Antioxidants and natural compounds can improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Fact.
Firstly, The myth of the Clinical Trial
Increasingly, the orthodox medical world is demanding that all cancer treatments must have scientific research evidence to support their use. The gold standard, often quoted, is largely limited to chemotherapy drugs and is called the Clinical Trial.
At icon we agree with this need.
accurate measurements of the negative side effects of a drug are every bit as important as measuring the benefits
However, only about 15 per cent of all drugs on the market in the USA have been through a clinical trial, about 80 per cent of drugs are cheaper generic copies and all too often the patient is given, not one drug, but several, the combination of which has never been near a Clinical Trial (Double blind, placebo whatever, or otherwise).
Worse, the placebo effect is seeing the benchmark, control sugar pill produce side effects and even cure some patients.
Worse still, whilst PR firms of Pharma companies rush to tell the benefits of their new wonder drugs, the rigour of exactly how many people benefit from the drug often falls woefully short when the issue of how many people succumb to side effects is considered. These are most usually touched upon rather than provided as accurate percentages in the same way the benefits are measured. We have covered (in a previous issue Vol 2 ; 2006) the concerns expressed by experts in the Lancet Oncology magazine of the negative effects of, say, monoclonal antibodies. As we have expressed before in icon, accurate quantified measurements over a sensible period of time of the negative side effects of a drug are every bit as important as measuring the benefits.
Finally, in some cases, euphoria on the positive findings is seeing some wonder drugs pulled out of Clinical Trials before they have even completed their allotted time span. How rigorous is that?
You may be saying, Whats all this got to do with whether I should take antioxidants with Chemotherapy and radiotherapy?. The answer is everything. Because often, the very people who tell you that All drugs have been through extensive Clinical Trials are the very same people who criticise antioxidants and vitamins on the grounds that they havent. This rigour is lacking with supplements. It is mythology; pure mythology.
In Cancer Watch we covered research, again from the Lancet, on how vested interest research is reducing the credibility of Doctors and Specialists alike amongst the general public.
Next, all too often, informed research papers are presented by experts who turn out to be interested parties with some vested interests or more than a little bias.
In 2004 and 2005 two megastudies criticising anti-oxidants were covered in icon magazine. In response to a concern expressed by Professor Tony Howell, one of our charity patrons, we analysed the data to find, for example in one case with vitamin E, that far from being a megastudy, the scientists had only chosen 14 studies out of over 800 available, (far less than we considered for our own report on vitamin E) and far from looking at the natural vitamin in its 4 tocopherol forms or its 4 tocotrienol forms, the only research taken by the scientists was for the synthetic vitamin E in solely the alpha-tocopherol form. (Which, for example, has virtually no proven benefit with breast cancer, unlike the tocotrienol forms; and worse, recent Japanese research says it can knock out the effects of two of the tocotrienols!)
From this megastudy they managed to conclude that vitamin E could actually increase your risks of dying by 10-30%. Poor research at best (Cancer Research UK agreed with us), but possibly no co-incidence that it was published shortly before the decisions in the EU were to be made on whether vitamins should be treated as drugs and which would be permitted for sale in the shops.
For the record, our view is that some high street antioxidants are often synthetic copies of the real thing, and with less available variant forms than occur naturally. For example you take antioxidant vitamin E to find it is synthetic and contains only one of the 8 forms nature provides; beta-carotene can be synthetic and contain only one of the two naturally occuring forms. Synthetic vitamin C, contains no co-factors or bioflavenoids. Research on a side by side test against fresh orange juice, should the synthetic vitamin provide no antioxidant power whatso ever during a 24 hour period.
I liken them to Thai copies of Gucci Handbags. Are you surprised when the handle falls off?
So, should you take these antioxidants with your chemo and radiotherapy? Answer? You are probably just wasting your money.
Sorry, but Doctors have no idea
Sadly, Doctors have little understanding of nutrition, less on natural compounds and have little time to read anything. In icon we reported on the senior Australian Government Medical Advisor who has set up a website for doctors to tell them about drugs and pharmaceutical clinical trials, listing all benefits and side effects, because he was so concerned that doctors only get that information from PR releases and media coverage, both of which are provided by the pharmaceutical companies themselves and may be biased.
Doctors rarely ever study nutrition at Medical School and do not pass exams in it.
Antioxidants actually help chemo and radio work!
As an example, one of the most commonly asked questions by people ringing our offices is, Should I be taking my anti-oxidants when I have chemo or radiotherapy?
Our answer is a categoric, YES. By why restrict yourself to antioxidants - THERE ARE LOADS OF NATURAL COMPOUNDS THAT CAN HELP YOU!!!!
Elsewhere on this web site we have covered the tome by John Boik, one of the senior staff at the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas. This book is over an inch thick, published in 2001 and called Natural Compounds in cancer therapy. It contains over 4000 references to scientific papers and basically concludes that, far from in some way interfering with the biochemical process involved in chemo or radiotherapy, taking anti-oxidants actually improves the success rates of both. Support for this stance came in 2005 again covered in icon Cancer Watch, when UCLA produced the conclusion that healthy cells are self regulators and will pick up the maximum concentrations of anti-oxidants available in order to maximize their biochemical processes. However cancer cells have lost most of this regulatory ability and will overload on anti-oxidants. Their view is that this will help the chemo or radio kill them off.
a number of oncologists adamantly tell their patients that they do not want them taking anti-oxidants during their chemo or radiotherapy
The problem for us, and especially for the cancer patients who call us, is that a number of oncologists adamantly tell their patients that they do not want them taking anti-oxidants during their chemo or radiotherapy as this will somehow weaken the effect. Patients are thus scared into dropping their supplementation programmes. Our problem is compounded because we are very open minded on this issue still, but frequent requests to be sent the hard scientific research evidence supporting the oncologists concern have come to nothing. We would be happy to print it. But does any actually exist, or is the concern pure subjective opinion and mythology?
Natural Compounds increase Survival Times. Fact.
On the other hand, in Cancer Watch we have covered several research studies where vitamin E improves the success of a drug; or astragalus improves the success of radiotherapy; or green tea improves the success of chemo and radio, as do medicinal mushrooms. And all increase survival times. This is important, for goodness sake! Doctors should know this and be encouraging their patients to take these natural compounds.
The detractors persist
In September 2005 a paper was actually published in the USA in A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (Gabriella DAndrea MD). More of an article than a genuine scientific paper, it warned against using anti-oxidants with chemo and radiotherapy. However by chance, or oversight, it missed all the papers supporting anti-oxidants, used only clinical laboratory research rather than human or epidemology studies, and omitted the fact that in certain cases (e.g. the use of amifostine) some specific and synthetic anti-oxidants are approved by the FDA and recommended for use with chemotherapy and are known to have enhancing benefits in, say, oral and lung cancers and child leukemia.
specific and synthetic anti-oxidants are approved by the FDA and recommended for use with chemotherapy
icon, for example, carried clinical research in 2004 that vitamin E supplementation could produce the same positive effects from Tamoxifen, at a 25 per cent lowered drug dosage. Great for the patient but not so great for the profitability of the pharmaceutical company concerned. We doubt any oncologist has even noticed the research. Further research has shown that the use of natural compound indole3carbinol also means you need to use less Tamoxifen.
The DAndrea article did, however, re-open the debate about taking anti-oxidants with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The whole matter has recently been highlighted by Ralph W. Moss PhD, the famous US cancer researcher. In a paper Should patients undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy be prescribed antioxidants? (Integrative Cancer Therapies Vol 5, 1; 63-82. http://ict.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/5/1/63. Also on PubMed) Moss expertly takes the reader through the myriad of research, including clinical trials, stating clearly that the DAndrea paper was incomplete and that there is far more information available than either she included or is widely acknowledged. His conclusion is that a blanket rejection of the concurrent use of anti-oxidants with chemotherapy is not justified by the preponderance of evidence. For the more scientifically biased amongst our readers we have listed below some of the main scientific references on this subject.
If taking anti-oxidants is of such a concern, why do many of the same oncologists tell the patient to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables instead?
Moss raises another important point - one we have repeatedly made. If taking anti-oxidants is of such a concern, why do many of the same oncologists tell the patient to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables instead? Is it because they believe fresh fruit and vegetables are devoid of anti-oxidants these days and thus cant interfere with their chemotherapy? Or is it because they are fearful of the synthetically produced ones? (Just as we are youll note in icon we continually tell you to take the natural forms). Perhaps it is neither of these. Perhaps they are just not aware of the enormous amount of research in the US alone. However, the answer may lie in an article from the early days of icon, when Dr. Graham Henderson wrote a piece for us telling our readers just why UK Doctors were so negative towards complementary therapies. To summarise: UK Doctors want to be the fount of all knowledge for their patients, and many have neither studied formally, nor had the time to study since leaving medical school, these complementary therapies and especially nutrition. (Only recently a newly qualified doctor was in our offices openly stating that (apart from a morning on combating heart disease) she had not spent one day formally studying nutrition in her whole seven years training!) As Dr. Henderson concluded, most UK Doctors are outside their both knowledge and comfort zones.
Nothing brings this home more than reading Moss conclusions, one of which is that Patients would be well advised to seek the opinion of physicians who are adequately trained and experienced in the intersection of 2 complex fields, that is, chemotherapy and nutritional oncology.
If all UK NHS oncologists who qualify e-mail us on email@example.com with their name, phone number and qualifications we will happily publish a list in the magazine and on our web site. This debate will not be settled until we have more experts who are fully qualified in both oncology and nutritional therapy.
Meanwhile, a similar view on the benefits and the increasingly vacuous criticism of natural compounds as beneficial adjuncts to chemo and radiotherapy can be found in the article on Herbs by the expert Alan Hopking in icon Issue 3 2006.
For the record, we continue to recommend that all patients having chemo and radiotherapy supplement using natural supplements (like Chlorella, garlic, astragalus, Aloe Vera, medicinal mushrooms, green tea, selenium, natural vitamin E etc) as we increasingly find positive research-based evidence. (For example: Prasad K. N: Int. Cancer Therapies 2004, 3:3, 310-323. Multiple dietary antioxidant therapies enhance the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies and decrease their toxicity. But we especially recommend that patients load up on the foods that can provide them with the biggest range of cancer fighting agents possible.
At last, the definitive, research-based book on how to build a diet to help beat cancer. Click here to read about it.
For those of you who want to check the scientific references used, we have selected a mere 75 from those recorded by Ralph Moss
Some detailed references:
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