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A herbal formula used by Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse (1887–1978) that has developed something of a worldwide cult status. The formula is said to have originated with a Native American herbalist in Northern Ontario, who successfully treated an English woman for breast cancer towards the end of the nineteenth century. A limited scientific trial failed to find any anti-cancer benefit from its use, but the herbal mix is relatively inexpensive and considering the positive anecdotal evidence, it’s worth trying. Like so many cancer treatments, mainstream and otherwise, it is possible that Essiac works with some people, but not others, though why this should be so is uncertain. There can be a number of reasons.

The formula consists of the entire dried and powdered sheep sorrel plant (Rumex acetosella), chopped and dried burdock root (Arctium lappa), the dried and powdered bark of the slippery elm tree (Ulmus rubra), and the dried and powdered root of the ornamental turkey rhubarb plant (Rheum palmatum).

Essiacinfo.org – A good overview with links to other Essiac sites

EssiacSales.eu.com – UK supplier of Essiac herbs worldwide.

Clouds Trust – An Essiac information organization. A useful information site.


“ImuPlus is a proprietary pharmaceutical grade (>99%), non-denatured whey protein isolate formula: a functional food that provides bioactive precursors for the intracellular production of glutathione, a critical constituent for the immune system and a vital antioxidant and detoxifying agent.... Thus, it is possible that the ingestion of non-denatured whey protein isolates may oxidatively stress cancer cells, while protecting normal cells. This may be why carcinogen-treated mice fed non-denatured whey protein isolates had significantly smaller tumor burdens than controls” (Swiss Bioceutical International). Whey is the watery liquid component when milk is curdled.

Swiss Bioceutical International Ltd. – The manufacturer’s site.

Swiss Bioceutical International Ltd. – The manufacturer's product information.

Springboard – “The ImuPlus Story” – a comprehensive report on ImuPlus, sponsored and partially written by the manufacturer, with a number of doctors’ recommendations and an evident product promotional agenda.


Avemar, sometimes referred to as MSC, is a nutritional compound produced by the fermentation of wheat germ (Triticum vulgaris) by bakers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), in a patented process which yields a standardized quantity of the naturally occurring flavone 2,6-dimethoxy-p-benzoquinone (2,6-DMBQ). It is used as a supportive adjunct to conventional cancer treatment. The process was devised by the Hungarian researcher, Professor Mate Hidvegi, during the 1990s. Avemar is manufactured in Hungary, where it is an accepted part of cancer treatment. According to a number of studies, Avemar enhances immune system regulation in a number of ways, making it easier for the immune system to see cancer cells and destroy them. Avemar also selectively inhibits glucose metabolism in cancer cells, reducing their ability to multiply.

A number of small clinical trials conducted since 2000 have proved encouraging. One study, published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2003, showed a reduction from
23.1% to 7.6% of new metastases over six months among 66 colorectal cancer patients who received Avemar and 104 who did not. Other trials have shown similar, significant results with other forms of cancer. American BioSciences Inc., the US distributor of Avemar, has the complete text of the various studies and reviews on their website. The product is subject to considerable marketing effort and sales-oriented presentation of the research data and brand name.

Avemar The Hungarian manufacturer's website.

American BioSciences Inc.
The US distributor's informative website.

Avemar Published Research The full text of the four clinical trials, and various reviews.

Annals of the New York Academy of Science Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (Avemar) in the Treatment of Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases.” An explanatory review.

Supportive Therapy A high pressure Avemar marketing site.

BioBran MGN-3

The primary active ingredient of BioBran MGN-3 is arabinoxylan, a short-chain polysaccharide formed by the breakdown of rice bran by enzymes from the shiitake mushroom. It has been shown to boost the immune system by increasing the activity of natural killer (NK) cells and other lymphocytes (B- and T-cells), which can identify and destroy cancer cells. However, there is little clinical research to show that MGN-3 reduces the size of tumours. It is therefore recommended as an adjuvant treatment for those undergoing chemo- or radiotherapy, or in conjunction with surgery. No side effects or incompatibility with other treatments have been reported, and its effect does not diminish with time. It may be possible in the UK to obtain this product from your GP.

