Potential of chemotherapy-herb interactions in adult cancer patients

Jeannine S. McCune, Amy J. Hatfield, Anne A.R. Blackburn, Patricia O. Leith, Robert B. Livingston, Georgiana K. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Goals of work: The purpose of this study was to examine the specific herbs or vitamins (HV) used by patients receiving chemotherapy. Specifically, the following aspects were investigated: (1) HV use among adult cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, (2) the frequency of potential chemotherapy-HV interactions, (3) communication patterns between oncologists and their cancer patients taking HV, and (4) patients' reactions to two hypothetical scenarios of chemotherapy-HV interactions. Patients and methods: Adult cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at a university-based outpatient clinic over a 1-month period were sent a validated eight-page questionnaire regarding the use of complementary/alternative medicine, focusing on HV use. A total of 76 patients participated; relevant medical information was obtained from study participants' charts. The chemotherapy received was compared with HV use to assess for potentially detrimental chemotherapy-HV interactions. Results: HV use in patients receiving chemotherapy was common (78%), with 27% of the study participants being at risk of a detrimental chemotherapy-HV interaction. Most patients (>85%) would discontinue their HV or ask their medical oncologist for advice if a detrimental chemotherapy-HV interaction was suspected. Although most patients discussed HV use with their oncologist, the majority also relied on their friends and naturopathic physician for information regarding HV. Conclusions: Considerable potential exists for detrimental chemotherapy-HV interactions. Methods to improve communication of HV use between cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and health-care practitioners are necessary to identify and minimize the risk of these interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-462
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Herb
  • Interaction
  • Vitamin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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