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Iron and Anemia in Cancer Patients August 7, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Healing, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc

Everyone has seen someone with cancer who looks pale and depleted with energy. This is often due to anemia which means that there are less red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues in the body. There are a number of different potential causes for this and one of the most common causes is low iron. When a doctor looks at blood work that clearly says “low iron” there is often an immediate response to supplement the patient with iron. However, we should not be so quick to prescribe iron to every cancer patient that is showing signs of anemia.

The interactions between iron and cancer are very complex and altered iron metabolism is considered a key metabolic “hallmark of cancer”1. It is clear that iron has roles in all aspects of cancer development, including the tumour microenvironment and metastasis. As evidenced by the expression pattern of ‘iron genes’ in malignant tumours, it is not simply associated with cancer, but also is indicative of a patient’s chances of survival2.

Our bodies have evolved to tightly partition and limit the amount of available iron. The iron deficiency anemia that is observed in cancer patients may actually be the bodies response to the presence of cancer. By limiting the availability of iron in circulation, there is less available for the cancer to utilize. If the patient is given iron then you are essentially fighting against the bodies effort to lower the iron levels.

There are a number of different studies that clearly show a strong connection between low iron levels and decreased cancer risk. It is well documented that people who regularly donate blood have lower rates of developing cancer3. This is likely connected to decreased iron levels following donation of blood. A popular natural cancer therapy called curcumin, acts as a potent natural chelator of iron5. It is thought that some of the observed anti-cancer properties might be due to the fact that it powerfully sequesters iron away from cancer cells6.

Recent research indicates that tumours create their own iron-rich micro-environment to evade constraints that are imposed by limited systemic iron availability. Cancer cells will sequester iron and it is possible that this allows the cancer cells to mutate more quickly. Iron reacts with oxygen to produce free radicals that damage DNA. Normally this is not desirable, however, this allows cancer cells to adapt more quickly to different conditions when the DNA is being constantly damaged on a low level. This consistent damage from excess iron is thought to increase the mutation rate of the DNA within the cancer cells. This recent evidence for regulation of iron in the tumour micro-environment represents a new paradigm in iron biology4.

Of course there are some situations where iron must be prescribed but it should not be done unnecessarily. Many effective cancer therapies work by actually decreasing the level of iron in the blood. If the red blood cells are reduced in number and smaller than normal (low MCV) then you very likely have iron deficiency anemia. It is very important to also check the level of ferritin to check on your bodies ability to transport iron.

A Naturopathic doctor that works with oncology will take the time to look at your case and will write you a prescription for iron if it is truly indicated. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1) Hanahan D, Weinberg RA. Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation. Cell. 2011;144:646–674. [PubMed]

2) Miller LD, et al. An iron regulatory gene signature predicts outcome in breast cancer. Cancer Res. 2011;71:6728–6737. [PMC free article]

3) Edgren G, et al. Donation frequency, iron loss, and risk of cancer among blood donors. J. Natl Cancer Inst. 2008;100:572–579. [PubMed]

4) Torti, Suzy V., and Frank M. Torti. “Iron and cancer: more ore to be mined.” Nature Reviews Cancer 13.5 (2013): 342-355.

5) Jiao Y, et al. Iron chelation in the biological activity of curcumin. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006;40:1152–1160. [PubMed]

6) Jiao Y, et al. Curcumin, a cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent, is a biologically active iron chelator. Blood. 2009;113:462–469. [PMC free article]

Heat: The Achilles Heel of Cancer June 2, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Dreamhealer, Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, Prostate Cancer, Research.
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vancouver naturopathic clinic

Heat: The Achilles Heel of Cancer

Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND

It is a well established fact that cancer cells are vulnerable to heat1,2. On a cellular level it makes intuitive sense that cancer cells would be sensitive to heat. Normal cells are spatially arranged so that heat can be distributed evenly and they will not divide if they are physically in contact with adjacent cells. Cancer cells within a tumour will continue to divide regardless of the proximity of adjacent cells; this is one of the hallmarks of cancer. As a result of this uncontrolled growth, the cells in the tumour become densely packed together and this makes it very difficult for them to effectively distribute heat.

