Cancer Treatment: The Critical Factors
Step Ten: Inhibiting Cancer Metastasis
The surgical removal of the primary tumor has been the cornerstone of treatment for the great majority of cancers. The rationale for this approach is straightforward: if you can get rid of the cancer by simply removing it from the body, then a cure can likely be achieved. Unfortunately, this approach does not take into account that after surgery the cancer will frequently metastasize (spread to different organs). Quite often, the metastatic recurrence is far more serious than the original tumor. In fact, for many cancers, it is the metastatic recurrence—and not the primary tumor—that ultimately proves to be fatal.183
One mechanism by which surgery increases the risk of metastasis is by enhancing cancer cell adhesion.184 Cancer cells that have broken away from the primary tumor utilize adhesion to boost their ability to form metastases in distant organs. These cancer cells must be able to clump together and form colonies that can expand and grow. It is unlikely that a single cancer cell will form a metastatic tumor, just as one person is unlikely to form a thriving community. Cancer cells use adhesion molecules—such as galectin-3—to facilitate their ability to clump together. Present on the surface of cancer cells, these molecules act like velcro by allowing free-standing cancer cells to adhere to each other.185
Cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream also make use of galectin-3 surface adhesion molecules to latch onto the lining of blood vessels.186 The adherence of CTCs to the blood vessel walls is an essential step for the process of metastasis. A cancer cell that cannot adhere to the blood vessel wall will just continue to wander through the blood stream incapable of forming metastases. Unable to latch onto the wall of the blood vessel, these circulating tumor cells become like "ships without a port" and are unable to dock. Eventually, white blood cells circulating in the bloodstream will target and destroy the CTC. If the CTCs successfully bind to the blood vessel wall and burrow their way through the basement membrane, they will then utilize galectin-3 adhesion molecules to adhere to the organ to form a new metastatic cancer.185
Regrettably, research has shown that cancer surgery increases tumor cell adhesion.187 Therefore, it is critically important for the person undergoing cancer surgery to take measures that can help to neutralize the surgery-induced increase in cancer cell adhesion.
Fortunately, a natural compound called modified citrus pectin (MCP) can do just that. Citrus pectin—a type of dietary fiber—is not absorbed from the intestine. However, MCP has been altered so that it can be absorbed into the blood and exert its anti-cancer effects. The mechanism by which MCP inhibits cancer cell adhesion is by binding to galectin-3 adhesion molecules on the surface of cancer cells, thereby preventing cancer cells from sticking together and forming a cluster. MCP can also inhibit circulating tumor cells from latching onto the lining of blood vessels. This was demonstrated by an experiment in which MCP blocked the adhesion of galectin-3 to the lining of blood vessels by an astounding 95%. MCP also substantially decreased the adhesion of breast cancer cells to the blood vessel walls.188
After these exciting findings in animal research, MCP was then put to the test in men with prostate cancer. In this trial, 10 men with recurrent prostate cancer received MCP (14.4 grams per day). After one year, a considerable improvement in cancer progression was noted, as determined by a reduction of the rate at which the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level increased.189 This was followed by a study in which 49 men with prostate cancer of various types were given MCP for a four-week cycle. After two cycles of treatment with MCP, 22% of the men experienced a stabilization of their disease or improved quality of life; 12% had stable disease for more than 24 weeks. The authors of the study concluded that "MCP (modified citrus pectin) seems to have positive impacts especially regarding clinical benefit and life quality for patients with far advanced solid tumor."190
In addition to MCP, a well-known OTC medication can also play a pivotal role in reducing cancer cell adhesion. Cimetidine—commonly known as Tagamet—is a drug historically used to alleviate heartburn. A growing body of scientific evidence has revealed that cimetidine also possesses potent anti-cancer activity.
Cimetidine inhibits cancer cell adhesion by blocking the expression of an adhesive molecule—called E-selectin—on the surface of cells lining blood vessels. Cancers cells latch onto E-selectin in order to adhere to the lining of blood vessels.191 By preventing the expression of E-selectin, cimetidine significantly limits the ability of cancer cell adherence to the blood vessel walls. This effect is analogous to removing the velcro from the blood vessels walls that would normally enable circulating tumor cells to bind.
