Cancer diagnosis needs resolute action

By Dr Walter Vermeulen. 12 March 2023, 12:00PM

A well-informed Public is the cornerstone of a successful Primary Health Care approach to non-communicable diseases (NCD). This is why we have, in these columns, tried our best to make as reader-friendly our presentations on –at times- very complex medical concepts. 

In our previous Column, we mentioned that cells ‘talk’ to each other through chemical signals leading to a ‘signalling pathway’, in this way allowing information from outside or inside the cell to affect a particular cell function. We had explained how signalling pathways can become defective, leading cells to become dysfunctional and even cancerous. We will detail how one of the most feared aspects of cancer is traceable to a dysfunctional signalling pathway. 

The good news is that scientific research has identified ways for these dysfunctional signalling pathways to be normalised again. Being diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean a death sentence. It needs resolute action and that is what METI can help you with. We now return to the topic of this week’s presentation.

Most of the cells in our bodies are regularly renewed: old cells die and new cells are created by cell division; in this way, keeping a steady number of a particular cell type through a mechanism called programmed cell death (with its scientific name apoptosis). Note: cells aren't created equal when it comes to the length of their life cycles. For example, white blood cells only live for about 13 days, whereas red blood cells live for about 120 days. 

On the other hand, cancer cells never die, keep multiplying and thus cause the cancer to keep growing. You might have heard of ‘genes’: Your genes contain instructions that tell your cells to make molecules called proteins. These proteins perform various functions in your body to keep you healthy. Each gene carries instructions that determine some of your features, such as eye colour, hair colour, height etc. Humans have a total of about 20,000 genes: they are so tiny they are packed inside almost every single cell in your body! The reason they are in every cell is that genes make proteins that are involved in various cell signaling pathways that control cell growth and apoptosis.

(Note that our genes are located on the chromosomes, which, again, are tightly packed inside every single cell. You have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell.)  Coming back to our genes…  One of them is called the Ras gene. The protein related to this gene is called the G protein that moves between an activated and an inactivated form. It can be compared to a switch that is turned on or off 1000 times… a second!

The activated Ras protein acts as a molecular switch that turns on various target proteins necessary for important cellular processes such as division and proliferation. In normal cells, this balanced cycling of the G protein can be compared to you driving downhill and keeping your speed constant by alternatively pushing the gas and the brake pedal. However, what is observed in the majority of cancers, this rhythmic switching ‘on and off’ is disturbed: instead, the protein is kept in a constant “on state”. 

This results in hyper-activated Ras-driven signalling in cells, which can be compared to a car running down the hill without brakes. As a result, the cell never dies and keeps dividing and multiplying… The cancer cell has become ‘immortal’… It would seem a hopeless situation. 

Fortunately, recent reports have demonstrated how various plant chemicals (phytochemicals) have wide-ranging anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects that can reverse the damage done by defective signalling in cancer and restore normal function. Turmeric, for example, has been found active in protecting and normalising more than forty signalling pathways! The official recommendation of the American Institute for Cancer Research, a leading authority on diet and cancer, is that those with cancer should follow the same diet that helps prevent cancer from taking root in the first place. That means more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, while limiting fast food, processed food, meat, soda, and alcohol. Similar recommendations have been put forth by other cancer authorities. They emphasize that there is not a single ‘magic bullet’ food or component, but the combination of foods in a predominantly plant-based diet is what matters. More on the amazing power of the whole food plant based diet to control cancer in next week’s Column. 

In the meantime, we invite you to visit METI’s Healthy Living Clinic at House No. 51 at Motootua (across from the Kokobanana Restaurant) to become acquainted with METI’s whole food plant based diet and Lifestyle Change program and reap its benefits if you suffer from cancer or a chronic disease. You can also purchase METI’s WFPB Cookbook with 50 recipes written in English and Samoan. You can contact us at 30550.

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Health
Education
By Dr Walter Vermeulen. 12 March 2023, 12:00PM
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