BACKGROUND Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one of the most common complementary and alternative medicines used in the treatment of patients with breast cancer. However, the clinical effect of TCM on survival, which is a major concern in these individuals, lacks evidence from large-scale clinical studies. METHODS The authors used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to conduct a retrospective population-based cohort study of patients with advanced breast cancer between 2001 and 2010. The patients were separated into TCM users and nonusers, and Cox regression models were applied to determine the association between the use of TCM and patient survival. RESULTS A total of 729 patients with advanced breast cancer receiving taxanes were included in the current study. Of this cohort, the mean age was 52.0 years; 115 patients were TCM users (15.8%) and 614 patients were TCM nonusers. The mean follow-up was 2.8 years, with 277 deaths reported to occur during the 10-year period. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that, compared with nonusers, the use of TCM was associated with a significantly decreased risk of all-cause mortality (adjusted hazards ratio [HR], 0.55 [95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.90] for TCM use of 30-180 days; adjusted HR, 0.46 [95% confidence interval, 0.27-0.78] for TCM use of > 180 days). Among the frequently used TCMs, those found to be most effective (lowest HRs) in reducing mortality were Bai Hua She She Cao, Ban Zhi Lian, and Huang Qi. CONCLUSIONS The results of the current observational study suggest that adjunctive TCM therapy may lower the risk of death in patients with advanced breast cancer. Future randomized controlled trials are required to validate these findings. Cancer 2014;120:1338-1344.
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