Decorative image

PC-SPES, PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS

PC-SPES, PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS are herbal supplements marketed as a way to promote prostate health and treat prostate cancer. PC-SPES is no longer available. There is not enough reliable evidence to use the other three products as a cancer treatment.

Summary

  • PC-SPES, PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS are herbal supplements marketed as a way to promote prostate health and to treat prostate cancer
  • PC-SPES is no longer available
  • There is not enough reliable evidence that PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS can prevent or treat cancer
  • PC-SPES could have side effects

What is PC-SPES, PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS?

PC-SPES is no longer available. Manufacturers market PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS as herbal products to promote prostate health and to treat prostate cancer. There is no reliable scientific evidence to use it as a cancer treatment.

PC-SPES was a mixture of eight herbs. It included:

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Licorice
  • Saw palmetto
  • Baikal skullcap
  • Reishi
  • Isatis indigotica
  • Panax pseudoginseng
  • Isodon rubescens

Apart from saw palmetto, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been using all the other herbs for many years. They use it as treatments for several health conditions and prostate problems.

PC stands for prostate cancer and SPES is the Latin word for hope. PC-SPES was available over the counter in the USA from 1996. But the American Food and Drug Regulation Agency (FDA) withdrew it in 2002. The FDA found warfarin in samples of PC-SPES. 

Warfarin is a drug that helps to stop blood from clotting. It's a useful drug and many people take it to thin the blood. But it can be very dangerous and doctors prescribe it with care.

The FDA found that PC-SPES also contained a man-made drug. The drug was diethylstilbestrol (also called diethylstilboestrol). Diethylstilbestrol is a hormone therapy. Doctors used to treat prostate cancer with it. They now use other hormone drugs with fewer side effects.

PC-SPES also contained indometacin (also called indomethacin). Indomethacin is an anti-inflammatory drug. It is in the same drug family as ibuprofen (Nurofen).

PC-SPES is not legally available in the United States. The manufacturer that had a license from the patent holder is no longer in business. Other manufacturers might sell a replacement product.

PC-HOPE is a newer herbal product that's very much like PC-SPES. Manufacturers produce it in conditions where they can’t contaminate it with other medicines. PC-HOPE contains all eight herbs that are in PC-SPES. It also contains sterolin and quercetin.

The manufacturer of PC-HOPE claims that it helps with symptoms of:

  • prostate inflammation (prostatitis)
  • benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate
  • all stages of prostate cancer

They also say that it:

  • helps with prostate, bladder and kidney health
  • reduces a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA), made by normal and cancerous prostate cells
  • slows down tumour growth in men when the cancer does not respond to hormone therapy anymore
  • slows down tumour growth in men when the cancer has spread (metastatic cancer)
  • increases the survival of people with pancreatic cancer

PC-CARE contains:

  • Reishi
  • Baikal skullcap
  • Rabdosia rubescens
  • Isatis indigotica
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Saw palmetto
  • Rye
  • Licorice

PC-PLUS is sold as ProstaSol™. The manufacturer suggests it as a supplement for hormone resistant prostate cancer. It contains:

  • Saw Palmetto
  • Scutellaria
  • Ginseng
  • Skullcap
  • Reishi
  • Ginger
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Pygeum
  • Quercetin
  • Sitosterol

Why people with cancer use it

People used PC-SPES to treat prostate cancer treatment because several trials had positive results. The trials looked at different herbs as a possible treatment for prostate cancer. It showed that the herbs seemed to act as a type of hormone therapy that could help to treat prostate cancer.

But the manufacturer of PC-SPES added a hormone and other drugs to it. These drugs made PC-SPES seem to work better as a hormone therapy for prostate cancer. This was illegal, and the FDA stopped the manufacturer from making PC-SPES.

PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS use very similar herbs to PC-SPES. They are available from nutritionists and from the manufacturers. They are herbal products without added drugs.

How you have it

There's no medically approved dose for these herbal products. There are guidelines published by suppliers of the herbs. You take them as tablets or capsules that you swallow. They come in various doses.

