Alternative forms of cancer- part IV (specifics)

The kelp forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aq...

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Before I launch into the specific form of Alternative cancer therapy that I will focus on in todays’ blogs it is important to cover a few more additional issues about this form of anti cancer therapy in general. If you have ever come across any product that is considered a form of alternative cancer therapy you will notice one very common thing.  All the products must have a warning sign that says something like this, “These statements or these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration.  XYZ is not intended to cure, prevent, or diagnose any disease”.  It might also say something like, “this information is provided for your information only and is not directly associated with XYZ”.  XYZ is the specific product name.  I think both of these statements need some clarification.  Why are they on the products in the first place (and usually ont he web site where the product is being sold or promoted)?  This is because it is illegal in the US and in many other countries to sell products that claim to have anti cancer properties and that are to be ingested without the approval of the major drug regulators in the US.  Actually, any products which claim to provide medical benefits and can be classified as a drug needs approval.  Getting this approval requires many years of indirect study (and most of the common alternative medical products do have this) but they also need to have close to five years of specific and direct study in humans and animals of the products effectiveness, side effects, and so forth.  This studies are rarely conducted as they are VERY expensive and take a lot of time and work.  They might be done by a slightly different (but sometimes quite similar) product, but the FDA requires the exact formulation to be tested extensively.  European regulators also have their own strict rules.  Thus, in order to sell these products one has to say the above things or they can be sued or shut down by drug regulators, etc. 

Now let me bring up a specific therapy that is available on the market.  In this blog I will focus on just one and later I will focus on others. Fucoidan is a polysaccharide (or type of starch) found in common brown alge found in Japan.  Kambu, Mozuku, and Mekabu are different kinds of algae or kelp that are commonly eaten in large amounts by the Japanese living in the Okinawan area.  This material is what makes up the slimy texture of the algae and is full of L-Fucose and sulphated ester groups that are thought to be healthy.  How did this become of interest for cancer.  It is because it is believed that the Okinawan’s who have some of the longest lived individuals in Japan and the some of the lowest rates of cancer  in the country.  Japan as a whole is considered on of the healthiest amongst the advanced countries.  Thus, through studies over the years the brown algae diet and lower cancer rates link was made.  There are many studies on Fucoidan, but many of them are not related directly to its anti cancer properties.  However, those that are do show in the laboratory that the sea weed product seems to induce some types of cancer cells to die (something called apoptosis or programmed cell death).  There are even some studies that show exactly what mechanisms Fuciodan is working to kill the cells. It may also act as a natural antioxidant and anticoagulant.  This means that in some cases, this agent helps to remove harmful reactive oxygen species which leads to tissue damage, aging and a host of other things and that they can help thin the blood and improve clotting, etc. There are even some reports that seem to suggest that they help break apart adipocytes (cells that make fat).  The idea that oxidation of fats and generation of reactive species which are damaging and then finding agents that clean up the reactive oxygen free radicals (or things that are potent antioxidants) is very popular at the moment.  And it seems as if there is quite a bit of data to support this concept for fucoidan. 

There are some very important studies that are missing however.  They may not be absent but just don’t appear in major english based science/medical journals.  These have to do with human clinical trials. Studies that determine in reality that what is shown in the laboratory actually works in the human body.  It is common for claims to be made based on thousands of different studies that something will work in humans with cancer.  Many compounds DO NOT work the same way as they do int he laboratory. The simple reason for this is that one can control almost everything in the laboratory, such as the cell line, the nutrients that the cells get, the PH, the temps, etc.  There are no detoxification mechanisms in the lab, no body buffering systems, no bioavilibity issues in the lab, etc.  So, often the drugs do more harm than good when the go into the human body.  So, human clinical trials with the EXACT formulation that will be sold is absolutely essential before it can be used as treatment.  However, this agent is being sold as a anti cancer product. In this case it is sold as capsules, drink solution, and powder. 

I will end now and continue with more product ideas later.  I think it is important to know about what cancer is in general first before one takes any product if possible.  So, please do check out my website cancer made simple when you have some time.  Soon I will be offering some very simple but effective tutorials on cancer. 

 Dr. C

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Alterantive forms of cancer therapy- Diet

Classification of complementary and alternativ...

