Background: Chinese herbal medicine is increasingly widely used as a complementary approach for control of breast cancer recurrence and metastasis. In this paper, we examined the implicit prescription patterns behind the Chinese medicinal formulae, so as to explore the Chinese medicinal compatibility patterns or rules in the treatment or control of breast cancer recurrence and metastasis.
Methods: This study was based on the herbs recorded in Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China, and the literature sources from Chinese Journal Net and China Master Dissertations Full-text Database (1990 - 2010) to analyze the compatibility rule of the prescription. Each Chinese herb was listed according to the selected medicinal formulae and the added information was organized to establish a database. The frequency and the association rules of the prescription patterns were analyzed using the SPSS Clenmentine Data Mining System. An initial statistical analysis was carried out to categorize the herbs according to their medicinal types and dosage, natures, flavors, channel tropism, and functions. Based on the categorization, the frequencies of occurrence were computed.
Results: The main prescriptive features from the selected formulae of the mining data are: (1) warm or cold herbs in the Five Properties category; sweet or bitter herbs in the Five Flavors category and with affinity to the liver meridian are the most frequently prescribed in the 96 medicinal formulae; (2) herbs with tonifying and replenishing, blood-activating and stasis-resolving, spleen-strengthening and dampness-resolving or heat-clearing and detoxicating functions that are frequently prescribed; (3) herbs with blood-tonifying, yin-tonifying, spleen-strengthening and dampness-resolving, heat-clearing and detoxicating, and blood-activating with stasis-resolving functions that are interrelated and prescribed in combination with qi-tonifying herbs.
Conclusions: The results indicate that there is a close relationship between recurrence and metastasis of breast cancer with liver dysfunctions. These prescriptions focus on the herbs for nourishing the yin-blood, and emolliating and regulating the liver which seems to be the key element in the treatment process. Meanwhile, the use of qi-tonifying and spleen-strengthening herbs also forms the basis of prescription patterns.