The main researcher behind BioBran MGN-3 has been Dr. Mamdooh Ghoneum at the Charles Drew University, Los Angeles. The product has been produced by Diawa Pharmaceutical in Tokyo, a small company committed to the development of natural products. The product was first marketed in 1992, and rapidly ran into legal problems in the USA, when the distributor Lane Labs, made what were decreed as unsubstantiated claims of its effectiveness against cancer, AIDS and other diseases. The FDA subsequently banned Lane Labs from selling MGN-3.

BioBran MGN-3 was first developed in 1992 by Hiroaki Maeda, director of research and development at Daiwa Pharmaceutical in Tokyo, a small company directed by Yasuo Ninomiya, and committed to the development of phytonutrient solutions to health and agricultural problems. Maeda later worked on further development of the product with Mamdooh Ghoneum PhD, professor of immunology at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. The product is named after its three main developers (Maeda-Ghoneum-Ninomiya), with an additional '3', since it is a third generation product. In a comment commonly quoted by promoters and vendors, Ghoneum has observed that “MGN-3 is the most powerful immune complex I have ever tested.” Dr Julian Kenyon, on the other hand, in small scale unpublished trials, found no difference in efficacy between BioBran and a blended extract of the five main medicinal mushrooms. Of course, Ghoneum's work was done on cell cultures, and the whole body system is inherently more complex. It is also true that pharmaceutical companies may commission many trials, but only the positive ones get published. This is why genuinely independent product trials are so important to any true assessment of product efficacy.

BioBran European Information and Research Center – Full product details, including links to published research papers and articles.

European Distributors

US Distributors

The Really Healthy Company – The UK distributor.

Cancer Active – An excellent introduction and overview from this well-informed UK cancer charity.

Health Supplement Retailer – A good overview, with references to scientific studies.

Aurora Group – A US supplier.

Polyerga Plus

Polyerga Plus provides nutritional support for the immune system, its key active ingredients being peptide extracts from pig spleens. Immune system peptides, commonly referred to as cytokines, are chemical messengers that activate, regulate and stabilize the immune system. The product appears to activate the body's natural killer (NK) and T-cell lymphocytes. The product consists of polypeptide tablets and oligopeptide capsules. The polypeptides are taken three times daily, before meals, and the oligopeptides are taken every other day before a meal. This peptide technology was originally developed in the 1950s by the German doctor and biochemist, Prof. Walter Kuhlmey.

Various studies suggest that the development of secondary tumours (metastases) in some forms of cancer are inhibited when spleen peptides are taken along with chemotherapy, and that the side effects of chemotherapy can be reduced. No negative interactions with other drugs or supplements have been reported. However, Polyerga Plus should be taken at least two hours before proteolitic enzymes (e.g. pancreatin, bromelain, papain) or any products containing them.

HorferVit Pharma – The German manufacturers' site, including a summary of scientific and clinical studies on Polyerga.

Polyerga Plus – The marketing site of the US distributor, with a summary of research studies. Pricing and shipping information is available from an alternative sales site.

Annie Appleseed Project – A brief note on Polyerga Plus.

MyHealthCare21 – A US vendor.

Careseng – A Ginseng Extract

First marketed in 2001, Careseng contains the concentrated extract of a number of anti-cancer compounds found in ginseng, a herb with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Cell culture studies on breast, liver, colon, prostate, lung, pancreatic, and brain cancer cells have shown that the extract induces apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Two preliminary clinical studies also show significant inhibition of cancer growth. No adverse side effects have been reported.

