Complementary medicine use during cancer treatment and potential herb-drug interactions from a cross-sectional study in an academic centre

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 25;9(1):5078. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41532-3.


Complementary medicine (CM) is used by one third to one half of cancer patients throughout the world. The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence of CM use and the potential for interactions with cancer treatments in an academic oncology centre. A cross-sectional study was conducted among patients undergoing current cancer treatment. Among 132 included patients, 56% had used CM since their cancer diagnosis and 45% were using CM during cancer treatment at the time of the survey. The main CM used were green tea (35%), herbal tea (35%), homeopathy (27%), dietary supplements (27%), and herbal medicines (27%). A small majority of patients (58%) spontaneously mentioned the use of CM to their oncologist. Of 42 identified combinations of concomitant use of biologically based CM and anticancer agents among the study patients, the potential for pharmacokinetic interactions of clinical relevance was not expected in 17 combinations (40%), hypothetical and deemed unlikely in 23 (55%), and of probable low clinical relevance in 2 (5%). Considering the high prevalence of CM use, active enquiries should be made by healthcare professionals to detect symptoms that may relate to CM tolerance and effects or that suggest interactions between CM and cancer treatments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Tea / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tea