Fermented Wheat germ extract, MSC (Code Name)
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), antimetastatic (3), and immunomodulatory (2) (4) effects. It was also shown to increase 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). WGE also increased production of tumor necrosis factor and cytokines that are responsible for tumor cell death (6). Data from pilot studies implicates a beneficial role for WGE in patients with colorectal cancer (7) and in reducing treatment associated febrile neutropenia in pediatric cancer patients (8). Because it potentiates estrogen receptor activity, patients with ER positive cancers should avoid WGE. Reported mild side effects include diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, soft stool, constipation, and dizziness. Long term use of WGE may result in increased body weight (10).
Mechanism of Action
Although the exact mechanism of action is not clear, WGE was shown to increase TNF and cytokine production in vitro by activating certain metabolic pathways (6) involved in tumor cell death. WGE also regulates tumor cell proliferation by inhibiting glycolysis and pentose cycle enzymes and induces apoptosis through caspase-3-mediated poly (ADP ribose) polymerase cleavage (4).
WGE should be taken under medical supervision only. Diabetics should use this product with caution because of the high carbohydrate content.
Mild and infrequent side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, soft stool, constipation, dizziness. Long term use of WGE may result in increased body weight.
WGE should be taken at least two hours before or after consuming vitamin C.
Literature Summary and Critique
Jakab F, et al. A medical nutriment has supportive value in the treatment of colorectal cancer. British Journal of Cancer 2003; 89:465-469.
This study was done to determine if WGE supplementation was beneficial for patients with colorectal cancer. Sixty-six patients were given WGE (9g once daily) in addition to anticancer treatments and 104 patients received only anticancer treatments. Data analysis revealed that patients who took WGE had fewer disease progression-related events compared to the control group. There was also an improvement in overall survival of patients on WGE. But more trials are needed with equal number of patients in the experimental and control groups.
Garami M, et al. Fermented wheat germ extract reduces chemotherapy-induced febrile neutropenia in pediatric cancer patients. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 2004; 26(10): 631-635.
Twenty-two pediatric patients with different malignant tumors participated in this study. Eleven patients were given 12g/m2/day of WGE during cancer treatments and eleven patients received only cancer treatments. Researchers found that there was no recognizable progression of disease during the follow-up period. But there was a significant difference in the frequency of febrile neutropenic events between the two groups. The overall white blood cell and lymphocyte counts during such events were close to normal values in the WGE group compared to those in the control group. Since this is a pilot study, randomized controlled trials are warranted with larger sample size to verify these effects.