Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 384–390 | Cite as

Interactions of a herbal combination that inhibits growth of prostate cancer cells

  • Vinh Q. ChungEmail author
  • Martin Tattersall
  • H. T. Andrew Cheung
Original Article



PC SPES is an eight-component herbal product marketed for the treatment of prostate cancer. The manufacturer of PC SPES claims that the herbal combination is a synergistic blend, but the purported synergy has never been tested. We examined the interaction in cell culture of these eight individual herbal components by the use of an isobologram.


US patent no. 5,665,393 (1997) for PC SPES was acquired, and each of the eight herbal components described was acquired, properly identified, and extracted by 95% ethanol. The extracts were tested for cytotoxicity to PC 3 human prostate cancer cells in culture by the MTT (3-[4,5-dimethythiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay. Seven combinations of herbal extracts were made, varying in the proportion of the most cytotoxic herbal extract, that of Panax notoginseng. The interactions of P. notoginseng with the other seven herbs were evaluated through the use of an isobologram.


In all seven herbal combinations, P. notoginseng was found to be antagonistic with the other seven herbal components in the cytotoxicity assay (P values: 0.09, 0.12, 0.12, 0.33, 0.45, 0.56, and 0.76).


The interaction between the most cytotoxic herbal component of a widely used herbal product and the other seven components was antagonistic. Herbal combinations are no different from traditional combination pharmacotherapy. If herbal combinations are able to achieve antagonism, then theoretically they can achieve synergism if combined properly.


PC SPES Synergy Isobologram Prostate cancer Chinese herbal medicines 



We would like to thank Dr. Q. Dong for providing the PC 3 prostate cancer cell line and Assoc. Prof. W. Li for identification of the Chinese herbs. We also thank Dr. David Eisenberg for being V.Q.C.’s faculty sponsor at Harvard Medical School. This work was completed as V.Q.C.’s postgraduate research fellowship that was funded by the Fulbright Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vinh Q. Chung
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Tattersall
    • 2
  • H. T. Andrew Cheung
    • 3
  1. 1.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Cancer Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Herbal Medicines Research & Education Centre, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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