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Today I will focus on diet as a form of alternative cancer therapy. As mentioned in my previous blog discussions, Alternative Therapy for cancer concerns itself with the root cause of illness not with the cancer symptom itself. Thus, natural medicine or alternative medicine practitioners concentrate on the source of the disease by using natural medicines and diets and self-healing to eliminate the root cause and thereby promoting the patients own natural immunity and self-healing process.  These therapies are firmly rooted in some of the very ancient forms of medicine including the indian medical practice Ayurveda which states that cancer is a result of emotional imbalances.  Thus, lack or too much or untimely diets and lifestyles results in the disruption of the body’s metabolism and results in cancer.  The poor diets (not lack of food) in many developed countries results in lower levels of minerals and metals that are needed to keep the body more basic and thus contribute to an acidic pro cancer state in the body.  Furthermore, they also belive that stress, anxiety, eating disorders, untimely eating, and many other lifestyle factors are lead to acidification which results in poor metallic absorption as well as leads to the inability of the body’s natural toxin clearance system to function well.  This originally manifests itself in the GI tract and then gradually impairs immune responses and natural anti cancer responses such that leads to abnormal responses in many tissues and then cancer.

Thus alternative medical folks typically prescribe diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and may even provide an added benefit of preventing future cancer development.  The aim of many of the diets given is to remove the toxins obtained from common Western foods (e.g. hormones, chemicals, pesticides, etc.) and many are strictly vegetarian.  Common elements include foods that are raw, low in sugar, salt free, contain juices derived from liver/fruit/ or vegetables  and most also include large amounts of vitamins, minerals, or enzymes. 

Now, lets look at a few particular diets that have seemed to be popular.

Gerson diet: Dr. Gerson started treating patients for migraines and tuberculosis first and then cancer later.  He presented is diet and cancer patient data to congress and the NIH in the late 1940’s and his results were difficult to interpret and thus never accepted fully by the medical community. However, he claims a 50% cancer survival rate with his diet.  It consists of 13 glasses daily of juice from organic fruits and vegetables along with a vegetarian organic diet.  He supplements this with vitamin B12, iodine solution, potassium, hormones, a crude extract, and several enema used to detoxify the body.  One must not sue aluminum when cooking and spices nor salts are added at all. This diet requires time and can be rather expensive.

Vitamin Therapy in large doses: Vitamins A, C, E and Q10 are often given (although not all together) in fairly large doses.  The assumption is that low doses do good in many situations and larger doses should do even better.  This is risky as high doses of vitamins can have unwanted consequences such as liver failure, or impairment in vitamin bioavilibity, etc.  Q10 is thought to provide protection from the damage of free radicals.  It is unclear whether this is actually scientifically valid or not. In some vitamin therapies selenium is also used.

The most famous is the Bristol Diet.  This anti cancer diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, organic fish, poultry eggs, cereals and wholefoods.  The diet also stresses that one must avoid, caffeine, dairy products (including yogurt), red meat, salt, and sugar.  Organically grown produce is preferred over those that are not.

There are certainly others and each one of these may be tailored to certain patients.  As organic produce is becoming more and more available, these forms of therapies are becoming more accepted and cheaper.  They are also used more frequently with those that are getting Western medical treatments in addition to alternative diet therapy.  

Thank you, Dr C

Cancer Made Simple 

Alternative Cancer Part II

A few days I introduced the concept of all natural alternative cancer therapy that is supposed to treat the entire patient and not just the disease in a safe but effective manner.  Now let me go into some more details about this whole area of treatment and care.  In some states in the US (very few) like Arizona there are licenced Naturopathic practitioners that are ‘allowed’ to treat patient with certain illnesses including cancer.  Naturopathic medicine was very strong before th 1930 but was replaced as the main stream medical practice soon after penicillin, vaccines, and other scientifically validated approaches for treating disease gained favor.  However, naturopathic medicine never went away and some places in Europe (and of course Asia, etc.) still practiced it very much. 

