The earliest reports on the therapeutic use of metals or metal-containing compounds in cancer and leukemia date from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. They were forgotten until the 1960s, when the anti-tumour activity of an inorganic platinum complex called cisplatin was discovered. This led to the development of other types of non-organic cytostatic drugs.
Cisplatin has developed into one of the most frequently used and most effective cytostatic drugs for the treatment of solid carcinomas. Numerous other metal compounds containing platinum, other platinum metals, and even non-platinum metals were then shown to be effective against tumours in man and experimental tumours in animals.
These compounds comprise main-group metallic compounds of gallium, germanium, tin, and bismuth as well as metallic complexes of titanium, vanadium, niobium, molybdenum, rhenium, ruthenium, rhodium, iridium, platinum, copper, and gold.
As an element of the periodic table, Germanium shares many of its physical and chemical properties with silicon and tin. While the element has important applications in the electronics, semiconductor, and optics industries, the organic compounds of germanium have been investigated as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulating drugs.
Germanium compounds have shown to have immunomodulating and antioxidant activities.
Germanium is a naturally occurring element that can be found in foods such as shiitake mushrooms, garlic, tuna, and tomato juice.
Germanium (Ge) and Selenium (Se) are two elements naturally found in many plants. Germanium is a rare element, and present two forms as organic and inorganic forms. Germanium can have beneficial effects or toxic effects depending on its form present.
The inorganic form of germanium or germanium dioxide is normally associated with toxicity and can lead to conditions some disorder.
The organic forms such as germanium sesquioxide have antioxidant properties and anticancer effects and immunostimulatory medicine that are used to inhibit the progress of cancer and destroy cancer cells.
The organic forms of germanium could capture and discharge the heavy metal toxins such as cadmium and lead. It also protects against radiation damage in humans. Carboxyethylgermanium sesquioxide (Ge-132) has been shown to have antiinflammatory, antiarthritic and photo protective effects.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient for many organisms including plants, animals, and humans. It has antioxidant properties and plays a main role in prevention of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Selenium is beneficial to human and other animal health in trace amount, but it's toxic in excess. Among Allium vegetables, garlic is in rich both germanium and selenium.
In garlic, the reported content of germanium and selenium are 2.78 and 0.276 µg/gram of garlic.
In onion the reported content of germanium and selenium are 0.29 and 0.052 µg/gram.
The content of selenium in the vegetables is highly dependent upon both the amount and the availability of selenium in the soil and this can vary geographically. Especially, germanium and selenium contents of garlic are higher than many fruits and vegetables, including tomato, potato, carrot, peach, apple etc.
Organic germanium can enhance the immune system, stimulate the production of interferon, and promote antitumor activity. Interferon's most important function is to augment and stimulate the body's production of natural killer (NK) cells, which directly combat cancer cells. One review of organic germanium's anti-tumor mechanisms concluded that its most important and best described activity is its ability to cause tumor regression in a wide variety of experimental models.
Germanium may also be an effective agent for combating fatigue with virtually no toxicities. Since virtually all cancer patients receiving radiation therapy experience fatigue, the use of this drug should be evaluated as an intervention for non-anemic fatigue in breast and prostate cancer patients undergoing a definitive course of radiation therapy. The use of Ge-132 can also result in the recovery of lost body weight caused by chemotherapy.
Several minor side effects have been occasionally reported, including skin eruptions and a softening of the stool. One study reported that since 1982 there have been eighteen cases of acute renal dysfunction or failure, including two deaths, associated with the oral intake of high doses of liquid germanium elixirs. Almost all these reactions were to inorganic germanium.
When organic germanium is used therapeutically, as in the treatment of cancer, much higher dosages are taken. However, it is strongly recommended that individuals who want to take Ge-132 at higher therapeutic dosages do so only under the supervision of a physician.