Antioxidants and Cancer

New Scientist magazine has just reported the claim by James Watson that antioxidants promote cancer growth (Nobel-winner Watson: Do antioxidants promote cancer?). They did not mention that these ideas are out of date. James Watson recently claimed an important idea that antioxidants can promote cancer growth. This idea is not new, though his version is incomplete and misleading. The relationship between antioxidants and cancer was described several years ago. Antioxidants prevent cancer but only specific antioxidants are useful for treatment.

We do not consider Watson’s limited description and understanding helpful. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts have been reporting the actual mechanism for almost a decade, while being careful not to misrepresent the idea as “antioxidants promote cancer.” The process is explained in terms of redox signaling, redox being a term used for reduction and oxidation. Redox signals and the antioxidant/oxidant state of a cell are important in both prevention and proliferation of cancer. Healthy cells are in a relatively quiescent reduced (low oxidation) state. Increasing the oxidation level will signal the cell to grow and divide more frequently. Benign tumor cells are slightly more proliferative and have a higher oxidation level than healthy cells. Malignant cancer cells are more oxidizing still and proliferate uncontrollably. The effect of antioxidants depends on the current redox state of the cell.
In 2004, Hickey and Roberts provided a schematic of the relationship between the levels of antioxidants/oxidants and cancer proliferation, in their book Cancer: Nutrition and Survival. In the diagram, healthy cells and benign cancer cells (left tail) proliferate as the oxidation level increases. By contrast, malignant cells (right tail) proliferate when antioxidants are added.
Redox cancer signaling

Redox Cancer Signaling

While Hickey and Roberts were careful to avoid misleading generalizations about antioxidants and cancer proliferation, their description was clear, for example:

“The action of antioxidants on cancer cells is far from simple: it may depend upon the cells’ redox state and the stage of the cancer. Some cancers may find an external supply of antioxidants beneficial. For example, in healthy mouse cells, the antioxidant supplement, NAC, can decrease growth, by lowering the oxidant level. However, in cancer cells, another antioxidant, the enzyme thioredoxin, stimulates growth and prevents cell suicide. This apparent paradox may be explained if we consider that the levels of oxidants in some malignant cells are so high as to be almost fatal to the cell. Thioredoxin may lower these levels enough to restore the cell to relative health and stimulate growth. Increased levels of thioredoxin occur in many human cancers and are a sign of resistance to therapy.”

Also Andrew Saul and Steve Hickey explained the relationship between membrane redox potentials and proliferation briefly, in their book Vitamin C: The Real Story. We find Watson’s claims inexplicable as we thought everyone with an interest in antioxidants and cancer knew this stuff!

Antioxidants Prevent Cancer and Some May Even Cure It

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 24, 2013

Commentary by Steve Hickey, PhD

(OMNS Jan 24, 2013) It is widely accepted that antioxidants in the diet and supplements are one of the most effective ways of preventing cancer. Nevertheless, Dr. James Watson has recently suggested that antioxidants cause cancer and interfere with its treatment. James Watson is among the most renowned of living scientists. His work, together with that of others (Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins) led to the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953. Although his recent statement on antioxidants is misleading, the mainstream media has picked it up, which may cause some confusion.

Antioxidants: What’s Going On

Dr. Watson claims to have discovered that antioxidants promote the growth of late stage metastatic cancers. He says that this is “among my most important work since the double helix.” [1] We agree that the finding is fundamentally important, although it was not uniquely Watson’s discovery. Rather, it is standard orthomolecular medicine and has been known for years. [2,3] Within the body, antioxidant levels act as a signal, controlling cell division. In healthy cells and benign tumors, oxidants tend to increase cell proliferation, whereas antioxidants inhibit it. By contrast, the malignant tumor environment can be so strongly oxidizing that it is damaging and triggers cell death by apoptosis. In this case, antioxidants may help tumor cells proliferate and survive, by protecting the cells against oxidation and stimulating the malignancy to grow. For this reason, antioxidants may sometimes be contraindicated for use with malignant tumors, although there are particular exceptions to this.

