June 30, 2014

By Virender Sodhi ND, MD(Ayurved)

Integrative Oncology is an emerging field of cancer-care that has been gaining momentum over the past decade. Supported by growing scientific evidence, clinicians are beginning to see benefits of natural approaches to cancer care with regards to improving quality of life, enhancing effectiveness of conventional therapy, as well as attaining and maintaining remission from cancer. In this article, we will highlight some of the therapies used at the Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical Clinic for adjunctive cancer care.

By their nature, cancer cells grow very rapidly; this is a function of the abnormal gene expressed by the cancer cells. Cancer cells also produce abnormal markers that are by-products of the rapidly growing cells. These abnormalities in gene expression can be a result of toxic burden on the body due to unhealthy lifestyle patterns, imbalanced dietary patterns, toxic exposures, or genetic vulnerability of the individual[1]. In time, abnormal gene expression patterns may lead to cancer or other diseases. Each person must be treated individually, depending upon his or her cancer type, tumors markers, body type and genetic weakness.  At the Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical clinic, we use a wide variety of treatments to target specific weaknesses of the cancer cells, minimize toxic burden in the body, as well as promote normal gene expression by changing cellular environment of the body. Here are some of the modalities that I use to boost normal healing process.

Intravenous Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is one of the major anti-oxidants in the body that serves as buffer to support all other anti-oxidant systems of the body. Vitamin C IV’s have been used in cancer care for several decades. As an antioxidant agent, Vitamin C helps to control inflammatory damage to cells and DNA.[2] The anti-oxidant function protects healthy cells and DNA from becoming cancerous in nature. Intravenous administration serves this function. Additionally, Vitamin C also promotes function of the immune cells, which are body’s primary defense against cancer.[2] High dose Vitamin C given in IV block formation of new blood vessels that are essential for tumor growth. On the other hand, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which looks very similar to sugar, is readily picked up by the sugar-hungry cancer cells – however, Vitamin C proves toxic for the cancer cells.[3]

Intravenous Mistle Toe:

The herb Mistle toe (Viscum album) is a very effective immune stimulating agent. It is one of the most extensively studied natural treatments in the European Union. Mistle toe has been shown to improve quality of life among cancer patients when it is used as an adjunctive to chemotherapy and radiation.[4] This effect is attributed to the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity of the Mistle Toe. Additionally, Mistle toe also has also been proven to be an effective anti-cancer therapeutic agent against wide variety of cancers.[5] Aggressive cancers like breast cancer, colorectal cancer, glioblastomas, etc. have been show to go into remission with mistle toe treatment.[5] This action is attributed to immune stimulant action of the Mistle toe extract.

Intravenous Alpha-Lipoic Acid:

Alpha-lipoic Acid is a commonly used oral supplement in the United States. It is famous for its activities as an antioxidant agent, as well as promotion of energy pathways in the cells. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) IV’s help the patient by raising ALA levels to mega-doses in the body. With this activity it prevents cellular damage to healthy cells that may be caused by conventional chemotherapy agents and radiation.[6] As a potent anti-oxidant, it helps regenerate other anti-oxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and glutathione.7 ALA has also been shown to arrest cancer cell grown among human cancer cells and breast cancer cells, which leads to death of the cancer cells.[8],[9] ALA in combination with low dose naltrexone has been found to be effective in several cases of pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most aggressive cancers.[6]

Ashwagandha:

This popular Ayurvedic herb provides multi-faceted benefits for the cancer patients. It is a proven anti-stress herb that helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue in people. In animal studies, co-administration of Ashwagandha with a carcinogenic agent reduced the development of cancer by 75%; indicating that Ashwagandha may act as an effective cancer preventive herb.[10] In another study, Ashwagandha inhibited growth human breast cancer by inducing cell death, as well as blocked invasion of breast cancer cells.[11] Liver and Kidney are main organs for eliminating toxic chemo drugs; Ashwagandha helped to reduce chemotherapy damage against liver and kidney cells, while improving levels of anti-oxidant enzyme in these tissues[12] – further protecting the body as a complement to conventional cancer treatment.

