Researchers are discovering that multiple treatments given simultaneously can be far more effective at fighting cancer than any single treatment. That's because a typical cancer involves an average of 63 genetic mutations, each of which works in different ways. A single treatment is unlikely to affect more than a few of these processes.
Better approach: Cancer "cocktails" that simultaneously attack abnormal cells in a multitude of ways.
Examples: A deadly form of blood cancer, multiple myeloma, now is routinely treated with drug combinations that have doubled survival rates. A French study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients with pancreatic cancer who were given a combination of four drugs lived about 60% longer than those given standard chemotherapy.
For the most part, the conventional treatment strategy for cancer involves using one or two traditional treatments—surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or hormone therapy-one after the other. Only on occasion are different treatments used in combination simultaneously such as when radiation and chemotherapy are administered following a patient's surgery.
Many oncologists now believe that it's better to hit cancers all at once with a barrage of treatments-including, in some cases, unconventional treatments, such as vitamins, herbs, supplements and medications typically prescribed for other health problems.
Example: I might advise a cancer patient getting conventional treatments to include the arthritis drug celecoxib (Celebrex), which makes cancer cells more sensitive to radiation...the hormone melatonin (which decreases the growth of some cancers)...and vitamin D-3 (which may reduce cancer recurrence).
Here's how to make this approach work for you…
- Keep an open mind. Ask your doctor if there are safe and effective treatments that he/ she recommends that may be unconventional, including "off-label" drugs-medications that haven't been approved by the FDA specifically for your type of cancer. Doctors often know about new treatments that seem to work for a given cancer.
Important: Don't try any treatment without first checking with your doctor to make sure that it is safe for you. If it is, he/she can recommend the right dose and tell you when you should take it.
- Start with conventional care. I never advise patients to forgo appropriate standard cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiation. These approaches have been proven to improve survival. You can then supplement these approaches with off-label medications, herbs and/or supplements to help increase effectiveness.
- Define your goals. A cure isn't the only reason to use a medley of treatments. The right cocktail also can reduce treatment side effects and improve your quality of life.
Example: Patients with breast cancer may be given hormonal treatments that reduce tumor growth, but in premenopausal women, these treatments also induce early menopause-and the accompanying hot flashes, night sweats and "brain fog." To be more comfortable during the post-treatment period, you can take vitamin E to reduce hot flashes...ginkgo to improve memory.. and herbs such as black cohosh to reduce vaginal dryness and night sweats.
Ingredients To Consider
Ask your doctor what you can add to your current treatments to increase their effectiveness. Some of the most common medications in the US have been shown to help cancer patients, as have supplements. Here, some unconventional treatments that can help…
- Vitamin D. Studies have shown that vitamin D induces apoptosis, the death of cancer cells. This is important because one of the characteristics of cancer cells is the ability to avoid cell death. Using vitamin D along with chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiation could improve your outcome.
- The ulcer medication cimetidine (Tagamet) strengthens the immune system so that it can fight cancer cells. Studies have shown that patients who start taking cimetidine a few days before colon cancer surgery may be less likely to have a recurrence of the cancer.
- Aspirin. An analysis of data from the Harvard Nurses' Health Study found that breast cancer patients who took aspirin reduced the risk of the cancer spreading (metastasis) by nearly 50%.
- Curcumin, the active compound in the spice turmeric. Like aspirin, it's an anti-inflammatory that can reduce the invasion and spread of cancer cells. It also can inhibit angiogenesis, the development of blood vessels that nourish tumors.
- Green tea. This is one cancer-cocktail ingredient that everyone can take." One cup of green tea has approximately 45 milligrams (mg) of epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), a compound that appears to reduce the growth of cancer cells. Dozens of studies have shown that green tea may be effective.
Example: A Mayo Clinic study found that the majority of leukemia patients who took EGCG showed clear improvement. Other studies have shown that it can reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance that is elevated in patients with prostate cancer.
I recommend eight cups of green tea a day to fight cancer.
- Red yeast rice. This type of yeast, taken in supplement form, contains monacolin K, the same active compound that is used in lovastatin, one of the cholesterol-lowering statins. Red yeast rice is an anti-inflammatory that also affects immune response and cell signaling—actions that can help prevent and possibly treat some cancers.
Laboratory studies indicate that red yeast rice (as well as statins) might increase the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy.
As for statins, in studies involving nearly a half-million patients, the drugs have been shown to significantly reduce the incidence and recurrence of colon, breast, lung and prostate cancers.
Mix the cocktail slowly. It's not good to start many treatments at the same time. You need to know if a particular ingredient is causing side effects.
Example: I might advise a patient to use Chinese herbs for a week. If he/she is doing well, I might add a second ingredient and then a third.