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Coenzyme Q10 New Applications for Cancer Therapy

October 2005

By Christie Yerby, ND

Importance of Diet and Nutrition

In 2004, breast cancer accounted for about 30% of all newly diagnosed cancer cases in US women and was the second leading cause of cancer death, surpassed only by lung cancer.27 Diet may contribute to 30-50% of these newly diagnosed cases.27 Very little CoQ10 is derived from the standard American diet, so attention to nutrient-rich food is important for cancer prevention. Foods that contain the most CoQ10 include oily fish such as sardines and mackerel, liver, peanuts, and whole grains. A well-balanced diet may provide adequate amounts of CoQ10 for an already healthy person, but those with depleted levels or chronic illness may require supplemental CoQ10.

CoQ10 is synthesized in the body from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine, in a multi-step cascade of events that requires several vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, and folic acid. Vitamin B6 is the first cofactor required for this conversion process, as B6 deficiencies cause dysfunctions in CoQ10 formation.28 Data on cancer patients’ blood levels have shown deficiencies of both CoQ10 and vitamin B6.28

Red meat supplies an abundance of B vitamins, but since meat consumption may be associated with an increased risk for some cancers,29 supplementing with a good multi-vitamin and vitamin B complex is important for CoQ10 synthesis in those who choose to avoid eating red meat.

CoQ10 not only has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, but also appears to boost immune health.15,16,30 In one study, administration of CoQ10 and vitamin B6 together and separately boosted blood levels of both CoQ10 and CD4 T lymphocytes (helper T-cells), a type of disease-fighting immune system cell.31 Blood levels of immunoglobulin G increased when CoQ10 and vitamin B6 were administered together and when CoQ10 was given alone.31

Because of its potential as an immune system stimulant, CoQ10 has been used as an adjuvant therapy in patients with various types of cancer. With new research findings demonstrating that it is able to restore susceptibility to apoptosis in cancer cells, CoQ10 may be of critical importance in an integrated cancer treatment protocol.

Help for Other Cancers

In recent studies, University of Miami researchers examined breast and prostate cells, but other studies suggest that CoQ10 may also inhibit cervical cancer cells,32 illustrating how its antioxidant and other effects may be valuable in fighting other cancers.

During their presentation at a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Anaheim, CA, the Miami team showed that adding CoQ10 to the most common prostate cancer cell line, PC3, inhibited cell growth by 70% over 48 hours. Similarly, they found that CoQ10 greatly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells, while providing a stabilizing effect to normal mammary cells.1

The University of Miami scientists are now focusing on applications of CoQ10 for skin cancer. “We are studying CoQ10 with skin cancer, given that our interests are dermatologic in nature,” says Narain. “But certainly there will be expansion into studies that target other organs as well.”

“We are in the process of developing an IV delivery system for other organs,” adds Indushekhar Persaud, chief bioengineer for drug delivery therapeutics at the University of Miami. “For prostate and breast cancer, IV delivery may be more advantageous.”

For their dermatological application of CoQ10, the Miami team is using liposomes made of phospholipids as a molecular delivery vehicle into targeted cells.

The Miami researchers have investigated a therapeutic dose of up to 500 mg daily of orally ingested CoQ10 for conditions such as cancer. Applied topically, however, smaller doses may be effective. However, as with all health issues, a thorough discussion with your physician regarding your supplement program is advised.

The research team is planning further clinical trials with Dr. Keyvan Nouri at the Mohs Center in the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami. According to Dr. Nouri, “Mohs microscopic surgery is the gold standard of treatment for basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and other rare cutaneous neoplasms.”33


For years, researchers have suspected that antioxidants may have properties that can aid in the prevention and treatment of cancer. However, answers as to how, why, and which antioxidants work best have continued to challenge them. Every new scientific discovery plays an important part in helping to unravel this ongoing mystery.

As recent studies demonstrate, often-overlooked nutritional therapeutics are gaining ground as essential aspects of cancer management.34 As more is understood about the biochemical mechanisms of nutrients such as CoQ10, research may continue to elucidate their medical applications for managing cancer.

Exciting new research findings from the University of Miami, describing CoQ10 as an anti-cancer agent, may be an important piece of the cancer-cure puzzle. For people diagnosed with cancer—a disease once labeled “incurable”—new research suggests that CoQ10 may well enhance their prospects for living a long and healthy life when incorporated in a daily treatment regimen.


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