Preclinical development and clinical use of perillyl alcohol for chemoprevention and cancer therapy

Chen TC, Fonseca CO, Schönthal AH
American Journal of Cancer Research, 2015


Perillyl alcohol (POH) is a naturally occurring dietary monoterpene isolated from the essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and other plants. Medical interest in this compound was generated by research findings showing that POH was able to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in cell culture and exert cancer preventive and therapeutic activity in a variety of animal tumor models. Based on this promising preclinical work, POH was formulated in soft gelatine capsules and orally administered to cancer patients several times a day on a continuous basis. However, such clinical trials in humans yielded disappointing results, also because the large number of capsules that had to be swallowed caused hard-to-tolerate intestinal side effects, causing many patients to withdraw from treatment due to unrelenting nausea, fatigue, and vomiting. As a result, efforts to treat cancer patients with oral POH were abandoned and did not enter clinical practice. Intriguingly, clinical trials in Brazil have explored intranasal POH delivery as an alternative to circumvent the toxic limitations of oral administration. In these trials, patients with recurrent malignant gliomas were given comparatively small doses of POH via simple inhalation through the nose. Results from these studies show this type of long-term, daily chemotherapy to be well tolerated and effective. In this review, we will present the vicissitudes of POH’s evaluation as an anticancer agent, and its most recent success in therapy of patients with malignant brain tumors.


Chen TC, Fonseca CO, Schönthal AH. Preclinical development and clinical use of perillyl alcohol for chemoprevention and cancer therapy. Am J Cancer Res. 2015 Apr 15;5(5):1580-93

[maxbutton id=”2200″]