Acupuncture and Moxibustion in Animal Models of Cancer

  • Ruixin Zhang
  • Lixing Lao
Part of the Evidence-based Anticancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine book series (ACAM, volume 3)


Recent advances in oncological acupuncture research provide evidence to support the use of acupuncture and moxibustion for symptom management in cancer patients. Studies in tumor-bearing animals demonstrate that acupuncture significantly enhances immune function by decreasing the percentage of CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells and increasing natural killer (NK) cell activity. The modality’s effect on NK cells has been shown to be mediated by β-endorphins. Acupuncture also has been shown to inhibit spinal interleukin-1β, dynorphin, and substance P to suppress cancer-induced pain, as well as to activate spinal opioids that alleviate chemotherapy-induced pain. Data from animal studies support the use of acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced emesis and suggest that it can improve cancer-induced depression. Moxibustion has also been shown to improve immune cell function by increasing NK cell activity, and it may alleviate cancer-induced pain. Although animal studies do not mimic human studies exactly, they reveal mechanisms by which these complementary therapies improve cancer-related symptoms. Most cancer patients experience multiple symptoms related either to cancer itself or to treatment effects. Since acupuncture and moxibustion alleviate some of these symptoms, use of these modalities has the potential to improve the patients’ quality of life.


Cancer Pain Natural Killer Cell Activity Bone Cancer Pain Emetic Episode Electroacupuncture Treatment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Dr Lyn Lowry for her editorial assistance. This work was supported by NIH grant R21AT004113.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Integrative Medicine, School of MedicineUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA

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