For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Ukrain has not been shown to prevent or treat cancer, but may be useful as palliative care in some instances.
Ukrain is an alkaloid extract from the plant Chelidonium majus, a common weed. It was developed over 20 years ago by a scientist from the Ukraine, who tested the product on patients with several different types of cancers. In lab experiments, Ukrain was found to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. This may occur by disrupting changes in cell structure during cell division. Because cancer cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells, such a disruption could slow the growth of cancer cells, causing their death. Some lab experiments suggest that Ukrain may stimulate certain aspects of the immune system, but it is uncertain if these effects could occur in humans. Two small studies suggest Ukrain may be helpful for advanced pancreatic cancer patients, but additional studies are needed to confirm effects and safety.
- To prevent and treat cancer Two small pilot studies suggest that Ukrain may be useful in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer, but there were also side effects that may be related to its use. More studies are needed to confirm safety and effects.
- To treat hepatitis No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat HIV and AIDS There are no data to back this claim.
- To stimulate the immune system Although lab studies suggest that Ukrain stimulates the activity of certain immune cells, human data are lacking.
Anecdotes suggest effectiveness in humans, but adequately controlled clinical trials have not been published. Ukrain™ is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is available in parts of Europe and from Tijuana clinics. Although the product labeling makes claims of effectiveness and safety, none of these claims have been sufficiently proven.
For Healthcare Professionals
Ukrain™ is a semi-synthetic proprietary product derived from the common weed Chelidonium majus or greater celandine that contains alkaloids and thiophosphoric acid (1) (2). Patients use it to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, but it is mainly promoted as an alternative anticancer agent.
In vitro data suggest that Ukrain may increase total T-cell count and T-helper lymphocytes, decrease T-suppressor cells, and activate splenic lymphocytes (3) (4). Antitumor effects in vitro and in animal studies have also been reported (5) (6) (7) (8). In breast cancer and melanoma cells, Ukrain may have a synergistic effect when used with bortezomib (9). Preliminary studies in humans indicate it may be beneficial in the palliative care setting (1) and prolong survival in pancreatic cancer patients when administered with gemcitabine (10). A systematic review of clinical trials also suggests it may have anticancer potential (2). Large-scale studies are needed to confirm this effect.
Reported adverse effects include injection site reactions, slight fever, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and possibly tumor bleeding.
Ukrain™ is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is available in parts of Europe and from Tijuana clinics. Critics cite a lack of scientific rigor and independent evaluation to confirm efficacy and safety (2) (18).
Mechanism of Action
Proposed activity includes cytotoxicity from effects on cellular oxygen consumption, and inhibition of DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. In vitro studies demonstrate weak inhibition of tubulin polymerization causing cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase (11). Proapoptotic effects are particularly attributed to alkaloid constituents including chelidonine (12). Constituents such as thiophosphoric acid and other derivatives may also contribute to its anticancer activities (2) (3). Ukrain switches epithelial–mesenchymal transitions in malignant renal cell carcinoma (13), and exerts an antiproliferative effect on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells by targeting mitotic spindle microtubules (14). In animal models, Ukrain restored pro-inflammatory functions of hypoxic macrophages (15).