This type of treatment relies on the use of natural products to do the following: do no harm to the patient and keep the risks as low as possible, promote the natural self-healing power that each individual possesses, try to eliminate the cause of the cancer/disease instead of simply suppressing the symptoms, teach the patient how to make him/her self-reliant and healthy and inspire them to lead health lives in ALL aspects of their health and wellbeing, treat each individual as such as look at them as a whole (e.g. treat all of their ailments not just the one they came to see you for…or holistic medicine), stress the importance of good health including mental/stress/ and service to community wherever possible. many of these are not part of traditional medical practices.

Alternative medicine frequently encompasses naturopathy which itself practices some amount of evidence based medicine (e.g it follows some of the same rules as Western medicine in its pursuit of scientific foundations in treatments), but not always.  Now I will write out a list of some common forms of treatment that are prescribes/recommended by alternative cancer treatment of naturopathic folks.  Acupuncture, Kinesiology, Herbal/botanic preparations, Chelation therapy (DMSO, etc.), Colonic enemas, Color therapy, Hair follicle sample analysis, Homeopathy, Iridology, nature cures such as exposure to fresh air, sunshine, cold and heat etc., nutrient therapy or nutritional modification,  certain types of physical therapy (bone massage, etc.), Ozone therapy, meditation-relaxation-stress therapy and other types of psychological therapy, traditional chinese medicine, vitamin therapy, and so forth.  This give you an idea of the scope of agents or methods that are available.  There are more than 200 different types of known natural or alternative forms of therapy.  Many of them validated in one way or another and some not. 

I hope this was useful and I will certainly continue with this area to go into some details with many if not all of these types of therapies over the next few posts.  Alternative therapy is not for everyone.  There are limitations perhaps and beliefs that may prevent or inhibit one from seeking this type of treatment.  However, it is probably safe to say that the practioners who treat people using these natural forms of therapy are just as committed and interested in seeing people become healthy as traditional Western medical doctors are!  For more basic information on cancer please see my web site CANCER MADE SIMPLE.

Thank you Dr. C

Alternative Cancer Therapy part I

In the next series of posts I will be commenting on the topic of alternative therapy for cancer.  If you are like me, this is a new area and you may not know so much about it.  I hope to help review this entire area as much as possible and as simply as possible to give you a feel about what it all means. In this post I am going to give you the reasons that people who practice or sell alternative medicines propose as the benefits of their products.  Later I will go into specific types of these therapies and into some details about many of them.

Let’s first start out by defining Alternative Therapy.  The meaning of this type of therapy or treatment is one that is not given, administered or acknowledged by the mainstream western medical community.  Thus, it is alternative.  All true alternative treatments rely on agents that are natural and thus not synthesized in the laboratory.  They either exists already in nature or need to be extracted from something that exists in nature.  Some examples include Tea, Vitamin C (must be extracted and purified), DMSO and other agents or naturally occurring compounds.  Another common element that is implicit in the definition of alternative therapy is that the agents used or the treatment itself aim to cause little to no harm to the body as they are damaging the cancer itself.  So, they are supposedly safe….this is a VERY important point.  If the therapy is toxic or dangerous in ANY way, then it does not qualify toward being an alternative mode of therapy even if it is natural. 

Ok, for this last section of this post, I want to give you some of the rationales that are given by those are trying to sell these Alternative Cancer Treatment to the public.  You must make up your own mind as to the validity of these (if you believe they are true or not).  1) They usually state that the traditional western medicines like chemotherapy are given to patients primarily because they generate huge income to the pharmaceutical industry and the medical doctors are too closely lined with them. 2) That the FDA and other agencies are biased towards the drug companies (again due to money) and do not acknowledge the alternative medicines which they state have been tested in some cases for hundreds of years.  3) Alternative medicines, as they are natural, do NOT need to go through the very expensive and time intensive process of scientific testing and human clinical trials.  4) Western medicines like chemotherapy kill off normal and disease tissue and are so harmful to the entire body that they are not effective in the long run.  However, most agents used in Alternative treatments are perfectly healthy and ONLY target the cancer and are thus safe. 5) Most of the drugs today do not provide cures and people must take them for much if not their whole lives and thus the drug companies make money left and right.  However, alternative medicines treat the whole body, are healthy for you, and you do not need to take them after the disease is gone (but in some cases you may wish to at a lower amount as they improve your health overall).  6) Western doctors and their medicine are short-sighted, only treat the cancer, and never treat the whole person…whereas alternative medicine and it’s practitioners seeks to treat the whole patient while also eliminating their cancer.

