Nutritional Solutions to Cancer
Cancer is a disease caused by an error in a cell’s nucleus, its control centre, that leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation. It is able to create identical copies of itself. And this process continues without stop until the host dies or the process is stopped by medical intervention.
This multiplication of cells is combined with a disruption in normal connective tissue organisation surrounding the cell which enables the diseased cells to spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Matthias Rath and his research team, claim to have achieved a breakthrough in cancer research by defining the cellular mechanisms involved in cancer proliferation and metastasis, and developed a natural means of controlling these mechanisms. They have been conducting extensive in vivo and in vitro research on the cellular and molecular effects of nutrients using modern scientific technology. Their research institute is a 23,000 square foot university-standard facility located in Silicon Valley.
The body needs to allow cells to move around the body and enter other tissues. Most obviously the cells of the immune system. To do this they must be able to move through the connective tissue that surrounds cells. To move through such dense collagen fibres to reach their target, they temporarily dissolve the tissue with special enzymes called collagen-digesting enzymes.
To begin the process, the cell produces an enzyme called plasminogen activator. This activates a second enzyme, plasmin, which in turn activates a third enzyme, pro-collagenase to convert it to collagenase. This enzyme digests the collagen and allows the cells to move through the extracellular matrix. In the case of immune cells they are now able to reach the target of infection.
The same process happens within reproduction. During the monthly cycle, granulocytes are stimulated to build a wall around the ripening egg follicle. This wall is rich in collagen-digesting enzymes which allows the egg to move through the ovary wall, into the fallopian tube and onto the uterus.
After the tissues have been opened up and the cells or egg have passed through, they are very quickly closed again by collagen-producing mechanisms that block the digesting enzymes and heal and repair the tissue. These enzymes always remain under the strict control of the body’s regulatory mechanisms so that permanent damage to collagen is prevented. In health, any imbalance between the collagen-digesting enzymes and their blocking mechanisms is temporary and is quickly restored.
Unfortunately, this perfectly natural activity is hijacked in disease processes. Infectious agents and cancer cells also need to move through tissues as they try to spread throughout the body. Cancer cells degrade the extracellular matrix by secreting various enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases. The more aggressive a cancer, the more of these collagen-digesting enzymes it is able to produce, allowing it to enter blood vessels, move into the blood stream and travel to other organs. Cancer cells secrete these enzymes on a continuous basis.
Because this cellular migration is a normal activity, the body has not been able to develop strong defences against it. Cancer cells trick the body by using tools that the body already uses under healthy conditions. It doesn’t develop defence mechanisms because it thinks this may be a normal biological process. Leukemias and cancers of the female reproductive system are common because these cells produce collagen-digesting enzymes as part of their normal activity.
Enzyme Blocker L-Lysine
While the normal blocks (enzyme inhibitors) to the spread of cancer cells are overwhelmed, there is a second group of enzyme blocking substances that come from our diets. The most important of these is l-lysine, our second line of defence. This essential amino acid, if supplied in sufficient amounts in supplement form, can prevent the collagen-digesting enzymes from attaching themselves to anchor sites in the connective tissue. This allows the connective tissue to maintain its integrity, preventing cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.
Our daily requirement for lysine is greater than for any other amino acid and our bodies are able to store very large amounts of it, reflecting its importance.
About a quarter of the collagen in the body consists of lysine and another amino acid, proline. A person weighing 11 stone stores about 1½ stone of protein, half of which is present as connective tissue protein, collagen and elastin. 12% (1.2 pounds) of this is lysine. Rath believes that “almost all people suffer from a chronic deficiency of lysine.”
In cancer, the amino acid will be required in high doses on a daily long-term basis to slow down or stop the destruction of collagen. Because the body stores and uses high amount of lysine, supplementing with 10 grams or more a day is not a problem.
A potent chemically-modified synthetic derivative of lysine is called tranexamic acid.
Nearly 30 years a go a group of researchers from Sweden reported on a successful treatment of a case of advanced breast cancer with cerebral metastasis and pleurisy. Radiation and chemotherapy had failed to retard progressive growth and spread of the tumour.
