Could your cough medicine be used to treat prostate cancer? Well it's not quite that simple. A study published in the December issue of the European medical journal Anticancer Research demonstrates that noscapine, an ingredient used in some cough suppressants may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer. Researchers found that noscapine reduced tumor growth in mice by 60% and limited the spread of tumors by 65% without causing harmful side effects.
The study was authored by Dr. Israel Barken of the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation, Moshe Rogosnitzky of MedInsight Research Institute, and Dr. Jack Geller of The University of California San Diego.
Noscapine is a naturally-occurring substance, a non-addictive derivative of opium. A synthetic derivative of noscapine has been patented but has not yet reached the clinical testing phase.
Noscapine is approved for use in some countries as a cough suppressant, however, it is available to doctors to prescribe for "off label" uses as well. Noscapine is increasingly being used 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 laboratory study being reported in the December 2008 edition of Anticancer Research.
Dr. Barken is encouraging academic institutions to follow up this successful laboratory research with a human clinical trial. He has pioneered a web-based patient tracking system that will greatly reduce the cost of the trial while cutting the time necessary to complete the study. Using the web-based tracking system will also allow doctors outside the U.S. to enroll patients in the research.
Depending on where you are reading this from getting noscapine may be easy or difficult to purchase. In the U.S. at least you can't walk into the corner drug store and pick it up off the shelf. There is a website devoted to noscapine which includes some international pharmacies that sell the drug.