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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 617085, 10 pages
Research Article

Elimination of Cancer Stem-Like “Side Population” Cells in Hepatoma Cell Lines by Chinese Herbal Mixture “Tien-Hsien Liquid”

1Cancer Center, Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei 11696, Taiwan
2Center of Excellence for Cancer Research, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
3Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, College of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taipei 11031, Taiwan
4Department of Surgery, Shuang Ho Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
5Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
6Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
7National Institute of Cancer Research, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, Taiwan
8Graduate Institute of Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
9Department of Traditional Medicine, Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan

Received 30 April 2012; Revised 13 August 2012; Accepted 20 August 2012

Academic Editor: Alexandra Deters

Copyright © 2012 Chih-Jung Yao 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.


There are increasing pieces of evidence suggesting that the recurrence of cancer may result from a small subpopulation of cancer stem cells, which are resistant to the conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We investigated the effects of Chinese herbal mixture Tien-Hsien Liquid (THL) on the cancer stem-like side population (SP) cells isolated from human hepatoma cells. After sorting and subsequent culture, the SP cells from Huh7 hepatoma cells appear to have higher clonogenicity and mRNA expressions of stemness genes such as SMO, ABCG2, CD133, β-catenin, and Oct-4 than those of non-SP cells. At dose of 2 mg/mL, THL reduced the proportion of SP cells in HepG2, Hep3B, and Huh7 cells from 1.33% to 0.49%, 1.55% to 0.43%, and 1.69% to 0.27%, respectively. The viability and colony formation of Huh7 SP cells were effectively suppressed by THL dose-dependently, accompanied with the inhibition of stemness genes, e.g., ABCG2, CD133, and SMO. The tumorigenicity of THL-treated Huh7 SP cells in NOD/SCID mice was also diminished. Moreover, combination with THL could synergize the effect of doxorubicin against Huh7 SP cells. Our data indicate that THL may act as a cancer stem cell targeting therapeutics and be regarded as complementary and integrative medicine in the treatment of hepatoma.