Turmeric:

Turmeric is a commonly used spice in Asian cooking. It is a source of a medicinal compound called Curcumin; which is a powerful anti-inflammatory[13], comparable to conventional drugs. Yet, it is one of the most non-toxic treatments that natural medicine offers.[13] Curcumin’s intricate action helps control cancer-causing inflammatory products like, NF-KappaB and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha.14, 15 Inhibition of these molecules indicates toward a change in gene-expression that is protective against cancer development and cancer progression.[15] This miraculous herb has proven its efficacy in a wide variety of cancers including prostate, breast, colon cancer, etc.[16],[17]

Frankinscence (Boswellia serrata):

Yet another powerful anti-inflammatory herb from the Ayurvedic tradition, Boswellia has proven itself as effective as conventional drugs for treatment of inflammation. The active ingredients of Boswellic acids inhibit the production of inflammatory signaling molecules, interleukins and Tumor necrosis factor-alpha.[18] Boswellic acids also exert an anti-oxidant effect to help prevent free-radical damage to cells and DNA, thus protecting form abnormal genetic activity.[19] Considering these activities, Boswellia has been tested and proven to be an effective anti-cancer herb. Boswellia has been shown to be effective in blocking growth of cancers of colon[20], prostate[21], breast[22], brain cells[23], blood cells[24], etc.

Neem:

This herb is one of the popular anti-microbial herbs in the Ayurvedic tradition. It is a very effective immune stimulant that is useful in treatment of a variety of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. The immune stimulatory action of the herb is very beneficial for the cancer patient. The herb activates the Natural killer cells of the immune system, promoting their action against tumor cells.25 In this capacity, neem also promotes release of signaling molecules that recruit other immune cells to serve the tumor fighting function. Additionally, Neem activates T-cell lymphocyte (white blood cells) that produce signaling molecules to create an anti-tumor “type 1 immune micro-environment”.[26]

Panchakarma:

The toxic burden of cellular environment is a reflection of the toxicity of our living environment, toxic components of our food, lifestyle, and our thoughts. These toxicities add up to generate abnormal cellular activity that may be expressed in the form of physiological imbalance, inflammation, and ultimately cancer. Cleansing the cellular micro-environment allows the natural healing mechanisms of the body to restore functional balance to the physiology of each cell.

Pancha Karma is the main Ayurvedic method for physical, mental, and emotional cleansing.[27] Based on Ayurvedic philosophy each individual is composed of a unique combination of three physiological humors or Dosha; these are called Vata dosha, Pitta dosha, and Kapha dosha. Aggravation or depletion of one of the dosha in this unique combination leads to disease. Pancha Karma has been used for many centuries to treat wide range of disorders encountered by Ayurvedic physicians. The most general indication of Pancha Karma is aggravation of all the dosha.[28] The words Pancha Karma mean ‘five actions’ or ‘five processes’. Pancha Karma is a complete detoxification program that utilizes food, herbs, oils, stimulative therapies to eliminate morbid or toxic matter from the elimination channels of the body, followed by rejuvenating therapies that restore balance and health. As it can be a vigorous cleanse, Pancha Karma (PK) is flanked by pre-PK therapies and post-PK therapies.

All these and more therapies are regularly used at the Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical clinic in complementary and alternative care for cancer patients. All treatment plans are designed in an individualized manner to provide optimal benefit to each individual in the most efficient and natural way.

Case Studies:

Case 1: Mary (altered name) was seen in this clinic 15 years ago, with diagnosis of breast cancer. She came to visit me and did not want to be treated for breast cancer with conventional treatment. I insisted her to get lumpectomy to remove the tumor, her lymph nodes were negative for any cancer. She was advised chemo and radiation treatment, which she refused. She was prescribed a specific nutritional program, Panch karma treatment along with specific herbal remedies. Now 15 years later she is still cancer free.