The two main active anti-cancer agents in Careseng are Rh2 and a class of plant compounds known as dammarane sapogenins, found especially in the araliaceae (a large family of mostly tropical shrubs and trees, of which ginseng is one). Cell culture studies of dammarane sapogenins demonstrate that in addition to inducing apoptosis, they can also inhibit cancer cell proliferation, induce differentiation of cancer cells into a benign form, and block the function a protein (P-glycoprotein) found in cancer cells which is responsible for multi-drug resistance, thus enhancing the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs. There are also other possible anti-cancer effects. Rh2 is chemically related to dammarane sapogenins.

Dammarane Sapogenins – A site containing much detailed scientific information, with references to many studies into the anti-cancer and other properties of Rh2 and dammarane sapogenins.

American Society of Clinical Oncology – “The anti-cancer pharmacology of Careseng.” A cell culture study showing Careseng-induced apoptosis in a number of cancer cell lines, and calling for clinical research.

Integrative Medicine Institute – A brief note on Careseng and a report of some positive preliminary clinical studies.

BC Institute of Technology – A current on-going study funded by Careseng manufacturer's into the metabolism of Careseng in liver cell cultures.

Pegasus Pharmaceuticals – The Canadian manufacturer's site, with a separate sales site.

Natural Health Consultants – Brief details from a US vendor.

Wellness Convergence – A Canadian vendor, though practically no product information is currently provided.

Freedom Center for Advanced Medicine – A US clinic and vendor, although very little product information is provided.

Careseng Clinics – Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinics using Careseng in Canada.


According to the official Carctol site, “Carctol is a blend of naturally occurring Indian herbs produced by Dr Nandlal Tiwari, an expert in Ayurvedic medicine. Dr Tiwari, from Jaipur in the Rajasthan state of India, has been prescribing the medicine to cancer sufferers since he discovered the formula, after research on indigenous herbs in the forests of Assam, over twenty years ago.

“Through Dr Tiwari's own work and additional tests in the UK, Carctol has proved effective as a life-enhancing formula for people with all types of cancer. It is also beneficial for those wishing to prevent cancer, for the protection of smokers, and for the treatment of those with whooping cough, difficulty in swallowing, appetite loss, menstrual disorders, and liver damage due to alcohol.

“Carctol is not recommended as a substitute for conventional treatment, but as an adjuvant treatment. However, it may also be taken for the treatment of cancer, where the limits of conventional medicine have been reached. Its use is part of a full nutritional regime that is prescribed by Dr Tiwari and those practitioners, with a full knowledge of the product.”

Carctol contains Hemidesmus indicus (roots), Tribulus terrestris (seeds), Piper cubeba linn (seeds), Ammani vesicatoria (plant), Lepidium sativum linn (seeds), Blepharis edulis (seeds), Smilax china linn (roots), and Rheumemodi wall (roots).

Whilst taking Carctol, it is necessary to follow a strict vegetarian and alkalinizing diet, and to drink up to 3 to 5 litres of boiled water per day. It is also recommended that digestive enzymes are taken along with Carctol. Toxicology tests in the UK and India have shown Carctol to have no toxicity, and to be free from toxic bacteria, heavy metal or pesticide contamination.

Carctol has received widespread interest in the UK following a press release in July 2002 by former director of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, Dr Rosy Daniel, whose story was published in the Daily Telegraph. Although there do not appear to any controlled clinical trials of Carctol, a large number of positive case studies have been documented. In a study of 1,900 cancer patients in India, a 75%-100% benefit was reported in 2% of patients, a 25%-75% benefit in 50% of patients, and little or no benefit in the remaining 25%. Apart from helping the body to an alkaline condition, there seems to be no indication of how Carctol is working. Dr Tiwari recommends taking Carctol only under the guidance of a qualified professional who understands its use.

Carctol Official Website – Authorised by Dr Tiwari, with a full list of UK practitioners.

Daily Telegraph – The original story that brought Carctol to the attention of the UK public in July 2002.