Cimetidine’s potent anti-cancer effects were clearly displayed in a report published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2002. In this study, 64 colon cancer patients received chemotherapy with or without cimetidine (800 mg per day) for one year. The 10-year survival for the cimetidine group was almost 90%. This is in stark contrast to the control group, which had a 10-year survival of only 49.8%. Remarkably, for those patients with a more aggressive form of colon cancer, the 10-year survival was 85% in those treated with cimetidine compared to a dismal 23% in the control group.192 The authors of the study concluded, "Taken together, these results suggested a mechanism underlying the beneficial effect of cimetidine on colorectal cancer patients, presumably by blocking the expression of E-selectin on vascular endothelial [lining of blood vessels] cells and inhibiting the adhesion of cancer cells." These findings are supported by another study with colorectal cancer patients wherein cimetidine given for just seven days at the time of surgery increased three-year survival from 59% to 93%.193
Another major contributor to cancer metastasis is immune dysfunction; primarily that which occurs immediately following a surgical procedure such as removal of a primary tumor.194 Specifically, surgery suppresses the number of specialized immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells, which are a type of white blood cell tasked with seeking out and destroying cancer cells.
To illustrate the importance of NK cell activity in fighting cancer, a study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment examined NK cell activity in women shortly after surgery for breast cancer. The researchers reported that low levels of NK cell activity were associated with an increased risk of death from breast cancer.191 In fact, reduced NK cell activity was a better predictor of survival than the actual stage of the cancer. In another alarming study, individuals with reduced NK cell activity before surgery for colon cancer had a 350% increased risk of metastasis during the following 31 months.195
One prominent natural compound that can increase NK cell activity is PSK, (protein-bound polysaccharide K) a specially prepared extract from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor. PSK has been shown to enhance NK cell activity in multiple studies.196,197 PSK’s ability to enhance NK cell activity helps to explain why it has been shown to dramatically improve survival in cancer patients. For example, 225 patients with lung cancer received radiation therapy with or without PSK (3 grams per day). For those with more advanced Stage 3 cancers, more than three times as many individuals taking PSK were alive after five years (26%), compared to those not taking PSK (8%). PSK more than doubled five-year survival in those individuals with less advanced stage 1 or 2 disease (39% vs.17%).198
In a 2008 study, a group of colon cancer patients were randomized to receive chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus PSK, which was taken for two years. The group receiving PSK had an exceptional 10-year survival of 82%. Sadly, the group receiving chemotherapy alone had a 10-year survival of only 51%.199 In a similar trial reported in the British Journal of Cancer, colon cancer patients received chemotherapy alone or combined with PSK (3 grams per day) for two years. In the group with a more dangerous stage 3 colon cancer, the five-year survival was 75% in the PSK group. This compared to a five-year survival of only 46% in the group receiving chemotherapy alone.200 Additional research has shown that PSK improves survival in cancers of the breast, stomach, esophagus, and uterus as well.201-203
How to Implement Step Ten
The following three novel compounds have shown efficacy in inhibiting several mechanisms that contribute to cancer metastasis. It is especially important to consider these compounds during the perioperative period (period before and after surgery), because a known consequence of surgery is an enhanced proclivity for metastasis.
- Modified citrus pectin: 15 grams daily, in three divided doses
- Cimetidine: 800 mg daily, in two divided doses
- Coriolus versicolor; standardized extract: 1,200 – 3,600 mg daily
Note: Of critical importance to treatment-naïve patients is implementing as many of the 10 critical steps as can safely be done concurrently with conventional therapy. In newly diagnosed patients who have not yet been treated, the objective is to eradicate the primary tumor and metastatic cells with a multi-pronged "first strike therapy" so that residual tumor cells are not given an opportunity to evolve survival mechanisms that make them resistant to further treatments. Omitting any of the 10 steps may provide an opening for residual cancer cells to mutate in a way that makes them very difficult to treat a second time.
Life Extension oncology Wellness Specialists are available to provide clarification on any of the steps in this protocol; they can be reached at 800-226-2370.
Disclaimer and Safety Information
This information (and any accompanying material) is not intended to replace the attention or advice of a physician or other qualified health care professional. Anyone who wishes to embark on any dietary, drug, exercise, or other lifestyle change intended to prevent or treat a specific disease or condition should first consult with and seek clearance from a physician or other qualified health care professional. Pregnant women in particular should seek the advice of a physician before using any protocol listed on this website. The protocols described on this website are for adults only, unless otherwise specified. Product labels may contain important safety information and the most recent product information provided by the product manufacturers should be carefully reviewed prior to use to verify the dose, administration, and contraindications. National, state, and local laws may vary regarding the use and application of many of the treatments discussed. The reader assumes the risk of any injuries. The authors and publishers, their affiliates and assigns are not liable for any injury and/or damage to persons arising from this protocol and expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
The protocols raise many issues that are subject to change as new data emerge. None of our suggested protocol regimens can guarantee health benefits. The publisher has not performed independent verification of the data contained herein, and expressly disclaim responsibility for any error in literature.