And Oxidants?

The balance between oxidants and antioxidants is a key issue in the development of cancer, as has been known for decades. Watson appears to be behind the times in his appreciation of nutritional medicine and, surprisingly, to have misunderstood the processes of oxidation and reduction as applied to cancer. He correctly asserts that reactive oxygen species are a positive force for life; this is basic biology. They are also involved in aging, chronic illness, and cancer. Oxidants also cause free radical damage, thus the body generates large amounts of antioxidants to prevent harm and maintain health.

Back in the 1950s Dr. Reginald Holman treated the implanted tumors of experimental rats, by adding a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide to their drinking water. [4] Hydrogen peroxide, an oxidant, delivers a primary redox (reduction/oxidation) signal in the body. The treatment cured more than half the rats (50-60%) within a period of two weeks to two months, with complete disappearance of the tumors. Holman also reported four human case studies, concerning people with advanced inoperable cancer. Two patients showed marked clinical improvement and tumor shrinkage. (Please note: we are not suggesting that people should consume hydrogen peroxide.) He published his findings in Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific periodicals of the day and, of course, the same journal that had presented Crick and Watson’s double helix papers, just four year earlier.

Orthomolecular medicine has advanced since those days; we now have safer and more effective techniques with which to attack cancer. Intravenous vitamin C is a good example. [5] Nevertheless, both modern orthomolecular and conventional treatments often rely indirectly on increasing hydrogen peroxide levels, and thus deliberately causing free radical damage within the tumor. Watson correctly identifies oxidation and free radical damage as primary mechanisms through which radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs slow cancer growth. He also states that cancer cell adaptation to oxidation is the method by which it becomes resistant to such treatment, although once again, this has been standard in cancer biology for decades. We agree with some of Watson’s assertions: that cancer research is overregulated; that a primary aim should be to cure late stage cancers; and that a cure for cancer could be achievable, given 5-10 years of properly targeted research. [6] However, we think he should become more familiar with progress in orthomolecular medicine, which is currently leading the way.

How Does Cancer Grow?

Cancer develops when cells multiply in the presence of oxidation and other damage. According to micro-evolutionary models, cells become damaged and change their behavior, growing uncontrollably, and act like the single-celled organisms from which they originally evolved. The cancer cells’ individualism overwhelms the cooperative control processes that are essential to a complex multicellular organism. Importantly, antioxidants limit oxidative damage and thus inhibit early benign cancer growth, preventing cancer from developing.

As cancers become malignant, they exhibit incredible genetic diversity. Whereas a benign tumor is like a colony of similar abnormal cells, a malignant tumor is a whole ecosystem. At this late stage, some (but not all) antioxidants can indeed promote cancer cell growth. Thousands of different cell types coexist: cooperating, competing, and struggling to survive. A consequence of the anaerobic conditions that prevail during the early development of a malignancy is that cancer cells differ from healthy cells, in that they have been selected for the way they generate energy (i.e. anaerobically, using glucose). This is the well-known Warburg effect [7], another finding from the 1950s. [8]

How Does Cancer Stop?

Certain “antioxidant” substances, such as vitamin C, are able to exploit the differences between cancer and healthy cells; they kill cancer cells while helping healthy cells. [9] Such substances have the ability to act either as antioxidants or as pro-oxidants, depending on their environment. In tumors, they act as pro-oxidants, producing hydrogen peroxide that attacks the cancer; whereas, in healthy cells they act as protective anti-oxidants.

