Nature’s Anti-Metastasis Agent
For such a small gland, the prostate sure gets a lot of attention, as well it should. When it is working well, the prostate gland goes unnoticed. When it acts up, however, it leads to a whole host of problems ranging from the relatively benign (but very annoying) urinary tract dysfunctions up to the second-leading cause of death among American men—prostate cancer.
About the size of a pea at birth, the prostate gland can enlarge throughout various stages of a man’s life due to increased sex hormone activity during adolescence. By age 35, the prostate gland can be as large as a walnut or chestnut—by 45, cells working overtime in the prostate gland cause further enlargement. This natural proliferation can commonly cause a tenfold size increase of the gland by middle age.
Located directly below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate gland sits right at the base of the penis—this creates problems associated with its changing size. The difficulty here is that the prostate gland wraps around the urethra, the long tube urine flows through from the kidneys. (This tube pulls double duty as ejaculate flows through it at the height of sexual stimulation.)
Considered a sex gland, the prostate gland creates fluid for semen. During ejaculation the prostate gland releases a thin alkaline fluid, referred to as prostate secretion, that mixes with sperm. The muscles surrounding the prostate contract during orgasm, forcing the mixture of sperm and fluids through the urethra and assisting with the powerful explosion that occurs during ejaculation.
Protecting Mother Nature’s Work
The prostatic fluid protects sperm cells from the acidic nature of the vagina and provides nourishment to the sperm cells. It also stimulates prostaglandin production (hormone-like fatty acids that cause the cervix to widen), facilitating the flow of sperm through the uterus and encouraging fertilization.
Prostate Enlargement and Other Problems
There are over 12 million men in the United States who suffer from some form of prostate malfunction. About half require treatment in the form of drugs to minimize the problems associated with this gland dysfunction. As the prostate gland enlarges over the years, it begins to tighten its grip around the urethra, causing a host of chronic physiological problems such as:
• Frequent urination
• Increased urgency to urinate
• Stop-and-go flow of urine
• Pain in the testicles, pelvic, or rectal areas
• Lower back pain
• Nausea, dizziness, and unexplained tendency toward sleeping
• Kidney and bladder dysfunction, as well as bacterial infections
• Blood in the urine or ejaculate
The medical term for this natural enlargement of the prostate gland is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). While many of the symptoms of BPH listed above can be annoying, there are many viable conventional and nonconventional treatments that can minimize these symptoms. When these symptoms begin to affect quality of life issues, consult with a medical professional—cancer in this little gland is the second leading cause of death among men.
Silence Isn’t Always Golden
Prostate cancer is a silent killer. While there is no known definitive cause of this cancer, certain risk factors such as age, family history, and race increase the likelihood of contracting it. Men over 50 are more likely to develop this malady if immediate family members had this type of cancer.
Race is also a risk factor: African-American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as white males, based on data compiled by the National Cancer Institute. In fact, African-American men not only have the highest incidence of prostate cancer here in the United States, but in the world.
This disease can take years to manifest itself. Prostate cancer often develops so slowly that many men in their eighties die with the disease, unaware of its existence. Consequently many men only find out that they have prostate cancer during a routine medical exam or screening test.
Searching for Signs of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is diagnosed due to results found from a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A biopsy of tissue from the prostate gland is needed to totally confirm the gland is cancerous.
(Prostate-specific antigen is a substance released into a male’s blood by the prostate gland. Data indicates that about 20 to 30 percent of men with PSA levels from 4 to 10 ng/ml have prostate cancer. When PSA levels rise above 10 ng/ml, the risk of cancer increases to 40 to 60 percent.)
Patrick C. Walsh, MD, recently honored as the 2007 National Physician of the year for clinical excellence by America’s Top Doctors, says, “For too many men, death from prostate cancer is a sad end to months of excruciating pain, increasingly thin and brittle cancer-riddled bones, awful constipation from pain killing drugs and miserable symptoms of urinary obstruction.”
