February 29, 2016

359 Failure of SMT [February 29, 2016]

Last week I outlined the history of cancer theory over the last century. The Somatic Mutation Theory (SMT) of Cancer – that genetic mutations in the DNA of the nucleus (nDNA) of the cells initiates and drives cancer – has been the dominant theory for at least the past 60 years. Treatments developed based on this theory – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy – have been largely disappointing with limited success in life extension and significant side effects. Could this theory be wrong?

The solution to the low success rate was believed to lie in more genetic research to identify the specific mutations of particular cancers and develop targeted treatments for them. To this end the largest genetic project ever undertaken, called The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), was begun in 2006 – to map all mutations associated with 20 human cancers. As the data came in, researchers were puzzled and discouraged – the mutations seemed to be completely random. Not only did the mutations in tumors vary widely between cancer victims for the same type of cancer, they varied between tumors in the same person and even between cells of the same tumor. Some samples had no mutations at all. This unpredictable variation makes targeted drug design next to impossible.

The most compelling evidence comes from some clever experiments in the 1980s. Labs in both Vermont and Texas independently replaced the nucleus from healthy cells (leaving the healthy mitochondria) with nuclei from cancer cells, then injected them into mice. To their great surprise only one of the 68 mice developed a tumor over the next year. Next they replaced the nucleus from cancerous cells (leaving the unhealthy mitochondria) with nuclei from healthy cells and injected them into mice. This time nearly all (97%) of the mice developed cancer. Sadly these experiments didn’t fit the reigning theory so were ignored.

Furthermore all nDNA mutations known to increase cancer risk (like TP53 and BRAC-1) are known to impair mitochondrial function or repair. And of 700 targeted drugs tested, the one success (Gleevec) works in part by shutting down Warburg’s metabolic pathway, restoring oxidative energy production.

All this supports the Metabolic Theory which believes that cancer is initiated by mitochondrial damage, and the damaged nDNA is secondary. Next week I will offer hope for a cure from treatments based on the metabolic theory.

Source: Tripping over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer by Travis Christofferson, 2014.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

February 22, 2016

358 Three Theories of Cancer [22 Feb. 2016]

Otto Warburg, considered the greatest biochemist of the 20th century, was awarded the 1931 Nobel Prize for his discovery that cancer cells use an anaerobic fermentation process for energy metabolism. Even in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells use this inefficient process almost exclusively rather than the more efficient aerobic respiration used by normal cells. Warburg believed this reversion of energy production, from aerobic to anaerobic, was the prime cause of cancer, a theory that became known as the Metabolic Theory of Cancer.

Decades earlier, in the late 1870s, a German medical researcher, David Paul von Hansemann applied a newly discovered cellular dye to cancer cells and observed that their chromosomes were abnormal and chaotic rather than orderly as in normal cells. By 1890 Hansemann had developed the beginning of what came to be called the Somatic Theory of Cancer (“somatic” refers to the cell nucleus), that mutations to the nuclear DNA were the cause of cancer.

In 1911 an American pathologist, Peyton Rous, discovered that a virus could induce cancer in chickens, creating a third competing theory. This caused a wave of speculation that cancer could be an infectious disease like smallpox and polio, but was ignored and soon forgotten when no human cancer viruses turned up.

The three theories each had their following during the first half of the 20th century. Then came Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA and all attention focused on genetics. The goal became to discover the genetic mutations causing a particular cancer and create a drug to counteract them. These drugs – various forms of chemotherapy – have been largely disappointing with limited life extension and significant side effects.

Then in 1976 two American researchers, Harold Varmus and Michael Bishop, discovered that cancer-causing viruses worked by inserting a mutated human gene into the cell nucleus, effectively amalgamating the viral and somatic theories and relegating the metabolic theory to the dustbin.

Fortunately the metabolic theory hasn’t stayed in oblivion but has been kept alive and further developed by a few researchers, notably Peter Pederson and Thomas Seyfried. Next week I will outline the case for, and the promise and hope of, the resurrected metabolic theory.

Source: Tripping over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer by Travis Christofferson, 2014.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. See this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

February 15, 2016

357 Diatomaceous Earth [15 Feb 2016]

Diatomaceous earth is a white powder composed of the microscopic shells of one-celled marine organisms called diatoms. I have long known of diatomaceous earth for its use as a natural insecticide in gardening, and as an anti-parasitic in animals and people. I just learned that it is also a good economical source of silica.

I first wrote about the importance of silica in our diets and as a supplement in April 2013 [#212], and about its role in collagen in skin, hair, nails and bone health in August 2014 [#280].

