My favourite natural anti-cancer remedies

Many people diagnosed with cancer struggle with marrying the two camps of orthodox chemotherapy with natural approaches. Yet many of the best natural remedies improve the effect, and reduce the side-effects of the best chemotherapy drugs, so it does not need to be an ‘either or’ decision.

While the avoidance of developing cancer cells requires creating a chemical (and emotional) environment that stops healthy cells converting to cancer cells, it appears that this can also contain cancer cells and stop them from spreading and even help them revert to healthy cells. A paper published by Onodera and Bissell in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that breast cancer cells could be “reverted to a quiescent and normal phenotype if glucose (sugar) was removed from the medium in which these were cultivated.”

I advocate a total avoidance of sugar, plus a low GL diet for all cancers, and a ketogenic diet, for those with brain cancer where it has proven most effective. High protein diets may not be the right approach for cancers that affect epithelial tissue eg in the gut, mouth and lung, since glutamine, an abundant amino acid in meat and dairy products, feeds epithelial cells.

Different cancers respond to different chemotherapy agents, be they natural or drug. However, knowing which ones will be most effective for a specific patient’s type of cancer is the key, and the research focus of a laboratory in Greece called the Research Genetic Cancer Centre. They have developed the ability to test a comprehensive panel of natural remedies, as well as chemotherapy drugs, against a person’s specific kind of cancer, from a blood sample containing their cancer cells. It is therefore possible to compare the likely efficacy of recommended drugs versus natural remedies, and also weigh up the long-term pros and cons given that heavy duty drugs often deplete immunity while many natural chemotherapy agents actually enhance it, so the patient feels better, not worse, at the end of treatment. Other labs are now offering similar chemosensitivity testing such as Biofocus in Germany. However, it is important to test the primary tumour cells not just circulating cancer cells. Also, cancer cells do mutate and all cancer experts I have interviewed recommend a multi-faceted approach, using combinations of many anti-cancer substances making it harder for the cancer cells to survive, grow and adapt.

These are my favourites bearing in mind that every cancer is different:

Megadose vitamin C

By far the best evidence exists for high dose vitamin C. There are over 20,000 published studies on vitamin C and cancer and several new ones every month exploring not whether vitamin C kills cancer cells but how exactly it does this. Last month the US National Institutes of Health, much like the UK’s NICE, published a ‘High Dose Vitamin C’ online guide for doctors and patients.1 While vitamin C, at low doses, acts as an anti-oxidant, at very high doses it acts as a pro-oxidant, selectively killing off cancer cells. There is some debate about whether it is possible to achieve high enough blood levels with mega-dosing vitamin C (at least 20 to 80 grams a day) enhanced by using liposomal vitamin C which means you can go higher before hitting ‘bowel tolerance’ or whether only intravenous vitamin C achieves high enough levels to kill cancer cells. Oral vitamin C is also of value in that it prevents the formation of gut carcinogens such as nitrosamines, which is really important for preventing colo-rectal cancer – the biggest killer of under 50 years olds.

High dose vitamin C has not only proven highly effective in killing off many different kinds of cancer cells, it has also been proven to be very safe with minimal side-effects.2 Other studies have shown that, in combination with certain chemotherapy drugs, it enhances their effectiveness and reduces their toxicity3 , allowing for lower drug doses and lesser adverse-effects4 . Intravenous vitamin C is usually given three times a week over a month. Dr Linus Pauling, who first showed the chemotherapeutic effect of vitamin C in 1976 by prolonging and saving the lives of terminal cancer patients, and was ridiculed at the time, deserves a big apology – especially from the Mayo Clinic who claimed to replicate his study but changed the design such that it would fail. IV vitamin C is not like conventional chemotherapy where you have a certain number of treatments then that’s it. It is important to keep going with high dose vitamin C, either having IV vitamin C over a number of months or, at least, maintaining high dose oral intake.

