Traditional Chinese medicine reduces severity of radiation-induced gastrointestinal mucositis in rats

For tens of thousands of Australians who receive radiotherapy as part of their cancer treatment, mucositis is a serious side effect which can cause inflammation, ulcers, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, pain abdominal muscles and bloating.

There is currently no effective treatment for mucositis, but researchers at the University of Adelaide have found that a type of traditional Chinese medicine reduces the severity of radiation-induced gastrointestinal mucositis (GIM) in rat.

This study – documented in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Oncology – outlines the potential benefits of this treatment for people with GIM as a side effect of radiation therapy to treat cancers of the stomach, abdomen and the basin.

Although this has only been tested in rats, the results of this research are extremely positive as they show that we may be able to provide a treatment for people with mucositis as a result of their cancer treatment.


This is extremely important because mucositis limits the amount of treatment cancer patients can receive and significantly affects their quality of life.”


Professor David L. Adelson, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, corresponding author of the study

In the study, which was approved by the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee of the South Australian Health Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), rats were exposed to radiation on their abdomens.

Half of the rats were injected with the compound Kushen (CKI) – which is a type of traditional Chinese medicine – while the other half received a control substance. CKI has been widely used alone or in combination with chemotherapy or radiotherapy for many years in China.

“CKI is prepared from the roots of two medicinal herbs – Kushen and Baituling – as an injectable liquid,” said Professor Adelson, who holds the Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Genetics in the School of Molecular and biomedical and molecular Chinese professor at Zhendong. Medicine and Director, Zhendong Australia – China Center for Molecular Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“The study found that rats that received CKI in their abdomens had reduced severity of GIM symptoms compared to rats that had the control substance. These results build on previous studies we have done and who showed that CKI had significant effects on gene expression in cell lines, including genes that regulate inflammation.”

Dr. Yuka Harata-Lee, a postdoctoral researcher in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, was the lead author of the study.

Co-authors of the research were Zhipeng Qu and Xi Xiao from the University of Adelaide School of Biological Sciences, Emma Bateman and Joanne Bowen from the University of Adelaide School of Biomedicine, Marianne D. Keller of SAHMRI and Wei Wang of Zhendong Research Institute, Beijing.