So, there you go….I hope you have an idea of what alternative cancer therapy is and what it aims to do.  I also hope you have an idea of the reasons people use to sell their agents.  I will explain in more details about these agents over the next few posting.  Do let me know if you have any comments and do see my web page at cancer made simple!!

Dr. C

Cancer Made Simple…why?

Some of you may be curious to know (in fact many people have asked me directly) why an American cancer researcher is living and working in Singapore.  This is a good and valid question as it would seem that there are plenty of cancer research centers in the US right?  Yes, there are and yes I could have stayed in the States.  However, 7.5 years ago when I made the big leap to come out to a country that I knew a very little about, there were some things that I did know. 1) The states are very competitive and I did not want to continue to be post doctoral fellow at Havard for up to ten years and many of my colleagues had done before finding a real position.  2) I was very tired of classical academic positions already by then and the majority of well-known researchers that I know about make poor mentors.  3)  The US pharmaceutical industry which was an obvious choice for me was going through tough times then and was not hiring.  So, I was not able to find a good job that I wanted there. 4) I was single and happy to experience new parts of the world. 5) Someone from Singapore saw my CV contacted me and asked me if I was might be interested in coming here.  So I met and things just clicked and I decided to apply then come here.  6) Americans (in general) are more independent than Singaporeans, we do not live with nor cling to our families after the age of 18.  So, it was not a hard decision for me to leave and go so far away, I was already quite independent and a free spirit so t speak. 7) Singapore was marketing itself as the new scientific hub of SE Asia and was promoting itself in large scientific publications.  8) Finally, and very importantly as I was a small fish at that time (still am now too), it is easier for a small fish to survive in a smaller pond and get noticed (e.g. Singapore) then for it to survive and compete in a larger pond with more aggressive fish (USA). 

Thanks to those of you who have asked about my reasons for choosing to come to live here.  I have been heare almost 8 years now.  I have recently set up a e-business called cancer made simple which is promoting educational materials of making cancer easier to understand for non scientist.   Please do visit my site at www.cancermadesimple.com and do some searches and look at the cancer links I have.  Soon, my own products will be there as well.

Dr. C

lets talk about Transplants

The topic of transplants for cancer is quite complicated but let me spell out some of the most common types of transplants and terminology discussed for cancer these days.  First of all, transplants in cancer setting are carried out usually for blood cancers (but sometimes of other cancers of solid organs).  For blood cancers the term is hematopoietic Stem Cell transplants.  The goal with these are to replace the cancerous blood cells that are frequently part of the immune system with new cells that are not defective.  The ultimate goal is to take the new transplanted cells from a donor put them into a sick person after the cancer has been removed as much as possible so that the new stem cells (from the donor) can repopulate the whole bone marrow and immune system and much of the blood system of the sick person.  So, in general these transplants remove the bad cells and replace them with good cells in hopes that the good cells will completely take over and he/she will have no more cancer.  Ok, sounds simple…well it’s not.  No way.  Here are some issues that are important.

1.  Allogeneic transplants:  These occur when the donor who is giving the stem cells to the sick patient is someone else.  This is very common as the donor is healthy and if there is a good match (genetic match) with the recipient than the bone marrow stem cells can be used.  If it is a relative the chances of finding a genetic match is usually better.  We call that a haploidentical sibling transplant.

2.  Allogeneic peripheral Blood Stem Cells transplant:  This is the same thing as above in that the donor is someone else (either a relative or a complete stranger who donates his/her bone marrow).  However the difference is that above the donation was bone marrow taken from within the bone cavities, in this case the doctor removes the blood and uses that as the donor material .  The stem cells from the blood are removed after the patient is given a drug called GCSF.  The blood is taken from the patient and put into a machine that will remove the stem cells from the blood and the blood is returned to the patient with the stem cells removed.  This is not so painful and does not require going into the bone.  This is called peripheral blood as it circulated all over the body and is not directly from the bone marrow.

