Dietary supplement may prevent and treat prostate cancer, study says

Researchers at the University of Miami have found that an over-the-counter supplement is effective in both preventing and treating prostate cancer. The supplement studied is called 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU), is a non-toxic oral agent used as a dietary supplement in Europe and Asia for improving liver health. 


Supplements Studied May Treat Prostate Cancer

In the study, published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute, researchers treated mice with the supplement appeared to inhibit prostate cancer from further developing, which started as soon as eight weeks after they were diagnosed.

The Results

  • 4-MU also halted the metastatic spread of prostate cancer
  • Researchers used a mice model of prostate cancer, treating mice at distinct stages of the disease and stopping treatment at 28 weeks.
  • When treatment started at 8 or 12 weeks, it completely inhibited prostate cancer development and growth.
  • At 22 weeks, researchers found that small cancers had stopped growing and in some cases even regressed.

Researchers said while 60% of the animals in the control group experienced metastasis to distant organs, none of the treatment group developed metastasis. 4-MU did all of this without causing toxicity to the host.

The earlier the treatment started, the better the protection provided by the 4-MU. According to researchers’ histological studies, 4-MU halted growth of new blood vessels, thus cutting off nutrient supply to prostate tumors and reversing their ability to metastasize.

Significance for Prostate Cancer Treatment?

4-MU worked in this study because it was able to block a key signaling pathway that triggers the development, growth and metastasis of prostate cancer.

Currently no supplement or other treatment exists to start prostate cancer patients on after diagnosis, until they receive treatment like radiation or surgery. This would be a significant advancement in treating prostate cancer if a supplement were available to start patients on as soon as diagnosed.

The potential of this could be very significant and may change treatment plan patients receive for prostate cancer.

Pre-clinical studies on aggressive models of prostate cancer combined with the mechanistic studies should lay the groundwork for clinical trials with 4-MU.