Can a citrus supplement stop my cancer?
Modified citrus pectin (MCP) is a dietary supplement sold online or in pharmacies usually in powder form. The question Can a citrus supplement stop my cancer? is important because of claims that can be found on the internet.
In alternative medicine, modified citrus pectin is believed to slow the growth of certain types of cancer (including prostate cancer, skin cancer and breast cancer), and may prevent certain forms of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer. Some proponents of alternative medicine also claim that it can promote detoxification, strengthen the immune system, help the body rid itself of heavy metals, lower cholesterol, and treat constipation. But do these claims hold up to study?
What is modified citrus pectin?
Pectin is a natural substance found in the skin and pulp of citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits) and apples. Unlike normal pectin, which is not digestible, modified citrus pectin (MCP) is obtained by changing pectin to make its molecules smaller so that it is better absorbed by the body. Once in the bloodstream, it is believed to have biological properties that are beneficial to human health.
Modified citrus pectin and prostate cancer
Although the use of MCP in medicine is still very experimental, scientists have started to explore its post-treatment use to reduce the risk of metastasis (the spread of cancer beyond the original tumor).
For metastases to appear, there must first be agglutination of cancer cells. Some scientists believe that MCP may reduce the risk of metastasis by binding to a protein called galectin 3. Galectin 3 plays an important role in cell adhesion and is believed to help metastasize by acting as a "glue" that binds circulating cancer cells to distant organs and tissues. By binding to galectin 3 and "breaking" it, MCP can reduce the ability of cancer to bind to other cells and form tumors in other parts of the body.
A number of animal and laboratory studies have examined the benefits of MCP in preventing cancer metastasis after primary treatment, including breast cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, and liver cancer. The most advanced research stages, however, concern prostate cancer.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at the effect of MCP in 53 men treated with radiation therapy or surgery after their prostate cancer recurred. Each of them was given a dose of 4.8 milligrams of modified citrus pectin three times a day for six months. None showed signs of metastasis.
Response to treatment was measured using a blood test called prostate-specific antigen doubling time (PSADT). By definition, a slower doubling time confers slower disease progression and a lower risk of metastasis.
At the end of the phase II trial, 70% of the men saw their PSADT improve, compared to 20% who showed signs of disease progression.
Although the researchers concluded that MCP offers "potential benefits" in reducing the risk of metastasis, more evidence is needed before it can be considered a viable tool in the treatment of cancer. Medical understanding of its ability to cure or slow cancer is therefore limited. And due to limited research, it's too early to recommend modified citrus pectin as a treatment for any condition.
Over-the-counter supplements and their long-term use
In the absence of research, little is known about the safety of regular or long-term use of modified citrus pectin. It is not known to be dangerous, but it is also not a wonder drug. The modified citrus pectin can trigger some side effects, including an upset stomach. In addition, it can cause allergic reactions in people allergic to citrus fruits.
It is also important to note that treating chronic illness yourself with modified citrus pectin and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences. If you are considering using it, talk to your doctor first. Also, keep in mind that most dietary supplements, like MCP, are largely unregulated and not rigorously studied to establish their safety and effectiveness.
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Sources et references
Effect of pectasol-c modified citrus pectin (P-MCP) treatment (tx) on PSA dynamics in non- metastatic biochemically relapsed prostate cancer (BRPC) patients (pts): Primary outcome analysis of a prospective phase II study.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center information about Pectin
Modified Citrus Pectin - Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements - National Institutes of Health, USA
Modified citrus pectin (MCP) - Cancer Research UK
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