Every man wants good prostate health but few men actually talk about it. Now, a precursor of arthritis may hold the key to treating a pre-cancerous prostate condition.
COX-2 is the enzyme-protein complex that triggers inflammation that causes arthritis pain. But in recent years, scientists have discovered that cancerous tissues have unnaturally high COX-2 levels. In fact, COX-2 may be largely responsible for the growth of several cancer types, including breast, lung and colon cancer.
American researchers at Columbia University have led the way in studying a unique herbal formulation called Zyflamend that may inhibit COX-2 without the dangerous side effects of pharmaceutical COX-2 inhibitors.
We originally told our regular readers about Zyflamend a few years ago. Now the Columbia team has specifically turned its attention to prostate cancer, and the results so far are very promising.
Zyflamend shown to kill prostate cancer cells
Researchers from Columbia’s Center of Holistic Urology conducted a study in which a herbal product called Zyflamend was added to a culture of human prostate cancer cells. The Zyflamend-treated cultures had a 78 per cent reduction in the number of cancer cells, compared with untreated cultures.
Researchers believe that Zyflamend encouraged apoptosis, also known as ‘programmed cell death.’ A specific protein involved in apoptosis was apparently doubled by the herbs. In addition, the herbal formula had almost the same effectiveness as a pharmaceutical in the inhibition of COX-2. Curcumin (a natural COX-2 inhibitor) was also tested, but had very little beneficial effect.
A new lab study from Columbia – reported in the October 2005 issue of Nutrition and Cancer – has produced similar results. The Columbia team writes that when tested on a cancer cell line, ‘Zyflamend dramatically decreased COX-1 and COX-2 enzymatic activity.’ And again, Zyflamend induced apoptosis while also suppressing cell growth.
Human trials underway
The Columbia team has now gone outside the lab to test Zyflamend in a human trial that’s already underway.
The current study is specifically designed to examine the effects of Zyflamend on patients who are diagnosed with prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). PIN is a condition in which the cells on the prostate gland’s surface divide more rapidly than the rest of the prostate cells. Research shows that men diagnosed with PIN have a sharply increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
Researchers are examining the use of Zyflamend on nearly 50 men, aged 40 to 75, who have been diagnosed with PIN. The trial period will run for 18 months, so I won’t be reporting the results until next year at the earliest, but the length of this study will provide an excellent test of both the effectiveness and safety of Zyflamend.
Natural COX-2 inhibitors
So, what exactly does Zyflamend contain that has this profound effect on cancer cells? The formula is made up of several herbs used for centuries as anti-inflammatories. They include:
- Holy basil (contains ursolic acid; a COX-2 inhibitor)
- Turmeric (contains curcumin; a COX-2 inhibitor)
- Ginger (inhibits both COX-2 and 5-LO, another enzyme cancer cells need to flourish)
- Green tea (polyphenols reduce COX-2)
- Rosemary (also contains ursolic acid)
- Hu zhang (contains reservatrol; a COX-2 inhibiter)
- Chinese goldthread and barberry (both contain berberine; a COX-2 inhibitor)
- Oregano (contains more than 30 known anti-inflammatory compounds)
- Scutellaria (contains a phytonutrients complex; a COX-2 inhibitor)
With the recent notoriety of Vioxx dangers, you can’t help but wonder if any COX-2 inhibitor – whether drug or herb – might pose problems. But when I asked Medical Adviser Dr Martin Milner about the risk of gastrointestinal damage with herbal COX-2 inhibitors, he said that using natural plant compounds as opposed to synthetic chemicals generally produces better results with fewer side effects.
Still, if you decide to try Zyflamend, you should inform your doctor to check potential interactions with other medicines you may be taking and watch for signs of stomach discomfort or heart trouble.
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