A major contributor to both carcinogenesis and cancer metastasis is immune dysfunction. Unholistic lifestyles and conventional allopathic medicine often destroys the immune system’s integrity, including, but not limited to many drugs, including chemo and surgical procedure, such as the removal of a primary tumor. (Shakhar 2003) Among other deleterious effects, surgery suppresses the number of specialized immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells, which are a type of white blood cell tasked with seeking out and destroying cancer cells.
To illustrate the importance of NK cell activity in fighting cancer, a study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment examined NK cell activity in women shortly after surgery for breast cancer. The researchers reported that low levels of NK cell activity were associated with an increased risk of death from breast cancer (Eichbaum 2011). In fact, reduced NK cell activity was a better predictor of survival than the actual stage of the cancer. In another alarming study, individuals with reduced NK cell activity before surgery for colon cancer had a 350% increased risk of metastasis during the following 31 months (Koda 1997). Below a few of many other holistic recommendations to better modulate the immune system.
Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate, it is concentrated in broccoli as well as in other cruciferous vegetables (eg, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower).
Mechanisms of action, efficiency and safety: Sulforaphane detoxifies potential carcinogens, promotes apoptosis, blocks the cell cycle that is required for cancer cell replication, prevents tumor invasion into healthy tissue, enhances natural killer cell activity, and combats metastasis (Zhang 2007 and Nian 2009). Research has also demonstrated that sulforaphane is among the plant chemicals most potently capable of blocking the cancer-producing effects of ultraviolet radiation (Dinkova-Kostova 2008). So one can chew on some broccoli before going out in the sun. To our knowledge, no known adverse effects with the amount indicated.
It has been observed that sulforaphane activated apoptosis (Pledgie-Tracy 2007) and inhibited the proliferation of breast cancer cells in culture (Ramirez 2009; Jo 2007). The binding of estrogen hormones to estrogen receptor alpha promotes breast cell proliferation, which can promote the progression of breast cancer. Researchers have also noted that sulforaphane down-regulates the expression of estrogen receptor alpha in breast cancer cells (Ramirez 2009).
In another clinical trial, mice injected with breast cancer cells developed 60% less tumor mass when treated with sulforaphane compared to untreated mice (Jackson 2004).
2. PSK: (from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor)
One prominent natural compound that can increase NK cell activity is PSK, (protein-bound polysaccharide K) a specially prepared extract from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor.
Mechanisms of action, efficiency, safety: PSK has been shown to enhance NK cell activity in multiple studies (Fisher 2002). Coriolus versicolor, has been studied extensively in Japan where it is used as a non-specific biological response modifier to enhance the immune system in cancer patients (Koda 2003).
PSK’s ability to enhance NK cell activity helps to explain why it has been shown to dramatically improve survival in cancer patients. For example, 225 patients with lung cancer received radiation therapy with or without PSK (3 grams per day). For those with more advanced Stage 3 cancers, more than three times as many individuals taking PSK were alive after five years (26%), compared to those not taking PSK (8%). PSK suppresses tumor cell invasiveness by down-regulating several invasion-related factors (Zhang 2000). PSK more than doubled five-year survival in those individuals with less advanced Stage 1 or 2 disease (39% vs.17%) (Hayakawa 1997). Additional research has shown that PSK improves survival in cancers of the breast, stomach, esophagus, and uterus as well (Okazaki 1986; Nakazato 1994; Toi 1992). To our knowledge, no known adverse effects in the right amount.
3. Astragalus root
Astragalus, an herb used for centuries in Asia, has exhibited immune-stimulatory effects.
Mechanisms of action, efficienty and safety. Astragalus potentiates lymphokine-activated killer cells (Chu 1988). One study found that astragalus could partially restore depressed immune function in tumor-bearing mice (Cho 2007a), while another concluded that “…astragalus could exhibit anti-tumor effects, which might be achieved through activating the…anti-tumor immune mechanism of the host” (Cho 2007).
It was observed in a clinical trial that astragalus inhibited the proliferation of breast cancer cells. Authors of the study stated, “The antiproliferation mechanisms may be related to its effects of up-regulating the expressions of p53…” (Ye 2011). Similar findings were noted in a previous experiment (Deng 2009). We know of no adverse effects from this root.
4. CoQ10 (as ubiquinol)
Mechanisms of action, efficienty and safety: Studies have repeatedly shown that cancer patients often have decreased blood levels of coenzyme Q10 (Lockwood et al. 1995). In particular, breast cancer patients (with infiltrative ductal carcinoma) who underwent radical mastectomy were found to have significantly decreased tumor concentrations of CoQ10 compared to levels in normal surrounding tissues.
Cellular and animal studies have found evidence that CoQ10 stimulates the immune system and can increase resistance to illness (NCCAM 2002). CoQ10 may induce protective effect on breast tissue and has demonstrated promise in treating breast cancer. In a clinical study, 32 patients were treated with CoQ10 (90 mg) in addition to other antioxidants and fatty acids; six of these patients showed partial tumor regression. In one of these cases the dose of CoQ10 was increased to 390 mg and within one month the tumor was no longer palpable, within two months the mammography confirmed the absence of tumor. In another case, the patient took 300 mg of CoQ10 for residual tumor (post non-radical surgery) and within 3 months there was non residual tumor tissue (Lockwood et al. 1994). This overt complete regression of breast tumors in the latter two cases coupled with further reports of disappearance of breast cancer metastases (liver and elsewhere) in several other case (Lockwood et al. 1995) demonstrates the potential of CoQ10 in the adjuvant therapy of breast cancer.
There are promising results for the use of CoQ10 in protecting against heart damage related to chemotherapy. Many chemotherapy and targeted drugs can cause damage to the heart (Uth, 1998), and initial animal studies found that CoQ10 could reduce the adverse cardiac effects of these drugs (Combs et al. 1977), including, but not limited to Adriamycin (and probably herceptin, but this claim needs verification).
There are many other plants, herbs roots, mushrooms etc, like euchanesia, garlic, mistletoe, beta glucans and hundreds of other holistic and integrative techniques etc, including, but not limited to probiotics and prebiotics (80 percent of the immune system is in the gut) which have been shown to be useful for immune boosting, many of which we examine in the Institute’s workshops and via coaching.
Molecular interaction, dosage, bioassimilation and specificity are four issues that need to be discussed with one’s health practitioners as everyone is different and needs a different plan of remedial action, notwithstanding the cancer label. In other words, two persons with the same diagnosis must be treated different.