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Modified Citrus Pectin

Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) has been advertised as an alternative treatment for advance cancers since the late 1990’s.  Normal pectin, the kind found in apples, orange peels and jelly, is a complex carbohydrate.  The bacteria in our colons break down pectin into short chain fatty acids, which benefit the cells that line the colon.  MCP is a form of pectin that has been chemically broken down to produce a molecule that is about 50x smaller, and can be absorbed by the digestive tract.

The initial research on MCP showed that rats with colon cancer developed fewer liver metastases when MCP was included in their diet.  Because of MCP’s novel anti-metastatic properties, there has been a lot of advocacy for it use by patients with advanced cancer.  While MCP has had many advocates, it has not had much clinical research. To date only two human clinical trials have been performed.

In the first study, a small group of men with recurrent prostate cancer received MCP every day for a year.  70% of the men saw a positive change in their PSA doubling time, a tumor marker for prostate cancer.  Just under half of those men had their PSA doubling time rise above 10 months, which suggests they are less likely to develop metastatic cancer.

In the second trial, 49 people with advanced cancer, who had progressed through conventional cancer treatment, took MCP daily.  Just over 20% of the people in the trial saw their disease stabilize within 2 months.  Most of them continued to have stable disease for 6 months, when the trial finished.

The limited information suggests that 20-30% of MCP users may halt the progression of their cancer.  Unfortunately, we don’t know what separates the people who benefit from those who don’t.  At the same time, the benefit of MCP, stabilization of advanced or recurrent cancer, should be noticeable with 2 months of starting it.

MCP, like pectin, is considered a dietary fiber. Most of the reported side-effects: upset stomach, bowel habit changes, gas and nausea, are in line with what would be expected from suddenly increasing the amount of fiber in a diet.  The one unexpected side-effect is itchiness, which can be severe enough necessitate medical treatment.  All of the side-effects resolve shortly after discontinuing MCP.

Research on MCP continues to progress, and hopefully larger trials can help us identify just who it is that will benefit from MCP.  Till that time, individual trials of MCP for patients facing recurrent and metastatic cancer seems like a reasonable inclusion in a comprehensive cancer treatment plan.

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