September 21, 2005
Breast cancer is fought just as effectively by utilising the body’s iron deposits as by using chemotherapy. This has been shown in an American animal study.
TV and radio sometimes gives the impression that researchers have lost interest in antioxidants. Meanwhile, research in this field continues.
The following describes a study which has recently been published in the worlds leading journal for research in the field of free radicals. Free radicals are neutralised by antioxidants such as vitamins E and C etc.
The journal is called Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine. It comes out every 14 days with about 125 large pages which contain summary articles as well as 10-12 descriptions of new research. It has an editorial staff with nine members and an international review board with 73 members, all of whom are university-researchers. It is unfortunately written in such technical, biologic-biochemical, language that it is not understandable for normal nutrition experts and doctors. But the size and format of the journal is an expression of the intense international research which is still producing new information for the understanding of the roles of antioxidants and free radicals in disease.
The study in question has special interest for doctors who treat atherosclerosis with EDTA. EDTA is given intravenously and binds the bloods heavy metals as well as iron. Because both iron (excess) and heavy metals strain the organism with free radicals, EDTA works as an antioxidant.
In the study, mice were given a human form of breast cancer. The mice did not receive EDTA, but a related substance called desferal (desferoxamine) which is an old medication which removes iron from the blood. The question was whether the mice would be better off after, thanks to the desferal, they were drained of their iron deposits. They were!
Desferal halved the cancer growth and was just as effective as the much more poisonous chemotherapy (in this case, doxorubicin, which is commonly used against breast cancer). When the mice received both desferal and the chemotherapy, the cancer inhibiting effect was slightly larger than with each of the two treatments alone.
Antioxidants support chemotherapy
The method of action is unknown. It is known that an excess of iron can create free radicals and that desferal, like EDTA, can be regarded as an antioxidant. But some conditions of the study showed that that was not the determining factor. The explanation is more rather that the fast growing cancer cells need more iron than normal cells. Desferal starves them of iron which stops their growth.
Contrary to the expected, the study said nothing about the combination of chemotherapy and antioxidants. Cancer doctors in Denmark advise against this combination. They believe that chemotherapy works by creating free radicals and that the treatment therefore is ruined by antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, selenium, Q10, etc.
This is rejected by the article as an antiquated way of thinking. Typical chemotherapy (doxorubicin, cisplatin, etc.) does not work by creating free radicals, but by blocking vital enzymes with difficult names such as topoisomerase etc. This has been proven by a number of researchers (see ref.)
It is actually more probable that antioxidants support chemotherapy. In any case, studies have shown that chemotherapy can be weakened by adding free radicals (hydrogen peroxide). It therefore seems wise to get rid of them with antioxidants, and thereby both streamline chemotherapy and make it less poisonous.
The American researchers who published the study (and who, in addition, work for the American Food and Drug Administration) showed, sensationally, that breast cancer cells can be held in check if they are starved of iron. They also believe, based on their own research as well as the research of others, that cancer doctors should sooner ban free radicals than antioxidants.
This is just basic research. In the future there will be clinical trails which may show that this method works on humans.
By: Vitality Council
1. Hoke E.M et al. Desferal inhibits breast tumor growth and does not interfere with the tumoricidal activity of doxorubicin. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 2005;39:403-11.
2. Senturker S et al. Induction of apoptosis by chemotherapeutic drugs without generation of reactive oxygen species. Arch Biochem Biophys 2002;397:262-72.