Inositol / IP-6 / IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate)
Ip6 + Inositol: Nature's Revolutionary Cancer Fighter
One of the most important nutritional products to be introduced within the last decade is InoCell, the patented combination of Ip6 (bound to calcium and magnesium) and inositol. This combination of naturally occurring compounds produced from rice bran has demonstrated impressive anticancer and immune-enhancing effects in experimental and preliminary clinical studies.
What exactly is Ip6?
Ip6 or inositol hexaphosphate is a component of fiber that is found primary in whole grains and legumes. It appears that the cancer protective effects of a high fiber diet are due to the presence of higher levels of Ip6. However, although Ip6 is found in substantial amounts in the fiber component of whole grains and beans, supplementation with purified Ip6 and the proper amount of inositol offers several advantages. First of all, in grains and beans the Ip6 exists primarily as a poorly absorbed form bound to protein and mineral salts. So, in its natural state as a fiber component, Ip6 is poorly absorbed. Studies have shown that pure Ip6 is significantly more bioavailable than the Ip6 found in whole grains and beans. Furthermore, most importantly absorption studies have shown that Ip6 is rapidly taken up by cancer cells. This action is important as Ip6 exerts significant beneficial effects within cancer cells--basically, it turns cancer cells off (this effect will be discussed in more detail below).
Why is Ip6 combined with calcium, magnesium, and inositol?
Professor A. K. M. Shamsuddin, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Maryland and author of Ip6: Nature's Revolutionary Cancer-Fighter (Kensington, 1998) discovered that inositol, a member of the B-vitamin family, dramatically increases the anticancer and immune enhancing effects of Ip6. Dr. Shamsuddin found that when properly combined with inositol, Ip6 forms 2 molecules of Ip3 in the body. Inositol, the backbone structure of Ip6, has six carbon atoms that are capable of binding phosphate molecules; when all of" the six carbons are occupied by six phosphate groups, it forms Ip6. When only three of the carbons are bound by phosphate, it is called Ip3. This chemistry is important because although Ip6 is gaining all of the attention, it is really Ip3 that is doing all of the work.
Ip3 plays an important role inside the cells of our body. It basically functions as an on/off switch for human cancers, according to experimental studies in cell cultures (in vitro studies). When Ip3 levels are low (as in cancer cells), the cells replicate out of control. That basically is what occurs in cancer. When cancer cells are bathed in a broth with Ip3, they actually turn themselves off. This action reflects the central role that Ip3 plays in controlling key cell functions, including replication and the communication between cells. Dr. Shamsuddin has discovered the proper ratio of Ip6 (bound to calcium and magnesium) and inositol to ensure the formation of Ip3 within the body.
What effect does the combination of Ip6 with inositol have on the immune system?
The combination of Ip6 + inositol has also been shown to be an effective antioxidant and booster of immune function. The combination is especially helpful in boosting the activity of a type of white blood cell known as a "natural killer or NK" cell. These white blood cells get their name because they literally kill cancer cells, viruses and other infecting organisms. They play a major role in protecting the body against cancer and infection. While Ip6 can boost NK cell activity, the combination exerts even greater enhancement.
What about anticancer effects?
Based upon extensive experimental studies in animals and cell cultures, the combination of Ip6 + inositol exerts anticancer effects against virtually all types of cancers including cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, skin and brain as well as in lymphomas and leukemia. Table I lists some of the cancer cell lines that Ip6 has shown activity against.
How does Ip6 work to fight cancer?
In addition to its antioxidant and immune enhancing effects, Ip6 exerts a number of interesting anticancer actions. Dr. Shamsuddin believes that the central pathway of Ip6 action is via control of cell division. Cancer cells are out of control; they are dividing uncontrolled. What Ip6 does is literally turn off the switch in the cancer cell that is telling the cell to divide. Dr. Shamsuddin and others have shown that Ip6 reduces the rate that cancer cells divide in both animal and cancer cell studies by reducing the manufacture of new DNA (the genetic code). Since it does not exert the same inhibition in normal cells, Ip6 is dramatically different from conventional anticancer agents. Chemotherapy drugs, for example, work by literally killing cells rather indiscriminately and as a result are quite toxic because they are killing the good as well as the bad. Ip6 is dramatically different because all it is doing is helping the cell function normally, instead of being out of control.
is the combination of Ip6 with inositol is more powerful than Ip6 alone?
