Effects of herbal supplements on the bioactivation of chemotherapeutic agents

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ObjectivesThe aim of this study was to investigate the impact of commercially available, over-the-counter herbal supplements (St John's wort, black cohosh and ginger root extract) on the metabolic activation of tamoxifen and irinotecan.MethodsCo-incubation of each drug and supplement combination over a range of concentrations was conducted in human liver microsomes and the decrease in the rate of active metabolite formation was monitored using high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Data was analysed using non-linear regression analysis and Dixon plots to determine the dominant mechanism of inhibition and to estimate the Ki and IC50 values of the commercial supplements.Key findingsThe data suggest that black cohosh was the strongest inhibitor tested in this study for both CYP450 and carboxyesterase mediated biotransformation of tamoxifen and irinotecan, respectively, to their active metabolites. St John's wort was a stronger inhibitor compared with ginger root extract for tamoxifen (CYP mediated pathway), while ginger root extract was a stronger inhibitor compared with St John's wort for the carboxyesterase mediated pathway.ConclusionsCommercially available supplements are widely used by patients and their potential impact on the efficacy of the chemotherapy is often unknown. The clinical significance of these results needs to be evaluated in a comprehensive clinical trial.

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