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What is Kanglaite?

I have heard about something called Kanglaite. Is it a cancer treatment?

Kanglaite (KLT) is a type of Chinese herbal medicine. It comes from the seeds of a tropical Asian grass called Coix. It isn’t a treatment in the UK but doctors in China have been using it to treat cancer since the mid 1990s. A Chinese company is developing Kanglaite as a cancer treatment and has a branch in California USA.

You have Kanglaite through a drip (intravenous infusion) into a vein, usually in the arm.

Doctors in China have carried out most of the research so far. They think that Kanglaite can

  • Destroy cancer cells by interfering with the normal cycle of cell growth (as many chemotherapy treatments do)
  • Help chemotherapy and radiotherapy to work better
  • Stop the growth of new blood vessels, which cancers need to grow
  • Stop the weight loss that affects many people with advanced cancer

Doctors in America carried out a phase 1 study of Kanglaite in 2003. They gave it to 16 people who had different types of cancer including lung, prostate and oesophageal cancers. The results showed that people did not have many side effects but the effect on their cancer varied. Some people showed no response, and their cancers continued to grow. But in others the cancer stopped growing for a few months. 

We need more research to find out if Kanglaite really works against cancer. Early phase trials of Kanglaite combined with chemotherapy are being carried out in people with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. You can find information about the trials on the manufacturer's website

There is information about herbal medicine in our complementary and alternative therapies section.

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Updated: 4 February 2013