The Numbers Don’t Lie
As cited previously, there are currently over 12 million men in the United States who suffer from some form of prostate dysfunction. According to the American Cancer Society, 220,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003, and 29,000 of those men died of this disorder. Health officials today estimate that one in six men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime, with one in 30 men with prostate cancer dying due to metastasis, the spread of cancer from its original site to other areas of the body.
Once this occurs, cancer in its original location in the body can cause additional problems and difficulties with treatment. Cancer cells have the ability to invade the blood vessels and travel into the bloodstream, destroying healthy cells and tissues virtually anywhere in the body. While there are many conventional and nonconventional treatments focusing on the eradication of cancerous prostate cells and tissue, elective surgical and hormonal treatment procedures have serious side effects such as impotency, liver damage, loss of sex drive, blood clots, and sterility.
A Few of the Most Utilized Medical Therapies Are…
Chemotherapy, the use of very powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, which may damage normal cells.
Cryosurgery (Cryo), a procedure wherein three to six needles are inserted into the prostate gland. (An ultrasound machine is used to assist the surgeon with proper placement of these needles.) Once in place, they freeze the prostate gland, causing prostate gland tissue to die.
External Beam Radiation Therapy, a procedure focused on stopping the progression of cancerous growth via precise beams of radiation centered on killing cancerous tissue.
Radical Prostatectomy, a surgery to remove cancer localized within the prostate gland.
Initial Androgen Deprivation Therapy, a process in which tumor-growth-causing male androgens such as testosterone are downregulated to stop the flow of these hormones, thus shrinking the size of the prostate gland. This is accomplished by orchiectomy, surgical removal of the testicles, or through drugs such as leuprolide (Lupron) and goserelin (Zoladex) that inhibit the release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which modulates how much of specific androgens the male testes manufacture.
Combined Androgen Blockade (CAB)– in this process a GnRH agonist or orchietomy may be used together with anti-androgen drugs. There is, however, some controversy in using this treatment for males with metastatic prostate cancer diagnosed via rising PSA levels without any other evidence of advanced stages of this disorder. Some doctors recommend starting this treatment at the time of diagnosis to delay prostate cancer progression while others prefer to withhold treatment due to side effects of the drugs, opting to wait until additional signs of metastasis are evidenced.
The major issue facing many prostate cancer patients—as with other types of cancer—is the spreading of the disease to other areas of the body, as well as its reoccurrence. As described earlier by Dr. Walsh, prostate cancer, when it spreads beyond the prostate capsule, can be quite aggressive.
Modified Citrus Pectin Inhibits Metastasis
Well-known Scandinavian health researcher and author Christian Bergman reported findings in 1996 about modified citrus pectin—a harmless, naturally sourced carbohydrate—being the first compound ever shown to inhibit the spread of cancer in animal studies and human cancer cell adhesion models. Modified citrus pectin (MCP) is found in citrus fruits as long imposing chains of sugar (carbohydrate) molecules. MCP has these same chains but in much shorter lengths.
Also known as fractionated pectin, MCP is rich in glactoside residues, giving it an affinity for certain types of cancer cells. Metastasis is one of the most life-threatening aspects of cancer and the lack of effective anti-metastatic therapies has prompted research on MCP’s effectiveness in blocking metastasis of certain types of cancers, including melanomas, prostate, and breast cancers. Based on the pioneering work of Kenneth Pietnta, MD, David Platt, PhD, and Avraham Raz, PhD, of the Cancer Metastasis Program and the Michigan Cancer Foundation in Detroit, researchers now know that MCP can inhibit the spreading of prostate cancer cells to other areas of the body.
MCP in animal studies prohibited a group of proteins called lectins from attaching themselves to the walls of cancer cells. Lectins are the messengers that cells use to communicate with one another—a lectin called galactin is found in abundance in prostate and other cancerous cells. Current data suggest that MCP alters the message transmitted by prostate cancer cells to multiply.
