(NaturalNews) Could a natural substance effectively treat advanced prostate cancer? And could clinical trials of that potential cure be thwarted because drug companies know they can't make money out of a treatment that can't be patented? The answer to both those questions is "yes".
A study just published in the December issue of the European medical journal Anticancer Research demonstrates for the first time a naturally-occurring substance used as a cough suppressant for over fifty years may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer. Researchers from the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation, the MedInsight Research Institute, and the University of California in San Diego found that noscapine, a non-addictive derivative of opium, reduced tumor growth in mice by 60%. What's more, it halted the spread of tumors by 65% and caused no harmful side effects.
Although noscapine is only approved for use in many countries as a cough suppressant, physicians can and do sometimes prescribe it for other uses -- this is a common practice known as "off-label" prescription. Increasingly, in fact, noscapine has been tried off-label to treat several forms of cancer. Dr. Israel Barken, founder and medical director of the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation in San Diego, used noscapine to successfully treat several prostate cancer patients before he retired from clinical practice. He was so encouraged by the results that his prostate cancer foundation funded the study reported in Anticancer Research .
Moshe Rogosnitzky, director of research at MedInsight Research Institute in San Diego and one of the study's co-investigators, explained in a statement to the media that noscapine appears to have several advantages as a treatment for prostate cancer. "Noscapine is effective without the unpleasant side effects associated with other common prostate cancer treatments. Because noscapine has been used as a cough-suppressant for nearly half a century, it already has an extensive safety record. This pre-clinical study shows that the dose used to effectively treat prostate cancer in the animal model was also safe," he stated.
Spurred on by the results of the new study, Dr. Barken is urging academic institutions to advance this successful laboratory research with a clinical trial in men with advanced prostate cancer. Moreover, in an effort to greatly reduce the cost of this type of human trial while also reducing the time needed to complete the study, Dr. Barken has invented a web-based patient tracking system. The system would allow physicians in other countries to easily enroll patients in the research project.
So why isn't a human trial under way right now for this promising possible cancer cure? One word: money. Because noscapine is a natural plant-derived substance, Big Pharma can't patent it. In their statement to the press, the researchers explained how that fact has limited clinical trials of the potential cancer therapy. Drug companies obviously have no reason to pour out the funds needed to underwrite expensive clinical trials for a substance they can't own outright and sell for large profits.
That's bad news for men with prostate cancer -- the most common cancer among men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 186,320 men will be diagnosed with the disease in 2008, one man in six will get prostate cancer during his lifetime, and 28,660 will die from it. Although slow-growing in most men, prostate cancer is considered advanced when it spreads beyond the prostate gland and, at that point, there's no known cure. Currently, treatments such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, are used to slow the progression of advanced prostate cancer. Side effects from these conventional treatments can include exhaustion, impotence, incontinence, lack of appetite, easily broken bones, anemia, hair loss, nausea and diarrhea. According to the laboratory study reported in Anticancer Research , however, no toxic side effects at all were noted with noscapine.
About the author
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.