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Cancell/Cantron/Protocel (PDQ®): Integrative, alternative, and complementary therapies - Patient Information [NCI]

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at or call 1-800-4-CANCER.


NOTE: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only.

  • Cancell is a trademarked name of a liquid mixture long promoted as a treatment for people with cancer and other diseases (see Question 1).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed the ingredients of Cancell as the chemicals inositol, nitric acid, sodium sulfite, potassium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and catechol (see Question 3).
  • Cantron and Protocel are other products that are said to be similar to Cancell.
  • None of the common chemicals in these products is known to be effective in treating any type of cancer.
  • In the early 1990s, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) tested these ingredients against cancer cells in the laboratory and based on the results decided not to continue studying Cancell (see Question 5).
  • No clinical trials have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Only testimonials and anecdotal reports have been made available. (See Question 6.)
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Cancell to treat cancer or any disease in the United States. In 1989, the FDA requested and received a court order making it illegal for manufacturers to send Cancell across state lines. (See Question 8.)

Questions and Answers About Cancell

What is Cancell?

Cancell is also called Sheridan's Formula, Jim's Juice, JS–114, JS–101, 126–F, and "Cancell-like" products (Cantron and Protocel). It is a liquid that was promoted as a treatment for cancer and other diseases. Cancell was made using different mixtures of ingredients, mainly by two companies, since the late 1930s.

None of the common chemicals in these products is known to be effective in treating any type of cancer.

Since 1989, it has been illegal in the United States to make, sell, or give Cancell as a treatment for any disease. Mixtures similar to Cancell, such as Cantron and Protocel, are available as dietary supplements. (See Question 8.)

What is the history of the discovery and use of Cancell as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer?

Cancell was first made in the late 1930s by James V. Sheridan, a biochemist who called the mixture Entelev and gave it free to cancer patients. In 1984, another company began making Entelev under the name Cancell. That company gave it free to patients with cancer, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), and other conditions.

What is the theory behind the claim that Cancell is useful in treating cancer?

The exact ingredients used to make Cancell are not known. One sample of the liquid mixture Cancell was found to contain 12 different ingredients, none of which is known to be helpful in treating any type of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed the following ingredients in Cancell:

  • Inositol.
  • Nitric acid.
  • Sodium sulfite.
  • Potassium hydroxide.
  • Sulfuric acid.
  • Catechol.

The first maker of Cancell said the ingredients work together by changing cancer cells so they are seen by the body as "foreign" and are destroyed. The second maker stated that Cancell changes cancer cells so they "self-digest " and are replaced by normal cells. The waste matter made by this self-digestion was said to be passed from the body in urine, sweat, and other body fluids.

How is Cancell administered?

Cancell has been taken by mouth, inserted into the rectum, or applied to the skin of the wrist or the ball of the foot. Patients taking Cancell were advised by the makers to take bromelain to help digestion and to avoid high doses of vitamin C and vitamin E. Makers of Cancell stated that vitamins raise the energy of the cell while Cancell lowers it.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Cancell?

Research in a laboratory or using animals is done to find out if a drug, procedure, or treatment is likely to be useful in humans. These preclinical studies are done before any testing in humans is begun. Some research studies are published in scientific journals. Most scientific journals have experts who review research reports before they are published, to make sure that the evidence and conclusions are sound. This is called peer review. Studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals are considered to be better evidence.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) did animal studies on Cancell in 1978 and 1980 and laboratory studies in 1990 and 1991. Laboratory studies using human tumor cells concluded that Cancell could not be taken in doses high enough to kill cancer cells in the body. The NCI decided that Cancell did not show enough anticancer activity to continue the studies. See the PDQ health professional summary on Cancell/Cantron/Protocel for details on the results of these studies.

The makers of Cancell reported doing animal studies with the liquid mixtures, but none of these studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. No information has been given on these studies, beyond stating that some of the studies tested the toxicity (harmful and unwanted side effects) of Cancell.

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) been conducted using Cancell?

No clinical trials of Cancell have been reported. The makers of Cancell have stated that more than 15,000 patients have used the mixture and that it is safe and effective in treating 50% to 80% of all cancers. Their findings have not been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Testimonials (information given by people who state that they have been helped by a particular treatment or product) and anecdotal reports (incomplete descriptions of the medical and treatment histories of one or more patients) have been made available by the manufacturers.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from Cancell?

The company that made Cancell stated that the side effects of the mixture include feeling tired during the first few weeks of treatment. Nausea is also a reported side effect. One patient who took more than the maker's advised dose reported diarrhea that lasted for a few hours.

Is Cancell approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

Cancell is not approved for use in the United States. In 1989, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration judged Cancell to be a new, unapproved drug. The FDA requested and received a court order making it illegal for manufacturers to send Cancell across state lines. The mixture may no longer be made, sold, or given to patients as a treatment for cancer or other diseases.

