Cancer Stem Cells–a missing link in the war against cancer. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are at the center of a theory that seeks to explain why cancer can sometimes return, despite apparently effective treatment. Cancer stem cells not only survive most conventional treatments, but are responsible for recurrent and progressive disease.
Research has shown that cancer cells are not all the same. The stem cell theory proposes that among all cancerous cells, a few act as stem cells that reproduce themselves and sustain the cancer, much like normal stem cells normally renew and sustain our organs and tissues. Cancer stems cells have been found in many types of tumors, including leukemia, myeloma, breast, prostate, colon, brain, lung and other cancers. Cancer cells that are not stem cells can initiate cancer, but they cannot metastasize. CSCs have the ability to regenerate the primary tumor, and to move to other sites in the body causing metastasis. Unlike early stage primary tumors, metastasis is the primary cause of death in most cancer patients.
The majority of cancer drugs, while killing the bulk of tumor cells, ultimately fail to work long-term. Cancer stem cells don’t actively renew themselves through cell division like other cancer cells do, so existing treatments that target cancerous cells (like radiotherapy and chemotherapy) aren’t effective against these cells. What normally occurs is that the treatment selectively kills the less harmful populations of cells, the non-stem cells, increasing the ratio of CSCs to benign and/or less malignant cells which have or develop resistance to the agent, enabling them to come back even stronger with time. According to Dr Tony Jimenez, in each 1 cubic cm of a tumor there are one billion cancer cells, but 99% of those cells are non-stem cells; it is the 1% of the cells that are CSCs that are resistant to treatment, and which are more active and dangerous. So just because you get an 80% reduction in tumor bulk, you are not targeting the most dangerous of the cells, the cells that are immortal and are strengthened by chemo and radiation–these therapies actually stimulate CSC’s. The reality is that the chemotherapy, even though it can reduce tumor volume, can actually make cancer more malignant.[i]
As written by Sayer Ji, Founder of www.GreenMedInfo, a study titled,” Vitamin D compounds reduce mammosphere formation and decrease expression of putative stem cell markers in breast cancer,” brings to the forefront the role of breast cancer stem cells (BSCs) in breast tumor formation and their progression towards malignancy and treatment resistance. For many decades it was assumed that cancer results from DNA-damaged cells succumbing to fundamentally chaotic processes ‘going rogue’ and reproducing clonally (making identical copies of one another), without an acknowledgment of the different types of cells that comprise tumors. The most salient difference is between the cancer stem cells (sometimes referred to as ‘mother’ cells) which are capable of theoretically infinite self-renewal and produce all the differentiated ‘daughter’ cells in a tumor colony, which themselves are not capable of living indefinitely. It is actually the existence of the much smaller number of cancer stem cells which causes cancer recurrence, as they are not only resistant to conventional chemotherapy and radiation, but their Therefore, any cancer therapy that ignores the cancer stem cell subpopulation in favor of killing the non-tumorigenic daughter cells in order to ‘debulk’ the tumor (i.e. shrink it), will not result in destroying the root of the cancer. To the contrary, it can generate the illusion of ‘remission’ while in fact making the remaining tumor colony far more malignant, setting up the conditions for aggressive recurrence years later.” [ii]
And by the Stanford School of Medicine, Ludwig Center….
The idea that cancer is primarily driven by a smaller population of stem cells has important implications. For instance, many new anti-cancer therapies are evaluated based on their ability to shrink tumors, but if the therapies are not killing the cancer stem cells, the tumor will soon grow back (often with a vexing resistance to the previously used therapy). Another important implication is that it is the cancer stem cells that give rise to metastases and can also act as a reservoir of cancer cells that may cause a relapse after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy has eliminated all observable signs of a cancer. [iii]
Targeting Cancer Stem Cells
So to prevent relapse and metastases, it’s essential that we address the stem cells. According to Dr Tony Jimenez, Director of Hope4Cancer, while our powerful immune system (if fully functioning) is often able to seek and eliminate cancer cells, CSCs have a protein surrounding them that hides these cells from our immune system. However, natural compounds such as the ellagic acid in red and black raspberries help de-cloak the cancer stem cells of the protein they that hides them from our immune system[iv] (you want the ellagitannins from berries, not the supplement ellagic acid). These berries have many anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Raspberry phytonutrients help lower oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and encourage apoptosis. Black raspberries are noted for their extremely high ORAC value and provide a good source of Vitamin A, and provide an excellent source of the flavonoid rutin – a phenolic compound which metabolizes into quercetin. Both red and black raspberries inhibit the growth of oral, breast, colon, and prostate tumor cell lines. While eating a cup of freshly picked raspberries or black raspberries might not be feasible, there are pure-food supplements like Freeze Dried Black Raspberry Powder and Raspex Raspberry Seed Powder / One Pound Jar) that are easy to find and delicious as well.
Other natural substances that are highly effective against CSCs are Curcumin (turmeric)[v], sulforaphane[vi] (broccoli sprouts are especially good), quercetin (apples, onions, red grapes and red wine), green tea, resveratrol, genistein (fermented soy) and black pepper. Eat these foods daily and in substantial amounts to get the most benefit; take them together for the power of synergy. You can also take the drug Metformin, which is an inexpensive off-label drug that has many anticancer properties, including targeting cancer stem cells (see multiple references below). And don’t forget to get some sun! As mentioned in the Vitamin D study above, vitamin D may target cancer stem cells as well. Of note is that these substances which target stem cells do so without harming healthy cells and which have other anti-cancer properties. Conventional treatments poison both the unhealthy and healthy cells, often resulting in the patient dying from the treatment, not actually the disease.
Substances Known to Target Cancer Stem Cells:
- Black cumin seed
- Red and black raspberries and to a lesser extent, strawberries
- Apples, onions and red wine
- Green tea
- Pterostilbene (found in organic blueberries and grapes)
- Fermented Soy
- Black pepper
- Turkey Tail mushroom
- Sunshine (vitamin D3)
Are targeting cancer stem cells the cure for cancer? No, of course not. But they are an important piece of the puzzle. You still want to implement a protocol that meets your needs and change the overall cancer environment:
- Build the immune system via stress reduction,moderate exercise and yes, daily hugs
- Exercise daily
- Detox your liver and your life (toss out toxic cleaning and personal care products)
- Maximize nutrition with whole foods and targeted supplements
- Get daily sunlight and consider Vitamin D3 supplementation along with K2 and A
- Eliminate processed, refined foods which contain refined sugars and carbohydrates and processed Omega 6’s; Eliminate hydrogenated fats
- Drink water free of chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals
- Eat whole foods that are not genetically modified and use organic foods as much as possible
- Avoid goods containing artificial sweeteners, preservatives, pesticides and other chemicals
- Reduce stress and identify and heal the ‘emotional terrain’ which may be contributing to your dis-ease
[v] http://www.anticancerbook.com/post/Turmeric-and-black-pepper-fight-cancer-stem-cells.html ; Kakarala, M., et al., Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine. Breast Cancer Research & Treatment, 2009
Resources and Further Information:
View:Cancer Stem Cells and Progression of Disease: What You Need to Know Now with Guest Dr Michael Schachter
~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and well-being. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health, and Breast Cancer Answers and has written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, Surviving Beautifully, Body Local and more, and writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Magazine. Elyn hosts the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. She is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys. https://elynjacobs.com/about/
Replay the Survive and Live Well Radio Show Archives
Read Elyn’s Blog
Follow Elyn on Facebook
Follow Survive and Live Well on Twitter
Follow Elyn on Linkedin