There continues to be controversy as to whether cancer patients should
take certain vitamin and mineral supplements. Some in mainstream medicine
have attacked the use of vitamin supplements as being potentially harmful,
despite published scientific evidence indicating that cancer patients who
supplement benefit. The criticism about cancer patients taking supplements
is not limited to conventional oncologists
Dr. Charles Simone, a respected voice in natural medicine, cited more
than 350 studies involving 2000 cancer patients that showed that antioxidants
extended the life span of cancer patients and improved quality of life.
One such study involved 50 early stage breast cancer patients, some of
whom were relegated to radiation therapy and others to a combination of
radiation and chemotherapy. All participants (in union with conventional
therapies) took large doses of nutrients. More than 90% of both groups
noted improvement in their physical symptoms, cognitive ability, sexual
function, general well-being, and life satisfaction. Not one subject in
either group reported a worsening of symptoms (Simone et al. 2000).
a synopsis of the MEDLINE findings:
A study was conducted on non-small cell lung cancer patients over age 60 that
had already had the primary tumor(s) surgically removed. The prognosis for
this type of cancer is grim. The doctors compared vitamin users to nonusers
and measured blood folate as an indicator of folic acid intake. The median
survival for the nonusers was only 11 months compared to an astounding 41
months for the vitamin users. Supplement users, in other words, survived
almost four times longer than nonusers. In those patients with higher blood
levels of folate, there was a 68% improvement in survival. Because the doctors
adjusted for other mortality factors, the findings of this study suggest
that cancer patients should take vitamin supplements (Jatoi et al. 1998).
A more specific study looked at a group of transitional cell bladder cancer
patients. One group was given BCG (tuberculosis vaccine) immune-augmentation
therapy plus the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins. The second
BCG-treated group received the RDA plus 40,000 IU of vitamin A, 2000 mg of
vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 100 mg of vitamin B6, and 90 mg of zinc.
After 5 years, the tumor recurrence rates were 91% in the group receiving
the low-potency RDA vitamins, but only 41% in the mega dose vitamin group.
In this study, large doses of vitamins resulted in a 55% reduction in tumor
recurrence (Lamm et al. 1994).
Malignant melanoma is virtually impossible to stop once it has spread beyond
the primary lesion. A rare form of melanoma occurs in the iris of the eye,
and it is considered high risk because it is often found too late. Nine random
high-risk patients with T3 melanoma of the eye first underwent standard conventional
therapy to eradicate the primary tumor. These patients were then put on a
supplement regimen consisting of folic acid, trace minerals, amino acids,
and fatty acids. After 80 months of follow-up, none of these nine patients
experienced recurrent disease, which was significantly better than a similar
group of high-risk melanoma patients who did not receive these supplements.
(The control patients consisted of similar adjusted T3 cases selected from
the Swedish official registries and T2 patients from Germany.) Because 100%
of these high-risk patients were free of disease after almost 7 years, this
provides further piece of evidence of the potential value of dietary supplementation
in the cancer patient (Tallberg et al. 2000).
Breast cancer patients commonly undergo chemotherapy to reduce the risk of
future metastasis. Despite the severe toxicity of chemotherapy, many women
experience aggressive metastatic disease and die. Once metastatic disease
manifests, the 5-year survival rate is only 15%. A review was conducted of
various chemotherapy regimens in order to ascertain the percentages of objective
remissions in metastatic breast cancer patients. Of the drugs tested, 5-fl
o u o rouracil (5-FU) came in last, but when folic acid was added, objective
remissions increased significantly (Kreienberg 1998).
The drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is commonly used in visceral cancers (such as
colon, liver, pancreatic), but has not shown a high degree of efficacy. A
randomized trial of patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma compared
the effects of 5-FU administered alone and in combination with folic acid.
Both groups were comparable in respect to age, sex, and numbers of metastases.
Compared to the group receiving 5-FU by itself, the patient group receiving
the 5-FU plus folic acid experienced a 40% arrest of tumor growth and a 76%
overall reduction in tumor progression indicating a 47% difference between
the 5-FU and folate group and the 5-FU group. Survival time in the group
receiving the 5-FU plus folic acid was 47% greater than the group receiving
the 5-FU by itself. The addition of folic acid to this chemotherapy drug
regimen resulted in an improvement in the therapeutic profile and a significant
prolongation of the survival time (Loffler et al. 1992).
