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Complementary and Alternative Medicines in Prostate Cancer: A Comprehensive Approach


Complementary and Alternative Medicines in Prostate Cancer: A Comprehensive Approach by K.B. Harikumar, ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2017. Hardcover, 297 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4987-2987-1. $129.95.

Prostate cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death for men in the United States, with almost 27,000 men dying from it each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Despite recent advancements, additional treatment approaches are still needed for this complex condition.

This volume provides an academic perspective on a number of herbs with potential relevance for treating prostate cancer, and it includes summaries of treatment approaches in some herb-based traditional and alternative medical systems. It is Volume 18 of the CRC Press series Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times, edited by Roland Hardman, PhD.

K.B. Harikumar, PhD, the editor of this volume, is a faculty member of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Thiruvananthapuram, India. The book contains 16 chapters by authors from India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore; it also has eight plates with color figures.

After introductory chapters that summarize the characteristics of prostate cancer and its epidemiology, the book features a 63-page chapter by Hardman that compiles CAB Abstracts citations from 2010-2015 on plants and phytochemicals that have shown activities against prostate cancer. The bulk of the book consists of chapters that review the effects of herbs and phytochemicals on prostate cancer.

Chapters on phytochemicals cover triterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids, as well as plumbagin (derived from Plumbago [Plumbaginaceae] species and others). Chapters on green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae) polyphenols, pomegranate (Punica granatum, Lythraceae), and the standardized branded products Zyflamend (New Chapter; Brattleboro, Vermont) and Pomi-T (Helsinn Healthcare; Pambio Noranco, Switzerland) are of special interest since these have been used in clinical trials in patients with prostate cancer. Neem (Azadirachta indica, Meliaceae), bitter melon (Momordica charantia, Cucurbitaceae), and, interestingly, kava (Piper methysticum, Piperaceae) also are covered.

The phytochemical and herbal chapters feature thorough reviews of in vitro and in vivo research, and, where relevant, discussions of clinical trials. Any of these would provide excellent background information for researchers looking for reviews of the current knowledge of the effects of these plants and phytochemicals on prostate cancer. A notable feature of all the chapters is the multiplicity of biological activities demonstrated for all of the agents discussed.

Chapters on pomegranate, Zyflamend, and Pomi-T highlight the interesting backgrounds of these agents and some innovative research models. Pomegranate juice (and pomegranate extracts used in dietary supplement formulations) are becoming well-known for their health benefits. Three clinical trials of pomegranate extracts are discussed. In these trials, pomegranate extracts appeared to moderate the progression of prostate cancer in early-stage disease.

Zyflamend is a proprietary formula of supercritical CO2 extracts of several anti-inflammatory herbs. Clinical data on Zyflamend use in early prostate cancer provide evidence of its potential efficacy. In vivo research on Zyflamend has been conducted on animals that are fed diets modeled after the Western diet with human-equivalent dosing. The chapter also reviews impressive research that demonstrates the synergistic effects of mixing phytochemicals and extracts from different plant species.

Pomi-T was developed at Cambridge University as a polyphenol-rich dietary supplement. It consists of green tea, turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae), pomegranate, and broccoli (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae). A randomized trial of patients with prostate cancer reported significant slowing of cancer growth in those treated with Pomi-T. The chapter also discusses how researchers approached the question of whether changes in tumor markers correlate with radiological imaging of tumor shrinkage.

Following the chapters on herbs are chapters on traditional and alternative medical systems, which cover Ayurveda and Siddha, two traditional medical systems that originated in India and that rely heavily on herbal remedies. The systems are described in their own terms, which may be unfamiliar to readers, but the reviews also include some scientific data. The coverage of Siddha, which is less well-known than Ayurveda in the United States and Europe, is broader than most discussions of this system in the literature on complementary medicine. Shorter chapters on homeopathy and other natural treatments, including acupuncture, color therapy, hydrotherapy, and yoga, review the limited scientific literature on their activities in prostate cancer.

This book is well-suited for academic libraries and cancer researchers, both academic and industrial, who could use up-to-date reviews of the scientific literature in this area. The rather preliminary status of clinical research on herbal therapies for prostate cancer and the focus on laboratory research mean that the book is less useful for clinicians. It nevertheless represents a significant and scholarly effort to bring together the diverse natural product literature on this widespread cancer.

—Charlotte Gyllenhaal, PhD
Research Manager
Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment
Skokie, Illinois