Life Extension Update
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First ever meta-analysis of melatonin’s effect on cancer patients indicates improved survival
The results of a meta-analysis of clinical trials examining the effects of melatonin on individuals being treated for cancer were presented at the 20th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, held August 24 through 26 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona. The report, entitled, "Melatonin in the Treatment of Cancer: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials and Meta-Analysis", is currently under peer review by a medical journal.
Melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland in the brain that has an effect on the body’s wake/sleep cycle. The results of some studies have suggested that melatonin may exert a protective effect against cancer, and that it may also be of benefit during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Lead author Leslie Axelrod and her Canadian colleagues searched medical databases for reports that provided the results of randomized controlled trials of melatonin combined with other treatments in cancer patients with solid tumors, including data on one year survival. Ten reports published between 1992 and 2003 that provided information on trials conducted in Italy and Poland met the researchers’ criteria. The studies enrolled a combined total of 643 men and women of varying ages.
The researchers found a consistent benefit across all melatonin dosages on one year survival when the hormone was tried as an adjunct therapy in a variety of advanced stage cancers. Compared to those who did not receive the hormone, those who received melatonin had a 44 percent lower risk of death one year following their trial enrollment. Although the meta-analysis had its limitations, the authors concluded that “the substantial reduction in risk of death, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention suggest great potential for melatonin in treating cancer.”
In the largest clinical study of its kind to date, the effects of melatonin were evaluated in 1440 patients with untreatable advanced solid tumors. One group received supportive care alone, while the other group received supportive care plus melatonin. In a second study, the influence of melatonin on the efficacy and toxicity of chemotherapy was evaluated in 200 metastatic patients with chemotherapy-resistant tumors. These patients were randomized to receive chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus melatonin. In both studies, 20 mg of melatonin were given orally at night. The frequency of cachexia, asthenia, thrombocytopenia, and lymphocytopenia was significantly lower in patients treated with melatonin compared to those who received supportive care alone.
Moreover, the percentage of patients with disease stabilization and the percentage one-year survival rate were both significantly higher in patients concomitantly treated with melatonin than in those treated with supportive care alone. The objective tumor response rate was significantly higher in patients treated with chemotherapy plus melatonin than in those treated with chemotherapy alone. In addition, melatonin induced a significant decline in the frequency of chemotherapy-induced asthenia, thrombocytopenia, stomatitis, cardiotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. These clinical results demonstrate that melatonin may be successfully administered in the supportive care of untreatable advanced cancer patients and for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced toxicity (Lissoni 2002).
L-theanine is a unique amino acid naturally occurring in green tea, shown in one study to enhance Adriamycin concentration in tumors 2.7-fold and reduce tumor weight 62% over controls, whereas Adriamycin by itself did not reduce tumor weight (Sugiyama et al. 1998). Adriamycin is an anthracycline antibiotic having a wide spectrum of antitumor activity. Additionally, L-theanine was shown to reverse tumor resistance to certain chemotherapeutic drugs by forcing more of the drug to stay inside the tumor. It does not, however, increase the amount of drug in normal tissue, which sets it apart from other drugs designed to overcome multidrug resistance (Sadzuka et al. 2000a).
Prescription for disaster, by Gary Null
It is little understood that powerful drugs used to treat disease have potential side effects that may, in some cases, be life threatening themselves. In connection with modern drug therapies, it is essential that we fully examine the number of people who have been sickened by these treatments and medications. In addition to understanding the effects of adverse drug events, I wanted to understand the iatrogenic effects of medicine—that is, the side effects incurred by medical treatment, usually in the context of medical errors—on the American public.
To accomplish this, I conducted an in-depth, seven-year study to determine why Americans are not becoming healthier and why our medical system is not working properly. I was assisted in this research effort by Martin Feldman, MD, Carolyn Dean, MD, Debora Rasio, and Dorothy Smith, PhD. We examined virtually every area and specialty of American medicine, asking one basic question: have the therapies offered been proven safe and effective?
Our documentary Prescription for Disaster is just one small step in alerting people to what is at stake the next time they watch a drug advertisement on television and assume that the advertised drug is what they should be taking.
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