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Integrative Medicine Update: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the incidence of this disease is increasing at an alarming rate. Ten million people get cancer yearly which results in 12% of all deaths worldwide. According to Canadian cancer statistics, 40% of Canadian women and 45% of Canadian men will develop cancer in their lifetimes. One out of four cancer patients will die from cancer. The most two common cancers are lung and colorectal carcinomas. (1)

With the limited success of conventional therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) in accomplishing a genuine cure, more attention is being paid to complementary (works with conventional) and alternative (instead of conventional) medicine (CAM).

Despite efforts by the medical establishment to undermine the reputation of complementary therapies, patients are still seeking CAM because they want a more holistic approach that strengthens their immune system and achieves better cure rates. This increased interest in CAM use has become widespread amongst cancer patients. A comparative study in 2008 in the U.S. showed the number of cancer patients using alternative therapies to be 39.2%.(2) In another study, 86.1% of women with breast cancer were found to be using CAM therapies.(3) And an MD Anderson Cancer Hospital study reported that 83% of cancer patients have used at least one CAM approach.

The use of Integrative Cancer Services in U.S. hospitals has risen from 8% in 1999 to 37% in 2008 (2008 Health Forum Study). This indicates an increasing trend towards researching more evidence-based complementary therapies and investing large sums of money in clinical trials to support their use. More emphasis is being put into educating patients and their primary care physicians on how to research different therapy options and locating well respected CAM doctors who will guide the patients through their battle with cancer.

A conference entitled Cancer Guides II was conducted in June 2009 in Washington DC, where different experts, oncologists, CAM practitioners, and primary care physicians met to discuss the latest evidence-based CAM therapies. I had the honour to be invited to participate in the conference, and was impressed by the extent of the efforts being made, even by mainstream medicine, to research integrative oncology.

In the following article, I will outline the most current therapeutic recommendations currently being used by experts in integrative cancer treatment.


The integrative approach adds several new strategies to standard chemotherapy treatment:

1) Chemo Sensitivity Testing: This avoids experimentation with different chemo protocols and thus minimizes unnecessary toxicity. It is done by examining small clusters of cancer cells obtained from biopsy or surgery, then measuring the tumour’s behaviour in response to drug exposure – identifying which chemotherapy drug or drug combination induces cell death. This will determine the most effective drug/combination for each individual patient.(4)

2) Chemo chrono-modulation: Different chemotherapeutic agents work better if administered at a specific time of the day. By following this schedule, a lower dose can be used to achieve the same action with less toxicity. Examples of optimal times for different chemotherapeutic drugs are:

4am – 5 FU; 5 am – Irinotecan; 6 am – Doxorubicin

4 pm – Platinum (Cis-, Carbo-, Oxaliplatinum)

4 pm – Mitomycin.5

3) Chemo tumour targeting: This is achieved through the use of Hyaluronic Acid (HA), a naturally occurring substance – as part of the extracellular matrix it is present throughout all tissue and surrounding cells. Because of the altered status of a cancer tumour (its anaerobic metabolism and its abnormal vasculature), only a small portion of the tumour is typically affected by cytotoxic drugs. However, by mixing the drugs with HA, they loosely combine and will target the sites where HA is deficient and cross the blood brain barrier. Clinical studies have shown that tumours possess several HA receptors (CD44, RHAMM, etc.). This is why HA can help cytotoxic drugs act specifically with the tumour cells, thus reducing their side effects on other normal cells.(6,7)


This strategy is aimed at decreasing the tumour load through the use of the following:

1) Angiogenesis Inhibition: Angiogenesis is the process through which cancer cells initiate blood vessel proliferation in order to fuel rapid growth. Agents that interfere with the formation of new blood vessels are an important part of a comprehensive treatment strategy. Avastin is one example of conventional drugs that inhibit angiogenesis, but it has strong side effects. Other inhibitors are NSAIDs, frozen shark cartilage extract (Comitris), curcumin, and green tea.

