Use of dong quai (Angelica sinensis) to treat peri- or postmenopausal symptoms in women with breast cancer: is it appropriate?

Menopause. Nov-Dec 2005;12(6):734-40. doi: 10.1097/01.gme.0000184419.65943.01. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

Abstract

Objective: Regarding the growing use of alternative therapies for peri- or postmenopausal symptoms, we evaluated the effect of a water extract of Angelica sinensis (dong quai), used for peri- or postmenopausal relief, on the proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive (MCF-7) and negative (BT-20) breast cancer cells in vitro.

Design: The present study was designed to investigate the growth-modulating effect of dong quai water extract, alone or in the presence of 17beta-estradiol and 4-hydroxytamoxifen, on MCF-7 and BT-20 cell cultures using MTT proliferation assay.

Results: The water extract of dong quai dose-dependently and significantly stimulated the proliferation of MCF-7 cells with a weak estrogen-agonistic activity in the presence of 17beta-estradiol, as evidenced by the significant suppression by 4-hydroxytamoxifen. Meanwhile, the extract significantly exerted a growth-stimulating effect on BT-20 in a dose-dependent manner with or without 17beta-estradiol. No obvious difference was found in the growth of BT-20 cells treated with the extract in the presence of 17beta-estradiol or 4-hydroxytamoxifen.

Conclusions: The water extract of dong quai stimulated the growth of MCF-7 cells, possibly dependent of weak estrogen-agonistic activity, and augmented the BT-20 cell proliferation independent of estrogen receptor-mediated pathway. The present study provides data regarding the estrogen-like activity of dong quai, which might assist in decision making on herbal therapy use by women at risk for both estrogen-sensitive and insensitive breast cancer. Because of the lack of clinical data demonstrating the potential side effects of dong quai, its use in herbal preparations for the treatment of peri- or postmenopausal symptoms, especially in women with breast cancer, warrants caution pending further study.

MeSH terms

  • Angelica sinensis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Estradiol / administration & dosage
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estradiol / therapeutic use
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Postmenopause / drug effects
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured

Substances

  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen
  • afimoxifene
  • Estradiol
  • dong quai