Is IP-6 a cure for cancer?

Is IP-6 a cure for cancer?

IP-6, or inositol hexaphosphate, an antioxidant found in high fibre foods, may slow down the production of cancer cells, inhibiting cancers such as prostate cancer, brain cancer and breast cancer by blocking several pathways including mTor and P13K-Akt, and stealing essential iron from cancer cells, starving them of growth;  it also may improve chemotherapy effectiveness and reduce side-effects.

How to stop a cancer feeding?

In 2021, researchers from Queen Mary University of London 'stopped' a type of brain cancer, (Medulloblastoma), common in children, from feeding. How did they do it? They gave the test animals IP-6, found in high fibre foods like bran and whole grain rice, alongside a B vitamin called inositol. This had two main effects. It chelated to the iron in the cancer cells, (it 'stole' it from the cancer cells), thus stopping them feeding. At the same time it promoted the p21 and p53 genes back towards full power (9).

IP-6 also seems capable of increasing AMPK levels, in turn depressing cancer promoters mTor and Akt.

IP-6 and Prostate cancer

In 2010, Dr. Mallikarjuna Gu at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6, or phytic acid), a naturally occurring compound found in high fibre foods and supplements could block P13K-Akt, a core cancer pathway, both in Petri dishes and in animals with prostate cancer. Gu and his team had found a major target to restrict cancer progression (1).

Leader of the Cancer Center’s program on treatment and prevention, Dr. Rajesh Agarwal said that inositol, a B vitamin, which is found in high fibre foods such as nuts, seeds, grains, lentils and other legumes, may explain why those people who eat high fibre diets develop less cancers. IP-6 is not exactly the same as inositol, although it too is naturally occurring in the same foods; it is an inositol molecule with 6 phosphate groups attached.

Indeed, some of the best results with arresting cancer progression occurred when the research team used both inositol and IP-6 together. One of the best natural sources of IP-6 is found in rice-bran extract.

This was not the first time IP-6 had shown benefit with prostate cancer. Agarwal and Rana Singh in the same centre had shown that oral supplementation of IP-6  inhibited cancer growth, progression and signaling in mice models in a pilot study. IP-6 was also shown to target angiogenesis - blood supply to tumours (6).

IP-6 and Colorectal cancer

The first recorded evidence of IP-6 with colon cancer was more than 30 years ago. Since then, Shamsuddin showed that diets containing high IP-6 levels were associated with reduced levels of colon cancer and hypothesised that it entered cells, where it was dephosphorylated and inhibited tumour growth.

Furthermore it has been shown that IP-6 with inositol has the ability to correct cancer cells so that they revert to a healthy phenotype, along with reduced proliferation and apoptosis in bowel cancer. A review, by scientists at Maryland Medical School in 2020, of the actions reports that the antioxidant and immune boosting actions of IP-6 plus inositol, finish the colorectal cancer destruction off (10). 

IP-6 slows down cancer spread

Even WebMD, a website from the Pharmaceutical companies, is quite clear: "IP-6 might help treat and prevent cancer by slowing down the production of cancer cells. It might also bind to certain minerals decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer. It is an antioxidant." 

A second study (2) showed that in cells where the p53 gene was deficient (about 50% of all cancer cells), two controlling genes (p21 and p27) played no role but IP-6 still showed its anti-cancer effect.

In 2016, scientists found that inositol polyphosphates were highly complex signaling molecules and that resultant IP-6 kinases played an important cellular regulatory role (3).

IP-6 enhances chemotherapy, reduces side-effects

An early study (4) had shown that IP-6 enhances the effect of chemotherapy against cancer cells.

IP-6 and Breast cancer

As long ago as 2003, scientists from Maryland School of Medicine found that IP-6 enhances the effects of Adriamycin and Tamoxifen in breast cancer treatment (8). If supplements were given before the Adriamycin the drug was more effective. Supplementation of IP-6 + inositol was  also capable of working on its own to stop progression.

In 2010 the same beneficial result was again found in breast cancer with Doxorubicin (5)In the same study breast cancer patients having chemotherapy, reported that it greatly improved quality of life during treatment. There was no change to red cells and white cells and platelets were higher in the group supplementing with IP-6 (5).

IP-6 and Liver cancer

As long ago as 1995-98 researchers at Maryland University had shown that IP-6 could block the growth of liver cancer cells in the laboratory. They then set out to see if they could achieve the same results in vivo. Taking nude mice, in one study they treated human liver cancer cells with IP-6 and then injected them into the mice (11) No cancers formed. In the second part to the study, they injected IP-6 straight into the human liver cancer cells which had formed tumours in the mice. The tumours regressed enormously, by a minimum of 86%. Overall, the researchers showed that IP-6 inhibits the formation of liver cancer and could treat liver cancer in vivo.  

It has also been shown in several studies by the same researchers that IP-6 significantly increases the levels of glutathione transferase in the liver, which could ultimately block cancer formation, and it inhibits the activities of certain cancer-promoting liver enzymes. 

IP-6 reduces fat levels, insulin and leptin levels

On a more general note, inositol has been shown to work with other B vitamins to defat the liver and reduce cholesterol levels. It is also known to be involved in hormone signaling and membrane structure.

2020 research showed that IP-6 and inositol supplementation increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels while triglyceride levels fell. Supplementation also reduced vascular damage. The same researchers have shown that the double supplementation seems to regulate insulin and leptin levels, reducing food intake, which may be helpful in diabetic and pre-diabetic states (7). 

Importantly, the researchers noted that free-radical levels in the blood declined.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist said, "I don't think you could say IP-6 was a cure for cancer, but in these studies alone you have scientists showing it attacks important cancer pathways and seems to play a role, for example, in slowing down cancer progression in prostate cancer and breast cancer and CRC too. IP-6 is an antioxidant and it clearly improves the performance of drugs and reduces side-effects. It is also claimed to have benefits in preventing heart disease and anaemia.

One of the biggest advocates of IP-6 was Dr. Abulkalem M Shamsuddin, who wrote a book 'IP-6, Nature's Revolutionary Cancer-fighter'.  

Of course, high fibre foods like pulses, nuts and seeds and whole grains which contain IP-6 are the cornerstone of the Rainbow Diet."

Supplementation and dosage of IP-6

Good supplements of IP-6 contain inositol. The Maryland Medical School review (10) stated that it could be used on its own as an alternative therapy, or to enhance chemotherapy drugs. The dose is 800 mg, two or three times a day. No negative interaction with drugs has been found.

Go to: Prostate cancer overview – symptoms, causes and alternative treatments

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  9. IP-6 can starve brain cancers
  10. IP-6 and Colorectal cancer Molecules, 2020 Dec 15, 25(24), 5931; Ivana Vucenik et al.
  11. IP-6 in treatment of liver cancer - Anti-Cancer Res,  Nov-Dec 1998, 18 6A. 


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