Yes. Dr. Shamsuddin has demonstrated that the combination exerts much greater effect than Ip6 alone. This potential has been demonstrated in animal models for breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. For example, let's take a look at the study in colon cancer prevention. In this study, rats were given a compound to induce cancer formation (DMH) and either Ip6 or inositol alone, or the combination. Table 2 clearly illustrates that the superiority of the combination.
Are there any clinical studies in humans on the anticancer effects of the combination of Ip6 with inositol?
Results from preliminary clinical studies are showing tremendous promise. For example, at the 17th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Cancer Research in Granada, Spain, Dr. Nikica Druzijanic and his colleagues from the Clinical Hospital in Split, Croatia, reported "significantly reduced tumor growth rate" in patients taking Ip6 + inositol (these patients declined standard chemotherapy). They also presented data on marked benefits in patients taking Ip6 + inositol as a companion to standard chemotherapy protocol. While the white blood cell and platelet counts in patients undergoing standard chemotherapy are typically drastically reduced, those taking Ip6 + inositol during chemotherapy did not show such an adverse reaction. The researchers stated that at the very least, Ip6 + inositol have provided a much better quality of life to their patients and improved their survival. Experimental studies have also shown that this combination can' be used in combination with conventional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
WARNING: Though preliminary and experimental data are quite encouraging, at this time there is insufficient data to recommend Ip6 + inositol as a primary (or sole) therapy in existing cancer. Until its true effectiveness is clearly demonstrated in well-designed clinical trials, the use of Ip6 + inositol should be as a complementary strategy to enhance the benefits of conventional medical treatment of cancer. For more information, please consult my book How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine (Riverhead, 2002).
How much of the combination of Ip6 + inositol should I take?
Dr. Shamsuddin recommends a daily dosage of 800-1,200 mg of Ip6 along with 200-300 mg of inositol as a general preventive measure. In patients with cancer or at high risk for cancer, Dr. Shamsuddin recommends a dosage of 4,800-7,200 mg of Ip6 along with 1,200-1,800 mg of inositol. He also recommends that it be taken on an empty stomach.
What about safety?
Ip6 is extremely safe based upon extensive animal testing and human studies. In fact, no side effects have been reported even at higher dosages. You could not ask for a safer nutritional product. In addition to numerous animal studies demonstrated extreme safety (no significant negative effect on body weight, mineral content, or any internal organ has been demonstrated). There is also some human evidence showing Ip6 + inositol to be very safe even at high dosages when it is given intravenously.
In the 1950s and 1960s there were some reports that people in Egypt and Iran who eat unleavened bread have deficiencies of minerals like zinc, magnesium, etc. Since unleavened bread is a rich source of Ip6 (then known as phytic acid), it was initially thought the Ip6 was responsible for the development of these deficiencies. However, beginning in the late 1980s, studies with pure salts of Ip6 by different scientists have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that there is no appreciable change in the mineral status with Ip6 ingestion. In addition, in InoCell, the Ip6 is bound to calcium and magnesium as a way in which to provide higher levels of these important nutrients and to completely eliminate the risk of Ip6 inducing a deficiency of these critical nutrients.
When the combination of Ip6 + inositol was introduced as a nutritional supplement in 1998 after 20 years of scientific research, it was met with considerable excitement that led to its being hailed as "The Natural Product of the Decade." The introduction of InoCell represents a continuation and improvement of this legacy. Hopefully, future research will propel this exciting nutritional discovery to even higher heights of popularity, including establishing it as an important treatment adjunct within conventional oncology.
Tissue or Organ Type Cell Line
Brain tumor SR.B10A
Breast Cancer MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 and -435
Colon Carcinoma HT-29
Fibroblast, immortalized BALBc-3T3
Leukemia K-562, HL-60
Liver Carcinoma Hep G2
Lung Carcinoma HTB-119, RTE
Mouse Lymphoma YAC-1
Prostate Carcinoma PC-3
Skeletal Muscle Sarcoma RD
Skin Carcinoma JB6
Legend for Chart:
A - Experimental group
B - Percentage of rats with tumors
C - Tumor Frequency
A B C
DMH 63% (12/19) 116% (22/19)
DMH + Ip6 47% (10/21) 62% (13/21)
DMH + inositol 30% (6/20) 45% (9/20)
DMH + Ip6 + inositol 25% (4/16) 25% (4/16)
Tumor frequency is represented as number of tumors per mouse.
By Michael Murray, N.D.
Michael T. Murray, N.D., is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on natural medicine. He is a graduate, faculty member, and serves on the Board of Regents of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. An author of over 20 books, Dr. Murray is also director of Product Development and Education for Natural Factors Nutritional Products.