British Medical Journal – A review of Dr Rosy Daniel's press release concerning Carctol.

CAM Cancer – An in-depth overview.

Health Creation – Dr Rosy Daniel's website, with information on Carctol.

Cancer Research UK – A standard, conventional and cautious viewpoint.

Herbs Can Cure – A vendor based in Faridabad, India.

Carctol USA – The official US website, run by Shaws Health Ltd. in the Channel Islands.

Bovine & Shark Cartilage

Public interest in shark cartilage as a cancer treatment was first aroused by the publication of Sharks Don't Get Cancer, by William Lane PhD, in 1993, and consequent coverage in the American CBS News programme, 60 Minutes. In fact, sharks do get cancer, but not, it is believed, as frequently as human beings. (It must be pretty difficult to determine the incidence of cancer among sharks!). Cartilage, unlike bone, contains no blood vessels, and shark and bovine cartilage contain substances that prevent the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis). Since tumours require their own blood supply in order to grow, it has been suggested that cartilage extracts would help inhibit tumour growth.

Bovine cartilage, from the trachaeal rings of cattle, has been used as a nutritional supplement since the 1950s. Its potential medicinal properties have been more widely researched than shark cartilage, not only as a cancer treatment, but also for the pain of arthritis, where its anti-angiogenesis properties help reduce inflammation and stiffness in affected joints. It has also proved of benefit in treating psoriasis, a disease which, like cancer, results from the over-proliferation of cells. As well as possessing anti-angiogenesis properties, substances in cartilage are believed to engender resistance to proteases (invasive enzymes produced by tumours). Dr Prudden, one of the main proponents of bovine cartilage, maintains that its primary anti-cancer effect is due to immuno-modulating polysaccharides.

Sceptics claim that molecules of the anti-angiogenic proteins in cartilage are too large to be absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream. They generally quote a trial (Journal of Clinical Oncology, November 1998) of 60 advanced cancer patients, suffering from a variety of cancer types and who had not responded to other treatments, and who showed no evidence of tumour shrinkage or improvement in the quality of life from taking shark cartilage. However, this study in itself is not conclusive, for it is particularly likely that advanced or aggressive tumours, unaffected by other treatments, will be unaffected by cartilage as well. Moreover, since the actual agents thought to be responsible for anti-angiogenesis have yet to be identified, it is too soon to say for certain that they cannot be absorbed. And if Dr Prudden is right, it is immuno-activating polysaccharides that are responsible for the anti-tumour effect, not anti-angiogenic proteins. Currently, two large trials of shark cartilage, sponsored by the NCI, are under way.

In a review of the ten known human studies concerning cartilage and cancer, the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that some reported no effect, while others claimed disappearance of the tumours. Since cancers are of many different types, as indeed are trials, this is by no means surprising.

Cartilage is generally regarded as non-toxic. It is usually taken orally, but can also be injected (subcutaneously or intravenously) or taken rectally (by retention enema). The reported side effects include nausea, upset stomach, indigestion, constipation, taste changes, fatigue, fever, dizziness, scrotal oedema, high calcium levels, and discomfort at the site of injection. Like all anti-angiogenesis agents, cartilage should be avoided by those requiring new blood vessel growth, such as children, pregnant women, those with cardiovascular problems, and post-surgery. Various proprietary cartilage formulations are available, including Benefin, Cartilade, Cartisin, Catrix, Neovastat (AE-941), and others.

Moores Cancer Center, University of California – A useful overview.

MD Anderson Cancer Center – An overview, including details of dosage and current trials.

National Cancer Institute – An in-depth, cautious overview, including details of human clinical studies.

Cancer Guide – An excellent open-minded and in-depth overview. Also includes a possible cartilage treatment regimen, dated 1993, developed by Dr Simone of Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Pancreatic Proteolytic Enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes (or proteases) are enzymes that digest proteins. They include the chymotrypsin and trypsin (pancreatic enzymes), bromelain (pineapple enzyme), papain (papaya enzyme), fungal proteases, and serratia peptidase (the 'silk worm' enzyme).

