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Brief Introduction to Pharmacological Effect of Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides on Tumor Treatment

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Brief Introduction to Pharmacological Effect of Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides on Tumor Treatment

Wenting Song1, Lianying Xu2, Yuehong Xu3


Key words: Lycium Barbarum Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides Tumor Treatment

Abstract: This paper gives out a brief introduction to the pharmacological effect of Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides(LBP) on the treatment of tumor, such as treating precancerous pathological changes, controlling the development of cancerous focus, increasing the sensibility and protection of body to radiate therapy, improving the effect and decreasing the toxicity of chemotherapy if used together with biological response modifier. We intend to provide reference to further exploitation and utilization of Lycium Barbarum so as to discover a new way to select effective drugs from Chinese traditional medicine in treatment of tumor.

The mature fruit of Lycium Barbarum tastes sweet. It has a neutral energy affinity to liver and kidney. According to a classical medical book called A Herb Book by Shennong, Lycium Barbarum is yin tonic and longevity tonic. It nourishes blood and semen and builds strength in legs. In contemporary clinic, it is applied for enlarging longevity, treating cancer, protecting liver, generating blood and improving immunity. Tumor is a frequently found disease without satisfactory treatment. Its mortality rate surpasses nearly any other human disease. Tumor has cause great problem in human health and existence[1]. It is one of the most urgent tasks for drug producers and researchers to find anticancerous drugs. Lycium Barbarum, with its tonic effects, has been proved by many scholars of its anticancerous function, without any side effect. It is generally believed that LBP is the functioning component in treating cancer. This paper summarizes pharmacological effect of Lycium Barbarum revealed in the study of the recent decade.

Treatment for Precancerous Pathological Changes

Most cancer tissue evolves from a single cell. Under the influence of outside chemical, physical, biological factors or inside genetic, immune factors, the DNA in the cell of our body changes and this cell turns into a mutated cell. This process is called the start-up stage. With the influence of some other factors, the cell gradually develops into cancer cells, which is called the accelerating stage.

Lycium Barbarum has proved its blocking effect in the star-up and accelerating stages. In vitro study for LBP’s effect on genetic toxicity conducted by Maoxuan Tao and etc[2] found that LBP greatly decreases the frequency of sister-chromalid exchange (SCE) in human lymphocytes with an apparent positive effect (r=0.97,P<0.05). The result of Ames experiment also verified that LBP has notable restrictive effect for the mutating activity of 27-diaminoflurorone in TA100 with an apparent effect. (r=0.909,P<0.05). Those findings demonstrates that LBP is effective in decreasing the genetic toxicity of certain genetic toxins. In another research, Runling Wen and etc[3] damaged DNA with ultraviolet radiation. They then studied the repairing ability of the damaged cell. They found that LBP is able to enhance human DNA’s repairing ability with apparent effect(P<0.01). Further study[4] reveals that the proliferation activity of lymphocytes of aged people who have taken Lycium Barbarum is largely enhanced. This study proves that Lycium Barbarum does good to maintaining the normal cell development. Limin Su and etc[5] studied the influence of Ningxia Lycium Barbarum on diethylnitrosamine, which places a premium on hepatic cancer of Wistsr rats. They found that Lycium Barbarum has a certain effect on restraining rats’ hepatic cancer.

Controlling the Development of Cancerous Focus And Restraining Tumor Growth

Jinwen Dong and etc[6] studied the anticancerous effect of Lycium Barbarum on the body as well as cell level. They found that LBP can apparently improve the condition of rats with cancer. It enlarges the longevity of cancerous rats(U14 rats with cervical tumor and S180 rats with fibrosarcoma) with ascites by 41% and 85% as well as restraining the growth of tumor cells by 81.5% and 72.99%. In vitro study verified that LBP can apparently restrain the growth and proliferation of Hela Cell in human cervical tumor and MGC-803 cell in human stomach tumor. It can also restrain the clone of cancerous cells. Another study[7] found out that Lycium Barbarum can restrain the growth of S180 cell in rats by 21.4% and that the killing activity peripheral blood lymphocytes is apparently enhanced if patients of galactophore cancer take micro-molecular injection after their operation. Jianning Luo and etc[8] found in their experiment that Lycium Barbarum extract can apparently restrain the growth of sarcoma W256 in rats by 37.7% and can enlarge the longevity of cancerous rats with ascites by 35.8%.

Enhancing the Sensitivity for Radiate Therapy

Studies on C57BL rats and transplantable Lewis lung cancer model found that LBP can enhance the sensitivity of the normal cells for radiate therapy largely with an average ratio effect of 2.05 and of the acute anoxic cancer cells with certain effect without any notable side effects[9]. Random control study on 61 cases of idiopathy lung cancer patients demonstrates that ratio of improved patients with and without LBP is 50.0% and 26.9% respectively, that the overall ratio of improved patients with and without LBP is 92.3% and 57.7% and that LBP is able to enhance and protect the immune ability of the patient under radiate therapy[10].

