A traditional Chinese herbal medicine can help alleviate the sometimes life-threatening gastrointestinal side effects of the colon cancer drug irinotecan by activating intestinal stem cells and reducing inflammation, according to a recent study (Sci. Transl. Med., DOI: 10.1126/ scitranslmed.3001270). The research team carrying out the work included Yung-Chi Cheng and coworkers of Yale University School of Medicine and scientists at PhytoCeutica, a New Haven, Conn., company that produces the herbal remedy, called PHY906. PhytoCeutica makes PHY906 from buckthorn fruit and peony, licorice, and skullcap plants, standardizing the concentration of 39 phytochemicals among the myriad chemical constituents. When the researchers examined the effects of PHY906 in mice, they found that multiple biochemical pathways were activated by the mixture, leading to regeneration within four days of healthy intestinal cells that had been destroyed by the cancer therapy. Although the preclinical results are promising, herbal products still face quality-assurance issues and potential unknown toxicities when taken from the lab bench into the clinic, notes Cathy Eng, a medical oncologist at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, in a commentary about the work.