The dual nature of these substances is crucial, because standard chemotherapy or radiation harms healthy cells almost as much as it does cancer cells. The idea of a drug with a limited selective activity against cancer cells has apparently impressed Watson, who suggests that “highly focused new drug development should be initiated towards finding compounds beyond metformin that selectively kill [cancer] stem cells.” [10] Metformin is an antidiabetic drug that acts against cancer by lowering blood glucose levels. Interestingly enough, carbohydrate reduction and other methods of “starving the cancer” are standard methods in orthomolecular cancer therapy. [2]

Selective anticancer agents of the kind Dr. Watson advocates are already known to exist: they include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, and others. A research agenda to investigate the synergistic operation of such substances in cancer treatment is required urgently. It is time for conventional medicine to come to terms with their failure in cancer research and embrace selective orthomolecular methods. The public should stick with nutritional therapies while we wait, perhaps for some time, for medicine to focus on patients rather than profits. Don’t be warned off the very substances that can most help you.

References:

1. Watson J. (2013) Nobel laureate James Watson claims antioxidants in late-stage cancers can promote cancer progression, The Royal Society, latest news, 09 January, http://royalsociety.org/news/2013/watson-antioxidants-cancer.

2. Hickey S. Roberts H. (2005) Cancer: Nutrition and Survival, Lulu Press.

3. Hickey S. Roberts H.J. (2007) Selfish cells: cancer as microevolution, 137-146.

4. Holman R.A. (1957) A method of destroying a malignant rat tumour in vivo, Nature, 4568, 1033.

5. http://www.doctoryourself.com/RiordanIVC.pdf, http://www.riordanclinic.org/research/research-studies/vitaminc/protocol/ and http://www.doctoryourself.com/Radiation_VitC.pptx.pdf

6. Lettice E. (2010) James Watson: ‘cancer research is over regulated’ The Guardian, Friday 10 September, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/10/james-watson-cancer-research.

7. Gonzalez M.J. Miranda Massari J.R. Duconge J. Riordan N.H. Ichim T. Quintero-Del-Rio A.I. Ortiz N. (2012) The bio-energetic theory of carcinogenesis, Med Hypotheses, 79(4), 433-439.

8. Warburg O. (1956) On the origin of cancer cells, Science, 123(3191), 309-314.

9. Casciari J.J. Riordan N.H. Schmidt T.L. Meng X.L. Jackson J.A. Riordan H.D. (2001) Cytotoxicity of ascorbate, lipoic acid, and other antioxidants in hollow fibre in vitro tumours, Br J Cancer, 84(11), 1544-1550. http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v84/n11/abs/6691814a.html

N.H. Riordan, H.D. Riordana, X. Menga, Y. Lia, J.A. Jackson. (1995) Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent, Med Hypotheses, 44(3), 207-213, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/030698779590137X

10. Watson J. (2013) Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers, Open Biology, January 8, doi: 10.1098/rsob.120144.

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Should You Be Allowed To Make A Rational Decision?

A law might condemn intelligent and educated patients to being ill-informed and unable to make rational decisions about their own cancer. For this law to be valid, however, we need to assume all cancer patients are stupid and unable to decide for themselves.

In order for an intelligent patient to make a rational decision, he or she needs all the relevant information. People are normally allowed access to information that concerns their personal decisions. Imagine going to buy a house and being told that will cost $1,160,543 but you cannot choose the house or even see it, rather the estate agent, who is an expert in houses, will make the decision for you. Most people would consider such a demand unreasonable and would decline the purchase.

Some people prefer to get expert advice for complex decisions, although most would surely consider it important that such advice was independent and unbiased. Similarly, most people would expect to solicit expert opinion for life and death decisions, such as those involving cancer. Approved advice concerning cancer is widely available from physicians and hospitals. In the UK, such advice and treatment can be provided at no immediate charge to the patient. However, note that the government must surely be held responsible for delivering ALL the relevant data and not providing a partial or biased viewpoint. Anything else would be biased and unscientific. It is not clear how any organisation could achieve such scientific omnipotence, and certainly not by restricting access to the requisite variety of information.

