Use of alternative cancer treatment increasing

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen 19 March 2023, 12:00PM

Conventional medical practice offers three ways of ‘treating’ cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Surgery would seem the most commonsensical approach: there is a cancerous growth: so ‘cut it out’! Unfortunately, cancer usually grows slowly, needing decades before a sizeable tumour is detected. By that time, in many cases, the tumour has metastasized, a medical term for having spread to other parts of the body. 

Traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer treatment are then called in but they face serious challenges such as drug resistance and toxic side effects. In one of last year’s Columns, we referred to a major study in Australia and the US following over 200,000 adults undergoing chemotherapy, which established that ‘the overall contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to a 5-year survival was estimated to be just over 2 per cent’, a minor contribution to cancer survival.

Considering, on top of these poor results, and the horrendous side effects many patients have to suffer, it is no wonder that alternate treatment regimes are more and more looked for. And to make conventional cancer treatment even less appealing is the issue of ‘cancer stem cells’ (CSC), a concept that has become gradually accepted in the scientific community. CSC could be compared to the ‘queen’ in a beehive: constantly rejuvenating the hive. In this case, cancer. The problem with CSC is that they are characterised as a subpopulation of cancer cells, difficult to detect, and resistant to chemo and radiotherapy. 

According to the CSC model, cancer recurrence after treatment is due to the superior resistance of CSCs to cellular toxins and insults. While current treatments are capable of eradicating the bulk of the tumor mass, the lingering CSCs are able to form new, fully developed tumours from a small number of cells or even a single cell. CSCs are thought to resist treatment through several cellular mechanisms and dysfunctional signaling pathways (a topic we have discussed in recent Columns).

Intense research has been able to find ‘markers’ on these elusive cell colonies so that they have been able to be studied. A number of identifying properties of cancer stem cells have been outlined including properties contributing to the drug resistance and metastatic potential commonly observed in CSC. The good news is that over the past several decades, thousands of natural plant compounds have been studied for their anti-cancer properties.  

Natural compounds represent a historically rich source of novel, biologically active compounds that are able to interact with a large number of cellular targets while limiting the painful side effects commonly associated with cancer treatment. Complementary/alternative medicine is increasingly being practiced worldwide due to its safety and beneficial therapeutic effects that have been observed for thousands of years. 

And so, recently a group of American scientists, as reported in one of the leading Cancer journals, the American Journal of Cancer Research, did an experiment with a ‘super-cocktail’ of readily available known plant chemicals (phytochemicals) and used at concentrations available during a normal meal. They allowed two types of Breast Cancer (BC) cells to grow under normal laboratory conditions and then when the cell colonies were well established, the breast cancer cells were treated with six well-established phytochemicals known for their ability to repair dysfunctional signaling pathways. When they treated the breast cancer cells with each of the individual compounds: nothing happened: the BC cells kept on multiplying. However, when the six phytochemicals were mixed together in the ‘super-cocktail’, at normal culinary levels and then spread over the BC cell colonies: they significantly suppressed BC cell proliferation (>80%), inhibited migration and invasion, and eventually caused cell cycle arrest and induced programmed death (apoptosis) of the cell colonies: resulting in 100% BC cell death. 

And which were the six phytochemicals they used? 1) the phytochemical Indol-3-Carbinol (I3C), is found in highest concentrations in broccoli but also found in other cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress, cauliflower, cabbage and the leaves of Moringa citrifolia (Tamaligi aina); 2) Resveratrol, found in grape skins, pistachios, peanuts, cranberries, blueberries, and Cocoa; 3) C-phycocyanin (PC), a phytochemical found in some seaweed species such as Spirulina, which is available in powdered form; 4) Genistein, found in Soybeans, which are reported to contain the majority of genistein in an easily available product, called tofu; 5) Curcumin,  the active ingredient in Turmeric and 6) Quercetin, found in abundance in apples, honey, raspberries, onions, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables. 

In next week’s column, we will bring together the various arguments we have presented in the previous Columns focused on the treatment of Cancer. In the meantime, we invite you to visit METI’s Healthy Living Clinic at House No. 51 at Moto’otua (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 on telephone 30550. 

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen 19 March 2023, 12:00PM
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