Ginseng May Enhance Dendritic Cell Therapy in NSCLC

Ginseng polysaccharides may affect the balance of T-helper cells in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Radix ginseng is the dried root of Panax ginseng.

According to a study1published in theJournal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, ginseng polysaccharides may affect the balance of T-helper cells in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Research teams at several locations in China and Taiwan recruited a total of 96 patients with NSCLC to participate in the study. Patients received either dendritic cell therapy alone or dendritic cell therapy with ginseng polysaccharides.

Both dendritic cells and the ginseng extract were administered through a thoracoscope directly into the lungs to target the tumor site. Dendritic cells were administered at a dose of 60,000 cells per kg, and ginseng polysaccharides were administered at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg. Treatments were repeated every week for 1 month.

Before and after treatment, investigators assessed each patient’s functional status using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Treatment-Lung (FACT-L) questionnaire. Investigators also measured levels of serum interferon-gamma, several interleukins (ILs) including IL-2, -4, and -5, and markers of T-helper cell activity.

A total of 48 patients were assigned to each group. All patients in the trial had either stage IIIA or IIIB cancer and had received between 3 and 6 cycles of prior chemotherapy and stopped using chemotherapy for at least 1 month before entering the study. The youngest and oldest patients enrolled in the trial were aged 30 years and 70 years, respectively.

The expression of both Th1 cytokines and the ratio of Th1 to Th2 cytokines were increased, while levels of Th2 cytokines decreased. Because Th1 expression is important in cell-mediated immunity and inhibition of tumor cell proliferation, and because Th2 expression may promote tumor cell proliferation, these changes suggest an improved anticancer immune response with dendritic cell therapy and ginseng versus dendritic cell therapy alone.

All changes in cytokine levels were significantly different from changes in the control group at the 1% significance level. In addition, changes in total FACT-L scores on physical, community/family, emotional, functional, and total status were significantly improved in patients receiving ginseng polysaccharides versus comparator patients, also at the 1% significance level or lower.

Ginseng is a compound with immunomodulatory effects. Although it is known to have a stimulatory effect, which may account for some of the improvement in quality of life scores, changes in cytokine levels in association with ginseng treatment indicate a possible synergistic antitumor effect of ginseng polysaccharides with dendritic cell therapy.2

As more and more treatments harness the power of the immune system, treatments that work to potentially enhance the effectiveness of these immunologic agents may have a future role in the management of some patients with NSCLC.


1. Ma J, Liu H, Wang X. Effect of ginseng polysaccharides and dendritic cells on the balance of Th1/Th2 T helper cells in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.J Tradit Chin Med.2014;34(6):641-645.

2. Ru W, Wang D, Xu Y, et al. Chemical constituents and bioactivities of Panax ginseng (C. A. Mey.).Drug Discov Ther.2015;9(1):23-32.