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1Traditional Medicine Research  2019, Vol. 4 Issue (2): 91-98    DOI: 10.12032/TMR20190225099
The effect of long-term traditional Chinese medicine treatment on disease-free survival of postoperative stage I-III lung cancer patients: a retrospective cohort study
Su-Tong Liu1, Su-Fang Zhang1,2, Kai-Qi Su3, Ying-Bin Luo1, Zhi-Hong Fang1, Yuan Fang1, Jing Xu1, Jian-Chun Wu1,*(), Yan Li1,*()
1 Department of Oncology, Shanghai Municipal Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
2 Department of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital of Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
3 Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
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This retrospective cohort study showed that long-term traditional Chinese medicine as an adjuvant therapy can improve disease-free survival of postoperative lung cancer patients, especially in patients with stage I and II disease.


This study provided sufficient evidence that long-term traditional Chinese medicine treatment is associated with 5-year disease-free survival in postoperative lung cancer patients, especially in patients with stage I and II disease.


Objective: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been extensively used as one of popular alternative therapies for several cancers. However, it remains unclear whether TCM treatment is associated with longer survival in lung cancer patients. In this study, we explored the effect of long-term TCM treatment on patients with different stages of lung cancer. Methods: All information of lung cancer patients with stage I-III disease from January 2007 to September 2015 was collected for this retrospective cohort study. Those who were treated with TCM after surgery were divided into TCM group and the others were into the non-TCM group (control group). All patients were regularly followed up by clinic appointment or phone, and all survival data were collected from databases after the last follow-up in October 2017. Results: A total of 575 patients were included in this study, with 299 patients in the TCM group and 276 in the control group. For all patients, 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) was 62.2% in TCM group and 42.1% in the control group, and 6-year DFSs were 51.8% and 35.4%, respectively (HR = 0.51, 95% CI: 0.40 to 0.66, log-rank P ≤ 0.001). For patients with stage I, 5-year DFSs were 83.7% (TCM group) and 57.5% (control group) and 6-year DFSs were 73.7% and 51.9%, respectively (HR = 0.30, 95% CI: 0.18 to 0.50, log-rank P ≤ 0.001). For patients with stage II in the TCM group and the control group, 5-year DFSs were 59.4% and 17.6% and 6-year DFSs were 44.7% and 17.6%, respectively (HR = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.19 to 0.52, log-rank P ≤ 0.001), and for patients with stage III, 5-year and 6-year DFSs in the TCM group were 18.7% and 12.5% compared with 28.4% and 20.3% in the control group (HR = 1.06, 95% CI: 0.72 to 1.56, log-rank P = 0.76). Conclusions: This study demonstrated that long-term TCM treatment as an adjuvant therapy is able to improve the DFS of postoperative stage I-III lung cancer patients, especially in patients with stage I and II disease. However, these observational findings need being validated by large sample randomized controlled trials.

Key wordsTraditional Chinese medicine      Lung cancer      Disease-free survival      Retrospective study      Cohort study     
Received: 25 November 2018      Published: 05 March 2019
Fund:  This work was supported by the Nation Natural Science Foundation of China (No.814737627, No.81673947), the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (No.17401933500) and the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission (No.201740059).
Corresponding Authors: Wu Jian-Chun,Li Yan     E-mail:;
Cite this article:

Su-Tong Liu, Su-Fang Zhang, Kai-Qi Su, Ying-Bin Luo, Zhi-Hong Fang, Yuan Fang, Jing Xu, Jian-Chun Wu, Yan Li. The effect of long-term traditional Chinese medicine treatment on disease-free survival of postoperative stage I-III lung cancer patients: a retrospective cohort study. 1Traditional Medicine Research, 2019, 4(2): 91-98. doi: 10.12032/TMR20190225099

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Figure 1 The flow chart of patients selection and censoring for this study
DFS, Disease-free survival.
Figure 2 1-6 year disease-free survival in the TCM and control group
Figure 3 Disease-free survival curves for all patients before (A) and after (B) propensity scoring
Figure 4 Disease-free survival curves for patients with stage I (A), II (B) and III (C) disease
Group Before PSM After PSM
(n = 299)
(n = 276)
P value TCM
(n = 233)
(n = 233)
P value
Male 169 177 0.073 144 145 0.924
Female 130 99 89 88
Age (year)
<60 143 143 0.359 114 115 0.926
>=60 156 133 119 118
Pathology type
Adenocarcinoma 177 167 0.009* 153 145 0.620
Squamous carcinoma 55 71 50 51
Unknown 67 38 30 37
169 148 0.757 125 127 0.709
59 56 42 47
71 72 66 59
Poor 24 17 0.054 20 14 0.583
Moderate 126 140 115 114
Well 13 19 12 17
Unknown 136 100 86 88
Yes 229 231 0.037* 188 191 0.721
No 70 45 45 42
Yes 20 24 0.433 19 16 0.598
No 279 252 214 217
Yes 162 127 0.050 118 120 0.853
No 137 149 115 113
Table 1 The baseline characteristics and clinical features in the TCM group and control group.
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