Protecting the Body from Radiate Therapy

Lycium Barbarum has an apparent protecting effect against radiate therapy. Applied during radiate theary, Lycium Barbarum is able to enhance the repair of the immune ability damaged by radiation, to decrease radiate reaction, to protect the hematopoietic function damaged by the therapy and to reduce the sequela and combing symptoms. Junian Liu and etc[11] conducted a control study on cancer patients with radiate therapy plus LBP and with radiate therapy alone. They found that the group with both radiate therapy and LBP shows an apparently high ratio of T3 against T4 and T4 against T8, transferring rate of lymphocytes and opsonic index of macrophagocytes(P<0.05). The total number of white blood cell, absolute value of lymphocytes and T cell, proportion of T3 cell and T4 cell, ration of T4 against T8, transferring rate of lymphocytes, opsonic index of macrophagocytes in the group with LBP are all apparently higher than that of the control group(P<0.01). Ling Wang and etc[12] studied the effect of LBP on the repair of rats immune system damaged by radiation. They found that rats with LBP injection have, 30 days after the radiation, apparently higher thymus index, number of spleen cells and proliferation MLR of LPs than that of the control group(P<0.01) and exhibit approximately the normal level. This proves that LBP can restore the reactivity of rats T and B lymphocytes to mitogen. Further study reveals that the reactivity of rats with LBP to the special antibody against hetero-antigen is also apparently restored. Qinghe Hu and etc[13] observed the protective effect of LBP on the radiated rats. They found that the group with LBP demonstrates a much higher number of kernelled marrow cells, number of peripheral white blood cells and permillage of dividing testicle germ cells. This demonstrates that LBP is a good protecting agent against radiation.

Enhancing the Effect of Chemotherapy And Reducing Its Toxicity

Zhuozhi Ouyang and etc[14] treated rats of Walker carcinosarcoma(W256) with freezed powder liquid of LBP and cyclophosphamide(Cy). They found that LBP can protect white blood cell from reducing cause by Cy(P<0.01). Further study[15] found that LBP 10mg/kg is able to enhance the immune function of S180 cancerous rats and restrain tumor cell growth. LBP can also cooperate with Cy in reducing tumor cell growth. Weijian Sun and etc[16] treated brain cancerous C422 rats with 5-10mg/kgLBP, 60Co head radiation and carmustine. They found that they can work together to greatly enlarge the longevity of the rats as well as to largely enhance the immune function of the cell. Another study[15] reports that LBP5-10mg/kg can antagonize the immune restraining effect of Cy on T cell, CTL and NK cell. After the application of LBP, the RPI of T cell increases from 33% to 105%, the restraining effect of Cy decreases from 51% to 19%-36% and the killing rate of NK cell increase to 15%-16% from 9.5%. This demonstrates that LBP increases the immune activity of T cell treated with Cy and the activity of NK cell.

Enhancing the Effect of Biologic Response Modifier And Reducing its Toxicity

Biologic Response Modifier(BRM) restrains tumor through activating the original power of the body. BRM are molecules and cells from the body itself which can react against the inside and outside stimuli of the body and can maintain the homeostasis of the inner environment. At present, the 4th mode of cancer treatment with BRM has gained broad attention in the medical field[18]. However, BRM is usually applied with large dosage, which brings out certain restrictive side effects. Lycium Barbarum has broad immune enhancing effects and therefore can be taken together with BRM to enhance its Effect and reduce its toxicity.

Guangwen Can and etc[19,20,21]studied how Lycium Barbarum, both inside and outside the body, modulates the anticanerous effect of LAK cells. LBP 5-10mg/kg, injected into ipC57BL/6 rats, can apparently enhance the proliferation of spleen cells. The activity of LAK is increased by 120%-200% and outside use of IL-2 is reduced to less than 75%. Further study reveals that LBP can enhance the activity of both regular LAK and fast LAK cells. Yukun Qian and etc[22] reported that Lycium Barbarum extract has bilateral effects to IL-2: Low concentration(10-5mg/ml) enhances its production while high concentration (1mg/ml) restrains its production. Another study[23] reveals that certain concentration can also enhance the production of IL-2Rαand IL-Rβ. The effect of Lycium Barbarum on IL-2 enables it to restrain the tumor growth. Other scholars[24,25] prove that Lycium Barbarum can also enhance the production of TNF and IFN-r to restrain tumor cells.


Studies on the pharmacological anticancerous effects of Lycium Barbarum has been widely carried out. The function component of Lycium Barbarum has been verified from various perspectives of great value to the treatment of cancer. More studies on the molecular mechanism of its anticanerous component is on the way. All those research have laid the theoretical foundation for clinical anticancerous application of Lycium Barbarum. It will boosts the further develop and application of Lycium Barbarum and provide brand new methods for selecting low-toxic or non-toxic anticancerous drugs from traditional Chinese medicine.


[1] Zhaoyou Tang, Contemparay Oncology(1st edition) [M] Shanghai: Shanghai Medical University Press 1997:4

[2]Maoxuan Tao and etc, In Vitro Study of LBP Against Genetic Damage. Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1992.23(9):474.

[3]  Runling Wen and etc, Effect of Oral-taken Lycium Barbarum on DNA Repair of Aged People.[J] Gerontics Periodical,1990,10(6):351.

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[23]Shouying DU and etc, Influence of Lycium Barbarum Extrct on IL-2R on the Sruface of Human Lymphocytes, Journal of Chinese Microbiology and Immunology, 1995,15(3):176.

[24] Ling Wang and etc, Effects of LBP on Immune Repair of Radiation Damaged Rats, Journal of Shanghai Immunology, 1995,15(4):209.

[25] Luoxiu Zhang, Immunological Drug Research and Clinical Application, 1st edition. Shanghai: Shanghai Medical University Press, 1998:101.

1 SUN YAT-SEN UNIVERSITY, Guang Zhou, Guangdong(510275)

2 Shanghai University of T.C.M, Shanghai(200032)

3 People’s Hospital of Shanxi, Taiyuan, Shanxi(030012)

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