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Natural Chemotherapy Support Part Two

November 28, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

When considering an integrative approach to cancer treatment, oncologists and patients must take into account potential interactions between chemotherapy and dietary supplements. Unlike “mind-body” practices, supplements can directly affect how medications are processed by the body. In some instances, they potentiate the activity of a drug. Other times, they speed the clearance of a given medication, thereby making it less effective. And, finally, there are certain circumstances in which supplements may actually work alongside chemotherapy in such a way as to diminish side effects and improve treatment outcomes.

Many conventional physicians are familiar and reasonably comfortable recommending the use of fish oil. Among the many reasons is that there is a growing number of FDA approved, prescription only fish oils available. In the oncological field, a cancer specialist may prescribe concentrated, purified fish oil because it: a) improves antioxidant status, immune function and lowers systemic inflammation; b) preserves overall body weight and muscle mass during chemotherapy; c) reduces the risk of chemotherapy-induced, peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage to the hands and feet; d) benefits various “quality of life” measurements, including cognitive functioning, global health status and physical performance. The dosage of fish oil used in the above referenced studies generally ranges from about 2 to 4 grams daily. However, there is still no consensus as to the exact composition of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA, etc.) that is best suited for chemotherapeutic support. The actual dosages used in each of the trials can be found by clicking on the reference links provided below.

Other than the previously mentioned research, there aren’t many controlled trials that have examined the effects of dietary supplements used in conjunction with chemotherapy. The most intriguing and recent exceptions to this rule reveal that the use of two herbs: Aswagandha (Withania somnifera) and Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and a nutraceutical known as IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate) are capable of minimizing chemotherapeutic side effects and improving treatment markers and outcomes. Specifically, Aswagandha, an herb widely utilized in Ayurvedic medicine, decreased fatigue and contributed to a higher survival rate in patients with stage II and III breast cancer. Adding 300 mg/day of a cat’s claw extract to standard care protected against DNA damage and immune dysfunction (neutropenia) often caused by chemotherapy. In addition, a combination of IP6 and inositol (a non-essential nutrient) reduces the risk of cancer treatment side effects, including cytopenia (a drop in immune cells or leukocytes) and platelets, while at the same time bolstering “functional status” and quality of life. To be sure, the three studies documented here should be viewed as preliminary. Nonetheless, they may very well offer hope and expanded treatment options for those considering an integrative path to cancer recovery.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Efficacy Evaluation of an Oral Powder Supplement Enriched w/ EPA (link)

Study 2 - Fish Oil Supplement Alters Markers of Inflammatory and Nutritional (link)

Study 3 - Fish Oil Supplementation Improves Neutrophil Function During Cancer(link)

Study 4 - Effect of N-3 Fatty Acids on Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer (link)

Study 5 - Nutritional Intervention w/ Fish Oil Provides a Benefit Over Standard (link)

Study 6 - Omega-3 Fatty Acids are Protective Against Paclitaxel-Induced (link)

Study 7 - Oral Nutritional Supplements Containing N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty (link)

Study 8 - Effect of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) on the Development (link)

Study 9 - Uncaria Tomentosa – Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer: Clinical (link)

Study 10 - Efficacy of IP6 + Inositol in the Treatment of Breast Cancer Patients (link)

Cat’s Claw Extract May Protect Against Some Chemotherapy Side Effects

Source: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:676984. (link)

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3 Comments & Updates to “Natural Chemotherapy Support Part Two”

  1. JP Says:

    Update of Cat’s Claw:


    Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors

    Objective: Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a native Amazon plant that exhibits anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties. We wanted to assess its activity for symptom management of terminal cancer patients.

    Methods: This prospective phase II study assessed the effects of a 100-mg dose of a dry extract of U. tomentosa three times per day in patients with advanced solid tumors who had no further therapeutic options and a life expectancy of at least 2 months. The European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ C30) and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy – Fatigue questionnaires were used to assess the participants’ quality of life, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire was used to assess anxiety and depression, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was used to assess sleep quality. In addition, several biochemical and inflammatory parameters were analyzed.

