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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 506327, 8 pages
Review Article

Systematic Review of the Use of Phytochemicals for Management of Pain in Cancer Therapy

1Medical Scientist Training Program, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
2Department of Anesthesiology, CH du Forez, 42600 Montbrison, France
3Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
4Department of Psychiatry & Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
5Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

Received 10 August 2015; Accepted 1 October 2015

Academic Editor: Sung-Hoon Kim

Copyright © 2015 Andrew M. Harrison et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Pain in cancer therapy is a common condition and there is a need for new options in therapeutic management. While phytochemicals have been proposed as one pain management solution, knowledge of their utility is limited. The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review of the biomedical literature for the use of phytochemicals for management of cancer therapy pain in human subjects. Of an initial database search of 1,603 abstracts, 32 full-text articles were eligible for further assessment. Only 7 of these articles met all inclusion criteria for this systematic review. The average relative risk of phytochemical versus control was 1.03 [95% CI 0.59 to 2.06]. In other words (although not statistically significant), patients treated with phytochemicals were slightly more likely than patients treated with control to obtain successful management of pain in cancer therapy. We identified a lack of quality research literature on this subject and thus were unable to demonstrate a clear therapeutic benefit for either general or specific use of phytochemicals in the management of cancer pain. This lack of data is especially apparent for psychotropic phytochemicals, such as the Cannabis plant (marijuana). Additional implications of our findings are also explored.