Written by Klara Rombauts, Arne Heyerick and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated January 29, 2015

Artemisia annua

Does it work?

There are no clinical trials with A. annua preparations available. There is, however, one randomised clinical trial with the semisynthetic derivative artesunate.

Controlled study

One randomized clinical trial on artesunate in cancer treatment has been published.21 In this open label 2-arm study, at least 2 cycles of chemotherapy (vinorelbine/cisplatin) were applied with or without artesunate in 120 Chinese patients with unresectable non-small lung cancer. The authors found no significant differences between the groups in mean survival time, 1-year survival rate and quality of life. However, the artesunate group had a significant higher disease control rate (88,2% vs. 72,7% [complete + partial response + stable disease]) and a significant longer time to progression (24 vs 20 weeks). As there was an imbalance in the disease stages between the groups (more stage IV diseases in the control group) and an unblinded outcome assessment, the risk of bias in this study is high.

Published case reports

There are two case reports published with artesunate, both reporting stabilization or regression of tumour growth during treatment with additional artesunate, while the tumour was progressing under standard treatment alone.22,23 In a third report of a patient who received artemether, a reduction in density of the tumour and improved quality of life was observed.24

Preclinical studies

Animal studies suggest that artemisinin and related compounds inhibit tumour growth and metastasis and prolong survival upon administration of 10-100mg/(kg day) in xenografts of a wide variety of cancer cells.2,6,10,18 The dosages applied are much higher than those used in anti-malaria treatment. Intermittent higher dosage therapy appears to be more efficient than daily dosing.

Citation

Klara Rombauts, Arne Heyerick, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Artemisia annua [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Artemisia-annua. January 29, 2015.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in January 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Summary assessed as up to date in August 2013 by Barbara Wider.

Summary fully revised and updated in August 2012 by Klara Rombauts.

Summary first published in March 2011, authored by Klara Rombauts and Arne Heyerick.

References

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