Curcumin from turmeric

My next favourite is curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. It inhibits cancer cell growth in numerous ways and, like vitamin C, is non-toxic to healthy cells and generally health enhancing. Small human trials look promising but it’s early days yet. The stumbling block is that curcumin is very hard to absorb. However, the relatively recent developments of formulations of curcumin, in the form of nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles, or phospholipid complexes, is resolving this issue and clinical trials are underway.5 So far, the most bioavailable form seems to be Theracurmin6 , in which curcumin is bound to micelles to enhance absorption but there will be lots of competitive formulations. The more bioavailable the lower the dose needed.

Indole-3-carbinol (broccoli extract)

Given that breast and prostate cancer are the most prevalent cancers, both linked to excess circulating oestrogens and insulin (think sugar, dairy products and meat, as well as body fat which makes oestrogens) cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and cauliflower contain natural oestrogen detoxifiers. These are called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which converts to di-indolyl-methane (DIM), and sulforanes. While there’s an absence of clinical studies these compounds have clear anti-cancer effects including switching off cancer promoting genes.7 The inclusion of these foods in large quantities in vegetable juices has been a mainstay of naturopathic cancer approaches such as Gerson therapy and add logic to a largely vegan diet high in organic vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

Immune Boosting Mushrooms

There are quite a few medicinal mushrooms including Reishi and Cordyceps that have potent anti-cancer effects. Ganoderma lucidum, a type of funghi, has over 2,000 years of therapeutic use as an immune stimulant and has clear chemotherapeutic effects for breast, prostate, liver and bladder cancer and positive studies combining with chemotherapy or radiation.8 Oncologists in Japan often give AHCC, which is an extract from a medicinal mushroom, that is showing very promising results in trials.

High dose Vitamin A and D

Bearing in mind that high doses of vitamin A, above 7,000mcg (20,000ius) are inadvisable for pregnant women, vitamin A in the animal form of retinol has proven to be highly effective for killing off some cancer cells. So much so that one of the most widely used chemotherapy ‘drugs’ for leukaemia are vitamin A analogues such as all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), even though it is marginally more effective and considerably more toxic, especially in pregnancy. However, there is some concern about vitamin A and beta-carotene supplementation alone in smokers, and for the treatment of lung cancer. In high doses vitamin A is quite toxic on the liver and therefore best used under supervision. Dry skin is a warning sign.

Retinol is most concentrated in cod liver oil, which is also a rich source of vitamin D. While there is a lack of evidence of high dose vitamin D as chemotherapy, ensuring an adequate blood level of vitamin D is a no-brainer as it influences over 200 genes, many connected with healthy immunity. For example, those in the top fifth of vitamin D levels have 40% lower risk of colo-rectal cancer.9 Clinical trials are underway so we’ll hear more about vitamin D’s effectiveness. Therefore, it is important to check vitamin D levels are brought up to 100nmol/l. Most integrative oncologists give up to 5,000iu of vitamin D3 also with vitamin K(2 or 3); however vitamin K thins the blood and therefore is contraindicated in people on blood thinning medication.

Other contenders

Other contenders for natural chemotherapy agents are the herbs Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw), Artemesin annua (a type of wormwood), also given as Artemesin the anti-malarial extract, Essiac (a herbal combination), Boswellia, resveratrol and salvestrols, Aloe arborescens11 (containing acemannan), grape seed extract, alkalising diets and agents such as sodium bicarbonate, fulvic acid12 , glutathione and NAC, polyphenols rich foods such as quercetin in red onions and berries, extracts of which have been shown to halve tumour growth13 and finally, mistletoe.

Most integrative oncologists use combinations of natural agents for an increased effect. A good example of this is the Pomi-T study which gave men with prostate cancer a combination of broccoli, turmeric, pomegranate (rich in ellagic acid) and green tea (rich in epigallocatechin gallate) all of which inhibit cancer cell growth. Compared to placebo, six months later, the rise in PSA in the Pomi-T group given this combo was 14.7% v 78.5% in the placebo group.This difference of 63.8% was highly significant and 18.6% more men stayed off surgical, radiation or hormone interventions at the end of the trial in the Pomi-T group.

