We hear a lot of empty promises from the non-profit cancer industry about a “race to the cure” (which seems to be going in circles). And I have shown you how governments spanning the globe have long engaged in “arms races” to find cures for cancer (see my report “Classified Cancer Answers” for more on this topic).
But 16 years ago, a real prostate cancer breakthrough hit the market. PC-SPES was a traditional Chinese herbal preparation used for the treatment of prostate cancer. And if it sounds familiar, it’s probably because of the controversy that arose regarding an incompetent NIH National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) study on the formula.
More on that in a moment. But first, let me tell you what helped make PC-SPES such a promising tool for so many men.
PC-SPES consisted of extracts from eight distinct herbs:
Chrysanthemum flowers (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Licorice Root (Glycyrrihiza glabra)
Dyer’s woad (Isatis indigotica)
Sanchi ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng)
Huang qui, or Baikal skullcap root (Scutellaria baicalensis)
Radhosia rubescens, Lamiaceae
Saw palmetto fruit (Serenoa repens)
Three studies evaluating PC-SPES were published in peer-reviewed journals. All three studies agreed that PC-SPES appeared to stabilize the disease and improve quality of life in patients suffering from advanced prostate cancer. But then the NIH NCCAM sponsored a study on PC-SPES.
And PC-SPES suddenly turned into a PC-MESS.
The Chinese PC-SPES source used in the NIH NCCAM study turned out to be adulterated.
It’s widely known in the field of CAM that the standards for formulating supplements in China are not those of the United States. Dietary supplements are regularly found with missing or wrong ingredients. Or adulterated with drugs—and even poisons.
That’s why, when I worked in China to test out the theory that selenium would prevent cancer, we were careful about the sources we used. It was time-consuming enough with a single ingredient. So, you can imagine the difficulties of finding the correct formulation for something as complex as PC-SPES—a combination of eight active herbal ingredients.
But with some careful attention to detail, it can be done. Yet, the NIH NCCAM failed to do this most fundamental “due diligence” before launching into an expensive and potentially important study. And because of their shoddy legwork, one of the potential herbal powerhouses for prostate cancer was effectively lost to posterity.
In the real world anyone who presided over such a wasteful mistake, over such a fundamental (Pharmacy 101) issue like this one, would be out of a job. But not at the NIH NCAAM. The science bureaucrat in charge of NCCAM and this disastrous study kept his job until the day he died. And instead, the blame was placed squarely on PC-SPES itself!
As a result of the contamination of the PC-SPES being tested, it was pulled off the market and is no longer available. Which is a shame, considering it was exceptionally effective in other studies.
But it now looks like one of the main ingredients in PC-SPES, Chrysanthemum, may have powerful anti-cancer properties all by itself. One recent study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed particularly impressive results against prostate cancer.
Chrysanthemum is included in a formulation called PC-CARE. PC-CARE also contains many of the ingredients in the original (unadulterated) PC-SPES formula.
And other individual ingredients from the original PC-SPES combination are still available as well, such as saw palmetto, Reishi mushrooms, Panax ginseng, and licorice root.
However, treatment with PC-CARE or similar formulations should be individually monitored and sought from a qualified and knowledgeable traditional Chinese medical practitioner, ideally in consultation with a knowledgeable physician. Such practitioners may be found in Chinatowns in major urban areas and even some modern university hospital settings in the U.S.
“Chrysanthemum indicum L. Extract Induces Apoptosis through Suppression of Constitutive STAT3 Activation in Human Prostate Cancer DU145 Cells,” Phytother Res 2012 (published online Mar 22)