NOTE: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only.
Hydrazine sulfate is a compound that has been studied as a treatment for cancer and for cancer-related anorexia (loss of appetite) and cachexia (loss of muscle mass and body weight).What is the history of the discovery and use of hydrazine sulfate as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer?
It has been known since the early 1900s that hydrazine compounds are toxic to animals and to humans. More than 400 hydrazine-related compounds have been tested for their ability to kill cancer cells. One of these compounds, procarbazine, has been used to treat Hodgkin disease, melanoma, and lung cancer since the 1960s.
In view of procarbazine's anticancer activity, hydrazine sulfate (a compound similar to procarbazine) was studied for its effectiveness in fighting cancer beginning in the 1970s. Studies of hydrazine sulfate as a treatment for cancer-related cachexia also began during this time.
Hydrazine compounds have also been used to make rocket fuel, as herbicides (chemicals that kill plants), and as chemical agents in boiler and cooling-tower water systems. Many scientists consider hydrazine sulfate and other similar substances to be cancer-causing agents and are concerned about the safety of using these compounds.What is the theory behind the claim that hydrazine sulfate is useful in treating cancer?
Two theories have been suggested to explain how hydrazine sulfate acts against cancer and cachexia:
Hydrazine sulfate is taken by mouth in pills or capsules. There is no standard dose or length of treatment time.Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using hydrazine sulfate?
Research in a laboratory or using animals is done to find out if a drug, procedure, or treatment is likely to be safe and useful in humans. These preclinical studies are done before any testing in humans is begun. The following has been learned from preclinical studies of hydrazine sulfate:
For more information on the preclinical studies, see the PDQ health professional version of Hydrazine Sulfate.Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of hydrazine sulfate been conducted?
Clinical trials are a type of research study that tests how well new drugs or other treatments work in people. There have been many studies of hydrazine sulfate in patients with advanced cancer. Researchers looked at the following:
Clinical trials of hydrazine sulfate have reported the following:
In general, the reported side effects of hydrazine sulfate treatment have been mild to moderate. Most side effects are reported to end when treatment with hydrazine sulfate is stopped. Some animal studies, however, suggest that hydrazine sulfate may be highly toxic (harmful) when combined with either alcohol or barbiturates (drugs with sedative and hypnotic effects).
Most of the side effects caused by hydrazine sulfate have involved the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. These side effects include the following:
One case of fatal liver and kidney failure and one case of severe injury to the brain have been linked to the use of hydrazine sulfate.Is hydrazine sulfate approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?
The FDA has not approved hydrazine sulfate for use as a cancer treatment in the United States.
The FDA has approved the study of hydrazine sulfate in clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials can be found on the NCI website.
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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 hydrazine sulfate 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).
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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Hydrazine Sulfate. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/hydrazine-sulfate-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389475]
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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.
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.
When considering complementary and alternative therapies, patients should ask their health care provider the following questions:
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.
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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.
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Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws. Publications available from the FTC include:
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Last Revised: 2015-12-11
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