Ginseng is a well-known traditional herbal medicine in East Asia, and ginsenosides, the main bioactive substances in ginseng, contribute predominantly to its pharmacological benefits.
Rg3 is a best-known ginsenoside that has been widely studied in the past decades. Scientists have found that ginsenoside Rg3 exhibits prominent anticancer activity. The known antitumor action mechanisms for ginsenoside Rg3 include:
- inducing cancer cell cycle arrest
- inhibiting proliferation
- suppressing metastasis
- inducing apoptosis
- curbing angiogenesis
- exerting toxicity to cancer cells
- reducing multidrug resistance
- regulating immunity
Two is better than one. Due to the existence of promising anticancer activity, ginsenoside Rg3 has been regarded as a potential cancer-fighting adjuvant therapy. It has shown good performance when used together with first-line chemotherapy drugs in clinical studies.
A randomized controlled study investigated the effect of ginsenoside Rg3 on the postoperative life span of patients with non-small cell lung cancer. 133 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were randomly assigned to 3 groups: ginsenoside Rg3, ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy and chemotherapy, so as to compare their therapeutic effects.
The results revealed that the combination therapy with ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy achieved the most prolonged postoperative life span among patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Ginsenoside Rg3 might work through improving the immune function and inhibiting tumor angiogenesis to good effect.
The above trial could provide a quick glimpse of the combining effect of ginsenoside Rg3 and chemotherapy on non-small cell lung cancer treatment.
A meta-analysis is a quantitative study design widely used to assess the results of previous research to induce a conclusion in a systematic manner.
In a meta-analysis of the effects of ginsenoside Rg3 on non-small cell lung cancer, six qualified trials were included to analyze the effect of ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy, compared to that of chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus placebo.
Likewise, a combination of ginsenoside Rg3 and chemotherapy showed synergistic therapeutic enhancement. Ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy increased the response rate, disease control for patients with stage II-IV non-small cell lung cancer.
In China, ginsenoside Rg3 has been used as an approved adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment. A meta-analysis review was conducted to evaluate the clinical efficacy and safety of ginsenoside Rg3 in combination with chemotherapy for digestive cancer in China.
Out of 647 research articles from some specific databases, the researchers selected 18 eligible randomized controlled trials regarding the effect of ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy on digestive cancer for analysis.
The statistical outcomes showed that when used together with chemotherapy, ginsenoside Rg3 improved the objective response rate, disease control rate, 1-year survival rate, respectively. With this said, ginsenoside Rg3 could help enhance the therapeutic effect, improve life quality and alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy among digestive cancer patients.
The meta-analyses mentioned concluded the synergistic effect of ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy. The use of ginsenoside Rg3 for cancer treatment shows great potential, with a considerable proportion of cancer patients reportedly using ginseng as a complementary therapy.
Ginsenosides use, including Rg3, Rh2, is popular among cancer patients in East Asian counties, and people use ginsenosides in hope of reducing treatment fatigue and improving postoperative quality of life.
Other newly identified ginsenosides like Rk1, Rg5, Rk2, Rk3, Rh4, aPPD, etc. have been documented to present better antitumor activity than ginsenoside Rg3.
Large-scale clinical trials are needed to better study the antitumor effects of ginsenoside Rg3 plus chemotherapy. Also, technologies for improving the utilization and absorption of ginsenoside Rg3 act as a huge challenge ahead of wide application, given poor bioavailability.
Lu, Ping & Su, Wei & Miao, Zhan-hui & Niu, Hong-rui & Liu, Jing & Hua, Qin-liang. (2008). Effect and mechanism of ginsenoside Rg3 on postoperative life span of patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Chinese journal of integrative medicine. 14. 33-6. 10.1007/s11655-007-9002.
Hu, Shan-shan & Zhou, Li-kun & Ba, Yi & Li, Hong-li & Zhu, Cai-hua. (2011). A Meta-analysis of Ginsenoside Rg3 for Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Clin Oncol Cancer Res. 8. 175-180. 10.1007/s11805-011-0578-4.
Pan, Linlin & Zhang, Tingting & Sun, Haiyang & Liu, Guirong. (2019). Ginsenoside Rg3 (Shenyi Capsule) Combined with Chemotherapy for Digestive System Cancer in China: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2019. 1-19. 10.1155/2019/2417418.