Written by Markus Horneber, Elke Wolf and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated April 29, 2016

Propagermanium

Abstract and key points

  • Propagermanium is a synthetically produced organic compound containing the element germanium.
  • There is no reliable evidence for its efficacy in the treatment of cancer patients.
  • Inorganic germanium compounds are associated with severe organ toxicities.
  • Possible contamination of propagermanium with inorganic germanium compounds and confusion due to false labelling represent possible fatal hazards

Propagermanium is an organic germanium compound. Germanium compounds are popular as nutritional supplements and proponents advertise beneficial effects on the course of a multiplicity of illnesses. Propagermanium is approved for the treatment of hepatitis B in Japan and is thought to have anticancer effects through induction of endogenous interferon-γ production and augmented NK cell activity. However, there is not enough evidence from clinical trials to judge its efficacy in cancer treatment.

Several cases of severe organ toxicity including acute renal failure after oral ingestion of germanium compounds have been documented. These cases were caused by inorganic germanium compounds. However, labelling of products containing germanium compounds is often misleading and even in scientific literature, substance as well as product names of germanium compounds have been confounded. Therefore and given the risk of possible contamination with inorganic forms organic germanium compounds including propagermanium should be avoided outside clinical trials.

Citation

Markus Horneber, Elke Wolf, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Propagermanium [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Propagermanium. April 29, 2016.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in April 2016 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in March 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in January 2013 by Markus Horneber.
Summary first published in April 2011, authored by Markus Horneber.

References

  1. A new Element: Germanium. Lancet 127, 562 (1886).
  2. Asai, K. Organisches Germanium - Eine Hoffnung für viele Kranke. Semmelweis-Verlag, 27316 Hoya (2001).
  3. Schroeder, H. A. & Balassa, J. J. Abnormal trace metals in man: germanium. J Chronic Dis 20, 211-224 (1967).
  4. Hara, S. et al. Determination of germanium in some plants and animals. Z Naturforsch [C] 45, 1250-1251 (1990).
  5. Lewis, B. L., Frolich, P. N. & Andreae, M. O. Methylgermanium in natural waters. Nature 313, 303-305 (1985).
  6. Expert group on vitamins and minerals. Risk assessment - Germanium. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/evm_germanium.pdf (last access: 02.06.2010). 2003.
  7. Mironov, V. F., Berliner, E. M. & Gar, T. K. Reactions of Trichlorogermane with Acrylic Acid and its Derivatives. Zhurnal Obshchei Khimil 37 Nr. 4, 962. 1967.
  8. Kaplan, B. J., Parish, W. W., Andrus, G. M., Simpson, J. S. & Field, C. J. Germane facts about germanium sesquioxide: I. Chemistry and anticancer properties. J Altern Complement Med 10, 337-344 (2004).
  9. Tao, S. H. & Bolger, P. M. Hazard assessment of germanium supplements. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 25, 211-219 (1997).
  10. Kaplan, B. J., Andrus, G. M. & Parish, W. W. Germane facts about germanium sesquioxide: II. Scientific error and misrepresentation. J Altern Complement Med 10, 345-348 (2004).
  11. Suzuki, F., Brutkiewicz, R. R. & Pollard, R. B. Importance of T-cells and macrophages in the antitumor activity of carboxyethylgermanium sesquioxide (Ge-132). Anticancer Res 5, 479-483 (1985).
  12. Suzuki, F., Brutkiewicz, R. R. & Pollard, R. B. Ability of sera from mice treated with Ge-132, an organic germanium compound, to inhibit experimental murine ascites tumours. Br J Cancer 52, 757-763 (1985).
  13. Suzuki, F., Brutkiewicz, R. R. & Pollard, R. B. Cooperation of Lymphokine(s) and Macrophages in Expression of Antitumor Activity of Carboxyethylgermanium Sesquioxide (Ge-132). Anticancer Res 6, 177-182 (1986).
  14. Aso, H. et al. Induction of interferon and activation of NK cells and macrophages in mice by oral administration of Ge-132, an organic germanium compound. Microbiol Immunol 29, 65-74 (1985).
  15. Miyao, K., Onishi, T., Asai, K., Tomizawa, S. & Suzuki, F. Current Chemotherapy and Infectious diseases. Nelson, J. D. (ed.), pp. 1527-1529 (American society of Microbiology, Washington DC,1980).
  16. Tsutsumi, Y. et al. Effectiveness of propagermanium treatment in multiple myeloma patients. Eur J Haematol 73, 397-401 (2004).
  17. Mizushima, Y., Satoh, H. & Miyao, K. Germanium in biologischen Systemen. Lekim, D. & Samochowiec, L. (eds.), pp. 189-210 (Semmelweis-Verlag, 27316 Hoya,2007).
  18. FDA-import alert no.54-07. FDA-import alert no.54-07. 10-2-2009. Ref Type: Electronic Citation
  19. Bundesinstitut für gesundheitlichen Verbraucherschutz und Veterinärmedizin Warnung vor Germanium. Dtsch Ärztebl 97, 2418 (2000).
  20. Hirayama, C., Suzuki, H., Ito, M., Okumura, M. & Oda, T. Propagermanium: a nonspecific immune modulator for chronic hepatitis B. J Gastroenterol 38, 525-532 (2003).
  21. Brutkiewicz, R. R. & Suzuki, F. Biological activities and antitumor mechanism of an immunopotentiating organogermanium compound, Ge-132 (review). In Vivo 1, 189-203 (1987).
  22. Mainwaring, M. G., Poor, C., Zander, D. S. & Harman, E. Complete remission of pulmonary spindle cell carcinoma after treatment with oral germanium sesquioxide. Chest 117, 591-593 (2000).
  23. Hess, B. et al. Tubulointerstitial nephropathy persisting 20 months after discontinuation of chronic intake of germanium lactate citrate. Am J Kidney Dis 21, 548-552 (1993).
  24. Sanai, T. et al. Germanium dioxide-induced nephropathy: a new type of renal disease. Nephron 54, 53-60 (1990).
  25. Sanai, T. et al. Chronic tubulointerstitial changes induced by germanium dioxide in comparison with carboxyethylgermanium sesquioxide. Kidney Int 40, 882-890 (1991).
  26. Anger, F., Anger, J. P., Guillou, L., Sado, P. A. & Papillon, A. [Subacute and subchronic oral toxicity of beta-bis carboxyethyl sesquioxide of germanium in the rat]. J Toxicol Clin Exp 11, 421-436 (1991).