HOPE FOR BREAST CANCER [2008-05-04]
One shocking news I read recently was that the folks in Taman Subang, Kelana Jaya are getting cancer more often after the setting up of a telecommunications tower in the area. This was revealed in a small study done by UiTM researchers who discovered that the rate of cancers among the residents is over 8 times the national average! The lead researcher attributed the problem to the EMF ( electromagnetic fields ) emitted by the more than 50 antennas and transmitter discs on the tower. Studies elsewhere had shown that EMF could damage chromosomes, alter gene activity and accelerate cell proliferation. Our Health Ministry and other stakeholders are very much aware of the potential harmful effects of EMF. In fact the International EMF Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur last year - co-organized by Malaysia, USA and WHO.
Another bad news is that breast cancer continues to plague our women, with no respite in sight. Among those recently diagnosed are my own friends, relatives, former maternity patients and even a male patient.
It seems that medical science is unable to keep pace with the onslaught of breast cancer, and we see the rates increasing incessantly. Even in the most advanced countries like USA, breast cancer rates have increased from a lifetime risk of 1:20 women to 1:7 ( a threefold increase ) over the last 30 years. In Malaysia, the trend is the same, although fortunately, the risk for our women presently is only about 1:20. The Chinese are most at risk, and are already halfway there ( 1:14 according to 2003 statistics ). Will it be 1:7 in 2020?
The good news is - a recent study showed that drinking at least two to three cups of coffee a day may reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer or delay the onset of cancer, depending on her genes. Their cancer risk was only two thirds of that of the other women. Good for you, coffee drinkers!
MEDICAL CANCER THERAPY
When faced with such health problems, many rightly look to evidence-based medical therapies for solutions. When it concerns breast cancer, the results of surgical treatment is very good for early-stage cancer, with over 95% 10-year survival rates for stage 1 breast cancer. Some patients may be advised to undergo adjuvant radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, gene therapy and (rarely) chemotherapy which add very little to the survival rate ( for stage 1 ). However, for more advanced cases, the prognosis is not so good, but the adjuvant medical treatments mentioned above ( and possibly other newer methods ) have a noticeable role in reducing recurrence rates, although the success in improving survival rates is less impressive.
The major problem, however, is that medical cancer therapies, especially chemotherapy, come with side-effects which may be severe, and often debilitating and lethal themselves. My own brother-in-law died after chemotherapy. He was "successfully" treated for lymphoma, but succumbed to a throat infection that couldn't be stopped, and overwhelmed him.
THE IDEAL CANCER THERAPY
As a Muslim, I have faith in GOD when HE promised that HE has provided the cure for all diseases, including cancer. Since we have yet to find the cures for many diseases, it could mean that we have not searched or researched enough, or that we have searched and researched in the wrong place or direction.
GOD is the Omniscient and Omnipotent Creator. If HE wills a cure, what HE promises will be perfect or ideal. It will have the following 5 characteristics:
1) Is highly effective.
2) Is highly safe with minimal or no side-effects ( eg. if ingested, may be bitter to distinguish medicine from food ).
3) May be derived from edible or inedible natural materials; synthesized ( unnatural ); or invented ( eg. therapeutic machines ) by human ingenuity inspired by GOD provided that all these therapies comply with the above 2 requirements.
4) If it is to be injected, ingested or applied to the body, it must be halal. In the Muslim perspective, GOD will not require us to use anything HE has declared as spiritually unclean, especially as medicine, as non-halal materials are associated with diseases of the body, mind and spirit. As the Omniscient and Omnipotent Creator, HE does not run out of ideas or options to create safe and halal solutions for our problems.
5) Is likely to have multiple health benefits other than the specified therapeutic use.
When I put cytotoxic chemotherapy ( and to a lesser extent, radiotherapy ) against this checklist, it fails the first two miserably. Remember that evidence-based scientific reviews have shown that overall, chemotherapy has little effect on survival rates [ refer Clinical Oncology (2004 Dec;16(8):549-60) ], at considerable costs and causing adverse impacts on the quality of life of the patients.
Many years of research and billions of dollars spent on cancer therapy has not yet given us a satisfactory solution, and we continue to see loved ones suffer from all sorts of cancer, undergo cytotoxic chemotherapy, and many still die from the combined effects of both the cancer and the poisoning.
To be fair to the oncologists, the current methods, including chemotherapy, are the only "proven" methods, even though chemotherapy, for example, has not given us very good results ( except for a few types of cancer ). It is my fervent belief that we have not searched or researched enough in the right direction. While the drug companies push on for more and better chemo drugs, others like me will look for natural, nutritional and harmless alternatives ( including cutting-edge technological inventions like the Cytotron, even if others call it "snake-oil" ).