Case 2: Geeta Arora came to clinic in 1997 with diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. You can read her blog about her incredible journey, http://www.geetapriya.com/geeta-priyadarshni-arora/.

Case 3: A 39 years old man came to clinic with stage four glioblastoma of the brain in 1995. His tumor was the size of grape fruit and was sitting in between two hemispheres of the brain. He was told at University of Washington that his tumor is so big that if the surgery attempted, he will be crippled. After nine months in our clinic following Ayurvedic and Naturopathic protocols, his tumor shrank to walnut and later on he got it operated and still living. Since then he has moved back to his homeland Greece.

Case 4: 73 years old patient who was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer has refused conventional treatment, was seen in this clinic, he also consulted Dr. Lamson at Tahoma Clinic. With combined treatment this patient lived a healthy life for six years, before passing away. Normally once you have diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, most of the patients die within 3-6 months. What was remarkable was his quality of life; he was walking 3-4 miles per day and enjoying his life until his last week.

Case 5: 60 years old female came to clinic with metastatic cancer of liver and lungs. Her first bout with cancer started almost ten years ago with breast cancer in one breast, which was treated with lumpectomy, and standard chemo and radiation. One year later cancer showed up in other breast, which was treated with same regimen. She was fine for 9 years and then she was diagnosed with colon cancer and again colon was resected and followed with chemo. She was in remission for one year and then metastasis appeared in lungs and liver. Again she was advised standard chemotherapy, which she refused and came to clinic. After following her individualized natural regimen for 2 years she went into remission and two years later still in remission.

Case 6: Most recently SF a 75 years old female got diagnosis of breast cancer, her chemo sensitivity showed that she will have no benefits of chemotherapy. She refused standard care treatment except for lumpectomy and followed our recommendations at this clinic and after one year, she is in remission.

I have many stories like this to share. Cancer is a complex disease; and as a matter of fact combination of many diseases that need to be evaluated on individual bases. People who opt for standard treatment with chemotherapy, radiation or other modalities, integrative treatment can also help them to cut down side effects, enhance the effects of chemotherapy, radiation and at the same time strengthen their immune system.

Research and writing assistance for this article was provided by Dr. Anup Mulakaluri, ND

