Immunological and biochemical effects of wheat germ extract

Immunologic and Biochemical Effects of the Fermented Wheat Germ Extract Avemar

Illmer, C., Madlener, S., Horvath, Z., Saiko, P., Losert, A., Herbacek, I., Grusch, M., Krupitza, G., Fritzer-Szekeres,M., Szekeres,T. Experimental Biology and Medicine 2005, 230:144-149.

Background: This paper describes a number of different laboratory tests that were used to try to explain the positive effects seen in patients with colon cancer in previous clinical studies.  The studies found that Avemar, a fermented Wheat Germ extract, uses a number of different means to produce these positive effects.  One way Avemar improves the survival of colon cancer patients is by targeting the cancer cells and killing them and by slowing down their growth.  Another method described was by reducing the amount of enzymes available for DNA synthesis (an indirect way of slowing down the growth of cancer cells) and by inhibiting two enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2 that are associated with the growth of colon cancers. Vitamin C, a potent anti-oxidant, used along with Avemar slowed down the growth of the colon cancer cells even more than with Avemar alone.

Laboratory Tests:  Normal and cancer cells were grown in a lab and compared under various conditions. The cells were viewed under a microscope before and after treatment with Avemar.  A special stain (propidium iodide) was used to determine if cells had been killed. The same stain was used to determine if cell growth (getting through a complete cell cycle) had been inhibited. For the COX-1 and -2 enzymes, the amount of inflammatory factors (prostaglandins) produced by the cells was measured before and after the treatments.

Conclusion: This wheat germ extract, sold as Avemar, was found to selectively kill off or slow down the growth of human cancer cells grown in a lab.  Avemar did not kill or slow the growth of normal cells.  The degree of killing depended on the dose of Avemar used and could be increased by adding Vitamin C to the cells.   Avemar also affected the cancer cells by inhibiting enzymes necessary for DNA replication and by inhibiting other enzymes involved in producing inflammation (the COX enzymes).  These effects are believed to be at least partially responsible for the improvement in survival rates seen in colon cancer patients in the earlier studies.1,2

1 Jakab, F., Shoenfeld, Y., A., B. & Nichelatti, M. A medical nutriment has supportive value in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Br J Cancer 89, 465–469, (2003).
2 Jakab, F., Mayer, A., Hoffmann, A. & Hidvegi, M. First clinical data of a natural immunomodulator in colorectal cancer. Hepatogastroenterology 47, 393-395 (2000).