2) Poly MVA: This compound is a non-toxic polynucleotide reductase. The MVA stands for minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. LAPd stands for Lipoic acid / Palladium complex. Lipoic acid is a naturally powerful antioxidant that is both water and fat soluble, which permits the Poly-MVA to pass across the cell membranes and the blood brain barrier, which is impossible for most drugs, including chemotherapy. When it enters cancer cells, protein radicals are formed which denature the tumour cell’s proteins. Since “normal cells” are capable of converting the radicals into energy and water, no harm can occur.  The original human trials were done in Canada by the late oncologist, Dr. Rudy Falk, usually in conjunction with standard chemotherapy and various other therapies. He reported benefits including pain reduction or control, improved appetite and weight gain, and increasing energy. Some patients are still using low doses of Poly-MVA and have no signs of cancer after ten years of use. A recent study presented at the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) by an American oncologist showed a 77% response rate of Stage IV cancer patients treated with intravenous and oral Poly MVA.

3) Intravenous Vitamin C: A growing number of studies, in vitro as well as in vivo, suggest the use of high dose intravenous vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for cancer patients. Because of a relative catalase deficiency in tumour cells, they are more susceptible to the effects of high-dose ascorbate-induced peroxidation products. Concentrations of ascorbate high enough to kill tumour cells can be achieved in humans.(8)

Addition of magnesium and vitamin B6 to the intravenous formula works to inhibit oxalate stone formation in patients with a tendency toward kidney stone formation from high dose Vitamin C. Patients should also be screened for red blood cell G6PD deficiency to prevent hemolysis.(9) Also, addition of other trace elements and minerals will help provide nutrition to the normal cells deprived by the presence of cancer. This will help increase the patient’s energy level. 

4) Oxygenation Therapies: The most fundamental feature of a cancer cell is that it is relatively anaerobic. It needs 60% less oxygen than a normal healthy cell. It does very poorly in the presence of excess oxygen. All of this points toward oxidative therapy as a decent treatment for cancer and a decent preventive measure as well. This includes ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and hyperbaric oxygen therapies.

Ozone, referred to as O3, is produced in a generator using pure oxygen. In Major Auto Hemotherapy (MAH), blood is drawn, mixed with ozone for few seconds and reinjected. The improvement in the immune system is demonstrated by increased natural killer cell activity. In vitro studies have shown that cancer cultures treated with ozone along with 5-FU did not develop resistance to chemotherapy, as did the untreated colonies. This adjunctive therapy with chemotherapy and radiation therapy is further enhanced if MAH is used at the same time with Ultraviolet Blood Irradiation Therapy (UBIT).

5) Laetrile (B17): Laetrile is a naturally occurring substance in many foods. It has a large molecule which is made up of 2 parts glucose, 1 part Hydrogen Cyanide, and 1 part Benzaldehyde. The last component gives it a pain relieving property. This big molecule is not breakable in nature.

An enzyme Rhodanase, normally present in the body, breaks the Hydrogen Cyanide component into Thyocynate, and the Benzaldehyde component into Benzoic Acid. Thyocynate and Benzoic acid are the metabolic precursor pool for Vitamin B12 in our body.

An optimum level of nutrients is necessary for Laetrile to work. Zinc is especially significant in this context. It is needed for the transport of Laetrile. High doses of Vitamin C are synergistic to the action of Laetrile. Micro nutrients such as manganese, magnesium, selenium, Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 are essential for optimizing the effect of Laetrile. Vitamin A and Vitamin E help enhance metabolism. This is why, when given intravenously, Laetrile is mixed with Vitamin C and the other minerals.

6) Dichlor Acetic Acid (DCA): is a trace product of chlorinated water and chlorine containing chemicals. These salts of DCA have been used to treat Lactic Acidosis. A study published in 2007 at the University of Alberta indicated its potential use for cancer. Later that year, funding was secured to carry out a clinical trial of DCA in cancer patients, approved by Health Canada.