References

  • [1] National Cancer Institute, “Cancer Causes and Risk Factors.” National Institute of health, Online article: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes
  • [2] Mikirova N, et al. “Clinical experience with intravenous administration of ascorbic acid: achievable levels in blood for different states of inflammation and disease in cancer patients.” Journal of Translational Medicine, 2013: Vol. 11(191).
  • [3] Riordan NH, Riordan HRD, Meng X, Li Y, Jackson JA: Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent. Medical hypothesis 1995, 44:207–213.
  • [4] Bock PR, et al. “Targeting Inflammation in Cancer-Related-Fatigue: A Rationale for Mistletoe Therapy as Supportive Care in Colorectal Cancer Patients.” Inflammation & Allergy – Drug Targets, 2014, 13, 105-111.
  • [5] Kienle GS, Kiene H. “Complementary cancer therapy: a systematic review of prospective clinical trials on anthroposophic mistletoe extracts.” European Journal of Medical Research, 2007 Mar 26; Vol. 12(3), Pg. 103-19.
  • [6] Berkson BM, et al. “Revisiting the ALA/N (alpha-lipoic acid/low-dose naltrexone) protocol for people with metastatic and nonmetastatic pancreatic cancer: a report of 3 new cases.” Integr Cancer Ther. 2009 Dec; Vol. 8(4), Pg. 416-22.
  • [7] Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Integrative Medicine: Alpha-Lipoic Acid” www.mskcc.org, online article at http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/alpha-lipoic-acid
  • [8] van de MK, et al. “Alpha-lipoic acid induces p27Kip-dependent cell cycle arrest in non-transformed cell lines and apoptosis in tumor cell lines.” J Cell Physiol 2003; Vol. 194, Pg. 325-40.
  • [9] Dozio E, et al. “The natural antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid induces p27(Kip1)-dependent cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells.” Eur J Pharmacol. 2010 Sep 1; Vol. 641(1), Pg. 29-34.
  • [10] S. Koduru, et al. “Notch-1 inhibition by Withaferin-A: A therapeutic target against colon carcinogenesis,” Mol Cancer Ther., Jan. 2010, Vol. 9(1), Pg. 202–210.
  • [11] S.D, Stan, et al., “Ayurvedic medicine constituent withaferin A causes G2 and M phase cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells,” Nutr Cancer., 2008; Vol 60 (Suppl 1), Pg. 51–60.
  • [12] T. Jeyanthi and P. Subramanian, “Protective effect of Withania somnifera root powder on lipid peroxidation and anti-oxidant status in gentamicin-induced nephrotoxic rats,” J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol, 2010, Vol. 21(1), Pg. 61–78.
  • [13] Nina-Chainani, N. “Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma longa).” The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2003; Vol 9(1), pp. 161–168.
  • [14] Plummer SM, et al. “Inhibition of cyclo-oxygenase 2 expression in colon cells by the chemopreventive agent curcumin involves inhibition of NF-kB activation via the NIK/IKK signalling complex.” Oncogene (1999); Vol. 18, Pg. 6013 – 6020.
  • [15] Kawamori T, et al. “Chemopreventive Effect of Curcumin, a Naturally Occurring Anti-Inflammatory Agent, during the Promotion/Progression Stages of Colon Cancer.” Cancer Res, February 1, 1999; Vol. 59, Pg. 597.
  • [16] Chauhan DP. “Chemotherapeutic Potential of Curcumin for Colorectal Cancer” Current Pharmaceutical Design, Sept. 2002; Vol 8(19), pp. 1695-1706.
  • [17] Bar-Sela, G, et al. “Curcumin as an Anti-Cancer Agent: Review of the Gap Between Basic and Clinical Applications.” Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2010; Vol. 17.
  • [18] G.B. Singh, et al. “Boswellic Acids— A New Class of Anti-inflammatory Drugs with a Novel Mode of Action.” International Seminar on Traditional Medicine, Calcutta, India, November 7–9, 1992.
  • [19] G.B. Singh and C.K. Atal, “Pharmacology of an extract of Boswellia guggalex–Boswellia serrata, a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent,” Agents and Actions, 1986, Vol. 18, Pg. 407.
  • [20] Yadav VR, et al. Boswellic acid inhibits growth and metastasis of human colorectal cancer in orthotopic mouse model by downregulating inflammatory, proliferative, invasive and angiogenic biomarkers. Int J Cancer. 2012 May 1; Vol. 130(9), Pg. 2176-84.
  • [21] M. Lu, L. Xia, H. Hua, and Y. Jing, “Acetyl-keto-betaboswellic acid induces apoptosis through a death receptor 5-mediated pathway in prostate cancer cells,” Cancer Res., Feb 15, 2008, 68(4):1180–1186.
  • [22] Suhail MM, et al. “Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011; Vol. 11, Pg. 129.
  • [23] S. Kirste, et al. “Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot trial,” Cancer, Aug. 15, 2011, 117(16):3788–3795.
  • [24] A.B. Kunnumakkara, et al. “Boswellic acid blocks signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 signaling, proliferation, and survival of multiple myeloma via the protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP-1,” Mol Cancer Res., Jan. 2009, 7(1):118–128.
  • [25] A. Bose and R. Baral, “Natural killer cell mediated cytotoxicity of tumor cells initiated by neem leaf preparation is associated with CD40-CD40Lmediated endogenous production of interleukin-12,” Hum Immunol., Oct. 2007, 68(10):823–831
  • [26] S. Goswami, et al. “Neem leaf glycoprotein matures myeloid derived dendritic cells and optimizes anti-tumor T cell functions,” Vaccine. Feb. 3, 2010, 28(5):1241–1252.
  • [27] Frawley D. Ayurveda and The Mind: The Healing of Consciousness. 1st edition, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1997.
  • [28] Lad V. Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. 2nd edition, Lotus press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1985.