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Updated: 04/05/13

Ancient Medicine from India Studied to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Division of Cancer Prevention


Prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. Because the disease is usually diagnosed in the sixth or seventh decades of life, this allows a large window for intervention to prevent disease progression. Clinical development of safe agents that can prevent prostate cancer could have a significant impact on morbidity and mortality for a large segment of the population.

NCI is funding a small study* on Commiphora mukul extract (CME) for prevention of prostate cancer. The Commiphora mukul plant has been used in Ayurvedic medicine practice in India for thousands of years for different ailments, noted Dong Xiao, Ph.D., research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He and his colleagues are using a standardized formulation of CME called Gugulipid GL (GL) (standardized to 3.75% z-guggulsterone, z-Gug). This and two other formulations of CME are already in human use as cholesterol-lowering agents in India.

“For the first time, we have investigated the antitumor activity of GL in human prostate cancer cells and in genetically-engineered (TRAMP) mice which is considered a close animal model for the human disease,” Dr. Xiao said. In the lab, GL treatment was found to decrease the viability of human prostate cancer cells LNCaP (androgen-dependent) and its androgen-independent cells by causing apoptosis (cell death) induction at pharmacologically achievable concentrations, he reported. “Interestingly, a normal human prostate epithelial cell line is significantly more resistant to growth inhibition and apoptosis induction by GL, since apoptosis is a highly desirable feature of potential cancer preventive agents,” he added.

“Most importantly,” Dr. Xiao continued, “our preliminary studies showed that oral administration of GL in TRAMP mice three times per week beginning at five weeks of age for 20 weeks, significantly inhibits prostate cancer incidence and progression without causing weight loss or any other side effects.” He added, “Our next step will be to confirm these findings, using more mice. We also want to identify biomarkers of these responses to GL. These biomarkers will be very useful if GL moves on to human clinical trials.”

GL is a promising compound and has significant potential in preventive applications, since it has selective anticancer activity for prostate cancer, Dr. Xiao commented. “If a standardized GL can be developed into a prostate cancer preventive agent, the public health benefit could be tremendous.”


*Grant Number: 1R21CA143104-01A1