One of the publications where I do freelance writing, The Myeloma Beacon, features an excellent patient forum. Although largely about multiple myeloma, someone recently asked a question about a popular supplement, Poly-MVA. Proponents of the liquid make lots of anti-cancer claims. Here is what the American Cancer Society has to say about it:
Other common name(s): Poly MVA, Polydox, lipoic acid-palladium complex (LAPd), palladium lipoic complex, synthetic DNA reductase
Scientific/medical name(s): none
Poly-MVA is a liquid dietary supplement that contains various minerals, B complex vitamins, palladium, and amino acids and lipoic acid (see Lipoic Acid, and B Vitamins). The “MVA” stands for minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.
Poly-MVA has been promoted as a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy. Some also promote it to be used alongside mainstream cancer treatment. Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Poly-MVA is effective in preventing or treating cancer.
How is it promoted for use?
The main ingredient of Poly-MVA is said to be the lipoic acid-palladium complex. According to the inventor of Poly-MVA, this complex can alter the electrical charge of DNA molecules and other parts of cells. This activity is said to help repair damaged DNA and cause cancer cells to self-destruct, a process called apoptosis. Proponents have also claimed palladium allows lipoic acid, an antioxidant, to reach cells in the body it could not otherwise reach. The other components of Poly-MVA are said to complement these actions and to help restore nutrients needed for energy.
Poly-MVA has been promoted as a “metallo-vitamin.” It is recommended by some practitioners as a way to prevent or treat cancer. Supporters of Poly-MVA have claimed that it is effective against several types of tumors and that it boosts the immune system, reduces pain, and helps people regain energy and appetite. It has been suggested that Poly-MVA may improve quality of life, especially in those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Some even claim it may lead to longer survival.
Poly-MVA has also been reported to be useful in other conditions, including asthma, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and AIDS.
What does it involve?
Poly-MVA is a reddish-brown liquid that is taken by mouth. No studies have been done to determine safe or effective doses, although the manufacturer recommends doses ranging from ½ teaspoon to 8 teaspoons a day. Poly-MVA is used at some health clinics in the United States and Mexico, and it can be bought on the Internet.
What is the history behind it?
Poly-MVA was created by Merrill Garnett, DDS, a former dentist with some graduate training in biochemistry. He has conducted research in “electrogenetics” since the late 1950s at different laboratories on Long Island, New York. He is the founder and director of the Garnett McKeen Laboratory, which continues to study Poly-MVA and similar compounds.
According to the manufacturer, Poly-MVA has been available in the United States since 1992. In 1995, Garnett patented “palladium complexes and methods for using same in the treatment of tumors and psoriasis.” Poly-MVA remains a popular supplement, despite a lack of proof of effectiveness.
What is the evidence?
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Poly-MVA is effective in preventing or treating cancer. The makers of Poly-MVA claim it has a history of “over forty years of laboratory research and testing and fifteen years of clinical use.” However, reports of Poly-MVA’s effectiveness are anecdotal or small studies that have not been confirmed or published in scientific journals.
No studies of Poly-MVA in humans have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Thus far, the only study published in a peer-reviewed journal was an animal study using gerbils, which explored the possible effects of Poly-MVA in protecting nerve cells from lack of oxygen.
Is it safe?
This product is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Unlike drugs (which must be tested before being allowed to be sold), the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they don’t claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.
Some such products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is written on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). Actual amounts per dose may vary between brands or even between different batches of the same brand.
Most such supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
The potential risks and side effects of Poly-MVA are not known, as no results from human studies have been reported. Palladium compounds have the potential to cause allergic reactions in some people. Because lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant, Poly-MVA may make radiation therapy or chemotherapy less effective. While this concern is based largely on theories of how cancer treatments work, it is supported by some recent studies. For this reason, people being treated for cancer should speak with their doctors before taking this supplement.
Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.
Antonawich FJ, Fiore SM, Welicky LM. Regulation of ischemic cell death by the lipoic acid-palladium complex, Poly MVA, in gerbils. Exp Neurol. 2004;189:10-15.
Lawenda BD, Kelly KM, Ladas EJ, Sagar SM, Vickers A, Blumberg JB. Should supplemental antioxidant administration be avoided during chemotherapy and radiation therapy? J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008;100:773-783.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. About herbs: Polydox. 2007. Accessed at: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69336.cfm on June11, 2008.
Moss RW. A friendly skeptic looks at PolyMVA. CancerDecisions Newsletter. Oct 18 & 24, 2003. Accessed at: http://www.cancerdecisions.com/101803.html and www.cancerdecisions.com/102403.html on June11, 2008.
Moss RW. A friendly skeptic looks at PolyMVA part II. CancerDecisions Newsletter. Oct 24, 2003. The Moss Reports, Cancer Decisions Newsletter Web site. http://www.cancerdecisions.com/102403.html. Accessed June 11, 2008.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
I understand the American Cancer Society is very conservative. Still, this seems pretty definitive, don’t you think? Feel good and keep smiling! Pat