Polysaccharides isolated from Echinacea purpurea herba cell cultures to counteract undesired effects of chemotherapy--a pilot study

Phytother Res. 2002 Mar;16(2):138-42. doi: 10.1002/ptr.888.


In an open prospective study with matched historical controls we aimed to evaluate whether a polysaccharide fraction isolated from the herb Echinacea purpurea could counteract the undesired effects of chemotherapy. Fifteen patients with advanced gastric cancer undergoing palliative chemotherapy with etoposide, leucovorin and 5-fluorouracil (ELF) received for 10 days (beginning 3 days before chemotherapy) daily i.v. injections of 2 mg of a polysaccharide fraction isolated from Echinacea purpurea herb cell cultures (EPS-EPO VIIa). The median number of leukocytes 14-16 days after chemotherapy was 3630/microL (range 1470-5770) in the patients receiving EPS-EPO VIIa compared with 2370/microL (870-3950) in the patients of the historical control group (p = 0.015). EPS-EPO VIIa had no clinically relevant effects on phagocytic activity of granulocytes or on lymphocyte subpopulations. Sixty-eight adverse events including two deaths were observed, most likely due to chemotherapy and the general condition of the patients. However, an association with the test intervention cannot be ruled out completely. The results of this pilot study suggest that EPS-EPO VIIa might be effective in reducing chemotherapy-induced leukopenia. The efficacy and safety should be investigated in further studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Echinacea*
  • Etoposide / administration & dosage
  • Etoposide / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leucovorin / administration & dosage
  • Leucovorin / therapeutic use
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukopenia / chemically induced
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Polysaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Polysaccharides / adverse effects
  • Polysaccharides / therapeutic use
  • Stomach Neoplasms / blood
  • Stomach Neoplasms / complications
  • Stomach Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Extracts
  • Polysaccharides
  • Etoposide
  • Leucovorin
  • Fluorouracil