Oleander Extract in Cancer Treatment
People with mesothelioma and other cancers are fighting for their lives while battling side effects of the harsh treatments used to kill cancer cells. Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be highly effective, but they also cause pain, nausea, skin rashes and other symptoms that may discourage further treatment.
Many cancer patients want alternatives, including natural remedies. Plant and herbal medicines are growing in popularity. Some treat symptoms and give patients a better quality of life, while others, like extract from the oleander plant, are being tested as cancer-killing, tumor-shrinking treatments.
Beware! Oleander Plants Are Highly Toxic
Oleander is a flowering shrub or small tree very common in gardens throughout the temperate parts of the world. Dark green, shiny leaves and pink or white showy flowers make it an ornamental favorite, although it is poisonous.
Any part of the plant, if consumed, can kill. Eating just one leaf may be fatal. Throughout history, the oleander plant has been used as poison and for suicide. Symptoms of oleander poisoning, which set in after a few hours, include low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, blurry vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash, fainting, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, headaches, and disorientation. Eating any part of the plant is a medical emergency.
Oleander and Medicine
Oleander extract has been used for many years in herbal and alternative medical treatments, though there’s not much evidence it works. It has been used to treat asthma, heart problems, seizure, menstrual cramps, hepatitis, AIDS, and as a topical agent for skin problems. Taking oleander for any reason is risky because of the plant’s toxicity. But ongoing studies seek to determine if oleander extract and drugs made from compounds found in oleander could kill cancer cells and help patients.
Oleandrin and Cancer
Oleandrin is one active component of oleander. Research shows oleandrin inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells. The oleandrin drug Anvirzel suppresses cell growth and kills some cancer cells. Oleandrin can increase the sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to radiation treatment. But Anvirzel is not available for all patients, as it is still in clinical trials.
One study found that oleander extract could selectively kill lung cancer cells, an exciting finding for anyone with mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer. Researchers used the extract on lung cancer cells and non-malignant lung cells. The results showed that the extract killed only the cancerous cells, meaning it could be used to treat tumor cells without harming healthy cells.
Oleander Clinical Trials
Oleandrin and Anvirzel are the early stages of clinical trials as cancer treatment. Phase I trials, the first step of drug development, test the safety of new treatments in a few patients. Oleander extract is in one Phase II study in patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer. The results have not yet been reported.
A Phase I trial of oleandrin in nine metastatic, late-stage cancer patients, some of whom got other treatments including chemotherapy, showed some promise. Patients included those with pancreatic, colon, lung, and renal cell cancers. The patient with renal cell cancer experienced a regression of the tumors for 12 months with just oleander extract. Those with pancreatic and colon cancer experienced stabilization of their cancers. All of the patients lived longer than expected.
Patients who go oleandrin in the clinical trials had good outcomes, although it did not cure their cancer. The trial was focused on safety, and results showed that it generally was. Patients experienced some toxicity from the oleander medication, but their symptoms, which included lightheadedness and tingling and burning in the mouth when the drug was taken under the tongue, were not severe.
The Future of Oleander Cancer Treatments
Clinical trials for oleander extracts and drugs like Anvirzel are promising, but early. This highly poisonous plant may be a future treatment that helps many people struggling with incurable cancers like mesothelioma. For now, though, much more work needs to be done in human clinical trials to be sure the drugs are safe and effective. As results begin to come in from Phase II trials, researchers will see if larger groups of patients see results and if there are any serious problems with toxicity.
If you have mesothelioma or lung cancer, it may be tempting to try oleander or oleander extracts. This is dangerous because the plant is so toxic. It does not take much to kill a person with oleander. The only safe use of this treatment is in a clinical trial. You can visit the government website for clinical trials and find out if you are eligible to join an ongoing or future oleander study. Talk to your oncologist about this possibility. If you can get into a trial, you may benefit from this groundbreaking, natural treatment.
Page Edited by Dave Foster
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