For Patients & Caregivers
Perillyl alcohol has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.
Perillyl alcohol is a natural substance called a monoterpene, isolated from the essential oils of lavender, peppermint, spearmint, cherries, celery seeds, and several other plants. Scientists are not exactly sure how perillyl alcohol works, but laboratory evidence suggests that it interferes with the replication of dividing cells. Perillyl alcohol has shown promising anti-tumor activity against a range of cancer types (including pancreatic, stomach, colon, skin, and liver cancers) in animals and in the laboratory setting, but these results often do not translate into effects in humans.
- To prevent and treat cancer
Although evidence from laboratory and animal experiments suggests that perillyl alcohol has anti-tumor activity against a number of cancers, such in vitro results often do not translate to the human body. A few phase I clinical trials and one phase II clinical trial do not support the use of perillyl alcohol to treat cancer. Preliminary results from one study reported benefits with perillyl alcohol. More research is needed.
For Healthcare Professionals
Derived from essential oils in various botanicals including lavender, peppermint, cherries, sage, and lemongrass, perillyl alcohol is used to prevent and treat cancer. It is a cyclic monoterpene that causes G1 cell cycle arrest, induces apoptosis, and inhibits post-translational modification of signal transduction proteins (1)(2).
In vitro studies show that perillyl alcohol has antiangiogenesis (9) and anticancer (11)(12)(16)(17) effects.
Data from clinical trials are conflicting: Perillyl alcohol did not benefit patients with pancreatic cancer (10), skin cancer (13), or in those with treatment-refractory breast cancer (14), but preliminary results from a study of patients with malignant gliomas reported regression of tumor size (15). Further research is needed.
The metabolites of perillyl alcohol, perillic acid and dihydroperillic acid, may inhibit tumor growth through inhibition of p21 dependent signaling and apoptosis resulting from induction of the transforming growth factor beta-signaling pathway (1)(2). Perillyl alcohol metabolites also appear to cause G1 cell cycle arrest, inhibit posttranslational modification of signal transduction proteins, and cause differential expression of cell cycle- and apoptosis-related genes (3).
Activity of perillyl alcohol was demonstrated in animal models with pancreatic, stomach, colon (4), skin, and liver cancers (5). The role of perillyl alcohol for chemoprevention remains unknown as data are inconsistent.
Common: At (1600 mg/m2/day), nausea, unpleasant taste, early satiety, and fatigue are common. (3)(10)
Toxicity: At (1200 mg/m2/day), one instance of hypokalemia has been reported (10).
At (doses > 2800 mg/m2/day), nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, hypokalemia, stomatitis, and anorexia have been reported. (2)