DCA salts liberate the Dichloracetate ion which inhibits lactic Acid formation by suppressing a main enzyme in the Lactic Acid Cycle. The energy and respiration of cancer cells is thus compromised. The cancer cells therefore are suffocated and ultimately die.(10)

7) Hyperthermia: This therapy can be targeted to a local or regional part of the body, or the whole body. It is a very popular and effective therapy in German integrative cancer clinics. The main anti-cancer effects are achieved through thermo-associated cytotoxic effects, angiogenesis inhibition, vascular dilation, and immunological effects.(5)

8) Vitamin D: In February of 2006 a research team, led by Cedric F. Garland of the University of California at San Diego, reported that vitamin D supplementation could reduce the occurrence of a wide variety of cancers by 30-50%. (11)

The “geographical” colon, breast, ovarian and prostate cancer belt that encircles the world is in the northern latitudes. Cities like Seattle, Toronto, Boston, London, Dublin, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, Moscow, Anchorage, fall within this global belt and have high rates of these cancers. The theory is that inadequate sun exposure increases the risk of cancer. Recently it was reported that 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D, obtained from dietary supplements, sunlight exposure, or the diet, would cut the risk of colon cancer in half.


This includes all therapies that stimulate the immune system, improve its cancer killing action, and prevent further cancer progression.

1) Low Dose Naltrexone: LDN: Accumulating evidence suggests that LDN can promote health supporting immune-modulation which may reduce various oncogenic and inflammatory autoimmune processes.(13) Most studies have shown that naltrexone induces a two to three-fold increase in production of metenkephalin, the endorphin that most specifically activates delta-opioid receptors, the primary endorphin-related anti-growth factor on cancer cells.(14) Endorphins raise the circulating levels of natural killer cells and lymphocyte-activated CD-8 cells, the two immunological cell types that prevent cancer by killing cancer cells as they arise.

2) Natural Killer cell stimulants: these include AHCC, MGN III, IP6, NK Immune, etc.

3) Iscador (Mistletoe Extract): Mistletoe induces tumour necrosis, increases natural killer cell activity, increases production of interleukins 1 and 6, activates macrophages, induces programmed cell death (apoptosis), and protects DNA in normal cells during chemotherapy.

A German study, done by Dr. Ronald Grossarth-Maticek of the Institute for Preventive Medicine in Heidelberg, shows that, when used as adjunctive treatment in patients with a variety of cancers, Iscador can increase survival time by as much as 40%. Research indicates that mistletoe extract is most effective when used in conjunction with conventional medical care for the treatment of solid tumours such as breast cancer.

4) Wob-Mugos and Wobenzyme: These formulas contain several kinds of hydrolytic, proteolytic enzymes from plant and animal sources that attack cancer in several ways. First, the enzymes attack the coating on tumour cells which disguises them from recognition by the immune system – so that the antigens are exposed. Second, the enzymes stimulate various components of the immune system such as natural killer cells, T-cells and Tumour Necrosis factor. Third, these enzymes remove the “sticky” coating on cancer cells that allows them to adhere to other parts of the body (in effect, lessening the chances of metastasis).


Removal of toxins (heavy metals, xenoestrogens, pesticides) from the body is considered a very important part of integrative cancer therapy. A variety of approaches can be used, including colon cleansing, fasting, chelation, water therapy, heat therapy, and nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic methods. This causes the liver to release stored toxins into the digestive system to be eliminated. Increasing water intake is another excellent way to rid the body of toxins.

Likewise, it is very important to implement good nutrition, exercise, and maintain emotional balance. Avoid preservatives, chemicals, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, red meats, and sugar. Your diet should be based on organic whole grains, beans, juicing most raw vegetables, and some low sugar containing fruits. 


These forms of therapies can be applied to support behavioural patterns during recovery.

Many patients with chronic illness or cancer tend to mal-adapt to their situation and the brain becomes satisfied with that level of function. Although it may not be the cause of the disorder, it’s a common cause for a patient’s poor response to biological treatment because it can block the immune response. Meditation and Reiki are healing techniques that help balance physical, mental and emotional energy flows. Reflexology stimulates healing using pressure points on feet and hands.

In conclusion, patients should research extensively their options. There is an abundance of official sites that present evidence-based integrative therapies that could work alongside conventional therapies or alone. Patients should not rely on just testimonials; these are helpful to research the clinics but the most important is to research the practitioners themselves, their expertise, and rule out those who might give false hope or prey on the patient’s desperate fight against cancer.

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