PC-SPESIsatis indigotica Fort, Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Panax pseudo-ginseng Wall, Ganoderma lucidium Karst, Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, Dendranthema morifolium Tzvel, Rabdosia rubescens, and Serenoa repens
PC-SPES was, ostensibly, a formulation of eight natural products (seven herbs and one mushroom): Isatis indigotica, Glycyrrhiza glabra (
The name PC-SPES was derived from the common abbreviation for prostate cancer (PC) and the Latin word spes meaning hope. After its commercial launch in 1996, PC-SPES received considerable interest from the general public and reputable medical researchers as a treatment for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a fraud.
PC-SPES was not truly a purely herbal product; samples dating back to 1996 were found to contain a form of pharmaceutical estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES), as well as indomethacin (an anti-inflammatory medication in the ibuprofen family) and warfarin (a strong blood thinner).
There is little doubt that DES is active against prostate cancer, but it presents a variety of risks, including blood clots in the legs. The other two pharmaceutical contaminants might actually reduce this risk (which may be why they were covertly added), but present various risks all on their own. For these reasons, we strongly recommend against using PC-SPES at all.
What Is PC-SPES Used for Today?
The only proposed use of PC-SPES was the treatment of prostate cancer. The formulation was tried at various stages of the disease, and preliminary research indicated that it had potential, particularly for treating prostate cancer
What Is the Scientific Evidence for PC-SPES?
All the results reported in the following paragraphs are consistent with the known effects of hormones related to estrogen, and may be due to the DES present in PC-SPES, rather than the herbal constituents.
In a rat study, PC-SPES treatment reduced the occurrence of prostate cancer tumors, inhibited their growth, and slowed the rate of cancer spread (metastasis) to the lungs.
The standard dosage of PC-SPES was 6 to 9 capsules (320 mg each) per day, taken on an empty stomach at least 2 hours before or after meals.
Note: Due to the presence of unlisted pharmaceuticals, PC-SPES should not be used.
It's no surprise that side effects of PC-SPES closely resemble those of estrogen when taken by men for the treatment of prostate cancer;
it may cause breast or nipple tenderness or swelling, loss of body hair, hot flashes, and loss of libido. Some individuals have also reported leg cramps, nausea and vomiting, and blood clots in the legs.
There is one case report of PC-SPES taken at twice the recommended dose causing internal bleeding, presumably due to the presence of warfarin (Coumadin), a strong blood thinner.
1. Hsieh T, Chen SS, Wang X, et al. Regulation of androgen receptor (AR) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) expression in the androgen-responsive human prostate LNCaP cells by ethanolic extracts of the Chinese herbal preparation, PC-SPES. Biochem Mol Biol Int . 1997;42:535–544.
3. Hsieh TC, Ng C, Chang CC, et al. Induction of apoptosis and down-regulation of bcl-6 in Mutu I cells treated with ethanolic extracts of the Chinese herbal supplement PC-SPES. Int J Oncol . 1998;13:1199–1202.
4. de la Taille A, Hayek OR, Buttyan R, et al. Effects of a phytotherapeutic agent, PC-SPES, on prostate cancer: a preliminary investigation on human cell lines and patients. BJU Int . 1999;84:845–850.
7. de la Taille A, Hayek OR, Buttyan R, et al. Effects of a phytotherapeutic agent, PC-SPES, on prostate cancer: a preliminary investigation on human cell lines and patients. BJU Int . 1999;84:845–850.
10. Kameda H, Small EJ, Reese DM, et al. A phase II study of PC-SPES, an herbal compound, for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer (PCa) [abstract]. American Society of Clinical Oncology 35th Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Ga; 1999. Abstract 1230.
11. Kameda H, Small EJ, Reese DM, et al. A phase II study of PC-SPES, an herbal compound, for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer (PCa) [abstract]. American Society of Clinical Oncology 35th Annual Meeting, Atlanta,Ga; 1999. Abstract 1230.
16. Kameda H, et al. A phase II study of PC-SPES, an herbal compound, for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer (PCa) [abstract]. American Society of Clinical Oncology 35th Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Ga; 1999. Abstract 1230.
19. Sovak M, Seligson AL, Konas M, et al. PC-SPES in prostate cancer: an herbal mixture currently containing warfarin and previously diethylstilbestrol and indomethacin. Presented at: 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; April 6-10, 2002; San Francisco, CA.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Medical Review Board
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