Hyperthermia treatment is rapidly becoming a mainstream therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. During these treatments the patients’ core body temperature is artificially raised to mimic a strong fever. This is not a pleasant experience for the patient but it is very effective at weakening the cancer cells. It makes these cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation.

When any cell is exposed to heat there are immediate biochemical and genetic changes that occur so that the cell can adapt to the new warm environment. One of the most potent responses that allows these cells to survive the heat is the production of heat shock proteins (HSP)3. These HSPs protect components within the cell that are vulnerable to heat damage and during hyperthermia the production of these proteins within cancer cells is what allows them to survive. Currently there is a major push with pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that inhibit these proteins.

There are several different natural compounds which are well documented heat shock protein inhibitors. These substances are safe when used in the right clinical context and you need to consult a Naturopathic Doctor to know if this is the best therapy for that specific type of cancer. One example is Quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is well documented as a potent inhibitor of heat shock proteins in cancer cells4,5,6,7,8,9.

Cancer cells are naturally very vulnerable to heat based on how densely the cells are packed together. When hyperthermia is combined with Quercetin the results are very dramatic10. In one study on prostate carcinoma they concluded that, “When combined in a treatment protocol with hyperthermia, Quercetin drastically inhibited tumour growth and potently amplified the effects of hyperthermia on two prostate tumour types, PC-3 and DU-145 in vivo. These experiments, thus, suggest the use of Quercetin as a hyperthermia sensitizer in the treatment of prostate carcinoma.”

It is extremely important to point out two things. Firstly, Quercetin is safe with most but not all chemotherapy drugs and you need professional guidance from a Naturopathic Doctor who focuses in oncology to know if this is safe for you. Secondly, the quality of the Quercetin supplement makes a big difference. Generally speaking Quercetin is very poorly absorbed and there are only a few professional brands of sufficient quality that are effective at sensitizing the cancer cells. In some cases, intravenous Quercetin is more appropriate.

The mainstream medical community is changing its tune with regards to hyperthermia. In private hospitals in the United States it is very commonly used because it is so effective. In Canada, there are only a handful of clinics that currently offer this therapy. As the evidence for this therapy accumulates, in the near future hyperthermia combined with these natural approaches will undoubtedly become the standard of care for cancer patients.

 

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1. Van der Zee J. Heating the patient: a promising approach? Ann Oncol, 2002. 13(8): p. 1173-84.

2. Van der Zee J and MC Erasmus. Hyperthermia in addition to radiotherapy. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol), 2007. 19(3 Suppl): S18.

3. De Maio A (January 1999). “Heat shock proteins: facts, thoughts, and dreams”. Shock (Augusta, Ga.) 11 (1):1-12.

4.  Hansen, R. K., et al. “Quercetin inhibits heat shock protein induction but not heat shock factor DNA-binding in human breast carcinoma cells.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 239.3 (1997): 851-856.

5. Gonzalez, Oscar, et al. “The heat shock protein inhibitor Quercetin attenuates hepatitis C virus production.” Hepatology 50.6 (2009): 1756-1764.

6. Wei, Yu-quan, et al. “Induction of apoptosis by quercetin: involvement of heat shock protein.” Cancer Research 54.18 (1994): 4952-4957.

7. Zanini, Cristina, et al. “Inhibition of heat shock proteins (HSP) expression by quercetin and differential doxorubicin sensitization in neuroblastoma and Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines.” Journal of neurochemistry 103.4 (2007): 1344-1354.

8. Hosokawa, Nobuko, et al. “Flavonoids inhibit the expression of heat shock proteins.” Cell structure and function 15.6 (1990): 393-401.

9. Elia, Guiliano, and M. G. Santoro. “Regulation of heat shock protein synthesis by quercetin in human erythroleukaemia cells.” Biochem. J 300 (1994): 201-209.

10. Asea, A., et al. “Effects of the flavonoid drug quercetin on the response of human prostate tumours to hyperthermia in vitro and in vivo.” International journal of hyperthermia 17.4 (2001): 347-356.

 

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