About This PDQ Summary

About PDQ

Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.

PDQ is a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH is the federal government's center of biomedical research. The PDQ summaries are based on an independent review of the medical literature. They are not policy statements of the NCI or the NIH.

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the use of Cancell/Cantron/Protocel in the treatment of people with cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.

Reviewers and Updates

Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Updated") is the date of the most recent change.

The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board.

Clinical Trial Information

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Clinical trials can be found online at NCI's website. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service (CIS), NCI's contact center, at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Permission to Use This Summary

PDQ is a registered trademark. The content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text. It cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless the whole summary is shown and it is updated regularly. However, a user would be allowed to write a sentence such as "NCI's PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks in the following way: [include excerpt from the summary]."

The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Cancell/Cantron/Protocel. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389431]

Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use in the PDQ summaries only. If you want to use an image from a PDQ summary and you are not using the whole summary, you must get permission from the owner. It cannot be given by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the images in this summary, along with many other images related to cancer can be found in Visuals Online. Visuals Online is a collection of more than 3,000 scientific images.


The information in these summaries should not be used to make decisions about insurance reimbursement. More information on insurance coverage is available on on the Managing Cancer Care page.

Contact Us

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General CAM Information

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—also called integrative medicine—includes a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. A therapy is generally called complementary when it is used in addition to conventional treatments; it is often called alternative when it is used instead of conventional treatment. (Conventional treatments are those that are widely accepted and practiced by the mainstream medical community.) Depending on how they are used, some therapies can be considered either complementary or alternative. Complementary and alternative therapies are used in an effort to prevent illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms, or control or cure disease.

Unlike conventional treatments for cancer, complementary and alternative therapies are often not covered by insurance companies. Patients should check with their insurance provider to find out about coverage for complementary and alternative therapies.

Cancer patients considering complementary and alternative therapies should discuss this decision with their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as they would any type of treatment. Some complementary and alternative therapies may affect their standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment.

Evaluation of CAM Therapies

It is important that the same scientific methods used to test conventional therapies are used to test CAM therapies. The National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) are sponsoring a number of clinical trials (research studies) at medical centers to test CAM therapies for use in cancer.

Conventional approaches to cancer treatment have generally been studied for safety and effectiveness through a scientific process that includes clinical trials with large numbers of patients. Less is known about the safety and effectiveness of complementary and alternative methods. Few CAM therapies have been tested using demanding scientific methods. A small number of CAM therapies that were thought to be purely alternative approaches are now being used in cancer treatment—not as cures, but as complementary therapies that may help patients feel better and recover faster. One example is acupuncture. According to a panel of experts at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting in November 1997, acupuncture has been found to help control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and pain related to surgery. However, some approaches, such as the use of laetrile, have been studied and found not to work and to possibly cause harm.

The NCI Best Case Series Program which was started in 1991, is one way CAM approaches that are being used in practice are being studied. The program is overseen by the NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Health care professionals who offer alternative cancer therapies submit their patients' medical records and related materials to OCCAM. OCCAM carefully reviews these materials to see if any seem worth further research.

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM

When considering complementary and alternative therapies, patients should ask their health care provider the following questions:

  • What side effects can be expected?
  • What are the risks related to this therapy?
  • What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
  • Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Will the therapy affect conventional treatment?
  • Is this therapy part of a clinical trial?
  • If so, who is the sponsor of the trial?
  • Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?

To Learn More About CAM

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilitates research and evaluation of complementary and alternative practices, and provides information about a variety of approaches to health professionals and the public.

NCCIH Clearinghouse
Post Office Box 7923 Gaithersburg, MD 20898–7923
Telephone: 1-888-644-6226 (toll free)
TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615

CAM on PubMed

NCCIH and the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) jointly developed CAM on PubMed, a free and easy-to-use search tool for finding CAM-related journal citations. As a subset of the NLM's PubMed bibliographic database, CAM on PubMed features more than 230,000 references and abstracts for CAM-related articles from scientific journals. This database also provides links to the websites of over 1,800 journals, allowing users to view full-text articles. (A subscription or other fee may be required to access full-text articles.)

Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) coordinates the activities of the NCI in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). OCCAM supports CAM cancer research and provides information about cancer-related CAM to health providers and the general public via the NCI website.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service

U.S. residents may call the Cancer Information Service (CIS), NCI's contact center, toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates drugs and medical devices to ensure that they are safe and effective.

Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Telephone: 1-888-463-6332 (toll free)

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws. Publications available from the FTC include:

  • Who Cares: Sources of Information About Health Care Products and Services
  • Fraudulent Health Claims: Don't Be Fooled
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Telephone: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (toll free)
TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 202-326-2502

Last Revised: 2015-01-07

If you want to know more about cancer and how it is treated, or if you wish to know about clinical trials for your type of cancer, you can call the NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237, toll free. A trained information specialist can talk with you and answer your questions.

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