More intelligent and informed patients may wish to be involved in decisions about their cancer treatment, after all, their lives may be at stake. It turns out that, in the UK, the patient is not allowed to make a rational decision or even have access to available information. Suppose that the patient is a PhD biologist and goes to her friend, a retired Nobel Prize winner, who was given his award for research into cancer. Even the Nobel Laureate would not be able to independently advise his friend on the range of treatment options open to her, without technically breaking the UK law. He would be limited to providing scientific information and educational data. Whereas what the patient really wants to know from the expert is what is the optimal treatment choice and why.

For the doctors point of view, we note Item 35 in the World Medical Association’s Helsinki Declaration. This is the primary international document on medical research ethics. This section is taken from the “additional principles for medical research combined with medical care”.

“In the treatment of a patient, where proven interventions do not exist or have been ineffective, the physician, after seeking expert advice, with informed consent from the patient or a legally authorized representative, may use an unproven intervention if in the physician’s judgement it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering. Where possible, this intervention should be made the object of research, designed to evaluate its safety and efficacy. In all cases, new information should be recorded and, where appropriate, made publicly available.”

The reason cancer has its own restrictive UK law is that organisations can make massive profits out of this illness. This law helps defend a monopoly position for corporate medicine.

Below is a recent example of this censorship. Section 4.1(b) of the ill advised 1939 law was repealed by the Medicines Act 1968. The 1939 act suggests that it is a means of preventing advertising. However, the definition of “advertisement” is expanded to cover just about any independent communication of information. Note that we are not supporting or criticising Dr Burzynski’s ideas, or those of others. We are merely making the case that open debate at a conference is an accepted and essential part of the scientific process.

 

OMNS August 3, 2012

The Stranglehold that the UK 1939 Cancer Act Exerts in Great Britain

by Madeline C. Hickey-Smith

(OMNS Aug 3, 2012) Most citizens of Great Britain are totally unaware of the 1939 Cancer Act which effectively prevents them from finding out about different treatments for cancer.

Excerpts from the UK 1939 Cancer Act:

“4 – (1) No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement –

(a) containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof; or

(b) referring to any article, or articles of any description, in terms which are calculated to lead to the use of that article, or articles of that description, in the treatment of cancer.

In this section the expression “advertisement” includes any “notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document, and any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting sounds”. [1]

Publication of such advertisements is permitted to a very restrictive group comprising members of either House of Parliament, local authority, governing bodies of voluntary hospitals, registered or training to become registered medical practitioners, nurses or pharmacists, and persons involved in the sale or supply of surgical appliances. A very tight grip, therefore, is exercised on information that is fed to citizens of Great Britain; interestingly, the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.

That pretty much wraps it up, and wraps us (in Britain) up in the legal stranglehold that this outdated Act still exerts. Was this enacted to protect the citizens from charlatans and “quacks” or to safeguard the interests of the National Radium Trust, to whom the British Government lent money? If no one is allowed to tell us, how can we, the general public, ever find out what alternatives there are to those offered by mainstream medicine, mainly surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy?

No Freedom of Therapy, Information, or Assembly

My colleague, Sarah Ling, and I unwittingly found ourselves in a maelstrom when we decided to hold a convention in Birmingham, later this year, to do just that – inform the general public about some of the other ways to tackle this hideous disease than those generally doled out to their mostly trusting, but fear-filled patients. A well-justified fear of the actual treatments as well as the disease prevails.

Last year, Sarah’s sister was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Chemotherapy was the only treatment offered, which she accepted out of fear. She nearly died within hours of having it, and very sadly died days afterwards. Sarah was determined to help prevent others from enduring such trauma and so, under the umbrella of our Institute (The Cambridge Institute of Complementary Health), we organised a convention to educate people – conventional/complementary health professionals and the general public – about different ways to treat people who have cancer.

We quickly drew up a short list of speakers that we felt would have much to contribute, including Dr Stanislaw Burzynski who agreed to come and talk about his pioneering work on antineoplastins.

