Cancer Stem Cells and Why They Matter
Stem cells seem to be the latest rage in cancer medicine and in alternative medicine, with promises that this or that product will get rid of stem cells so we can stay healthy or in remission from a chronic condition like cancer, or prevent a cancer.
What is a cancer stem cell?
Cancer stem cells are rare immortal cells within a tumor that can both self-renew by dividing and also give rise to many cell types that constitute the tumor, and can therefore form tumors. Such cells have been found in various types of human tumors, and might be attractive targets for cancer treatment. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are cancer cells found within tumors or blood cancers that possess characteristics associated with normal stem cells, specifically the ability to give rise to all cell types found in a particular cancer sample.
Cancer stem cells have a pro-survival strategy involved in promoting cancer cell invasion, growth and metastasis. These cancer stem cells are unlike typical stem cells because they are designed to promote cancerous activities, including the ability to self-renew, resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, and the promotion of inflammation. This is from a modern oncology journal: “Modern chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other antineoplastic regimens have made the treatment of many solid tumors possible and have given hope to those diagnosed with cancer. However, the prognosis for many cancer patients remains bleak due to the high rate of cancer recurrence and multiple drug resistance (MDR) seen after initial chemotherapy treatments. Metastatic cancers affecting multiple organ systems are particularly difficult to treat. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) potentially explain many of the shortcomings of established chemotherapy treatments.” In other words, when cancers are treated with modern oncology methods, tumors may shrink but then come roaring back.
Research has shown that cancer cells are not all the same. Within a malignant tumor or among the circulating cancerous cells of a leukemia, there can be a variety of types of cells. The stem cell theory of cancer proposes that among all cancerous cells, a few act as stem cells that reproduce themselves and sustain the line of cancer cells.
Fortunately, nature has provided us with an abundance of plants that have substances that can suppress cancer stem cell growth, and lead to their destruction. For example, there is a substance in the herb feverfew that helps lower inflammation, and also kills human leukemia stem cells. There are similar herbs for similar other types of cancers and their stem cells. The message here: trust nature.
Let us be always mindful that we can affect our own biological terrain through what we eat and how we think, feel and act, to make it less friendly to cancer or cancer stem cells. Of course, if one has been through chemotherapy, it becomes more difficult, and it is often necessary to take herbs and nutrients through supplementation as well as consuming them in foods. This is why we use herbs, nutrients and IV’s during chemotherapy, to try to alleviate side effects, make the chemotherapy more effective, and prevent the development of these cancer stem cells. And it is also why, after a patient has gone through chemotherapy or radiation, we design an herbal maintenance program that can kill these remaining cancer stem cells before they can grow into new or other cancers.
Fortunately, cancer stem cells are influenced by the phytochemicals in our diets, and which we can also take in supplement form. These herbal phytochemicals are designed to prevent and treat the pro-survival cancerous properties which equip a cancer stem cell to function. The following nutrients are phytochemicals found in our diets which manipulate the communication pathways between the cancer stem cell and the corresponding cancer cell.
One example is ursolic acid, which I had never heard of until I entered this field. It is a dietary compound found in the waxy coating of fruits like apples. A dosage of 150-300 mg 3 times daily provides optimal benefits in killing cancer stem cells.
The common herb turmeric has curcuminoids, one of which is the anti-inflammatory herb curcumin, which you can buy in supplement form from a good health food store or our Medicinary. Curcumin is noted in regulating the various factors involved in cancer stem cell activity.
Also, the EGCG in green tea works by interrupting the signaling pathways associated with cancer stem cells. This is why I often prescribe Natura’s Botanical Treasures, because it has a combination of bio-available turmeric, curcumin, and green tea extract, along with resveretrol, which is a stem cell scavenger. The particular brand you choose is not as important as the quality of the herbs, so it’s important to choose supplements from reputable sources. We also have in our tool chest the herb milk thistle, with silymarin, which is another great cancer stem cell treatment option, and there are many companies that make high quality milk thistle. (We carry Natura’s Immucare 2 in our Medicinary.)
And then there is nature’s antihistamine, quercitin. Try it in 500 mg doses three times daily. It will not sedate you like diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benedryl. Quercetin is a dietary antioxidant and is found in a variety of vegetables, fruits, teas and wine. Quercetin targets cancer stem cells by interfering with signaling pathways related to free radicals. This is why I often use Quercetin Plus by Natura, also with nettle leaf and bromelain, in treating people with cancer or as part of a remission program.
You may have heard the term anthocyanins, which occur naturally in plants such as berries (especially bilberries), grapes, eggplant, tea and even certain types of oranges. These anthocyanins have the ability to control cancer stem cells which otherwise are uncontrollable, and boost the productivity of genes which suppress tumors.
Also, receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D3 daily, always combined with Vitamin K1 or K2 for cancer, is necessary to destroy cancer stem cell activity, which is why I often prescribe Vitamin DAK to patients with cancer, as well as after cancer treatment.
If you have been successfully treated with chemotherapy and do not want to develop another recurrence, there are herbs and nutrients that can help kill the remaining stem cells specific to your cancer, and the foods you eat also influence these stem cells.
So let’s not wait until Big Pharma does the million dollar research studies and comes up with drugs to kill cancer stem cells. Let’s take action now, guided by our intelligence and feeling for life, with what nature provides us.