The combination of these kind of agents, plus intravenous nutrients, hyperthermia and sometimes low dose chemotherapy drugs can be particularly effective. Hyperthermia, that is raising the body temperature, makes it harder for cancer cells to survive. Having some sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, perhaps twice a week, is also a great way to recover from radiation treatment. There are plenty of places offering this (mostly MS centres) – usually charging £10 to £15 for an hour session.

As well as giving the right combination of natural chemotherapy agents it is vital to detoxify and support liver function and check and optimise methylation.

Check Methylation

Since methylation is central to maintaining DNA integrity and repair, checking a person’s homocysteine level, and lowering it is important. Leukaemia, for example, is associated with faulty methylation. However, it is important to be aware that high doses of folic acid have been shown to encourage colo-rectal cancer cell growth. This may be due to too much unmetabolised folic acid not being converted into the active form, called methyl-tetra-hydro-folate (MTHF). Therefore it is better to choose formulae that use MTHF instead of folic acid.

Getting Help

Canceractive.com, run by Chris Woollams, is a very useful website for information, keeping up to date with natural cancer approaches. Chris favours the combined approach of many natural agents as explained in his book The Rainbow Diet. He rates vitamin D3 at high doses (5,000ius), ideally with vitamin K2, fish oils, curcumin plus a diet full of all the known anti-cancer foods as his favourite starting point. For hormonal cancer he always includes a source of DIM or I3C (eg broccoli extract) and also melatonin. His approach is to tackle poor diet, environmental toxins, stress and hormone imbalances.

A great book for dealing with the whole process is ‘The Cancer Whisperer’ by Sophie Sabbage. Read her report How to let cancer heal your life. Another great all round book is Ian Gawler’s ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ which covers the whole approach – nutritional, lifestyle, psychological and spiritual approaches.

If you are dealing with cancer and want to know what to do and which avenues to explore, the charity Yes To Life have a helpline, 0870 163 2990 or [email protected], that you can call. They work closely with Patricia Peat at Cancer Options who offers a very useful service giving you a personalised report detailing the most helpful approaches for your kind of cancer. If you don’t have the means Yes To Life can fund your report and also have a scheme for helping you set up self-funding campaigns for treatment

There are a small number of doctors and medical experts specialising in an integrative approach. These include, but are not limited to, the following.

These numbers may not still be current, but try: Dr Etienne Callebout (London – 0203 230 2040), Dr Siegfried Trefzer (Uckfield – 01825 713576), Dr André Young Snell (Brighton – 01273 232779), Dr Rosie Daniels (Bristol – 01225 745737) and Dr Nicola Hembry (Bristol – 0117 317 1460). There is also a British Society for Integrative Oncology (bsio.org.uk) encouraging more oncologists to adopt this kind of approach.

In summary, there is tremendous convergence in the best way to deal with cancer in the integrative oncology world and every good reason to expect much greater results than is achieved by conventional treatment alone.

Further Information

HOLFORDirect now supplies a High Strength Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 and Glucosamine with Theracurmin.

References

  1. High Dose Vitamin C – PDQ, US NIH 2015
  2. H Fritz et al, Integr Cancer Ther. 2014
  3. E Guerriero et al, PLoS One. 2014
  4. L Hoffer, PLoS One. 2015
  5. M Schaffer et al, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015
  6. M Kanai et al, Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2013 ; Y Sunagawa et al, J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015
  7. K Royston et al, Curr Pharmacol Rep. 2015
  8. N KladarEur J Cancer Prev. 2015
  9. M Jenab, British Medical Journal, 2009
  10. R.Hamidpour, J Tradit Complement Med. 2013
  11. P Lissoni, In Vivo. 2009
  12. http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/fulvic-acid/
  13. L An-Na et al, Nutrients. 2014