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Integrative Cancer Therapies to Support Breast Cancer Treatment

By Sonja Fung, ND

“Cancer does not grow too much; it dies too little,” states Robert Nagourney, MD.  

You can think about cancer cells as normal cells becoming immortal. Apoptosis is the process in which normal functioning cells are programmed to die. In cancer cells, this mechanism is over-ridden so the cell malfunctions and continues to grow, thus becoming immortal. Recently, research has stepped up its search for therapies which help stop this growth process by reactivating normal programmed cell death in cancer cells. 

One of the first questions I ask my breast cancer patients is what supplements they take. Patients usually come in with bags of items ordered from the internet or given to them from friends of friends who had a cousin with some unnamed cancer. Since there are so many different grades and types of supplements, it is difficult to sort out those that are specifically beneficial for breast cancer support.  As a naturopathic doctor with a focus on integrative cancer care, supplements are only one facet of an extensive treatment plan that I tailor for my patient. These next compounds are some of my go-to supplements specifically for breast cancer treatment support. 

Quercetin, from fruits and vegetables, is well documented for its anti-proliferative and apoptosis-inducing properties. It also works directly with multidrug-resistance sites and acts as a chemosensitizer.  Curcumin, a primary component in curry, has a unique property that enhances chemotherapy efficacy on cancer cells while decreasing toxicity to normal cells.  It also has many direct anticancer effects by interfering with growth factor stimulation of breast cancer cells, and thus, can reduce tumor growth.  ECGC, a green tea extract, protects normal breast cells from chemo toxicity while synergistically working to enhance chemosensitivity in cancer cells. ECGC works especially well with curcumin to fight cancer stem cell development and inhibit cancer cell growth and invasion. 

These three supplements are all bioflavonoids, which are generally considered very safe, having little to no adverse side effects. They will not interfere with most chemotherapy agents and can even enhance the effect of chemo agents, all while protecting existing normal cells from the toxicity of the chemo. Bioflavonoids help reduce overall inflammation in your body, which can decrease the  risk of cancer formation and other chronic diseases. So, remember to eat your colorful fruits and green vegetables. 

Bioflavonoids, when used correctly and with the right dosages, are one of many beneficial tools to be considered for breast cancer treatment support. Despite the relative safety of these supplements, before starting any supplement protocol, always ask your doctor or integrative medicine expert to determine whether you are a candidate for these supportive therapies.  

Dr. Sonja Fung is a primary care naturopathic doctor at the Live Well Clinic in La Quinta specializing in integrative cancer care. For more information go to www.livewellclinic.org or call at (760) 771.5970. 

Sources: 1) Antiproliferative effects of quercetin through cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human breast cancer MDA-MB-453 cells Eun Jeong Choi, Su Mi Bae, Woong Shick Ahn. Archives of Pharmacal Research October 2008, Volume 31, Issue 10, pp 1281-1285 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12272-001-2107-0; 2) Curcumin induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells and inhibits tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Lv ZD, Liu XP, Zhao WJ, Dong Q, Li FN, Wang HB, Kong B. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2014 May 15;7(6):2818-24. eCollection 2014. PMID: 25031701; 3) Pineapple bromelain induces autophagy, facilitating apoptotic response in mammary carcinoma cells. Bhui K1, Tyagi S, Prakash B, Shukla Y.  Biofactors. 2010 Nov-Dec;36(6):474-82. doi: 10.1002/biof.121. Epub 2010 Sep 16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20848558; 4) Bromelain-induced apoptosis in GI-101A breast cancer cells. Dhandayuthapani S, Perez HD, Paroulek A, Chinnakkannu P, Kandalam U, Jaffe M, Rathinavelu A. J Med Food. 2012 Apr;15(4):344-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.0145. Epub 2011 Dec 22. PMID: 22191568; 5) Effect of green tea catechins on breast carcinogenesis: a systematic review of in-vitro and in-vivo experimental studies. Yiannakopoulou ECh. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2014 Mar;23(2):84-9. doi:10.1097/CEJ.0b013e328364f23e. PMID:23939462 ; 6) Flavonoids- Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. 2008 http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/ ; 7) Chronic Inflammation and Cancer. Oncology. January 31, 2002 Emily Shacter, PhD and Sigmund A. Weitzman, MD http://www.cancernetwork.com/review-article/chronic-inflammation-and-cancer/page/0/5#sthash.fQNKQtZ8.dpuf

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