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.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.