Editorial Note from the Chairman: The Convergence of “Current Mainstream Medicine” and “Traditional Chinese Medicine” Principles
The Convergence of “Current Mainstream Medicine” and “Traditional Chinese Medicine” Principles
Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D. Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology, Yale School of Medicine
Through the advancement of our knowledge about biological and medical sciences, new technologies including multiplex -omics, there is now increased recognition that a molecular medicine approach is insufficient in resolving complicated unmet needs in diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuro-degeneration and metabolic disorder and autoimmune disease. A systems biology / integrative medicine approach with holistic consideration will be needed. To meet the complex needs of patients, the scope of medicine needs to be expanded beyond therapeutic medicines to include preventative, functional and adjuvant medicines. And through precision medicine, which identifies unique characteristics of a patient’s diseased tissue, based on biomarkers, target-oriented drugs may further help address patient needs.
All of these new approaches and new scope of activities are constant with the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which was first described at least 1800 years ago. TCM combines a holistic approach for treating human symptoms, preventive approach to aging-related symptoms and diseases, and personalized approach by the traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to diagnose, prescribe and prepare a specific treatment to meet the needs of the individual patient – which may incorporate a unique combination of herbs or special preparation procedures. The convergence of principles in current mainstream medicine and traditional Chinese medicine could lead to a complimentary approach in future medicine.
In order to advance traditional Chinese medicine, there are several challenges that need to be overcome. These key issues center around evidence-based data and quality control. There needs to be reliable preclinical and clinical data to substantiate the claims, including information about active chemicals, mechanism of action and drug-drug interactions, current clinical evaluation. There needs to be strict quality control, including the sourcing of high quality ingredients, good manufacturing processes and validation of the finished product. All of these challenges are solvable, but require the collaboration of individuals or institutions with different expertise.
It should be recognized that the source of high quality herbs is the most urgent and critical issue today. There is too much emphasis on yield vs quality cultivation. The dramatic changes in our natural environment, caused by human use, are having a dangerous effect. “Without good quality herbs, there will be no high quality material medica. Without high quality material medica, there will be no high quality traditional Chinese medicine or botanical medicine”.
(Edited by Peikwen Cheng. The work is supported by CA-154295. Y.C. Cheng is a fellow of the National Foundation of Cancer research. The same editorial note will be published in the September newsletter of GP-TCM)