The popularity of traditional herbal medicine (THM) being used as complementary medicines or alternative medicines is increasing. On the other hand, the development of multidrug resistance (MDR) remains a major hurdle to successful cancer chemotherapy. Some THMs capable of reversing MDR may contribute to the improvement of clinical outcomes in cancer chemotherapy. Herein, 19 kinds of herb were chosen from the ingredients of major THMs, and their effects on the sensitivity to anticancer drugs of tumor cells were investigated using the human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells. Focusing on the major mechanism for MDR, i.e., MDR1/P-glycoprotein, the effects of herbal extracts on its transport function were also examined using a MDR1 substrate Rhodamine123. Glycyrrhizae Radix, Rhei Rhizoma, Scutellariae Radix, Poria, Zizyphi Fructus, Zingiberis Rhizoma (dry), Coptidis Rhizoma, Ephedrae Herba and Asiasari Radix significantly enhanced the sensitivity to a MDR1 substrate paclitaxel, whereas none of the herbal extracts used had any effect on the sensitivity to 5-fluorouracil, which is not a substrate for MDR1. Rhodamine123 uptake was significantly increased by Rhei Rhizoma, Poria or Ephedrae Herba among nine herbal extracts sensitized to paclitaxel. This suggests that the increase in paclitaxel sensitivity by Glycyrrhizae Radix, Rhei Rhizoma, Poria or Ephedrae Herba was caused, in part, by the inhibition of MDR1 function, and the change in paclitaxel sensitivity by the other herbal extracts was not always dependent on this. Collectively, these findings indicate that the combination of anticancer drugs with some herbal extracts contributes to the enhancement of clinical outcomes in cancer chemotherapy.
2005 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan