Govallo Placental Extracts
Caution: Some complementary agents or therapies may be useful for cancer patients; however, some may be harmful in certain situations. MD Anderson Cancer Center cautions patients to consult with their oncologist before attempting to use any agents or therapies referenced on these pages. Inclusion of an agent, therapy or resource on this CIMER Web site does not imply endorsement by MD Anderson Cancer Center.
- Review is based upon articles published as of 05/15/2007
- Information on the scientific basis of Govallo placental extract therapy is provided in the Detailed Scientific Review
The Russian physician, Dr. Valentin I. Govallo, M.D., Ph.D., was an early investigator of the defenses of tumors against the immune systems of their hosts. He investigated ways to undermine those tumor defenses based upon his observations that the immune systems of pregnant women did not normally "attack" the cells of their babies.
He believed that protective factors within the placenta selectively turned off components of the mother’s immune system, but that these same placental factors returned at birth to a state of a normal immune system that recognizes foreign or abnormal cells.
Dr. Govallo was not the first or the only investigator to note the similarities between mother-fetus and host-tumor immune systems. He was, however, the first one known to have published a study in which he actually treated patients with extracts of placental tissue ("VG-1000"). This study, published in 1975, compared patients treated with placental extracts plus thymus extracts to patients who were only treated with the thymus extracts. He reported results that seemed to indicate a survival advantage for those who were also treated with the placental extracts, but the study was limited by design problems and lack of appropriate statistical analysis.
One other study (randomized, but not blinded) used placental extracts ("Placentrex") to treat patients with oral mucositis resulting from radiation treatments and compared them with patients treated with that center’s usual standard of care. Significant benefit was reported with these extracts, but measures of significance were not provided and the extracts were compared with a substance that is not a well-known standard of care.
How it is taken
Placental extracts are given by injection.
Injections of VG-1000 are reportedly combined with other treatments at three clinics: the Immune Augmentative Therapy (IAT) clinic in Freeport, Bahamas, the Gerson Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, and the San Diego Clinic in California.
Current doses and methods used in the three clinics using VG-1000 are not known. Doses used in the clinical trial of Placentrex were 2 ml by deep intramuscular injection, five days a week for three weeks.
The Govallo study reported side effects of fever, shivering and weakness. It is not known if these were specific side effects from placental extracts or side effects from immune responses to any foreign substance. The trial for radiation mucositis did not describe side effects.
Placental extracts are complex substances with many potential effects, both known and unknown. The authors of a laboratory study reported that one human placental extract actually increased the division of cultured mouse melanoma cells, a potentially dangerous effect. Risks of contamination of extracts with foreign substances are also a concern.
MD Anderson Cancer Center does not provide this therapy.
To avoid potential interactions, be sure to let your health care provider know if you use this or any other type of complementary therapy.