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CoQ10 and Cancer Treatment

September 2009

By William Faloon

CoQ10 and Cancer Treatment

For more than a decade, Life Extension® has reported on small clinical studies that demonstrate beneficial effects in those with certain cancers who supplement with coenzyme Q10.

More recent studies have not only documented clinical improvements, but also have identified probable mechanisms by which CoQ10 may help slow tumor growth. Some of these mechanisms include immune augmentation, suppression of vascular endothelial growth factor (that facilitates tumor angiogenesis), and reduction of inflammatory markers that may facilitate cancer cell propagation.

Melanoma and breast cancer are two types of malignancies for which CoQ10 has demonstrated substantial clinical benefit.1,2 Regrettably, the media and cancer establishment have ignored these promising discoveries that could save many lives.

For example, a recent melanoma study compared the effects of administering alpha interferon with or without daily CoQ10 (400 mg). There was an astounding 10-fold lower risk of metastasis in the CoQ10-supplemented group! This effect was even more pronounced for those with more advanced melanoma, where CoQ10-supplemented patients were 13 times less likely to develop metastasis. Alpha interferon is an immune boosting drug that can induce side effects so severe that patients have to discontinue it. In this study,2 only 22% of CoQ10-supplemented patients developed side effects compared to 82% not taking supplemental CoQ10.

Our editorials have harshly criticized the National Cancer Institute for failing to fund larger studies in order to ascertain exactly how effective CoQ10 may be as an adjuvant cancer therapy.

It is our pleasure to reprint an update by the National Cancer Institute that presents their views on the role that CoQ10 may play in cancer treatment. Considering that this report emanates out of a federal agency that is normally biased against alternative therapies, we are quite pleased with the relative balance this report provides.

We do take issue with the National Cancer Institute’s insinuation of CoQ10 side effects, as these are likely the result of the underlying cancer and/or problems inflicted by toxic chemo drugs. Of the tens of thousands of healthy Life Extension® members who use CoQ10, none report these side effects.

Questions and Answers About Coenzyme Q10

What is coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q 10 is a compound that is made naturally in the body. The Q and the 10 in coenzyme Q10 refer to the groups of chemicals that make up the coenzyme. Coenzyme Q10 is also known by these other names:

  • CoQ10.
  • Q10.
  • Vitamin Q10.
  • Ubiquinone.
  • Ubidecarenone.

A coenzyme helps an enzyme do its job. An enzyme is a protein that speeds up the rate at which natural chemical reactions take place in cells of the body. The body’s cells use coenzyme Q10 to make energy needed for the cells to grow and stay healthy. The body also uses coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a substance that protects cells from chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals can damage DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Genes, which are pieces of DNA, tell the cells how to work in the body and when to grow and divide. Damage to DNA has been linked to some kinds of cancer. By protecting cells against free radicals, antioxidants help protect the body against cancer.

Coenzyme Q10 is found in most body tissues. The highest amounts are found in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The lowest amounts are found in the lungs. The amount of coenzyme Q10 in tissues decreases as people get older.

What is the history of the discovery and use of coenzyme Q10 as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer?

What is the history of the discovery and use of coenzyme Q10 as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer?

Coenzyme Q10 was first identified in 1957. Its chemical structure was determined in 1958. Interest in coenzyme Q10 as a possible treatment for cancer began in 1961, when it was found that some cancer patients had a lower than normal amount of it in their blood. Low blood levels of coenzyme Q10 have been found in patients with myeloma, lymphoma, and cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas, colon, kidney, and head and neck.

Studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may help the immune system work better. Partly because of this, coenzyme Q10 is used as adjuvant therapy for cancer. Adjuvant therapy is treatment given following the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure.

What is the theory behind the claim that coenzyme Q10 is useful in treating cancer?

Coenzyme Q10 may be useful in treating cancer because it boosts the immune system. Also, studies suggest that CoQ10 analogs (drugs that are similar to CoQ10) may prevent the growth of cancer cells directly. As an antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 may help prevent cancer from developing.

Refer to the PDQ health professional summary on coenzyme Q10 for more information on the theory behind the study of coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of cancer.

How is coenzyme Q10 administered?

Coenzyme Q10 is usually taken by mouth as a pill (tablet or capsule). It may also be given by injection into a vein (IV). In animal studies, coenzyme Q10 is given by injection.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using coenzyme Q10?

A number of preclinical studies have been done with coenzyme Q10. Research in a laboratory or using animals is done to find out if a drug, procedure, or treatment is likely to be useful in humans. These preclinical studies are done before any testing in humans is begun. Most laboratory studies of coenzyme Q10 have looked at its chemical structure and how it works in the body. The following has been reported from preclinical studies of coenzyme Q10 and cancer:

  • Animal studies found that coenzyme Q10 boosts the immune system and helps the body fight certain infections and types of cancer.
  • Coenzyme Q10 helped to protect the hearts of study animals that were given the anticancer drug doxorubicin, an anthracycline that can cause damage to the heart muscle.
  • Laboratory and animal studies have shown that analogs of coenzyme Q10 may stop cancer cells from growing.