Here are the experiences of some people who started using diatomaceous earth:
• increased joint mobility and big-time pain relief
• faster healing of joint injuries
• stronger bones, hair and nails
• soft and elastic skin, complexion improved, acne relief
• soft and stronger hair, even growing in bald spots
• fingernails grow faster and stronger
• improved immune system, reduced allergies, recovery from spider bite
• relief from chronic sinus congestion
• improved digestion, relief from bloating
• passing intestinal parasites, controlling candida yeast infection
• relief from migraine headaches, vertigo and tinnitus
• cholesterol levels normalized
• high blood pressure reduced
• normalized menstrual cycles; relief from menopausal symptoms
• increased energy levels, better focus, improved memory

Health Canada has approved food grade diatomaceous earth as a supplement for up to 3/4 teaspoon per day. Most of the people mentioned above who have experienced benefits from diatomaceous earth have been using 1 to 3 tablespoons a day, stirred in a glass of water, with no ill effect. Diatomaceous earth is also available in capsule form.

Obviously I can’t guarantee all or any of the above results, as everyone is different. Try it yourself and see what amount works best for you. Then if someone tells you to “Eat dirt” you can smile and tell them “Thank you, I do”.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

February 8, 2016

356 Antioxidants & Cancer [8 Feb 2016]

Last week I mentioned biomedical scientist Dr. Rhonda Patrick who was interviewed by Dr. Mercola about mitochondria. One of the video lectures on her website (foundmyfitness.com) is titled “Do Antioxidants Cause Cancer?”

Since oxidative damage from free radicals is known to cause cancer, and antioxidants protect us from that damage, it was believed that supplementing with antioxidants should prevent cancer. Research results, however, have been rather disappointing and in some cases found that antioxidants can even increase cancer risk. What’s going on?

Dr. Patrick explains that it is important to understand how antioxidants work and the context of the studies. It is now understood that free radicals play a beneficial role in the cells at low levels and in certain circumstances. One of these is in the role of apoptosis (programmed cell death) of damaged cells to prevent their proliferation into cancer. One study found that supplementing mice with vitamin E prevented DNA damage in the control group (without cancer) but increased the rate of cancer growth in the mice with cancer. The vitamin E prevented the activation of the Tumor Suppressor Genes which would have otherwise killed the cancer cells, and allowed them to proliferate faster. Patrick advised that vitamin E in doses near the RDA (22 IU/day in Canada) is probably beneficial unless you already have cancer in which case it should be avoided.

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) found a statistically increased risk of prostate cancer in men taking alpha tocopherol (400 IU) but not in those also taking selenium (200 mcg). Patrick explains that mega doses of alpha tocopherol depletes levels of another form of vitamin E, gamma tocopherol. Previous studies found the risk of prostate cancer was 5 times higher in men with the lowest gamma tocopherol levels compared with the highest. Gamma, but not alpha, tocopherol acts on a group of free radicals called Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) which are involved in prostate cancer. Selenium, as part of a compound called Selenoprotein P, also protects against the RNS free radicals. Patrick’s conclusion: if you supplement with vitamin E, choose one with both alpha and gamma tocopherols, and again stay close to the RDA.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

February 1, 2016

355 Mitochondria & Degenerative Disease [1 Feb 2016]

I enjoyed reading the book “Oxygen: the molecule that made the world” by Nick Lane so I bought his book about mitochondria with the eye-catching title “Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the meaning of life” (I’m sure the publishers, rather than the authors, come up with these titles!). The mercola.com topic for January 24 was “How your mitochondria influence your health” which featured Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a biomedical scientist.

Dr. Patrick has studied the roles of micronutrients and degenerative diseases, particularly as they relate to mitochondria. She is a frequent speaker, prolific writer and runs her own website (foundmyfitness.com) where she shares her insights with the public.

I wrote several columns about mitochondria last January (#301, #302, #303). To review: mitochondria are tiny organelles inside almost every cell of our body which generate the energy for all cell functions by converting our food to CO2 and water in a complex biochemical pathway called respiration. In the process of respiration electrons sometimes leak out of the system where they combine with oxygen or nitrogen to form free radicals called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) which can damage the mitochondrial DNA. Damage to the DNA eventually results in the death of the mitochondrion. When enough mitochondria die, the cell dies; when enough cells in a tissue or organ dies, the organ fails causing degenerative disease and ultimately our own death.

So what can we do to slow the free radical damage to our cells:
• ensure we have sufficient micronutrients to prevent free radical formation: Co-enzyme Q10, L-carnitine, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, all B vitamins, ALA.
• especially magnesium which is essential for the enzymes which repair damaged DNA and for mitochondrial biogenesis (creating of new mitochondria)
• exercise induces mitochondrial biogenesis which reduces free radical creation by spreading out the workload so the mitochondria can work more efficiently
• avoid over eating and eating before bedtime which causes the respiration pathway to back up spilling more electrons and creating more free radicals

In summary, looking after our mitochondria will go far in avoiding degenerative disease and premature death, and help us enjoy a longer and higher-quality life.

For those so inclined, here is a more scholarly article on mitochondrial DNA damage and longevity: Reinald Pamplona, “Mitochondrial DNA Damage and Animal Longevity: Insights from Comparative Studies,” Journal of Aging Research, vol. 2011.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.