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5 January 2009
Cough medicine ingredient used to treat prostate cancer
by George Atkinson

A study in the journal Anticancer Research has shown that an ingredient used in cough suppressants may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer. The study found that noscapine, which has been used in cough medications for nearly half a century, reduced tumor growth in mice by 60 percent and limited the spread of tumors (metastasis) by 65 percent, all without causing any harmful side effects.

Conducted by Dr. Israel Barken of the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation, Moshe Rogosnitzky of the MedInsight Research Institute, and Dr. Jack Geller of The University of California, San Diego, the study is the first to demonstrate noscapine's effectiveness in treating prostate cancer.

Noscapine is a naturally-occurring, non-addictive derivative of opium. As a natural substance, noscapine cannot be patented, which has limited its potential for clinical trials. Rogosnitzky notes that drug companies are generally unwilling to underwrite expensive clinical trials without being able to recoup their investment. A synthetic derivative of noscapine has been patented but has not yet reached the clinical testing phase.

Since noscapine is approved for use in many countries as a cough suppressant, it is available to doctors to prescribe for other uses as well. Consequently, noscapine is increasingly being used "off-label" to treat a variety of cancers. Dr. Barken used noscapine to treat a handful of prostate cancer patients before retiring from clinical practice. Encouraged by the success of these treatments, his foundation funded the current study.

Rogosnitzky points out the significant advantages that noscapine could present as a treatment for prostate cancer. "Noscapine is effective without the unpleasant side effects associated with other common prostate cancer treatments. Because noscapine has been used as a cough-suppressant for nearly half a century, it already has an extensive safety record. This pre-clinical study shows that the dose used to effectively treat prostate cancer in the animal model was also safe," he explained.

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Source: MedInsight Research Institute

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