The use of pancreatic proteolytic enzymes as a cancer treatment was first proposed in 1906 by the Scottish embryologist, Dr John Beard. From his research on the placenta, Dr Beard came to believe that these enzymes are the body's main defence against cancer. He believed that during the course of pregnancy, the normal growth of the placenta is arrested by pancreatic enzymes produced by the embryo. He thought that tumours develop in adults from left-over placental cells when the pancreas fails to make or release sufficient enzymes.

During his lifetime, his work attracted some interest in the academic world, and several case reports of tumour regression and even remission in terminal cancer patients treated with pancreatic enzymes were documented. In 1911, he published a summary of his work in The Enzyme Therapy of Cancer.

After his death in 1923, his enzyme therapy slipped into obscurity, though it enjoyed occasional revivals in the world of alternative medicine, in particular as a part of the nutritional anti-cancer regimen of the Texan dentist, Dr William Donald Kelley. Diagnosed in 1963 with the generally fatal pancreatic cancer, Kelley healed himself with pancreatic enzymes, going on to do the same for many others. Often vilified by the media, Dr Kelley wanted his work to be evaluated by the academic world. Eventually, in 1981, this was undertaken by a medical student, Nicholas Gonzalez, under the guidance of the then president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr Robert Good. Since then, Dr Gonzalez together with his colleague, Dr Linda Isaacs, has continued the research, developing a better therapeutic protocol, and treating patients at their New York clinic. Their treatment includes an individualized regimen made up of three parts: diet, intensive supplementation with nutrients and enzymes, and detoxification. His aim has always been to properly research and evaluate Dr Beard's and Dr Kelley's work, so that if it should prove to be of value it could be integrated into mainstream medical practice. His work is taken seriously by the National Cancer Institute, and after some positive preliminary studies is presently the subject of large-scale clinical trials.

Dr Gonzalez points out that the enzymes used at their clinic are prepared according to a strict specification. He adds, “These enzymes are available only to our patients, and are not available over the internet or in health food stores. In our experience, quality, manufacturing methods, and composition vary widely among commercially available preparations of pancreatic enzymes. The results of our studies cannot be used as validation for any other product, whether obtained from a health food store, a pharmacy or an internet source.”

Vegetarians and vegans may be unwilling to adopt the therapeutic approach of Dr Gonzalez, since pancreatic enzymes are of animal origin. Proteolytic enzymes of vegetable origin, such as papain and bromelain, are available. But although there have been a few promising in vitro studies, their efficacy of as a cancer remedy is unknown.

Dr Gonzalez is not alone in his research into the possible uses of pancreatic enzymes in the treatment of cancer. The antitumor and antimetastatic effects of a mixture of purified proenzymes proenzyme precursors, including trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen (pancreatic proenzyme precursors) and amylase (a pancreatic enzyme, also found in saliva), have been reported by the (now retired) Czech oncologist, Dr Frantisek Trnka, whose work is currently a major subject of research by Czech-American research scientist, Prof. Joseph Novak, at Bucknell University, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, USA.

Total Health Magazine – “Enzyme Therapy: Back to the Beginnings.” An article by Drs Gonzalez and Isaacs.

Dr Gonzalez's Nutritional Regimen – An excellent site, detailing the history of the treatment, research information, scientific articles, a radio interview, how to become a patient, and so on.

Owen R. Fonorow – “The Cure for Cancer: Theory, History and Treatment.” A useful overview.

Nutrition and Cancer – “Evaluation of Pancreatic Proteolytic Enzyme Treatment of Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas, with Nutrition and Detoxification Support.” The report of a small clinical trial by Drs Gonzalez and Isaacs.

