Improves Quality of Life for Prostate Cancer Patients
In an open clinical trial of 16 men with
advanced metastatic prostate cancer, the herbal combination PC-SPES
improved quality of life and caused significant reductions in
pain and levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), with no major
side effects (Pfeifer et al., 2000). The researchers decided
to test PC-SPES in patients whose hormone therapy had failed and
whose disease was progressing after receiving "numerous anecdotal
reports" of benefit from the supplement.
The PC-SPES formula is a dietary supplement
composed of eight herbs: Chrysanthemum flowers (Chrysanthemum
morifolium Ramat., Asteraceae); reishi mushroom (Ganoderma
lucidum [Leyss. ex Fr.,] P. Karst. Ganodermataceae); licorice
root (Glycyrrhiza glabra L., Fabaceae); dyer's woad (Isatis
indigotica L., Brassicaceae); sanchi ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng
Wallich, Araliaceae); Rabdosia rubescens (Blume) Hassk.,
Lamiaceae; baikal skullcap root, or huang qin (Scutellaria
baicalensis Georgi., Lamiaceae); and saw palmetto fruit (Serenoa
repens [Bartram] Small, Arecaceae).
In the study, the supplemental PC-SPES
therapy consisted of three capsules three times a day (total 2.88
grams daily) of the herbal formula for five months. Hormone therapy
was continued throughout the trial. Urologists and anesthesiologists
at three different clinics in Germany and the United States evaluated
the effects of PC-SPES on pain, quality of life, and PSA levels.
Clinical testing at all clinics included physical exams, blood
chemistry, and blood cell count, plus assessment of PSA level,
pain, quality of life, and toxicity.
The results were positive. Pain scores
for each category of pain decreased significantly, and those who
were taking narcotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) for pain control before the study were able to reduce
their pain relief medication by around 40 percent after 20 weeks
of treatment with the herbal supplement. Quality of life was evaluated
with a standard questionnaire that assesses physical, emotional,
social, and functional well-being. PC-SPES was associated with
significant improvements in functional, emotional, and physical
well-being, although there was no significant change in social
well-being. Finally, PSA levels - a marker for prostate cancer
activity - dropped dramatically after PC-SPES supplementation.
Compared with the control level, the decrease in PSA level was
more than 50 percent in 13 of 16 patients, a result that the researchers
believe "indicates that PC-SPES is effective."The investigators
were also especially impressed with "the highly significant reduction
in reported pain." The product itself was tested and found to
be free of any non-herbal pain-relieving substances. In addition,
there was a decrease in the spread of bone lesions in three patients,
which could indicate that PC-SPES has a direct anti-tumor effect.
In terms of side effects, half of the participants experienced
breast tenderness, and one patient developed mild stomach upset,
which, according to the authors, "suggests that PC-SPES has a
low side-effect profile."
As researchers often do, the authors recommended
that more research is needed, especially in light of the fact
that eight of the original patients "are still enjoying the beneficial
effects of PC-SPES, long after the 20 week follow-up." They concluded,
"...PC-SPES significantly reduces PSA levels and the pain of metastatic
disease, thereby improving patients' quality of life without the
detrimental side-effects seen with other drug regimens. With no
cure currently available for these patients, maintaining a good
quality of life is a realistic therapeutic goal that can be achieved
with the dietary supplement PC-SPES."
- Rob McCaleb, Herb Research Foundation
[Pfeifer BL, Pirani JF, Hamann SR, Klippel KF. PC-SPES, a
dietary supplement for the treatment of hormone-refractory prostate
cancer. BJU International 2000; 85: 481-483.]