After posting our speakers on our web-site, one, an oncologist, pulled out due to a malevolent e-mail she had received, questioning her wisdom at sharing a platform with Dr Burzynski. She didn’t want to cause her team any controversy. We then discovered that we had attracted a lot of adverse attention that was derogatory, critical of our speakers, casting aspersions on them and on us as an organisation. Unfortunately Dr Burzynski decided not to come – so as not to expose us to the sort of attacks that he has suffered. Regrettably, the public lost an opportunity to hear first-hand of his pioneering treatments in tackling cancers, including inoperable brain tumours.

Two speakers down, we then found ourselves possibly contravening the archaic Cancer Act. We’ve had to be extremely careful in how we word any publications relating to the convention so that the Advertising Standards Agency doesn’t come down on us like a ton of bricks and prevent us from holding it at all. Britain cherishes its long-held tradition of freedom of speech, but in recent years that seems questionable. However, we can still hold debates, and that is what we are doing.

We are aware that efforts will be made to stop us, from those who are not seekers of truth. If they were truly interested in the welfare of people, they would be advocating most of the alternative/complementary approaches instead of deriding them and trying to close down clinics and individuals who practise them, via the Advertising Standards Agency. This ridiculous Act affords them the guise of protecting the public and gives them ammunition that they can use against persons advocating alternatives.

We can’t hold an open day of education on treating cancer in this country: how bizarre is that? How much longer can this information be contained?

The Cost of Ignorance

The UK National Health Service is overstretched and, as more and more people contract cancer (one in three presently), the rising costs of expensive and often ineffective treatments will surely mean they have to look at alternatives.

Conventional healthcare professionals are too often ignorant of the enormous value of unconventional treatments. How can they be otherwise, as those outside of their profession are prohibited from alluding to the fact that they can help treat cancer? Shockingly, even nutrition is most often totally overlooked during orthodox cancer treatment, and the very foods that promote cancers are given to patients in our hospitals sometimes in order to maintain calorie intake. There is frequently no advice on diet, that most crucial aspect of our health. [2]

Thankfully, some oncologists do recognise the benefits that alternative/complementary treatments offer. [3] Hopefully more and more will come to accept that integrating the best of conventional and complementary/alternative methods is the way forward.

It is our opinion that a reform of the 1939 Cancer Act is long overdue. The tenacious grip that it holds on treating cancer must be relinquished, so that patients and their healthcare providers can make an informed choice as to what approach may be best for their individual needs.

(Madeline C. Hickey-Smith has an honours degree in biology and is cofounder of the Cambridge Institute of Complementary Health http://cichealth.org.uk . The direct link to the convention page is http://cichealth.org.uk/#/cancer-convention/4566602766 .)

References:

1. The 1939 UK Cancer Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo6/2-3/13/contents/enacted

2. What UK cancer patients are officially told:
http://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/cancer-information/patient-information/booklets/eating-well.pdf

3. Intravenous Vitamin C as cancer therapy: Free access to twenty-one expert video lectures online. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, April 14, 2011.http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n03.shtml or http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL953B95B3BB977F54 and http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4CA531C7A3B0D954

Those who have had quite enough of government censorship of alternative cancer treatments may also wish to look at the following:

Straus H. Censorship, sports and the power of one word. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 21, 2012. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v08n18.shtml

Saul AW. Half-truth is no truth at all: Overcoming bias against nutritional medicine. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Oct 7, 2011.http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n09.shtml

Smith RG. Vitamins decrease lung cancer risk by 50%. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Nov 18, 2011. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n13.shtml

 

Fukushima Radiation Protection

Antioxidants and particularly sulphur containing antioxidants can protect against the free radical damage of ionising radiation.

The following video was made by The Japanese Collage of Intravenous Therapy in an attempt to help the Japanese people.

Obviously, it would be preferable to avoid unnecessary radioactive contamination, but that option is no longer available. It is particularly sad that the Japanese government has been inept, irrational, and dishonest in dealing with this tragedy.