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St. John's wort

Incurable brain tumor breakthrough - St. John's wort compound discovered as promising treatment

Sunday, April 17, 2011 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: St. John's wort, brain tumors, health news

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(NewsTarget) (NaturalNews) Around 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with a malignant glioma every year. And, unfortunately, they received an almost inevitable death sentence. Gliomas, types of tumors which grow in the brain or spine, are virtually incurable and the average one-year survival rate after diagnosis is only about 50 percent.

But now there is finally hope for a new and effective treatment. The therapy? A compound known as hypericin, originally discovered in the herb St. John's wort.

In findings just published in the journal Cancer, scientists are reporting that synthetic hypericin strongly inhibits the growth of gliomas. The reason appears to be, at least in part, because hypericin inhibits protein kinase C, a family of enzymes that spur on the proliferation of these tumors.

"Because hypericin has shown dramatic results in stopping tumor growth in gliomas in the laboratory, we wanted to examine the safety and potential antitumor activity of synthetic hypericin in patients with recurrent malignant gliomas," said William T. Couldwell, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine and lead author on the study, in a statement to the press.

Dr. Couldwell and a research team from across the US and Canada gave oral synthetic hypericin to patients with two types of gliomas (anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma). Their tumors had recurred or progressed despite standard chemo and other mainstream medical treatment. The scientists gave the patients gradually increasing dosages of hypericin and checked them for any adverse side effects.

Overall, 40 percent of the patients in the study finished a three-month treatment regimen, showing that hypericin is well-tolerated as an oral medication in glioma patients. Most importantly, the scientists found that 22 of the research participants experienced either no progression or a partial response during treatment with hypericin.

But when they looked at the 18 patients who took hypericin for at least 60 days, the results were even more incredible. Fifty percent of these people -- who, remember, suffered from a tumor considered almost universally fatal -- achieved either stable disease or a partial response.

Bottom line: the herb-derived substance did what no other medical treatment (typically a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy) has been able to do. It kept these research subjects from getting worse (and probably dying) and some got better.

"The patients enrolled in our study were all individuals whose tumors had recurred or progressed after extensive prior therapy," Dr. Couldwell emphasized in the media statement. "Finding evidence of potential antitumor activity among this very ill population of patients who had failed conventional treatment is a promising sign that hypericin could be useful as an adjunct to the current standard of care."

"Despite advances in care, the prognosis for patients with malignant glioma remains poor. The next step is to examine the effect of hypericin if given earlier in the course of therapy," Dr. Couldwell stated.

For more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21456013


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.
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