5-FU Folic acid and 5-FU Difference
Complete or partial remission 9% versus 16% 7%
Arrest of tumor growth 20% versus 60% 40%
Progression 71% versus 24% 47%
Total 100% of patients in group 100% of patients in group
Advanced cancer patients exhibit multifaceted defects in their immune capacity
that are likely to contribute to an increased susceptibility to infections
and disease progression. This immune impairment also constitutes a barrier
to effective immunotherapeutic interventions. A chronic inflammatory condition
associated with increased oxidative stress has been suggested as one of the
responsible mechanisms behind the tumor-induced immune suppression. A study
was conducted on 12 advanced colorectal cancer patients to ascertain if supplementation
with the antioxidant vitamin E could enhance immune functions. These colorectal
cancer (Dukes's C and D) patients received a daily dose of 750 mg of vitamin
E beginning 2 weeks prior to intervention with chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
The results showed that short-term supplementation with vitamin E led to increased
CD4:CD8 ratios and enhanced capacity of their T-cells to produce the T helper
1 cytokines, interleukin 2, and IFN-gamma (Malmberg et al. 2002).
a synopsis of the MEDLINE findings:
A debate among medical oncologists relates to the combined use of certain dietary
supplements and chemotherapy. A study on rat mammary tumors provided some
interesting data but also revealed part of the controversy. In this study,
rats were administered one of three chemotherapy drugs (5-FU, doxorubicin,
or cyclophosphamide) and then provided with a wide dosage range of folic
acid. In the folic acid-deficient group, tumor growth was impeded. However,
when higher amounts of folic acid were administered, even greater tumor growth-inhibiting
effects were observed. When looking at the data, low folate inhibited tumor
growth by an average of 41%, moderate folic acid supplementation inhibited
tumor growth by an average of 67%, and very high folic acid administration
resulted in an average of 75% in tumor inhibition. Folic acid supplementation
doubled the efficacy of one of the drugs (cyclophosphamide) and improved
survival in the 5-FU treated animals (Branda et al. 1998).
In a group of mice with ascites sarcoma, a four- to six-fold surplus of folic
acid in oral application reduced the toxicity of the chemotherapy drug methotrexate.
Moreover, adding these high amounts of folic acid into their drinking water
prolonged the survival of these mice (Motycka et al. 1975).
In a group of mice bearing leukemias and solid tumors, a combination of oxidized
vitamin C and vitamin B12 inhibited division of the cancer cells. The mice
were injected with the vitamins and after 19 days, all of the controls had
died, whereas more than 50% of the mice were alive after 60 days in the vitamin-treated
group. This study demonstrated that when B12 is combined with vitamin C,
the cobalt nucleus of B12 attaches to vitamin C, forming cobalt ascorbate.
Additional tests proved that cobalt ascorbate plus vitamin C inhibited tumor
cells (Poydock 1991).
The effects of methylcobalamin (vitamin B12) were examined in mice with liver,
lung, and Ehrlich ascites tumor cells. The growths of tumors in some groups
of the mice were suppressed by the 7-day administration and their survival
was longer than that of untreated mice (Shimizu et al. 1987). In a contradictory
animal study, the effect of methylcobalamin and vitamin B12 reduced the survival
of rats with liver cancer. This is the only study where vitamins actually
inhibited survival (Kal'nev et al. 1977).
Cancer spreading (metastasizing) throughout the body often culminates in death.
Immune suppression is one mechanism that cancer cells use to establish colonies
(metastatic lesions). Scientists investigated the effects of an antioxidant
called astaxanthin in stress-induced, immune suppressed in mice. When exposed
to stress, the number of natural killer cells (NK) and other immune cells
was reduced and an increase in liver lipid peroxidation was observed. After
4 days of astaxanthin administration, immune dysfunction induced by stress
improved. In this same study, cancer cells were injected into mice and the
effects of tumor development and metastatic lesions were evaluated in response
to induced stress. Daily administration of astaxanthin for 14 days markedly
attenuated the promotion of hepatic metastasis induced by stress. The results
of this study suggest that the antioxidant, astaxanthin, improves antitumor
immune response by inhibiting lipid peroxidation induced by stress (Kurihara
et al. 2002).
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and various state laws, no medical claims can be made for alternative
therapys and technology. All of the information expressed herein
must be considered theoretical and unproven and for experimental