But one OTC supplement prevents, treats prostate cancer successfully (in mice)

Having pointed out (again) that over-use of many dietary supplements can increase risk for cancer (prostate cancer included), we felt it only fair to also point out that some recent data suggest than one over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement seems to have the opposite effect on prostate cancer … in laboratory mice.

Researchers at the University of Miami have found that 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU) — a dietary supplement often used in Europe and Asia to “improve  liver health” (whatever that means) was effective in inhibiting the development of prostate cancer after initial diagnosis and in stopping the spread of prostate cancer metastasis in laboratory mice. Here are links to the abstract of the paper by Yates et al. in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and to a media release issued by the University of Miami.

This research is interesting. 4-MU is a non-toxic, oral product that is known to inhibit the synthesis of hyaluronic acid (HA), a sugar polymer. Prior research by the same research team has shown that HA and related molecules promote the growth of prostate and bladder cancer cells in the laboratory. 4-MU can shut down such cell growth by inhibiting HA synthesis.

On the other hand, as we have said many times before, the ability to demonstrate that things like this can occur in highly selected types of laboratory mice under highly controlled conditions is a very different challenge compared to demonstrating the same or similar effects in humans. We’re going to need to see a lot more data before anyone should be considering using 4-MU to treat prostate cancer in men.

7 Responses

  1. Dear Sitemaster,

    You mention that 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU) is sold as an OTC dietary supplement. Did you know any brand name for this OTC supplement?

    In Europe I can’t find any OTC supplement containing 4-MU.

    Many thanks for your answer.

  2. Dear Gunterman:

    The statement that 4-MU is available as an OTC dietary supplement in Europe and Asia was taken directly from the media release referred to in the article above. I am not personally aware of any brand name or supplier — but I also haven’t spent any significant time looking for such information. You could try contacting one of the authors of the original article to see if they can assist you.

  3. I think that this is the stuff. It is, however, not a dietary supplement!

  4. The link that Rebecca has provided is indeed to a prescription version of 4-MU that is available in France, where apparently it is an approved product “Recommended for digestive pain relief”. However, the product may still be available over-the-counter in some countries (perhaps at a lower dose level).

  5. 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU) is also known as hymecromone and is sold under different brand names (see this link)

    The production of a German brand known as Cholspasmin forte was stopped and this brand is no longer available. It was used in one test carried out by the Miami research group.

    To my knowledge the brand known as Cantabiline (400 mg or 200 mg) is prescription-free in Europe. I bought it 2 weeks ago without any prescription. However, if you try to import it into the USA it seems to be stopped by US customs and a prescription is demanded.

    Nagy et al. have published a good review paper about the therapeutic use of 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU)/hymecromone.

  6. Any “newer” news about 4-MU?

  7. Dear eparker:

    If you look here, on the PubMed web site, there are dozens of references to 4-MU in the scientific literature, but I don’t see any recent ones that give any information directly relevant to its clinical use in the management of prostate cancer.

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