Back in the 1970s, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling suggested the benefits of vitamin C as a part of cancer treatment. Recent studies have shown further evidence that supports Pauling’s findings.
Can Vitamin C Make Cancer Treatment More Effective?
Scientists at the University of Iowa conducted the first phase of a series of trials to investigate the results of combining high-dose vitamin C with traditional chemotherapy and radiation. The study monitors effects on patients’ lifespan and quality of life.
Subjects included 11 patients diagnosed with brain cancer. In addition to their standard treatments, each one received 800 to 1,000 times the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Larger doses are required because the nutrient has a half-life of only two hours inside the body.
The patients experienced only minor episodes of side effects such as dry mouth. More importantly, they exceeded the average survival time of patients receiving conventional treatment alone by four to six months.
How Vitamin C Affects Cancer Cells
A cancer cell’s damaged metabolism results in abnormally high levels of redox active iron molecules, which join with vitamin C to create hydrogen peroxide along with hydrogen peroxide-related free radicals. Scientists hypothesize that this result weakens cancer cells, making them more susceptible to treatment and hastening their destruction.
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Urine samples can be used to detect a wide range of conditions such as diabetes, pregnancy and drug abuse. Researchers are now working on developing a urine “sniff test” that can help reduce the number of unnecessary prostate cancer biopsies.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
Among men in the United States, cases of prostate cancer are second only to skin cancer. Approximately one in seven men will require cancer treatment for the disease at some point in their lifetime.
One of the signs of prostate cancer is an elevated blood level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Unfortunately, unrelated conditions can also cause high PSA levels, so a biopsy is necessary for a specific diagnosis.
The Nose Knows
A study showed that dogs could smell the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the urine of men with prostate cancer at 98 percent accuracy, prompting a team at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to investigate further.
After collecting urine samples from 100 men undergoing prostate biopsies and neutralizing the pH to prevent degradation, the team discovered that a particular set of VOCs was present in 90 percent of the men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer but absent in the men who were cancer-free.
The researchers plan to validate their findings with a large-scale study and comparison to the results with dogs. If all goes well, they project that a version of the sniff test will be available for clinical use within a few years.
For years, the medical community has been telling us that proper oral hygiene is crucial for maintaining good overall health. Scientists are now finding that bacteria in your mouth may actually reveal your risk for different types of cancer.
What Does the Oral Microbiome Tell Us?
Here are some of the major links researchers have uncovered between mouth bacteria and cancer:
• Fusobacterium, which causes bleeding gums, is hundreds of times more prevalent in cancerous cells than in normal cells. This bacteria can trigger colon cancer as well as accelerate growth in any existing colon tumors.
• A study last year discovered the presence of P gingivalis, a bacteria that causes periodontal disease, in 61 percent of patients with esophageal cancer. Researchers also found that people with P gingivalis have a 60 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
• Researchers at the University of Buffalo conducted a study in 2015 involving more than 73,000 postmenopausal women. Results showed that women with gum disease were 14 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.
While conclusions have not been finalized, scientists suspect that the connection occurs when the bloodstream carries bacteria from the mouth to other organs. It’s hoped that further research will enable doctors to determine cancer risk simply by the type of bacteria present in the body.
Personally Tailored Cancer Treatment Based on Your Particular Needs
The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer is the product of a collaboration between a number of organizations, including the American Cancer Society. According to this year’s report, death rates have decreased for 11 of the 16 most common cancers in males and 13 of the 18 most common cancers in women.
Among the types of cancer seeing decreases are lung, colorectal, prostate, and female breast. Overall rates of new cancers were also lower for men, but stabilized for women.
Positive News on Cancer Survival Rates
Dr. Ahmedin Jamal of the American Cancer Society was the lead author of the report. He stated that death rates are the conventional standard for measuring progress, but survival rates are also a significant yardstick. Data on cancer survival rates was included in the report for the first time since 2004.
News on cancer survival rates was encouraging, with five-year survival rates significantly higher for all but cervical and uterine cancer. The report concluded with a call for more efforts and resources to focus on identifying major risk factors for more common types of cancer, such as colorectal and prostate.
A team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle recently conducted a trial of an experimental drug on 15 patients with advanced sarcoma. The drug, known as G100, was based on a molecule called lipopolysaccharide that is carried within certain bacteria.
Lipopolysaccharide is unique to these organisms, so its presence has historically triggered a prompt and powerful inflammatory response. According to scientists, the pathway to this response dates back so far in the evolutionary cycle that it’s nearly identical in all animals.
Over a period of two to three months, participants received an injection of G100 directly into the tumor, along with a course of focused radiation. The injected tumors stopped growing, shrank or even disappeared in 14 of the 15 patients, while tumor growth throughout the body stopped in six of them.
Boosting the Body’s Immune System
Researchers are theorizing that the drug makes the tumor “hot” in terms of activating an immune response aimed specifically at the cancer cells. The next step involves combining G100 injections with an as-yet-undecided immunotherapy agent to see if the treatment can boost the cancer-fighting immune response throughout the body.
Brain cancer is one of the more difficult forms to treat, with the last advancement dating back more than 10 years. Today scientists are excited about the potential of tumor-treating fields (TTFields) as a means of “shocking” cancer cells.
Putting a “Charge” into Cancer
TTFields were first approved as a cancer treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011. The method of sending mild electrical fields through the scalp was originally used to treat glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that carries a two-year survival rate of approximately 30 percent.
NovoCure’s device, Optune, is a patient-controlled system that uses adhesive patches to deliver low-electric fields with a frequency of 200 kHz. The fields pulse through the skin, where they are thought to block the division of cancer cells.
TTFields in Action
There have been several subsequent trials of Optune that have generated positive results, but the most recent trial has been described as “landmark.” Neurologist Roger Stupp of Northwestern University led a group of researchers in a five-year study of patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma.
Out of 695 participants, one-third were treated with oral chemotherapy alone while the other two-thirds had the oral treatment coupled with the Optune device. The two-, three-, four- and five-year survival rates were all significantly higher for the group that received the combination treatment.
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