapy to evaluate the difference of primary (tumor response, mean time to progression (mTTP), overall survival (OS) and progression free survival (PFS)) and secondary outcome measures (tumor markers).
Results showed that under the RECIST1.1 criteria, 52% patients with additional CHM therapy (67%, under WHO crite- ria) achieved either a complete response (CR) or a partial response (PR), compared to 38% patients with Western therapy alone (53%, under the WHO criteria). The risk ratio was 1.31 (p < 0.00001, 95% CI = 1.15–1.50) for patients with CHM plus Western therapy and 1.25 (p < 0.00001, 95% CI = 1.18–1.98) for those with Western therapy. Moreover, patients with complementary CHM therapy were associated with an mTTP of 2.79 months longer (p < 0.00001) and an OS of 1.90 months longer (p < 0.00001); they also had an increase in 3-year PFS (p = 0.002), 2- (p = 0.0002) and 5-year (p = 0.006) OS rates. Therefore, complementary CHM therapy might demonstrate clinical benefits for breast cancer patients in terms of tumor response and survival.
Clinical studies with further stratification of tumor stages and intervention types are highly warranted.
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