National Cancer Institute – “Gemcitabine Compared with Pancreatic Enzyme Therapy plus Specialized Diet (Gonzalez Regimen) in Treating Patients who Have Stage II, Stage III, or Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.” Details of an on-going trial comparing the efficacy of pancreatic enzyme therapy with the chemotherapy agent, gemcitabine.

Dr Murray – A general overview of the health properties of proteolytic enzymes. Dr Murray also has a more specific article on proteolytic enzymes in cancer therapy.

Cancer Decisions Newsletter – Note on a forthcoming trip by cancer writer, Dr Ralph W. Moss, to meet the retired Czech oncologist, Dr Frantisek Trnka.

Bucknell University – Profile of Prof. Joseph F. Novak.

Anticancer Research – “Proenzyme therapy of cancer” (2004). Joseph F. Novak and Frantizek Trnka.

Phenergan (Promethazine Hydrochloride)

Promethazine hydrochloride, marketed as Phenergan, Promethegan, Mepergan and Anergan, is an antihistamine pharmaceutical product that blocks the effects of naturally occurring histamine. It belongs to a family of substances known as phenothiazines, and is used to treat allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itching, hives, and itchy skin rashes. It is also used as a sedative for the control of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, to help control postoperative pain, to alleviate nausea and vomiting (especially post-operative), and to prevent motion sickness. How it works is little understood, though it is known to cross the blood-brain barrier and to depress the activity of the central nervous system.

It has a large number of possible side effects, the commonest of which is extreme drowsiness, making it unsafe to drive a car, use machinery, and so on. It can also cause respiratory depression, even leading to death, especially in children aged less than two years old. Promethazine was widely used for its anti-nausea properties in the 1970s and 1980s, but due to its poor efficacy and unacceptable side effects, it has been largely replaced. Promethazine has also been shown to possess anti-cancer properties in far lower doses (25–50mg) than those prescribed for the control of mental disorders (400–800mg).

Phenothiazines have been in use since the late 1940s, and the first animal studies indicating their tumour inhibition properties, leading to increased survival times were published in 1957. Since then, a small number of positive animal studies have been conducted, but although some positive individual human case studies and anecdotal reports have been published, there have been no clinical trials. Dr Robert Jones, a British doctor and modern proponent of the use of promethazine as a cancer treatment, writes, “The treatment is the result of a long investigation standing fully in the tradition of applied medical research. Despite the impressive weight of supportive scientific evidence, and in spite of several requests, no cancer charity or pharmaceutical firm has agreed to conduct any kind of clinical trial. Patent cover for Phenergan has long run out. In consequence, the costs of treatment are too modest to attract commercial interest.” He also points out, “Commercially, the concept of cancer treatment with phenothiazines is well-established; no less than thirteen Japanese patents for phenothiazines as anticancer drugs have been listed in Chemical Abstracts since 1973.”

Based on the evidence of his research, Dr Jones believes that promethazine's mode of action is disruption of cancer cell metabolism, specifically of the mitochondria, the cell's energy production centre. This leads to tumour necrosis, rather than apoptosis. That is, cancer cells are simply killed, rather than undergoing a more orderly dismantling (apoptosis), which is the way normal cells are taken out of service at the end of their useful lifetime. In apoptosis, cell materials are broken down and recycled. Necrosis, on the other hand, produces toxic substances whose elimination from the system may require some help. For this and other reasons, Dr Jones has established a treatment regimen that includes the use of various vitamins and supplements. Because promethazine crosses the blood brain barrier, it is a possible treatment for brain tumours, unlike many chemotherapy agents.

Cancer Support Association of Western Australia – “Notes on the Treatment of Cancer with Low-Dose Phenothiazines, with Special Reference to Promethazine,” by Dr Robert Jones. An in-depth article, describing some individual case studies, with references to supporting research.

Yes to Life – “Self-medication: The Treatment of Cancer with Phenergan,” by Dr Robert Jones.

Medical Hypotheses – “Successful Cancer Therapy with Promethazine: The Rationale,” a 1996 paper by Dr Robert Jones.

