Effects of adjuvant traditional Chinese medicine therapy on long-term survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma

Phytomedicine. 2019 Sep;62:152930. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2019.152930. Epub 2019 May 11.


Background: Many patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Asian countries seek adjuvant therapy with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This study aims to explore the benefits of TCM therapy in the long-term survival of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in China.

Patients and methods: In total, 3483 patients with HCC admitted to the Beijing Ditan Hospital of Capital Medical University were enrolled in this study. We used 1:1 frequency matching by sex, age, diagnosis time, Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer staging, and type of treatments to compare the TCM users (n = 526) and non-TCM users (n = 526). A Cox multivariate regression model was employed to evaluate the effects of TCM therapy on the HR value and Kaplan-Meier survival curve for mortality risk in HCC patients. A log-rank test was performed to analyze the effect of TCM therapy on the survival time of HCC patients.

Results: The Cox multivariate analysis indicated that TCM therapy was an independent protective factor for 5-year survival in patients with HCC (adjusted HR = 0.46, 95% CI 0.40-0.52, p < 0.0001). The Kaplan-Meier curve also showed that after PS matching, TCM users had a higher overall survival rate and a higher progression-free survival rate than non-TCM users. TCM users, regardless of the classification of etiology, tumor stage, liver function level, or type of treatment, all benefited significantly from TCM therapy. In addition, it was found that the most commonly used Chinese patent medications are Fufang Banmao Capsule, Huaier Granule, and Jinlong Capsule.

Conclusion: Using traditional Chinese medications as adjuvant therapy can probably prolong median survival time and improve the overall survival among patients with HCC. Further scientific studies and clinical trials are needed to examine the efficiency and safety.

Keywords: Anticancer Chinese pattern medicine; Complementary alternative medicine; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Overall mortality; Traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • China
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal