This article about brain tumours, or brain cancer, and the associated articles on the left will give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating brain tumours - the symptoms, the diagnosis and all the latest options on treatments and therapies - from brain cancer drugs and chemotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy and complementary therapies; including all the very latest alternative cancer therapies, new cancer treatments and information. We will even cover the causes.
This article has been compiled by Chris Woollams from worldwide research and expert sources*
If there is one cancer this charity should be able to tell you about it is brain tumours. Catherine Woollams, one of our founders and my daughter developed a brain tumour (a glioma) in 2001 and was given 6 months to live. Indeed St Thomas hospital had never had anyone live longer than 18 months.
Catherine survived nearly 8 times longer than predicted. I say ´survived´ but this word probably gives you the wrong impression. Catherine skied, dived, travelled and partied right to the end. She was 26 when she died. And several Doctors at St Thomas Hospital encouraged me to write down my findings - and so Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer came to be - it has been the UKs best selling book on cancer for three years (and you cannot even buy it through the shops, only direct from CANCERactive).
Brain tumours can be benign (slow growing) or malignant (more rapidly growing cancers). This article covers only the malignant tumours.
However there is a type of brain tumour called an acoustic neuroma found adjacent to the ear. These are not malignant per se but is indicative of potential problems ahead.
Some brain tumours are caused by metastasis (spread) from cancers elsewhere in the body. The original cancer thus spreads around the body and in some cases it can affect the brain. These are secondary cancers. The rest of this article will confine itself to primary brain tumours where the origin was in the brain itself.
Three factors are unusual about brain tumours:
Firstly, the brain and the tumour are in a confined space the skull. Any abnormal growth may cause pressure, loss of balance, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, even blackouts and fainting, and in extreme cases blurred vision, blindness, slurred speech, memory loss, personality changes or loss of hearing.
Secondly, primary brain tumours never have metastatic spread from them around the rest of the body to other organs. This is not to say that the effects of the cancer are solely confined to the brain area a lowered level of oxygen in cells coupled with lowered immune systems will be found throughout the body.
Thirdly, there is a protective barrier the blood/brain barrier around the cells, which evolution has designed to keep harmful substances from entering the brain cells. This causes a bit of a problem for most chemotherapy drugs.
Neurons and neuroglia are two types of cells that make up the nervous system. Neurons send and receive nerve messages while neuroglia, (made up of glial cells) surround the neurons and nourish and protecting them.
Roughly half of all brain tumours develop from these glial cells and these are called gliomas. They can be found in the spinal chord, the brain stem and cerebellum and in the optic nerves, but are most usually in the cerebral hemispheres. The most common type of glioma is an astrocytoma, so named because it develops from astrocytes, or star-shaped glial cells.
Your oncologist will tell you the location of the tumour and its grade. Normally cancers are defined by 4 Stages (the level of spread of the cancer which is not really applicable to a brain tumour) and 4 Grades or the aggression of the cancer. Stages I and II are low-grade cancers and will usually take several years to develop into grade III cancers. We know of people who have had low-grade tumours remain in that state for 15 years or more. The higher the grade the more dramatic the effects and changes.
The 4 grades of brain tumours
. Grade I Pilocytic Astrocytoma
. Grade II Low-Grade Astrocytoma
. Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma
. Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme, or Glioblastoma
By Grade IV, the cancer is spreading along the nerves and setting up secondary colonies in other areas of the brain so that more tumours form.
Possible factors in the growth of Brain Tumours
In Cancer Watch we have reported on the following:
1. There is some evidence that there may be a genetic pre-disposition to brain tumours.
2. There is some US research evidence that plant herbicides and pesticides and indoor toxins may increase risks amongst children.
3. It is certainly not true that mobile phones have the All Clear. Scandanavian studies note an increase in acoustic neuromas, especially on the side of the head where the phone is most used. New studies are underway to look into fears that long-term usage is causal. Mobile phone base stations, masts and even WiFi have all been covered by research in icon Cancer Watch, and there are reports under Prevention on this web site.
4. There are repeated reports (especially from Japan) into viral links in particular Simian Monkey Virus, SV-40 after Salk Polio vaccines used the Rhesus Monkey kidneys to grow the vaccine and became contaminated. By 1963 the monkey had been replaced by the virus free Green Monkey unfortunately 93 Americans had taken Salk vaccine. The virus causes brain tumours in animals. Research reported in Cancer Res. 2003; 63; 7606 linked the virus to malignant mesothelioma, brain tumours and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The Japanese researchers claim the virus has passed well beyond the original Salk treated population.
5. There is some concern over EMFs in the home especially those from bedroom TVs, computers, bedside electricity points etc.
6. Smoking increases the risks of all cancers, as does a poor diet.
7. Drs Goldman and Klatz in the USA refer to antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs as two of the top six brain poisons. Antibiotics reduce the levels of folic acid and other essential B vitamins in the body by killing the beneficial bacteria that help make them in the intestine. These vitamins are essential to good DNA replication. Antibiotics and certain drugs may well be given during your treatment; these will reduce beneficial bacteria levels further.
brain tumours may well be oestrogen-driven
8. There is evidence that, in common with other cancers, brain tumours may be oestrogen-driven and even arise from undifferentiated stem cells in the brain, under the influence of oestrogen. Certainly, there is evidence that after treatment some ´stem cells´ may survive, and grow back into a new tumour. (See information on Professor Wang and his team at Columbia University who made this discovery for stomach cancers.)
9. Scientists from 19 countries, at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon (IARC) have concluded that high nitrite levels (especially in conjunction with low vitamin C levels) are linked to carcinogenicity. Links with stomach cancer, oesophageal cancer and brain tumours were noted. The working group were especially concerned with the run-off of fertilisers into surface and well water. Nitrites and nitrates may have a direct cancer effect or promote the by-products of cyanobacteria in the soil and water. But then this dovetails with US research that showed children who ate ten or more hot dogs a week had much higher incidences of brain tumours. Why? Again dried meats and preserved meats have high nitrite levels.
10. Lead in the workplace has been linked to brain tumours. Researchers from The University of Rochester School of Medicine, New Jersey using a sample of 317,963 people have concluded that regular lead exposure increases brain tumour deaths by 50 per cent.(Int. J. Cancer 2006; 119; 1136-44). There are many sources of lead in the home, not confined to old pipes and old paint, but still there is residue near main roads and petrol stations.
11. MOST IMPORTANTLY: THERE ARE SEVERAL STUDIES THAT SHOW THAT BRAIN TUMOURS ARE DRIVEN BY GLUCOSE. Their favourite food is glucose and they thrive on it - so patients should avoid consuming common sugar - whether in tea, ice-cream, or so called healthy drinks like Ribena. Hospital meals do not help! Readers should look at the KETOGENIC DIET, which aims to deprive the tumour cells of sugar. It can be found in the section on glucose - CLICK HERE.
1. You will be sent for one or more scans to determine the location and size of your tumour.
* A CT scan uses multi-dimensional X-Rays built up via a computer into a 3 D model to pinpoint the problem. Cancer Watch has covered that these themselves are not without problems. (NB: Too many CT scans should be avoided where possible. Research from Columbia University (icon Vol 3 Issue 4) calculated that the radiation produced from an annual CT scan risks a 1 in 50 chance of death. The risks of a full body scan are reasonably well quantified says Dr David Brenner). Frankly you have little choice if you want your oncologist to know what is going on inside your head.
* An MRI scan delivers much the same 3 D picture as the CT scan but uses magnetic resonance. So no necklaces or chains and tell them about any metal in your body!!
2. From this point debulking surgery is used where the tumour is accessible and removal does not endanger localised nerves or important bodily functions like sight. You should discuss the exact location of the tumour with the surgeon, any adjacent nerves, and the risks associated with the surgery.
3. Surgery rarely removes the whole tumour and your oncologist will probably want to use radiotherapy as well. Catherine wrote an article about her experiences of radiotherapy from having the mask made to the effects of the treatment. The treatment is not without side effects and you can only really have one course of radiotherapy, usually five days per week for 6 weeks. Make sure you go to every treatment session. You should continue to take your vitamins and supplements see our article on how to maximise the effectiveness of your radiotherapy programme.
4. Drugs: You will almost certainly be given steroids before and after any surgery to reduce the swelling inside your brain. You will also be given anti-fitting drugs (anticonvulsant or anti-epileptic drugs). The brain does not enjoy being attacked with a scalpel and sudden fits can occur for a couple of years after surgery without these drugs. (You are not allowed to drive a car, for example). In Catherines case dosage was changed quite regularly according to her condition. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.
5. Chemotherapy: Your oncologist may decide to use chemotherapy immediately or he may wait to see how fast the tumour returns. In January 2004 the Lancet, that bastion of the orthodox medical profession, ran an article which said that the drugs dont cure brain tumours. And they are right, since there is no long term evidence of "cure" for any of them. Of course this is not to say there are not some benefits, especially in the short-term.
* When Catherine was treated after her tumour returned she was given a three drug combination PCV including Procarbazine, Carmustine and Vincristine.
In 1994 clinical trials amongst 24 people this produced the following data:
18/24 patients responded to the treatment (75%)
9/24 patients responded completely (38%)
5/24 patients responded partially (21%)
4/24 patients had stable disease (16%)
In a 1996 clinical study with 32 patients:
29/32 patients responded to the treatment (91%)
9/29 patients experienced haematological toxicity (31%)
10/29 patients had delayed treatments due to treatment induced toxicities (35%)
10/29 patients had complete responses (35%)
19/29 patients had partial responses (64%)
The median time to progression (MTP) for all patients was 15.4 months.
The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center producing this overview on PCV stressed it was important to incorporate a strict diet regime (because some foods interact with the drugs) and that the health risks are not insignificant.
Not all the clinical trials did this well. In Catherines case PCV destroyed her white cells so badly that she could not have a second round of this therapy. You must make your own mind up.
Carmustine is now being used in the USA on dissolving wafers (Gliadel), which can be put on the tumour during surgery. Carmustine, itself has mixed reviews for brain tumour treatment although it does cross the blood/brain barrier. Here we quote from the US NCI Chemotherapy site:
Carmustine has been utilized as a single treatment chemotherapy for many years on primary brain tumours, however, the historical statistics do not always appear to support the effectiveness of BCNU as a single agent on brain tumours. One study of 467 patients with malignant glioma concluded:
The combination of carmustine plus radiotherapy produced a modest benefit in long-term (18-month) survival as compared with radiotherapy alone, although the difference between survival curves was not significant. This study suggests that it is best to use radiotherapy in the post-surgical treatment of malignant glioma and to continue the search for an effective chemotherapeutic regimen to use in addition to radiotherapy
The search for an effective treatment
Three drugs show promise: Temozolomide; Tarceva; Gleevac. Readers should read both
* ´the Latest Brain Tumour Treatments - which features an interview with Dr Henry Friedman of Dukes in Carolina
* the Coming Brain Tumour Treatments - which features amn interview with Dr Mike Brada of the Royal Marsden
Temozolomide: A lot of fuss is being made in the UK since NICE first refused to pass it for general use in the NHS they have now. Talk of costing lives and of the gold standard for brain tumours was rife.
Lets look at the research. At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, New Orleans, June 7, 2004 and published in the March 10, 2005, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, with 573 glioblastoma multiforme patients (one group having just radiotherapy, the other radiotherapy plus temzolomide):
After two years, 26 per cent of patients taking temozolomide were alive compared to just 10 percent of those who had radiation only.
The median survival in the radiation-plus-temozolomide group was 14.6 months compared to 12.1 months in the radiation-alone group.