3. Autologous transplant: In some cases the person with the cancer can be given drugs that remove the cancer temporarily or if the cancer that the person has in only in the periphery and not in the bone marrow, then he or she can donate their own bone marrow stem cells to themselves.  This is termed autologus…from self.  So, in this case the donor is an EXACT genetic match since the donor and the recipient is a match.  However, the doctor must be VERY careful to make sure there is no cancer cell in the bone marrow or blood product that is going back into the patient.  This is usually the most safe type of procedure in terms of complications as I will explain below.  This does not work for everyone and only works if the cancer is not present in the material that is being given to the patient.

4. Cord blood transplant:  more recently scientist have discovered that the cord blood is full of stem cells that can be used for transplant.  Cord blood comes from the umbilical blood that the baby and mother can donate when the baby is born.  Collection of this blood causes no harm and no pain and many people are starting to donate and put into donation centers.  For some reason that people do not know, the cord blood stem cells often do not need to be matched 100% when given to a sick patient.  Usually the person with cancer can tolerate some – of the cord blood.  However, one limitation of cord blood is the volume.  So, at the moment children who are smaller can get cord blood as a product but it is hard for larger adults.

Complications:  In order to prepare for a transplant the patient needs to be treated for his/her cancer as aggressively as possible so as to keep the cancer cells as low as possible.  This means that the patient is put on chemotherapy and drugs to kill off as much of the cancer as possible.  This can make patients very sick.  Then after that, many patients need to undergo radiation treatment.  This is to help the new cells that are being donated take over the sick persons body after the transplant.  The radiation kills of any remaining active immune response so that the patient does not destroy the donors new cells that are placed inside of him or her.  Then the patient undergoes the transplant and this is a very complex and difficult procedure.  Most patients will get very sick, develop rashes, get infection, vomit, and so forth for some time.  As the new cells that are given need some time to develop and expand, patients are usually very susceptible to infection…and they need to be closely monitored for at least a month.  They are usually on a lot of drugs to make sure their immune system doe snot destroy the new graft.  The new stem cells from the donor is called a graft once it starts to replace the old bone marrow cells.  Sometimes a patient can develop something called graft vs. host disease where the graft (the new material from the donor) starts to reject the host.  There are certain things one can do to help reduce this, but in the end its up to the body. 

Anyhow, there are more issues related to cancer transplants but I hope this helps a bit.  It is not an easy subject to understand but it happens very often in the clinics.  Please do visit my web page and see some education products I have to offer.  I will have an audio of this topic coming soon!  www.cancermadesimple.com

Thank you

Dr. C

Cancer in Singapore

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Image by Kim Dever Thibodeaux / Kim_in_CajunCountry via Flickr

Ok I promised that after I wrote on the topic of the biggest cancer killers in the States that I would focus on what is the most common here in Singapore.  So please compare the list below to the one I gave last week about US cancer statistics.  The top cancers in men living in Singapore are:

Colorectal (3902 males), Lung, Prostrate, Liver, Stomach, Nasopharynx, Skin, Lymphoma, Bladder and Leukemia (674)

For women it’s a different story:

Breast (6798), Colorectal, Lung, Uterine, Ovary, Cervix, Stomach, Skin, Lymphoma, and Thyroid (645)

This information is provided by the Singapore cancer registry and represents five years worth of data (2003-2007 and the next report is due to be out in 2012/2013).  Women due to breast cancer are getting diagnosed far more frequently than men with cancer.  However, due to successful removal of the tumor or the entire breast, many of these women are cured of their cancers.  So, the overall death rate from cancer is still higher in men than in women.  One of the biggest differences we see today between the cancer that kill people now compared to what killed people before is the absence of lung cancer from the list.  This is of course due to smoking and campaigns designed to teach people about the huge cancer risk associated with smoking tobacco products.  Thus, lung used to be the number one cancer killer in both men and women and it has now moved to number 2 or 3.  I suspect this number will keep going down as more and more effective anti smoking campaigns are promoted.  Deaths due to cancer overall have been going up for many years now.  As it was only about 14% if deaths due to cancer in 1968 it is now close to 30% of all deaths that are due to cancer and that number is likely to go up as people live longer.  As we are able to cure and or treat some cancer better than others, these numbers will constantly shift. 

For more basic information on cancer please do see my web site at www.cancermadesimple.com

 Dr. C