Cancer Support Association of Western Australia – Support for Dr Jones from a grateful patient.

Drugs.com – Basic information, including side effects, when not to take it (like during pregnancy), interactions with other drugs, and so on.

American Cancer Society – Basic information.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center – “New Warnings for Phenergan” (Jan. 2005).

Cimetidine (Tagamet)

Cimetidine (brand name, Tagamet and others) is an over-the-counter or prescription drug that has been used since the 1970s to reduce the production of stomach acid. Stomach acid is secreted when histamine binds to the H2 receptors found on the surface of the stomach cells that secrete acid. Cimetidine binds to the H2 receptors, preventing the binding of histamine, and the consequent production of acid. While this is the mechanism for which cimetidine has generally been prescribed, research since the late 1970s indicates that cimetidine is also useful to prevent the recurrence and metastasis of stomach and colorectal cancers.

Initially, it was thought that cimetidine stimulated the immune system to attack cancer cells. Histamine, often secreted in response to the surgical removal of a colorectal tumour, is a natural immune system inhibitor, so to suppress the action of histamine would effectively permit the immune system to be more active in eliminating cancer cells.

This may be a part of the picture, but it is now believed that cimetidine works mainly by preventing the adhesion of cancer cells to blood vessel walls. A metastasis starts when a cancer cell circulating in the blood attaches itself to the wall of a blood vessel. Cimetidine inhibits the production of E-selectin (ELAM-1), a molecule in blood vessels to which cancer cells can adhere by means of their own cell surface binding agents (ligands), Lewis X and Lewis A. This prevents cancer cells from adhering to blood vessel walls, and establishing a new tumour. Instead, they are eventually eliminated. In one cimetidine trial, the ten-year survival rate of patients who had undergone the surgical removal of a colorectal cancer was increased from 49.8% to 84.6% when they were treated for a year after with cimetidine as an adjuvant to the chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil. Other trials have also demonstrated significantly enhanced survival rates when patients have received cimetidine.

Not all colorectal cancers have Lewis X and Lewis A ligands. One study found them in only 70% of colorectal cancers. Other studies have found them in breast and pancreatic cancers, which may mean that the administration of cimetidine will also increase survival rates for patients with these forms of cancer. The absence of Lewis X and Lewis A ligands in some colon cancers seems to be part of the reason why cimetidine is not always successful in preventing metastases.

Given the wealth of clinical evidence demonstrating the increased survival rates when cimetidine is administered, it is surprising that it has not become a standard part of the treatment of colorectal cancer. Part of the reason is probably that to get approval of cimetidine from the various drug approval bodies for an 'off-label' use would be too costly. However, 'off-label' prescription for approved drugs is legal, ethical and not uncommon.

Life Extension Magazine – An excellent overview of research (2002) concerning cimetidine and cancer. This site also has a shorter version (2004).

Sweet Liberty – A 2004 review of studies concerning cimetidine and cancer, by Dr James Howenstine.

Second Opinions – A cancer patient and layman's overview.

Digestion – “Does Cimetidine Improve Prospects for Cancer Patients? - A Reappraisal of the Evidence to Date” (1999). A positive review based on the immuno-boosting properties of cimetidine.

British Journal of Cancer – “Cimetidine increases survival of colorectal cancer patients with high levels of sialyl Lewis-X and sialyl Lewis-A epitope expression on tumour cells” (2002).

British Journal of Cancer – “Cimetidine modulates the antigen presenting capacity of dendritic cells from colorectal cancer patients” (2002).

Cancernet – A note on the immuno-boosting properties of cimetidine, with a useful bibliography up to 1988.

The Colon Cancer Project – A useful bibliography, up to 2002.

Genzyme Genetics – A US company who can test for the presence of Lewis X and Lewis A ligands on tumours.

Copyright John Davidson, 2006, 2008

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