Progression-free survival - the amount of time before the tumour began to grow again - was 7.2 months in the temozolomide group and 5 months in the other group.
So, NICE may have based its views on the expense (relative to other drugs that might have more significant benefits) of a 2.5 month increased survival over radiotherapy alone.
In the New England Journal of Medicine March 10th 2005, researchers reported that most glioblastoma patients in a 2004 study who survived longer on temozolomide had tumours in which a particular gene was turned off. Indeed, the researchers reported that they could actually identify which patients would likely benefit most from the temozolomide treatment depending on whether a certain gene within the tumour was turned off or on. This test does not seem to be commonplace in the UK.
If thats the Gold Standard what else can you do?
There is some research activity centred on an old ´tricyclic´ drug called Chlomipramine
, where it seems it may affect the mitochondria of brain tumour cells. You can read about the work taking place at the momentby clicking that link. Recent reasearch suggests that it can improve the effectiveness of some other brain tumour drugs. See Cancer Watch.
Photo Dynamic Therapy
is used in several top cancer centres the USA, but largely at the time of surgery. A photosensitive agent applied directly to the tumour has light of a certain frequency shone directly on it whilst in the tumour. This produces a free radical oxygen molecule which attacks the cancer cell. This therapy has been limited by the need to have the tumour exposed to the light source. However, now newer algae/chlorophyll agents are reducing this direct light need and the need to have PDT at the same time as surgery. We have in-depth articles you really should read on PDT
One research study may be of interest to glioma patients. In research involving 322 patients (Stummer et al Lancet Oncology 7; 392-401), a group of patients was treated with 5-aminolevulinic acid, a non-fluorescent drug but one which leads to the accumulation of fluorescent porphyrins in malignant cells. The group had surgery (resection) and the tumour was removed completely in 65 per cent of cases (control group 36 per cent). 6-month progression free survival was 41 per cent up from 21.1)
The replacement of Missing Peptides: Anti-neoplastons
are missing peptides in people with cancer, according to US expert Dr Burzynski. His work is being monitored by the FDA in America and he specialises in Brain Tumours.
Virotherapy: Virotherapy is the use of common viruses to kill cancer cells. We have comprehensive details on this ´alternative brain tumour treatment´ in our special section. Various cancer centres like the MAYO Clinic have been looking at using oncolytic viruses to kill brain cancer cells. For example Professor Moira Brown at Glasgow University is treating 100 patients with gliomas by using a genetically modified form of the Herpes virus. In the normal brain this virus can cause encephalitis. But this modified virus has a gene removed so that it leaves normal cells untouched but only replicates in a cancer cell basically blowing it up. This is another alternative cancer treatment, especially promising for brain cancer. Less advanced is the use of Dendritic Cell Vaccines. Much more information can be found in our section´ Alternative Cancer Treatments´
Heat therapy or hyperthermia:
We have several articles on the use of Hypothermia
in the treatment of cancer. A version of this is being developed at the Radcliffe in Oxford for use with brain tumours.
Cutting your oestrogen levels: Overweight people make and store more oestrogen, some chemicals in some toiletries, perfumes make-up, and household cleaners once inside the body can mimic the action of oestrogen. (Xeno-oestrogens). They have been found to be cumulative. Hormone pills (eg. contraceptive pill, HRT) may increase levels, animal fats may hold these hormones, and EMFs and disturbed sleeping patterns may reduce melatonin levels which will in turn increase oestrogen in the body. There are ways to control excess oestrogen in the body. (Our book Oestrogen the killer in our midst tells you more and gives simple action steps).
Supplement: A number of natural substances do seem to have had modest effects on brain tumours in tests. Only very limited funding has been found for proper clinical trials though these natural compounds include Echinacea, Curcuma Longa and Co-enzyme Q 10.
Other natural products
that can cross the blood /brain barrier and possibly help, or have known anti-cancer properties are Fish oils
(long chain Omega 3), soya lecithin (for choline and inositol, known brain cell nourishers), vitamin B-12
and folic acid, Vitamin D
, and total vitamin E
. (NB the EU only allows the sale officially of alpha tocopherol which has little benefit. There are 8 types of vitamin E 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. It is the latter that are effective against cancer cells.)
