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Can ginger control nausea during cancer treatments?

Ann Arbor, MI. -- Ginger has been used for thousands of years to prevent or treat nausea. Now researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are leading a national trial to determine if this plant can help people with cancer avoid nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.

Typically, chemotherapy patients take a regimen of anti-nausea drugs that effectively help most people avoid this unpleasant side effect. But for some people, two to five days after receiving chemotherapy, a second wave of nausea may hit. Researchers are studying whether capsules of a standardized form of ginger can help relieve this delayed nausea.

The trial, which is currently seeking patients, plans to enroll 180 adults with cancer at 10 sites throughout the country. Participants are randomly assigned to one of three groups: low-dose ginger, high-dose ginger or placebo. The study participants will not know what dose they are getting.

Recent research has found ginger to be effective at relieving nausea related to motion sickness, post-operative recovery and pregnancy.

“In most studies with ginger, it's been shown to be safe and efficacious, so we felt it might be beneficial for cancer patients as well. It appears from previous studies to be very safe with very few side effects, and it tends to be inexpensive, whereas current anti-nausea drugs can be expensive,” says lead investigator Suzanna Zick, N.D., M.P.H., a research investigator in the Department of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School and a member of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Study participants take ginger or a placebo pill twice a day for three days after completing a chemotherapy infusion. They also receive their standard anti-nausea drugs, which vary depending on the type of chemotherapy being given. The study will look at adults age 18 and older with any type of cancer. Study participants must have experienced nausea or vomiting in a previous round of chemotherapy.

The $450,000 trial is run through the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), a program through the National Cancer Institute to ensure cancer patients treated by community doctors have access to clinical trials and the latest treatment regimens. Funding for the trial is from the National Cancer Institute, Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

In addition to U-M, participating sites are Michigan Cancer Research Consortium CCOP, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center MBCCOP, Bronx, N.Y.; Northern Indiana Cancer Research Consortium CCOP, South Bend, Ind.; Grand Rapids Clinical Oncology Program, Grand Rapids, Mich.; John H. Stroger Jr. Cook County Hospital MBCCOP, Chicago; Upstate Carolina CCOP, Spartanburg, S.C.; Southern Nevada Cancer Research Foundation CCOP, Las Vegas, Nev.; William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.; and San Juan CCOP, Puerto Rico.

For more information on the ginger trial or other cancer research at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, call the Cancer AnswerLine™ at 800-865-1125.

Written by Nicole Fawcett

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