In 2005, an on line American Cancer Society article for physicians was published on "COMPLEMETNTARY AND ALTERNATIVE METHODS: Use of Antioxidants During Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy should Be Avoided." The press have generalized and exaggerated the article with headlines advising cancer patients to avoid all dietary supplements.
The press have generalized and exaggerated the article with headlines advising cancer patients to avoid all dietary supplements.
NOHA President Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA, has a response in the same publication, January 17, 2006, "Cancer patients may very well tolerate certain dietary supplements," with thirty-one scientific references. He states:
". . . my own review of the literature shows that, in many cases, the use of antioxidantsand other nutritional supplementshave been determined to be compatible with conventional cancer therapies based on the published literature and that clinicians might better serve their patients if they adopt a more inquisitive approach as to whether or not specific supplements may play a role in aiding their conventional therapies. In some cases the supplements are deemed useful, but just not on the same day as the therapy. In others the supplements are highly recommended during and/or after the conventional therapies.
Specifically with regard to antioxidant therapy for cancer patients, we had a most interesting quotation from Dr. Garth Nicolson on page 10 of the Winter 2006 NOHA NEWS, "Since the success of cytotoxic [cell injuring] cancer therapy depends to some degree on free radical oxidation damage to cancer cells, lipid replacement plus antioxidants should not be administered at the same time of day as chemo- or radiotherapy. The primary use of lipid replacement plus antioxidants is to prevent damage to normal cellular structures, and this can be accomplished by administering the supplements at different times than the therapy to salvage normal cellular structures and diminish the adverse side effects of therapy." Levin also refers to Dr. Nicolson's work, mentioning the timing, and pointing out that "Dietary use of unoxidized membrane lipids plus antioxidants is recommended . . . to improve quality of life."
[Levin] states ". . . my own review of the literature shows that, in many cases, the use of antioxidantsand other nutritional supplementshave been determined to be compatible with conventional cancer therapies. . . . In some cases the supplements are deemed useful, but just not on the same day as the therapy. In others the supplements are highly recommended during and/or after the conventional therapies."
"Vitamin E has been used to
enhance radiation and chemotherapy treatments." Specifically, vitamin E
can improve the immune function even in advanced cancer patients. Recent studies
with a specific form of vitamin E "show it to be a potent inducer of apoptosis
[cell death] in a wide variety of . . . cancer cell types, including breast,
prostate, lung, colon, ovarian, cervical, and endometrial [within the womb]
in cell culture, and to be effective in significantly reducing tumor burden
and metastasis in a syngeneic [same strain] mouse mammary tumor model. . . ."
In another report, "Subgroup analysis did identify a statistically significant 9% reduction in all cause mortality and a borderline significant reduction 13% reduction in all-cancer mortality associated with supplemental vitamin E in combination with other micronutrients." from "Effect of supplemental use of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10 for the prevention and treatment of cancer."
The element selenium is an essential nutrient, which is "involved in several key metabolic activities . . . . It may provide important health benefits to people whose oxidative stress loads are high," as in chemo- and radiotherapy for cancer.
"A Tufts University review of antioxidants and human cancer stated: '. . . selenium and vitamin E reduced the risk of some forms of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer, and carotenoids [colored, fat-soluble, plant pigments] have been shown to help breast cancer risk. Cancer treatment by radiation and anticancer drugs reduces inherent antioxidants and induces oxidative stress, which increases with disease progression. Vitamins E and C have been shown to ameliorate adverse side effects associated with free radical damage to normal cells in cancer therapy. . . ."
In a December 2004 article by NOHA Professional Advisory Board Member Keith I. Block, MD, "Antioxidants and cancer therapy: furthering the debate," he states, "A number of clinical studies have already demonstrated the beneficial effects of antioxidants in ameliorating side effects of chemotherapy. More theoretical work on the chemistry of antioxidants and chemotherapy drugs suggests that antioxidants and chemotherapy might improve therapeutic efficacy of antineoplastics [cancer drugs] by counteracting aldehydes [produced by oxidation] that impede the passage of cells through the cell cycle [which is completed by apotosis (cell death)]."
In this listing we have given an inkling of the many references that Neil Levin has used in his powerful article challenging the earlier article, which recommended avoiding antioxidants in cancer chemo- and radiotherapy. The media hoopla from the original article wrongfully expanded the prohibition to all dietary supplements. Levin carefully addresses the misinformation. Following is a brief summary:
"The results of animal studies have demonstrated . . . that after appropriate cancer therapy, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids might slow the growth of metastatic [developing in other parts of the body] cancer cells, increase longevity of cancer patients, and improve their quality of life."
"Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids plus vitamin E restore immunodeficiency and prolong survival for severely ill patients with generalized malignancy."
"Fish oil also improved outcomes in cancer treatments: wasting syndrome, apotosis (death) of cancer cells ('in combination with standard treatments, supplementing the diet with (n-3 fatty acids may be a nontoxic means to improve cancer treatment outcomes and may slow or prevent recurrence of cancer')"
The twenty-carbon chain omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a precursor of beneficial eicosanoids (prostaglandins), which are biochemicals, as powerful as hormones, but which act at the cellular level. Thus, among its many good effects, EPA can regulate the formation of blood vessels within tumors and it can induce "apotosis [death] in pancreatic cancer cells" and in "hepatoma [liver cancer] cells."
Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
The tamoxifen (a cancer drug) "plus GLA cases achieved a significantly faster clinical response (objective response vs. static disease) than tamoxifen controls, evident by 6 weeks on treatment."
"Malnutrition actually kills about 40% of cancer patients!"
[Keith I. Block, MD] states, "Antioxidants and cancer therapy: furthering the debate," he states, "A number of clinical studies have already demonstrated the beneficial effects of antioxidants in ameliorating side effects of chemotherapy. More theoretical work on the chemistry of antioxidants and chemotherapy drugs suggests that antioxidants and chemotherapy might improve therapeutic efficacy of antineoplastics [cancer drugs] . . ."
"Post-surgical lung-cancer patients, who take vitamin supplements, are more likely to be long-term survivors." "Megadose vitamins A, B6, C, and E, plus zinc decrease bladder tumor recurrence in patients receiving . . . immunotherapy." "Metastatic breast cancer treatment is enhanced with folic acid supplementation." "Folic acid doubled survival rates for colon cancer patients." These studies (and others) with these beneficial outcomes are described.
Neil Levin has carefully shown how certain supplements can be helpful, sometimes when carefully timed relative to the cancer treatment, sometimes enhancing the treatment itself, and, in all cases, when the supplements are appropriately chosen, they can enhance the quality of life for cancer patients.
Specifically responding to the article on antioxidants, he has listed ample scientific studies on the beneficial effects of many antioxidants, when they are appropriately chosen. In some cases the timing is crucial.
The overgeneralization of the prohibition of antioxidants (and in the media of all supplements) results in the ridiculous situation where, to be consistent, one should prohibit the eating of all the antioxidant- and other nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, which, as we know, when eaten in abundance (and not pesticide-treated) can greatly enhance the health of all of us.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXXI, No. 2, Spring 2006, pages 9-10