Integrative Cancer Care at The Block CenterJuly 2009
By Christie C. Yerby, ND
Targeting the Disease and Its Microenvironment
The second part of the program targets the disease itself by blocking angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors), slowing cancer growth, facilitating apoptosis (programmed cancer cell death), and preventing tumor metastasis (cancer spread) throughout the body. Some of these biomarkers include a unique set of biochemical tests that include inflammatory, coagulation, and oxidative labs, and others that zero in on dysglycemia and stress maladaption. Dr. Block uses specific phytochemicals and nutrients to address this aspect of cancer treatment. “Plant medicines have multiple potential uses—they are pleiotrophs—and produce many effects that enable them to hit more than one target at a time,” he explains.
Based on extensive research, Dr. Block and his associates have pioneered what they call multifocal angiostatic therapy. By combining selected nutritional agents to inhibit angiogenesis, it may be possible to cut off the vascular supply needed to fuel tumor growth. Examples of compounds that Block and his team are evaluating include fish oil, EGCG from green tea, selenium, glycine, silymarin, DIM (diindolylmethane), soy, genistein (a soy-derived phytoestrogen), and quercetin (a bioflavonoid derived from fruits and vegetables). His focus includes using multi-targeted, multi-ingredient formulations to help support various needs cancer patients face and increasing bioavailability through nanoparticle supplementation.
Another important component of cancer management is slowing growth and blocking metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads from where it first arose as a primary tumor to secondary locations in the body. According to Dr. Block, a number of phytonutrients and botanical agents may accomplish this.16-18 For example, in animal studies, modified citrus pectin fights cancer by inhibiting primary tumor growth and suppressing cancer metastasis.16,17 Modified citrus pectin may hold promise for men whose prostate cancer has failed to respond fully to conventional treatments. Until recently, doctors routinely measured levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a marker of prostate cancer or disease. Rising levels of PSA have been used to measure disease progression. Administering modified citrus pectin to these men increases their PSA doubling time, indicating a slowing of disease progression.18
In addition to fighting angiogenesis, EGCG from green tea has anti-metastatic properties that may block the spread of tumors. Studies suggest that EGCG may work in part by blocking the activity of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes. When over-expressed, these enzymes promote tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.19,20 Other nutrients that may help prevent metastasis are silibinin,21 a flavonoid derived from milk thistle, and bromelain,22 an enzyme fraction derived from pineapple.
By decreasing levels of immune system white blood cells, conventional cancer treatment often leaves patients vulnerable to infections. Thus, boosting the body’s immune defenses and surveillance in order to prevent infection is an important component in this part of Dr. Block’s program.
Natural killer cells in the immune system are crucial to effective immune defense. Their essential functions include killing virus-infected cells of the body, and seeking and destroying cancer cells. The nutrients selenium, beta-carotene, and zinc increase circulating levels of natural killer cells and boost their cancer-killing activity.23-27 Dr. Block also recommends beta-glucans, probiotics, and glutamine for supporting immune health in cancer patients.
Improving Quality of Life
The Block Center seeks to strengthen a cancer patient’s health before, during, and after chemotherapy. Implementing a comprehensive, individualized program that includes dietary and nutritional support, physical exercise, and mind-body stress-reduction techniques can help cancer patients minimize the complications of their disease and the side effects associated with conventional cancer treatment. Because patients often feel abandoned following the completion of chemotherapy, the Block program continues even after a patient returns home once active treatment is completed. One goal is to improve patients’ odds against the potential of disease recurrence. This continuity, extending beyond treatment, not only helps avoid the “disconnect from care” often seen in conventional cancer treatment, but also reduces the chances of ongoing complications from the disease.
Dr. Block’s comprehensive approach is informed by first-hand personal experience with the challenges of fighting cancer and its complications. As a teenager, he witnessed his grandmother’s struggle with breast cancer. As her body wasted, her doctors did nothing to halt her physical decline—not nutritionally, physically, or even medically. She eventually succumbed to the disease. Witnessing his grandmother’s experience engendered a deeper insight into the courage, strength, and unrelenting fight needed to endure and survive cancer.
“It is no longer a question of whether genuine integrative treatment helps patients, but rather why all cancer patients are not given a more meaningful approach to help combat their cancer,” he says. “Since every surgeon would rather have a patient who is more nutritionally, emotionally, and physically fit, why shouldn’t every physician treating cancer feel the same way?”
For more information, please visit www.blockmd.com or call 1-847-492-3040.
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