Fermented wheat germ extract (WGE) was developed by Mate Hidvegi, a Hungarian chemist, in the 1990s. It should not be confused with wheat germ oil. WGE is used as a dietary supplement by cancer patients in Hungary to improve quality of life. Results from in vitro studies show that WGE has anticancer (1) (2) (12) (14) (16), antimetastatic (3), and immunomodulatory (2) (4) effects. It may also play a role in reducing cardiovascular symptoms due to chronic hypertension, diabetes and obesity (15).
Further, WGE increased estrogen receptor (ER) activity in vitro. However, when used along with tamoxifen, an ER antagonist, it enhanced efficacy of tamoxifen in ER positive breast cancer cells (5). The antitumor effect of WGE is comparable to other endocrine treatments in animal models (11). WGE also increased production of tumor necrosis factor and cytokines that are responsible for tumor cell death (6). Data from pilot studies indicate a beneficial role for WGE in patients with colorectal cancer (7) and in reducing treatment associated febrile neutropenia in pediatric cancer patients (8). It also prolonged survival of patients with melanoma when used with chemotherapy (13). However, these effects must be confirmed by large scale, well-designed clinical trials.
Because it potentiates estrogen receptor activity, patients with hormonal sensitive cancers should use WGE with caution. Reported mild side effects include diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, soft stool, constipation, and dizziness.