Bone marrow suppression, also known as myelosuppression, is a decrease in blood stem cell activity.
Chemotherapy that is targeted against rapidly differentiated tumor cells, especially stem cells, usually causes bone marrow suppression.
Blood stem cells are the precursors of red blood cells, white blood cells, and others, and the decreases in hemoglobin, neutrophils, leukopenia, and platelet counts below normal are clinically indicative of bone marrow suppression after chemotherapy.
Currently, there is still no effective treatment to prevent bone marrow suppression, and scientists are always on the lookout for potential therapies.
Ginseng and its active compounds “ginsenosides” have been increasingly attracting scientists’ attention in recent years, for they exhibit brilliant antitumor activity with slight side effects.
Their role in inhibiting bone marrow suppression is also promising, as many studies have indicated their effects in inhibiting platelet aggregation and in reducing chemotherapy-related adverse reactions.
Ginsenoside Rg3 is the best-studied and known rare ginsenoside. A research team from China investigated whether ginsenoside Rg3 could prevent chemotherapy-induced myelosuppression.
The researchers selected out eligible 18 randomized controlled trials for further meta-analysis. These trials included a total of 2,222 patients.
Myelosuppression is graded into four Degrees I, II, III, and IV based on the acute and subacute toxicity induced by antitumor drugs.
The analysis results show that ginsenoside Rg3 treatment improved the decrease in leukocyte, hemoglobin, platelet, and neutrophil counts at toxic grades I–IV.
III-IV myelosuppression is regarded as a severe condition and shall be treated once occurring in patients. Ginsenoside Rg3 was found to improve leukocyte counts at toxic grades III-IV, despite no similar effects seen in the other three indicators.
The study reveals that ginsenoside Rg3 could help with mild and moderate bone marrow suppression, although its role in relieving severe bone marrow suppression was not established and need further exploration.
Pan L, Zhang T, Cao H, Sun H, Liu G. Ginsenoside Rg3 for Chemotherapy-Induced Myelosuppression: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:649. Published 2020 May 12. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.00649