“Adjuvant therapy with heparin combined with the fibrinolytic inhibitor tranexamic acid was followed by regression of the cerebral metastasis as well as the pleurisy. When last seen one year later, the patient was free from symptoms.” (Acta Med Scand. 1977;201(5):491-3)
They also reported on some spectacular successes in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Even in advanced cases with metastasis the therapy stopped the tumours from spreading further. (JAMA. 1977 Jul 11;238(2):154-5)
“A patient with inoperable advanced ovarian cancer with metastases and ascites who had received several courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy is presented. On her 6th admission, therapy with the fibrinolytic inhibitor tranexamic acid was followed by arrest of ascites and tumor growth; then at exploratory laparotomy, examination of tumor cells revealed encapsulation of fibrinoid substance and proliferation of connective tissue. The patient, still receiving tranexamic acid, is now free from noteworthy symptoms.” (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1980;59(3):285-7)
In spite of these exciting discoveries, there was a lack sustained follow up until Rath published Plasmin-induced proteolysis and the role of apoprotein (a), lysine and synthetic lysine analogs in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in 1992.
Vitamin C & Proline
Vitamin C is another vitally important nutrient because it is needed for collagen production and for a strong connective tissue structure (lysine itself, as part of the amino acid chain, is a component of collagen and is used to make collagen).
Like lysine it is required from our diets, yet few people eat enough vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
Proline is a non essential amino acid that is an important component of collagen. Particularly in disease processes including cancer its supply may become exhausted and supplementation necessary.
Other nutrients including glucosamine, chondroitin and manganese also help strengthen other components of the connective tissue.
Optimal combinations of nutrients leads to stability of the connective tissues and encapsulation of the tumour.
Step 1 in Math’s research was to use vials with a partition in the middle made of connective tissue similar to that which surrounds body cells. Breast, colon and skin cancer cells were suspended separately in 2 solutions, one containing lysine and one without. These were placed in the upper chambers of the vials and then left for 24 hours.
In the vials without lysine all the cancer cells were able to penetrate the connective tissue. With lysine, 90% of the melanoma cells were prevented from penetrating the connective tissue. However only 38% of breast cancer cells were blocked. Adding more lysine increased the inhibition but involved high doses.
The next experiment was to see the effect of nutrient synergy. In addition to lysine, Vitamin C and proline were added. Now 62% of breast cancer cells were blocked from invading the collagen matrix.
Epidemiological and laboratory studies have identified epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea polyphenols as the most potent chemopreventive agent that can induce programmed cell death (apoptosis), and suppress the formation and growth of human cancers.
For Rath’s next experiment EGCG was added to the nutrient mix consisting 100mcg/ml of tested nutrients. Now 100% of breast cancer cells were blocked. They lost the ability to secrete enzymes that digest and destroy connective tissue.
In fact it is possible to use this on its own but would need to drink the equivalent of 140 cups of green tea a day. By finding an optimal nutrient combination, a powerful synergistic effect is created that doesn’t require the use of megadoses of any individual nutrient. Further research found this approach to be effective for a number of human cancer cell lines.
The combination found most effective for inhibiting degradation of the extracellular matrix is lysine, vitamin C, proline, arginine, EGCG, N-acetylcysteine, copper, selenium and manganese.
Destruction of Cancer Cells
Nutrition has a role to play in the destruction of cancer cells. Conventional treatment kills both healthy and sick cells. Nutrients such as fish oils and genistein have been shown to induce apoptosis in cancer but remain harmless to healthy cells.
Rath and his team also found a natural treatment that is not harmful to healthy cells while effective in destroying cancer cells. Fat-soluble vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate) inhibited the growth of skin cancer cells and liver cancer by 70-80% without affecting healthy cells from these tissues.
Preventing Formation of Blood Vessels
Cancer cells need to develop their own vascular system to survive. These new blood vessels are made from endothelial cells and the tumour secretes vascular endothelial growth factor to trigger this process (angiogenesis). A number of nutrients have been shown to inhibit angiogenesis. These include vitamin C, lysine, proline and EGCG which in one Rath study decreased migration of endothelial cells by 62% and reduced the secretion of growth factor. These nutrients also have anti-inflammatory properties, decreasing the secretion of inflammatory cytokines.
Animal Research Findings
Animal research was the next stage and a number of studies have shown the benefits of this approach. In one Rath study a combination of nutrients slowed tumour growth in nude mice by 60% - 80%
The most recent paper concludes: “Results demonstrate that the nutrient mixture of lysine, proline, arginine, ascorbic acid, and green tea extract tested, strongly suppressed the growth of tumors without adverse effects in nude mice, suggesting potential as an anticancer agent.” (Med Oncol. 2006;23(3):411-8)
A combination of natural nutrients formulated to support the body in curbing metastasis, inhibiting angiogenesis, suppressing inflammation and reversing tumour growth have been shown to be effective against a variety of human cancer cell lines. In contrast to conventional treatment, healthy cells remain unaffected.
This article was first published in Enzyme Digest No. 75, New Year 2007
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