    Results: Fifty-one volunteers were recruited. Their median age was 64 (range, 33–85) years, and 47% of patients were female. More than 65% of patients had scores on the Karnofsky Performance Scale of 80% or less. Treatment improved the patients’ overall quality of life (p=0.0411) and social functioning (p=0.0341), as assessed by the EORTC QLQ C-30, and reduced fatigue (p=0.0496) according to the Chalder Fatigue Questionnaire. None of the biochemical or inflammatory parameters assessed (interleukin-1 and -6, C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-α, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and α-1-acid glycoprotein) changed significantly. No tumor response was detected according to the Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors; however, the disease stabilized for more than 8 months in four participants. The medication was well tolerated by most patients.

    Conclusion: Use of cat’s claw might be beneficial in patients with advanced cancer by improving their quality of life and reducing fatigue. The mechanism of action does not seem to be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of this plant.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update 04/17/15:


    Integr Cancer Ther April 14, 2015

    High-Dose Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) for Cancer-Related Fatigue
    A Preliminary Report

    Introduction and Objective. Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is the most common and severe symptom in patients with cancer. The number and efficacy of available treatments for CRF are limited. The objective of this preliminary study was to assess the safety of high-dose Panax ginseng (PG) for CRF. Methods. In this prospective, open-label study, 30 patients with CRF (≥4/10) received high-dose PG at 800 mg orally daily for 29 days. Frequency and type of side effects were determined by the National Cancer Institute’s Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 4.0. Scores on the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy–Fatigue (FACIT-F) scale, Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) were assessed at baseline, day 15, and day 29. Global Symptom Evaluation (GSE) was assessed at day 29. Results. Of the 30 patients enrolled, 24 (80%) were evaluable. The median age was 58 years; 50% were females, and 84% were white. No severe (≥grade 3) adverse events related to the study drug were reported. Of the 24 evaluable patients, 21 (87%) had an improved (by ≥3 points) FACIT-F score by day 15. The mean ESAS score (standard deviation) for well-being improved from 4.67 (2.04) to 3.50 (2.34) (P = .01374), and mean score for appetite improved from 4.29 (2.79) to 2.96 (2.46) (P = .0097). GSE score of PG for fatigue was ≥3 in 15/24 patients (63%) with median improvement of 5. Conclusion. PG is safe and improves CRF fatigue as well as overall quality of life, appetite, and sleep at night. Randomized controlled trials of PG for CRF are justified.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 06/10/15:


    Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):396-404.

    Effects of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and health-related quality of life in women with breast cancer.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on nausea, vomiting and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in chemotherapy breast cancer patients.

    DESIGN: Single-blind, controlled, randomized cross-over study. Patients received 5-day aromatherapy treatment using either ginger essential oil or fragrance-matched artificial placebo (ginger fragrance oil) which was instilled in a necklace in an order dictated by the treatment group sequence.

    SETTING: Two oncology clinics in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: VAS nausea score, frequency of vomiting and HRQoL profile (EORTC QLQ-C30 scores).

    RESULTS: Sixty female patients completed the study (age=47.3±9.26 years; Malay=98.3%; on highly emetogenic chemotherapy=86.7%). The VAS nausea score was significantly lower after ginger essential oil inhalation compared to placebo during acute phase (P=0.040) but not sustained for overall treatment effect (treatment effect: F=1.82, P=0.183; time effect: F=43.98, P<0.001; treatment×time effect: F=2.04; P=0.102). Similarly, there was no significant effect of aromatherapy on vomiting [F(1, 58)=0.29, P=0.594]. However, a statistically significant change from baseline for global health status (P<0.001) was detected after ginger essential oil inhalation. A clinically relevant 10 points improvement on role functioning (P=0.002) and appetite loss (P<0.001) were also documented while patients were on ginger essential oil.

    CONCLUSION: At present time, the evidence derived from this study is not sufficiently convincing that inhaled ginger aromatherapy is an effective complementary therapy for CINV. The findings for HRQoL were however encouraging with significant improvement in several domains.

    Be well!


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