TANGERINES & TOCOTRIENOLS
I have mentioned previously that local studies have shown that vitamin E in the form of ?-tocopherol, which is in 99.99% of the vitamin E or multi-vitamin supplements you may be consuming, has no effect on breast cancer cells. However, the tocotrienols, which are mostly sourced from palm oil, are breast cancer cell killers.
Back in 1997, the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition ( Vol 6, 1:41-45 ) reported a remarkable study that showed that the individual purified tocotrienols ( ?,?,?, and ? ) were even more potent ( in arresting breast cancer cell proliferation ) than when they were combined. The most potent was ? -tocotrienol.
If we take genistein ( a flavonoid from soybean which is known to arrest breast cancer cell proliferation ) as baseline, ?-tocotrienol was found to be about 5 times more potent than genistein in arresting breast cancer cells. However, when the tocotrienol-rich fraction ( TRF, extracted from palm oil, containing all 4 tocotrienols plus some tocopherols ) was tested, it was weaker than genistein.
In fact studies have shown that it is the ?-tocopherol present in the TRF which reduces the cancer-killing power of the tocotrienols, because they fight for the same receptors on the cancer cells.
Most interestingly, the study also showed that flavonoids from citrus fruits ( eg. naringenin from grapefruit, hesperetin from oranges, tangeretin and nobiletin from tangerines, quercetin and apigenin from other plants ) were even more powerful than tocotrienols. Tangeretin and nobiletin from tangerines were 60 times more potent than ?-tocotrienol ( and 280 times more potent than genistein ).
When tangeretin was combined with ?-tocotrienol, the combination was 2800 times more potent than genistein. And combining them with tamoxifen ( an anti-estrogen drug usually prescribed only to estrogen-receptor positive/ER+ patients ) increased the potency by another 5 times ( = 14,000 times stronger than genistein alone! ) in estrogen-receptor negative ( ER- ) breast cancer cells. The large numbers mean that only minute quantities are required to achieve the same effects, eg. 1/14,000.
Estrogen-receptor positive ( ER+ ) breast cancer cells were 40-50 more susceptible to genistein and tocotrienols, but the effects of the citrus flavonoids were about the same as in E- cells. When combined, the best combinations were tangeretin with ?- or ?-tocotrienol ( 50 and 100 times more potent than genistein alone, respectively ).
Adding tamoxifen, the best combination for ER+ cells was achieved with tamoxifen, hesperetin and ?-tocotrienol, which was 1000 times stronger than tamoxifen with TRF, and 4000 times stronger than tamoxifen with genistein.
Although the above studies were done on human breast cancer cells in the lab, and there are only a few ongoing studies on actual breast cancer patients, it would seem reasonable to avoid ?-tocopherol vitamin E supplements if you have breast cancer, because ?-tocopherol will block the beneficial effects of the tocotrienols that come in your foods or supplements. In the absence of purified tocotrienols, TRF-based supplements are recommended.
For those who are healthy, a complete vitamin E supplement containing all the 8 isomers ( 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols ) is recommended instead. And use tocotrienol & carotenoid-rich palm oil for your salads and cooking for added protection.
It is also reasonable to eat lots of oranges and tangerines which may provide sufficient flavonoids since only minute quantities were required in the above lab tests. They are after all, food, with no worries of toxicity.
NATURAL & NUTRITIONAL THERAPIES
The above study was reported over 10 years ago, and yet little has been done do human studies and eventually translate the results to actual treatment protocols. The study was jointly done by the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia ( PORIM ). It was funded by our own Palm Oil Research & Development Board.
I mention this because although the results appear so impressive, very little follow-up studies are being done ( I am aware of only 1 study being done on tocotrienols on breast cancer patients here, and none on citrus flavonoids ). If the flavonoids and tocotrienols were drugs that could be patented, rest assured follow-up research would have been done with gusto, and we would have the drugs available for sale by now. Unfortunately they are phyto-nutrients whose formulae belong to nature, and so no drug company can make much money from them.
Yet, until these can be proven in "evidence-based" human studies, they cannot be promoted and the findings will forever remain in the archives.
This study strengthens my faith that the cures for cancer can be found in our foods, if only we search enough in the right place.
QIGONG AND SNAKE OIL
Like nutritional therapies, qigong also suffers the same fate, as very few people will be interested to conduct studies large enough to be valid. In the meantime, the cancer survivors worldwide who have benefited from qigong are more than thankful for this "snake oil" that helped save their lives. And I will continue to teach it in spite of being ridiculed by some of my medical colleagues.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak