Note: A separate PDQ summary on Prostate Cancer Treatment is also available.
PC-SPES is a patented herbal mixture that was sold as a dietary supplement and used as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment for prostatecancer. It is a combination of eight herbs: baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi), chrysanthemum (Dendranthema morifolium [Ramat.] Tzvelev [synonym Chrysanthemum morifolium]), ganoderma (Ganoderma lucidum [Curtis:fr] Karst.), isatis (Isatis indigotica Fort.), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L. or Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. ex DC.), Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer or pseudoginseng (Panax pseudoginseng var. notoginseng Hoo & tseng [synonym Panax notoginseng (Burkill)] F.H.Chen), Isodon rubescens (Hemsl.) Hara (synonym Rabdosia rubescens [Hemsl.] Hara), and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens [Bartr.] Small). With the exception of saw palmetto, the herbs in PC-SPES have been used individually or in combination in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for a variety of health problems, including those of the prostate, for hundreds of years.[1,2]
Oropharyngeal cancer is uncommon and typically involves patients in the fifth through seventh decades of life; men are afflicted 3 to 5 times more often than women.[1,2,3]
Similar to other cancers of the head and neck, tobacco and alcohol abuse represent the most significant risk factors for the development of oropharyngeal cancer.[3,4] (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment and Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment for more information.) Other risk factors may include:
PC-SPES is an herbal product that resulted from a collaboration between a chemist at the New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, and a Chinese herbalist and doctor of TCM in China. Their idea was to combine TCM with the scientific techniques of Western laboratory research. In the United States, a series of in vitro and in vivo laboratory studies was started on the mixture of herbs used in TCM specially formulated to treat prostate problems. Researchers published the results of these studies, which showed promising anticancer activity from PC-SPES.[3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11]
In 1997, the herbal formula for PC-SPES was patented in the United States. A company, BotanicLab (Brea, California), was formed to produce, distribute, and sell the product. PC-SPES was sold through the BotanicLab Web site (the Web site was taken down after PC-SPES was recalled) and through selected distributors. Anecdotal information about the product and its positive effects was widely circulated on the Internet through Web sites that informed prostate cancer patients about new developments in treatment. At the same time, the published papers were being read by the scientific community, and the findings were presented at various conferences. As a result, clinicians and researchers began looking at PC-SPES as one of the first viable treatments to come out of the alternative medicine community.
The manufacturing process for PC-SPES has been described by the manufacturer as follows: extracts of raw plant material were obtained from the specified plants, which were grown in particular geographic regions in China and harvested at certain times of the year to reduce the natural variation inherent in any biological product. The extracts were shipped to the United States, where high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to monitor the key active compounds-which are believed to be directly related to the clinical effects-for batch-to-batch reproducibility. Activity-related biomarkers were kept in a constant concentration from lot to lot. A commercial testing laboratory (Truesdail Laboratory, Tustin, California) was used to guarantee that each batch was free from contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, microorganisms and products, and prescriptiondrugs. Each lot was standardized by an anticancer bioassay for an effective dose of 50% in vitro inhibition of cell growth using human LNCaP cells for androgen-dependent (AD) prostate cancer and DU-145 cells for androgen-independent (AI) prostate cancer. The powder was then encapsulated, bottled, labeled, and sterilized at the BotanicLab facility.