Testing the above assumption, researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine reported that one million mat-lylu cells (rat prostate tumor cells known to be metastatic to the lung) were injected in male Copenhagen rats. In this animal model, 0.0 percent, 0.01 percent, 0.1 percent or 1.0 percent of MCP was continuously administered in their drinking water from day four to autopsy on day 30. Compared with 15 or 16 control rats, rats in the 1.0 percent MCP group had statistically significant reduction in lung metastasis as well as fewer metastatic colonies.
A recent phase II human study published in the Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease Journal showed that men diagnosed with recurring prostate cancer that didn’t respond to conventional treatments could benefit from MCP. In this study, researchers looked at the prostate-specific antigen doubling time (PSADT) before and after taking supplemental doses of MCP. The men in this 12-month study had undergone prior medical treatment of radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation, and/or cryosurgery but had a reoccurrence of cancer, based on PSA levels that continued to escalate.
After 12 months, 70 percent of the patients in this study using orally supplemented MCP—taking 14.4 grams daily, divided into three dosages—had slower rates of rising PSADTs. This conclusively correlated with decreased cancer progression, and ultimately life extension. Researchers concluded that halting the progression of the prostate-specific antigen doubling time may limit invasive or more aggressive treatment options for patients showing signs of elevated PSA levels after surgery or radiation.
In a related study conducted at the Department of Pathology at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, researchers also reported that MCP specifically inhibits the actions of the carbohydrate-binding protein, galectin-3, in living organisms. Furthermore, in a fascinating study appearing in the Townsend Newsletter for Doctors and Patients, researchers reported that in human trials MCP prevented cell adherence in human prostate cancer cells, initiating cancer cell death. In this study, these investigators found an 81 percent cancer cell death rate.
Environmental researchers at the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center, looking at the consequences of heavy metal overload on healthy and slower immune response, reported that MCP reduced toxic heavy metals in the blood by 74 percent. These researchers also found that patient recovery from illness and health maintenance improved more rapidly. These results show that MCP also acts as a natural chelating agent, binding with arsenic, lead, and mercury to reduce heavy metal blood levels. Conversely, researchers have found that MCP’s binding affinity also has a positive effect in reducing cholesterol levels. Regular pectin reduces cholesterol by binding to it in the intestinal tract, accelerating its excretion. MCP, however, binds directly to cholesterol in the blood.
Suggested Dose Range
Based on current data, there are no safety issues concerning MCP. As a daily protective supplement, one to five grams is recommended. For individuals diagnosed with cancer, 15 grams daily is suggested, taken in three equal doses. Because African-American males are predisposed toward prostate cancer, I strongly recommend that this population start supplementation of MCP as early as age 25, as a possible preventative measure.
Stephen B. Strum, MD, co-founder of the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, states that “modified citrus pectin appears to be an important mitigating factor in cancer cell control and death.” He went on to say that the diagnostic and staging implications for galectin-3 and other galectins, and the therapeutic implications for MCP use, are of such a great magnitude that major conferences and further findings are necessary. Based on the mechanisms of action (inhibiting galectin-3 adhesion) researchers are now also investigating the medical applications of MCPs in treating breast, colon, melanoma, ovarian, lung, leukemia, and other forms of cancer. Additionally, via its ability to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels by cancerous cells (a process known as angiogenesis),
MCP is now considered to be a viable adjunct weapon with conventional treatments to fight and prevent metastasis of prostate and other forms of cancer.
George L Redmond, PhD, ND, is a graduate of the Clayton College of Natural Health (ND), the American Holistic College of Nutrition (PhD) and received a PhD in Administration and Management from Walden University. For 20 years he has specialized in vitamins and holistic healthcare.
Pectin: The Backstory
Pectin is most concentrated in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits. First identified in 1825, it had been used long before that in jams and marmalades because the pectin would add a gelling property.
Pectin provides little nutritional content, but is a good source of soluble fiber. Researchers used pH and temperature to break down the long, branded chains of polysaccharides into shorter lengths.