Saw palmetto/Serenoa repens

July 23 2009 post:  A blog reader (thanks!) sent me the abstract of a brand new study discussing Serenoa repens, more familiarly known as saw palmetto, and its murderous effect on multiple myeloma cells. Sherlock is on holiday, and by the time she returns to Florence, Stefano and I will be on holiday, so I won’t be able to read the full study until September…in the meantime, though, we can feast our eyes on the abstract: http://tinyurl.com/mxrysb

Important excerpt: saw palmetto induced growth arrest of a variety of human leukemia cells including U266 and RPMI 8226 multiple myeloma cells […]. It killed U266 (=myeloma) cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner. More details can be found in the abstract (inhibition of STAT3 signaling, etc.).

According to a 2009 UK drug safety study (http://tinyurl.com/m9ejra), saw palmetto is one of the most widely used herbal preparations for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). As for side effects, Currently available data suggest that S. repens is well tolerated by most users and is not associated with serious adverse events. The majority of adverse events are mild, infrequent and reversible, and include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and fatigue, headache, decreased libido and rhinitis. We found no evidence for drug interactions with S. repens.

Update, October 12 2009:  A blog reader, an 8-year survivor of multiple myeloma, recently told me that he began taking curcumin last summer, after reading my post on the curcumin-bortezomib study. This combination, he believes, produced much better results than the Velcade alone would have. Based on my July 23rd 2009 post on saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, he began taking that as well. He isn’t sure that it helped, but he writes that his m-spike, which had seemed stuck at 0.3, subsequently went down to 0.1. Interesting.

Well, that reminded me that I hadn’t yet posted about the full saw palmetto study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/mxrysb), which I purchased online a few days ago, since saw palmetto happens to be next in line on my to-be-tested list of supplements…all depends on the content of this study. So let’s stick our heads right into the full study.

After the usual well-known dire statistics about myeloma (skipskipskippety!), the study mentions STATs. These signal transducers have an important role in myeloma (which reminds me, I have an almost-finished draft on STAT 3…need to find the time to finish it, sigh). Just to mention one of its actions, STAT 3 stimulates the growth of our malignant cells. Oh, and another thing: it protects them from apoptosis.

Then we find a list of previous studies on the effects of saw palmetto on prostate cancer and breast cancer. By the way, I am going to use “saw palmetto” and not “Serenoa repens” in this post, since I rather like the image of a “saw” being “palmettoed” through each myeloma cell…and no, “to palmetto” is not a reeeal verb…just an invented image of my twisted brain, hehe…

In this study, the researchers found that Serenoa repens inhibited the proliferation of a variety of human leukemia cells including U266 and RPMI 8226 multiple myeloma cells. We also found that Serenoa repens inhibited basal level of phosphorylated form of STAT 3 and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) induced level of phosphorylated form of STAT 3 in U266 cells suggesting that Serenoa repens may induce growth arrest and apoptosis of human multiple myeloma cells through inactivation of STAT 3 signaling. Serenoa repens might be useful for treatment of individuals with human multiple myeloma. By the way, the cells lines used in the study were human acute myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphoblastic T-cell cells (HL-60, NB4 and Jurket) and multiple myeloma cells (U266 and RPMI 8226).

Results: in addition to stopping the growth of the myeloma cells, saw palmetto also slaughtered them without pity, in a dose and time-dependent manner. Interesting finding: U266 cells exposed to saw palmetto had 60% lower levels of Mcl-1 compared to control cells (Mcl-1 is an evil member of the Bcl family; in a nutshell, it helps myeloma cells survive). Let’s see, without boring you with too many details, here is the gist (my emphasis): These results indicate that Serenoa repens induces growth arrest and apoptosis of human MM Cells. Yaaaay!

The researchers also showed that saw palmetto inhibits the proliferation and determines the death of human acute leukemia cells. Also very good.

And they discovered that saw palmetto reduces the expression of phosphorylated form of STAT 3 by 80 %. Not bad, not bad at all. It also blocked the IL-6-induced phosphorylation of STAT 3 by 85.0%. This leads the researchers to state the following: These data indicate that Serenoa repens may reduce the expression of phosphorylation of STAT 3 or ERK mediated by IL-6 in MM cells. Well, even if you don’t understand every single detail of the above, no matter: all we need to know is that the above-mentioned reduction is a very very GOOD thing.

The researchers also examined the interaction of saw palmetto with a chemo drug used in the treatment of myeloma and other types of cancer: docetaxel. I was not surprised to read that the anti-myeloma activity of this drug was enhanced by saw palmetto through inhibition of STAT 3 signaling.

Discussion: In this study, we found for the first time that Serenoa repens down-regulated the phosphorylated form of STAT 3 in U266 cells. Also, IL-6-induced the level of phosphorylated form of STAT 3 and ERK were reduced after Serenoa repens treatment in U266 cells. Again, it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand what the process of phosphorylation entails. The point is: this is very good news for us.

This leads us straight to the researchers’ final statement: In summary, we found that Serenoa repens was an important phytotherapeutic drug against multiple myeloma cells through inhibition of STAT 3 signaling. Serenoa repens may be useful as an adjunctive therapeutic agent for treatment of individuals with multiple myeloma and other types of cancer in which STAT 3 signaling is activated.

I began taking saw palmetto today.

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