The word mutation just doesn’t sound like something good. By definition, a mutation is a permanent change in DNA. Mutations, for the most part, are harmless except when they lead to tumor formation.
Likely you have heard about BRCA mutations. BRCA genes are tumor suppressor genes. BRCA mutations can increase one’s risk for cancers of the breast and ovaries. However, these mutations are only responsible for about 5-10% of all breast cancers and about 15% of ovarian cancers. But, the little-known p53 mutation affects far more people. About 50% of all cancers have a mutated p53 gene.
What is P53?
The p53 protein is located in the nucleus of cells throughout the body, where it attaches (binds) directly to DNA. (It is actually the TP53 gene that provides instructions for making the tumor protein p53 but for simplicity, I will say p53.) P53 regulates cell division by keeping cells from growing and dividing too fast or in an uncontrolled way.
P53 plays a critical role in determining whether damaged DNA will be repaired or a damaged cell will self-destruct (undergo apoptosis). If the DNA can be repaired, p53 activates other genes to fix the damage. If the DNA cannot be repaired, this protein prevents the cell from dividing and signals it to undergo apoptosis. By stopping cells with mutated or damaged DNA from dividing, p53 helps prevent the development of tumors.
P53 mutations lead to a version of p53 that cannot regulate cell growth and division effectively. Specifically, the altered protein is unable to trigger apoptosis in cells with mutated or damaged DNA.
DNA can be damaged by agents such as toxic chemicals, radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays — even UV light can interact with compounds in the cell generating free radicals which cause chemical damage to DNA.
Since all cells in our body contain DNA, there are lots of places for mutations such as p53 to occur. When p53 does not operate properly, damaged DNA can replicate, producing mutations and DNA rearrangements that contribute to the development of a highly transformed, metastatic cell. Many cancer cells inactivate p53, allowing the cells to evade death and continue proliferating up to becoming a tumor.
Mutant p53 proteins not only lose their tumor suppressive activities but often escalate the development of cancerous tumors by providing them with growth and survival mechanisms. Interestingly, mutations in the p53 gene have been shown to occur at different phases of the cancer process, contributing to tumor initiation, promotion, aggressiveness, and metastasis.
P53 mutations contribute to risk of brain tumors and breast, prostate, colon and other cancers. Mutations in p53 gene usually correlate with poor outcome and early recurrence in cancer.
Enough of the bad news.
The Good News
What is really exciting is that this repair gene, p53, which protects cells from becoming cancerous, can be highly activated by many natural substances—substances that do not have the negative side effects of drug therapies. The ability to activate p53 within cells may halt cell proliferation, or even cause cancer cell death.
For example, cruciferous vegetables (especially watercress with its high content of PEITC) have been found to support p53. PEITC (phenethylisothyanate) decreases the levels of mutated p53 and helps to restore the normal activity of this protein. Vitamin C is another promoter of P53, which is one of the reasons intravenous Vitamin C (IVC) and high-dose oral C therapies are so effective against cancer.
The resveratrol in red grapes and red wine (organic please, and research shows dark, red wines are best) also activates the P53 gene. IP6 has been shown to alter the expression of p53. Zinc helps protect the p53 gene against cancer-forming mutations. Selenium can activate p53 in response to genetic damage, helping the cell to repair its DNA. Herbs such as sage, rosemary, ginger, curcumin, and ashwaganda support p53. Thymoquinone extracted from black seed triggers apoptotic cell death in colorectal and other cancers cells via the p53- dependent mechanism. Anthocyanins, abundant in red onions, inhibit the damage that impaired p53 can cause on cells and tissue. Anthocyanins are also found in blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, eggplant, and avocado.
• Cruciferous vegetables, especially watercress
• Herbs such as sage, rosemary, ginger, curcumin, and ashwaganda
• EFA’s from omega 3 fatty acids (please use caution with fish oil supplements as they can be toxic). For a plant based formula, you could take BodyBio Balance Oil.
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin C
• Black Seed
• Clinoptilolite (a special form of Zeolite)
On the other hand, processed foods, refined flours, and sugars will impair P53. Smokey flavoring and smoked foods can also damage DNA. Chemicals such as benzene and perchloroethylene, two volatile organic compounds, negatively affect p53, possibly causing them to stimulate rather than suppress cell proliferation.
The late Integrative Oncologist Dr Mitchell Gaynor, MD was famous for his passion for explaining that we can change the way our genes behave by making good dietary choices. For more gene-changing foods and lifestyle habits read Dr. Gaynor’s book, The Gene Therapy Plan, Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle.
P53 and BRCA are not the only genetic mutations that increase cancer risk. For example, mutations in th e CHEK2 gene are associated with an increased risk of developing many types of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate, and other cancers — sometimes at young ages. If you have a history of hereditary cancer you might benefit from genetic testing for CHEK2 and others.
You can request to be tested for the p53 mutation. The test is called the p53 Gene Mutation Analysis, Cell Based, offered by labs such as Quest Diagnostics. If your insurance company does not accept Quest or another lab that offers this test, you can petition your carrier for a Network Gap Exception.
You may need to consult a genetic counselor if your oncologist does not routinely check for mutations as these tests are not part of your typical pathology report.
~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor and holistic cancer strategist who helps people make better, healthier, non-toxic choices. She emphasizes the critical nature of addressing the root cause of cancer and not just its presenting symptoms (such as the tumor). Elyn specializes in understanding the role of estrogen in breast cancer and debunks the myths associated. She is a Contributing Editor for The Truth About Cancer and was creator and host of the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn was the former Executive Director of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Contact Elyn via her website. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone or in person.
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