Chemo and Radiation

nutrition cancerAntioxidants have been shown to dramatically improve the tumor kill from pro-oxidative chemo and radiation, while protecting the host tissue from damage. Cancer cells are primarily anaerobic (meaning “without oxygen”) cells. With the exception of vitamin C, cancer cells do not absorb nor use antioxidants the same way that healthy aerobic cells do. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is nearly identical in chemical structure to glucose, which is the favored fuel for cancer cells. When researchers found that radioactively labeled ascorbic acid was preferentially absorbed by implanted tumors in animals, they admitted that this effect takes place because cancer has many more glucose receptors on the cell surface than healthy normal cells. Antioxidants protect healthy tissue, but leave the cancer cells more vulnerable to the damage from chemo or radiation.

VITAMIN K. While in simplistic theory, vitamin K might inhibit the effectiveness of anticoagulant therapy (coumadin), actually vitamin K seems to augment the anti-neoplastic activity of coumadin. In a study with human rheumatoid arthritis patients being given methotrexate, folic acid supplements did not reduce the antiproliferative therapeutic value of methotrexate.[i] In one study, patients with mouth cancer who were pre-treated with injections of K-3 prior to radiation therapy doubled their odds (20% vs. 39%) for 5-year survival and disease-free status.[ii] Animals with implanted tumors had greatly improved anti-cancer effects from all chemotherapy drugs tested when vitamins K and C were given in combination.[iii] In cultured leukemia cells, vitamins K and E added to the chemotherapy drugs of 5FU (fluorouracil) and leucovorin provided a 300% improvement in growth inhibition when compared to 5FU by itself.[iv] Animals given methotrexate and K-3 had improvements in cancer reversal, with no increase in toxicity to the host tissue.[v]

nutrition cancerVITAMIN C. Tumor-bearing mice fed high doses of vitamin C (antioxidant) along with adriamycin (pro-oxidant) had a prolonged life and no reduction in the tumor-killing capacity of adriamycin.[vi] Lung cancer patients who were provided antioxidant nutrients prior to, during, and after radiation and chemotherapy had enhanced tumor destruction and significantly longer life span.[vii] Tumor-bearing mice fed high doses of vitamin C experienced an increased tolerance to radiation therapy without reduction in the tumor-killing capacity of the radiation.[viii]

FISH OIL. A special fat in fish (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA) improves tumor kill in hyperthermia and chemotherapy by altering cancer cell membranes for increased vulnerability.[ix] EPA increases the ability of adriamycin to kill cultured leukemia cells.[x] Tumors in EPA-fed animals are more responsive to Mitomycin C and doxorubicin (chemo drugs).[xi] EPA and another special fat from plants (gamma linolenic acid, GLA) were selectively toxic to human tumor cell lines while also enhancing the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy.[xii]

VITAMIN A & BETA-CAROTENE. There is a synergistic benefit of using vitamin A with carotenoids in patients who are being treated with chemo, radiation, and surgery for common malignancies.[xiii] Beta-carotene and vitamin A together provided a significant improvement in outcome in animals treated with radiation for induced cancers.[xiv]

VITAMIN E. Vitamin E protects the body against the potentially damaging effects of iron (pro-oxidant) and fish oil. Vitamin E deficiency, which is common in cancer patients, will accentuate the cardiotoxic effects of adriamycin.[xv] The worse the vitamin E deficiency in animals, the greater the heart damage from adriamycin.[xvi] Patients undergoing chemo, radiation, and bone marrow transplant for cancer treatment had markedly depressed levels of serum antioxidants, including vitamin E.[xvii]   Vitamin E protects animals against a potent carcinogen, DMBA.[xviii] Vitamin E supplements prevented the glucose-raising effects of a chemo drug, doxorubicin,[xix] while improving the tumor-kill rate of doxorubicin.[xx] Vitamin E modifies the carcinogenic effect of daunomycin (chemo drug) in animals.[xxi] One study found that vitamin E supplements (300 mg/day) could reduce the neurotoxicity commonly caused by cisplatin (a chemo drug) from 86% of patients getting the placebo and cisplatin down to 31% of the patients getting vitamin E and cisplatin, which is a 55% reduction in tingling and painful nerves. There was no loss in tumor kill rate from the cisplatin.

NIACIN. Niacin supplements in animals were able to reduce the cardiotoxicity of adriamycin while not interfering with its tumor-killing capacity.[xxii] Niacin combined with aspirin in 106 bladder cancer patients receiving surgery and radiation therapy provided for a substantial improvement in 5-year survival (72% vs. 27%) over the control group.[xxiii]   Niacin seems to make radiation therapy more effective at killing hypoxic cancer cells.[xxiv] Loading radiation patients with 500 mg to 6,000 mg of niacin has been shown to be safe and is one of the most effective agents known to eliminate acute hypoxia in solid malignancies.[xxv]

SELENIUM. Selenium-deficient animals have more heart damage from the chemo drug, adriamycin.[xxvi] Supplements of selenium and vitamin E in humans did not reduce the efficacy of the chemo drugs against ovarian and cervical cancer.[xxvii]   Animals with implanted tumors who were then treated with selenium and cisplatin (chemo drug) had reduced toxicity to the drug with no change in anti-cancer activity.[xxviii] Selenium supplements helped repair DNA damage from a carcinogen in animals.[xxix] Selenium was selectively toxic to human leukemia cells in culture.[xxx]

CARNITINE. Carnitine may help the cancer patient by protecting the heart against the damaging effects of adriamycin.[xxxi]

QUERCETIN. Quercetin reduces the toxicity and carcinogenic capacity of substances in the body[xxxii], yet at the same time may enhance the tumor-killing capacity of cisplatin.[xxxiii] Quercetin significantly increased the tumor-kill rate of hyperthermia (heat therapy) in cultured cancer cells.[xxxiv]

GINSENG. Panax ginseng was able to enhance the uptake of mitomycin (an antibiotic and anti-cancer drug) into the cancer cells for increased tumor kill.[xxxv]

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[ix] . Burns, CP, et al., Nutrition Reviews, vol.48, p.233, June 1990

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[xxxiii] . Scambia, G., et al., Anticancer Drugs, vol.1, p.45, 1990

[xxxiv] . Kim, JH, et al., Cancer Research, vol.44, p.102, Jan.1984

[xxxv] . Kubo, M., et al., Planta Med, vol.58, p.424, 1992