Side effects

PC-SPES caused some side effects. It acted like oestrogen. So, the side effects were the same as for other oestrogen based hormone therapies and included:

  • nipple tenderness
  • feeling sick
  • fatigue
  • diarrhoea
  • leg cramps/swelling
  • hot flushes
  • loss of sex drive

Less common side effects included:

  • an increased risk of blood clots in the legs
  • breast swelling
  • erection difficulties (impotence)
  • heart problems or angina

There have been reports of chest pain in men with a history of heart disease. As the newer PC herbal products contain similar ingredients, the side effects are likely to be similar. Allergic reactions are possible with any herbal product.

Talk to your prostate cancer specialist before starting to take any of these herbal products.

This is because:

  • there might be a reason why it's not recommended for you (for example, you might have an increased risk of blood clots)
  • they might interfere with other hormone drugs you're having
  • you might want to wait and use them later, in case other hormone therapies stop working for you
  • your specialist needs to know what you're taking to have a full picture of your treatment

Using these herbal products instead of conventional treatments for prostate cancer could be very harmful to your health.

Research into PC-SPES, PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS and cancer

PC-SPES

The developer of PC-SPES did many laboratory and animal studies on the herbs used in the product. They looked at the anti-cancer qualities of the herbs for prostate cancer.

The studies had positive results. But researchers say that it is not possible to tell if these results are accurate. This is because the FDA found other medicines in PC-SPES. These medications could have changed the results of the studies.

The combination of herbs in PC-SPES also varied between batches.  This made the results less accurate.

Researchers suggest that we need more studies on the individual herbs. Only then can we say it might work as a cancer treatment.

Some of these early trial results showed that PC-SPES could:

  • lower prostate specific antigen (PSA) and testosterone levels
  • reduce bone pain in a third of men with this symptom
  • shrink prostate tumours significantly in some men

In many men, PC-SPES seemed to reduce PSA and testosterone levels to almost nothing. The herbs seemed to work better in men who hadn't had hormone therapy before. But they also worked in some men whose prostate cancer had become resistant to hormone drugs. The herbs did lower PSA in these men, but the effect didn't seem to last as long.

In several trials PC-SPES seemed to reduce blood levels of PSA. It also shrank prostate tumours. But this might be because the therapy also contained some added hormone type drugs. Some researchers feel that it may work because it contains oestrogen-like plant substances. These might block the growth of prostate cancer cells.

PC-HOPE

PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS are very similar products.

Researchers did laboratory studies on PC-HOPE and PC-SPES. It showed that they might be active against prostate cancer cells. Two studies looked at using them in men with prostate cancer. The trials suggested that they might lower PSA levels and improve quality of life.

A laboratory study looked at using PC-HOPE for pancreatic cancer. The researchers found that PC-HOPE might kill pancreatic cancer cells. They suggested that it might help people with pancreatic cancer to live longer.

But we need bigger studies. Only then can we know whether these products are helpful as a treatment for people with cancer.

How much it costs

You can buy PC-HOPE, PC-CARE and PC-PLUS from nutritionists and manufacturers. The price can vary depending on:

  • the dose
  • the amount you buy
  • where you buy it (health food shops, chemist or online)

A word of caution

It is understandable that you might want to try anything if you think it might help treat or cure your cancer. Only you can decide whether to use an alternative cancer therapy such as PC-HOPE, PC-CARE or PC-PLUS.

You could harm your health if you stop your cancer treatment for an unproven treatment.

Many websites might promote these supplements as a cure for cancer. But no reputable scientific cancer organisations support any of these claims. Be cautious about believing this type of information or paying for any alternative cancer therapy over the internet.

Last reviewed: 
26 Jul 2019
  • PC-SPES 
    CAM-Cancer review, accessed July 2019

  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in prostate and bladder cancer
    Y Philippou
    British Journal of Urology International, 2013 Dec;112(8): pages 1073-9

  • Phase I trial of PC-Spes2 in advanced hormone refractory prostate cancer
    Oncology Reports, 2008 Mar;19(3): pages 831-5
    M Shabbir

  • Gene profiling and promoter reporter assays: novel tools for comparing the biological effects of botanical extracts on human prostate cancer cells and understanding their mechanisms of action
    D Bigler
    Oncogene, 2003 Feb 27;22(8): pages 261-72

  • Prospective, multicenter, randomized phase II trial of the herbal supplement, PC-SPES, and diethylstilbestrol in patients with androgen-independent prostate cancer
    PC Walsh
    Journal of Urology, 2005 Jun;173(6): pages 1966-7

Information and help