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From The Cancer Chronicles #30
© Dec. 1995 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.

Pectin is a constituent found in many plants, especially edible fruits. It is most familiar to the North American consumer as a supermarket substance used in the making of jellies and puddings. In conventional medicine it is found in the useful over-the-counter remedy, Kaopectate®, and less conventionally as a treatment for elevated cholesterol and diabetes.

Scientifically, pectin can be described as a complex polysaccharide which functions as the intracellular "cement" in the cell walls of all fruits and vegetables. An orange rind, for example, contains about 30 percent pectin. One would hardly expect this common compound to convey any miraculous health benefits.

Recently, however, Michigan scientists have been studying the effects of plain citrus pectin (CP) as well as a chemically modified citrus pectin (MCP) on the spread of cancer in various experimental systems. In the early 1990s, they looked at MCP's impact on the ability of melanoma (deadly skin cancer) cells to invade and form colonies in the lungs of rats.

"Injection of MCP significantly decreased B16-F1 experimental metastasis" by more than 90 percent, according to David Platt and Avraham Raz of the Michigan Cancer Foundation, Detroit, writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1992;84:438-442).

In March 1995, another report by Dr. Kenneth J. Pienta and colleagues at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan appeared as a featured article in the same government-published journal. It reported on the value of MCP in the prevention of metastases in prostate cancer in mice. Once again, the results showed that MCP was a "potent inhibitor of spontaneous prostate carcinoma metastasis in the Copenhagen rat."


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in U.S. men. There are about 244,000 new cases every year, and 40,000 deaths. About 50 percent of these men have disease that has or will metastasize, usually to the skeletal system. And, according to the JNCI article, "at present, there is no effective curative therapy and very little palliative therapy for patients with metastatic disease." New treatments are desperately needed.

This process of metastasis is complicated, but at several points involves interactions with cell-surface proteins that bind to carbohydrates. Some of these proteins are called galectins. In a prior experiment, when cancer cells were treated with an anti-galectin compound, lung metastases were inhibited (Cancer Res 1986; 46:5270-5275) A correlation has also been found between the amount of galectin on a cancer cell and the stage of the tumor in human colorectal, gastric [stomach], and papillary thyroid tumors (Oncogene 1992;7:2507-2511 and Cancer Res 1991;51:387-393 and Int J Cancer 1994;56: 474-480).

In 1992 it was further shown that modified citrus pectin (MCP) could interfere with the interactions that were controlled by galectin between cells (JNCI 1992;84:438-442). So clearly, MCP is a promising agent.

In the Michigan experiment it was found that when rats were injected with one million prostate cancer cells, 15 out of 16 developed lung metastases after 30 days. (The sixteenth had lymph node metastases.) But when the rats were given a 1.0 percent solution of MCP in their drinking water, 9 out of 16 had either no metastases or statistically significant reductions in size and number of their metastases. It is important to note that MCP had no effect on the growth of the primary tumors. Nor did it have any effect on blood vessel formation in tumors.

Logically, the authors conclude that MCP acts as a "cytostatic" or "antiadhesive agent" in the early stages of metastasis rather than as a treatment for established primary tumor or metastatic growths. It is not cytotoxic: put into a Petri dish with human prostate cancer cells it has no effect on their growth.

When will MCP be made available to patients? A technique for manufacturing MCP was first published in 1960 (Arch Biochem Biophys 90:46-49). To our knowledge this remains in the public domain. However, recently the giant Hercules firm of Wilmington, DE announced a deal to develop MCP as a cancer medicine, along with the aforementioned Michigan scientists. So theoretically MCP may have a commercial future as a prescription drug. (Allow us to express our doubts: any use patent will probably be too weak and the manufacturing technique too generally known to offer the company much protection in the marketplace; also, the developers may be astonished to learn how little interest there will be among the purveyors of toxic chemotherapy in any non-toxic agent like MCP, which are seen as unfairly competitive with highly toxic agents.)

Recently, a source of MCP for today's consumer has come to light. In mid-1995, a pharmaceutical researcher in California started making MCP for three friends with prostate cancer. Word spread. He believes that the optimum dosage is five grams—or one rounded teaspoon—consumed three times per day. This can be added to hot water or added to a blendered energy drink It is now available from Klabin Marketing, 2067 Broadway, New York, NY 10023, phone: 212-877-3632. The cost is about $140 for a months' supply.

There are no reports of pectin or MCP being harmful to anyone. Certainly pectin is something most of us inadvertently consume every day. The California scientist I referred to has tested MCP on himself and on several coworkers and found that at this dose the level of galacturonic acid (a breakdown product of pectin) was indeed elevated in the blood serum. He says this may show that enough MCP is getting into the bloodstream to bind to the surface receptors of cancer cells—which is exactly what you want the pectin to do.

Bear in mind that we have been discussing animal results, which may or may not correlate with human clinical results. (The entire field of chemotherapy was founded on exactly such animal studies.)

The presence of galectin-3 on human prostate cancer cells is certainly a powerful hint that MCP will work in humans as it does in rats.

Who might take it? The obvious first choice would be men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancers, whether operated on or not, that have not yet metastasized. Another possibility would be men with very small bone or lung metastases or men with elevated PSAs. As to other cancers, it seems likely that some patients, male or female, with melanoma that has not yet metastasized might also profit.

But it's not a sure thing, only a reasonable hunch, that in cases where preventing the occurrence of metastases is a major consideration (as in almost all cases of early stage prostate cancer) taking MCP seems like a relatively harmless and inexpensive way of increasing one's odds.

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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