We usually think of the peels of oranges and grapefruit as good for compost heaps and garnish on foods and not much else. But research has found another use for a substance found in peels that is known as pectin—and it is at the root of a cancer therapy.

Where It Comes From

Pectin is a compound found in the peel and pith (the white strands attached to the peel of citrus fruits. It also is found in the peel and core of other fruits, such as apples. Even if you were to eat an orange peel, you wouldn't get any pectin that your body could use because in its natural state, its molecules are too large for us to digest. But researchers have found that when they break down pectin molecules into smaller sizes, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Modified citrus pectin (MCP), which is what the over-the-counter supplement is called, has been found to stop the spread of cancer. (The word "modified in this case means that the substance has been changed so that it can be absorbed by humans.) MCP is not meant to be used on its own as a cancer treatment, but it provides anticancer effects when used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. Its benefit is impressive because the spread (metastasis) of cancer from the original site to other parts of the body is the main cause of cancer-related death. MCP has been widely studied as a treatment for prostate and breast cancers and could help many other cancers.

How MCP Works

MCP prevents tumors from metastasizing by binding with a protein called galectin-3, a receptor molecule on the surface of cancer cells that usually carries out a number of cancer-promoting activities. One of galectin-3's most important functions involves helping cancer cells adhere to blood vessel walls and to other cancer cells, allowing the cells to colonize healthy body tissues. By binding with galectin3, MCP blocks this adhesion process. MCP also blocks galectin-3's ability to stimulate the formation of blood vessels in new tumors, a process called angiogenesis that is essential to tumor growth...and it appears to encourage cancer-cell death (apoptosis) by interfering with signaling pathways related to cancer-cell proliferation and survival.

Galectin-3 also helps cancer cells survive chemotherapy treatment. MCP disrupts this, enabling chemotherapy to be more effective.

What The Studies Show

In a study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies, Columbia University researchers found that when prostate cancer cells were exposed to MCP in the laboratory, they died off. Its effect on androgen-independent prostate cancer la prostate cancer in which cells do not depend on the androgen hormone for growth) is especially exciting, because there are not many effective treatments for this form of cancer, which tends to be aggressive.

A study conducted at Miami Children's Hospital (and funded by a supplement company that makes MCP) and published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that MCP had a powerful effect on the immune system's ability to fight cancer, inducing a dose-dependent increase in cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells—two immune system components that attack and kill tumor cells. The study also found that the highest dose of MCP tested (800 micrograms per milliliter of blood in a lab sample, which has no exact equivalent in terms of an oral dose) increased NK cells' ability to destroy leukemia cancer cells by more than 50%. Some forms of chemotherapy fight galectin-3 molecules, too, but they also kill healthy cells. MCP is the first natural substance shown to fight galectin-3-and the hope is that with MCP the body's normal NK cell activity will work overtime to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Who Should Take MCP

There's growing interest among holistic practitioners and some oncologists in MCP. One of MCP's most important features is that it is nontoxic. The only side effect is mild digestive upset. People can take MCP with other drugs—two hours apart is best, since MCP's fiber may hinder absorption of the other drugs. It also is safe for children.

MCP is a particularly good adjunct therapy for prostate and breast cancers, which have been the most studied. MCP's cancer-fighting ability also provides a protective benefit to cancer survivors and people with a family member (parent or sibling) who has had cancer.

One brand I like: PectaSol-C, a proprietary formulation developed and manufactured by EcoNugenics. PectaSol-C MCP can be purchased online at www.econugenics.com. Follow directions on the label.

Boost Broccoli's Cancer Fighting Power

When you eat broccoli with certain other vegetables, such as broccoli sprouts, arugula or radishes, you get twice the cancer-fighting power of broccoli consumed on its own, say University of Illinois researchers. These additional vegetables contain the enzyme myrosinase, which boosts the effectiveness of broccoli's cancer-preventive component, sulforaphane. To protect the nutrients and the enzyme, steam broccoli and vegetables for only two to four minutes.

Bladder Cancer Patients Often Don't Get the Right Care

For patients with high-grade bladder cancer I that has not invaded the muscle of the bladder, guidelines call for injecting a cancer-killing drug directly into the bladder and then launching an intense follow-up protocol. But many doctors don't follow these guidelines

Can Selenium Protect You From Bladder Cancer?

Women are less likely than men to get bladder cancer-but are less likely to survive if they do get it, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Encouraging news from a recent study: Compared with women who had the lowest blood levels of the mineral selenium, those with the highest levels were 34% less likely to get bladder cancer.

Bottom line: Further research is needed before selenium supplements can be recommended for bladder cancer prevention, but results of several studies are promising. Meanwhile, selenium-rich foods—including nuts, seafood and whole wheat-can be a healthful part of your diet.

Chinese Cancer-Fighter

A Chinese herbal remedy, Dang Gui Long A Hui Wan, appears to inhibit the growth and spread of glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly brain cancer.

Coffee Cancer Cure

Recent research shows that coffee protects against aggressive cancers of the prostate and breast.

Study results: Women who drank more than five cups of coffee a day had a 57% lower risk for ER-negative breast cancer-the most aggressive subtype-than women who drank less than one cup a day. Men who consumed six or more cups of coffee daily had a 60% lower risk for lethal prostate cancer. The coffee in the women's study was caffeinated in the men's study, both regular and decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk for cancer.

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