Eat a vitamin and mineral-rich diet.
I know everybody says this but with a brain tumour it is especially important because natural compounds do have the ability to cross the blood/brain barrier. Find out more in our book Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer
which was written to record just what we had done that seemed to work so well for Catherine.
Have a VEGA CHECK
and tackle possible yeast infections: Catherine was given a blood test towards the end of her life it showed both the presence of yeasts, and a virus in her brain. You dont need an expensive blood test go to a homeopath with a VEGA machine and he should be able to tell you if you have yeast or viral infections.
Recently there has been an enormous flury of research on the role of beneficial bacteria in our bodies. You really should read our article on the subject and the links to cancer. Over 4000 research studies and 100 clinical trials have shown that Beneficial Bacteria
in the gut:
stimulate and strengthen the immune system
help produce certain cancer fighting vitamins like B-12, folic acid and vitamin K
help produce short chain fatty acids which reduce harmful fat production
can actually chelate to (bind to) heavy metals and help excrete them
can actually neutralise and eliminate harmful chemicals like oestrogen and nitrosamines
There is research evidence that they can produce cancer killing chemicals like sodium butyrate too.
There are over 800 strains of bacteria in the gut about 400 have been identified and a dozen or so seem, according to the research so far, to have the greatest impact on our health. 60 or more years ago we would consume daily supplies of a number of strains but we no longer live on farms nor drink raw milk and, instead, we chlorinate our water, fill our chickens with antibiotics, irradiate our food and pasteurise everything that might move. Worse we take drugs, antibiotics and anaesthetics which deplete our stores further.
There is another school of thought that explains that, at night, these Beneficial Bacteria feed off the yeasts, microbes and non-beneficial bacteria we accidentally consumed during the day. Yeast infection is now endemic. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the population has excess yeasts signs in men include bloating after meals, yellow toe nails and athletes foot; in women you might find cystitis, thrush or bloating after meals. Try reading Can Candida cause cancer? on this web site. Consider this quote: Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy did not ultimately succumb to cancer, but to an infestation of Candida albicans. That comes from the 1993 Spring edition of the prestigious US medical journal Contemporary Oncology.
Topping up with probiotics (strains of beneficial bacteria shown in clinical trials to deliver a benefit) and following a prebiotic based diet lots of whole foods and whole grains with no sugar, dairy or alcohol and certain yeast killers will help defeat the Candida albicans. Its all in the article. The recent finding that women who take more than 25 lots of antibiotics in their lifetimes have twice the risk of breast cancer, is just one more factor pointing the finger at yeast infection and a lack of enough beneficial bacteria in the body.
Dont take mega-doses of vitamin C
In case you are thinking of taking large, mega-doses of vitamin C as in Intravenous vitamin C, dont. Levels over 25 gms per day can spread astrocytomas according to US work (Riordan, Arizona). Those thinking of vitamin B-17
or apricot kernels should not bother. The world expert on B-17, Dr Contreras, says it has no effect on brain tumours.
Catherine found great benefit in a Hands-on-healer. You can go to an overview of all complementary therapies by clicking this link. She also had her body energy rebalanced, and went to Brazil to see John of God. Hes free and he does actually seem to cure a few people. You should certainly try to oxygenate your body through exercise. And there are clinical trials that show meditation before surgery reduces blood loss.
If you simply dont know where to start, try Cancer your first 15 steps
, a helpful article that quickly and simply helps you build your own personal cancer tackling plan. We also have a book
by the same name.
On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox) and on more possible contributory factors to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this total way can increase an individuals chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.
This is all supported by the very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch.
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* Cancer (and its related illnesses) are very serious and very individual diseases. Readers must always consult directly with experts and specialists in the appropriate medical field before taking, or refraining from taking, any specific action.
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