The Role of Integrative Medicine in Treating Cancer: Part Two

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Written by:
Published: October 30, 2012
The Role of Integrative Medicine in Treating Cancer: Part Two


The use of antioxidants in the cancer patient concurrent with chemotherapy or radiation has been a controversial topic.

Antioxidants have been found to help mitigate the damage done by chemotherapy and radiation therapies, as well as mitigate the pathology of the cancer itself. Simone (15) performed an extensive literature review and found overwhelming support for the benefits of supplementing with antioxidants concurrent to chemotherapy and radiation. Conklin (17) found benefits to patients receiving chemotherapy who also were taking antioxidant supplements.

Recent research though has found that the administration of alpha tocopherol, one of the isomers of the naturally occurring vitamin E complex, will [counteract] the beneficial effect of the high dose DHA [an omega 3 fatty acid] … and in clinical trials in human breast cancer patients, actually decreased the survival rate in that cohort.

Therefore, Dr. Silver recommends against using alpha tocopherol, but not completely eliminating the use of antioxidants. Plant based antioxidants like green tea and milk thistle extract/silymarin that have additional anti-cancer activities are good options.

Green tea contains a number of active compounds, the two most important being polyphenols and the amino acid theanine … Green tea polyphenols produce their effect through their direct antioxidant activity, as well as stimulating the body’s endogenous antioxidant, glutathione. EGCG is the most potent of all the green tea polyphenols, and it exerts an anti-inflammatory effect … The many benefits of ingesting green tea come not just from its EGCG content, but also from the amino acid theanine, which has an effect on mood, cognition, and the immune system.

Dr. Silver goes on to list many other potential benefits of the active compounds in green tea, including their antibacterial effects, the ability to inhibit the growth of the new blood vessels that support tumor growth, promoting cancer cell death, and their ability to increase the effectiveness of several chemotherapeutic drugs.

Milk thistle and silymarin have traditionally been used for their positive effects on the liver, but these substances are also powerful antioxidants that protect other tissues from damage and enhance the effect of some chemotherapeutic medicines.

Dr. Silver also talked about other potentially useful complementary therapies, including PolyMVA, intravenous orthomolecular doses of ascorbic acid, Neoplasene, artemesinin, and beta glucans.

If you are interested in any of these complementary anticancer treatments, I strongly recommend that you seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian to determine what might work best based on your pet’s unique situation, and that you keep your "regular" veterinarian informed regarding your pet’s care, no matter the source.

I haven’t yet talked about the benefits of special diets for cancer patients. I call this important topic "feed the patient — starve the cancer" and will touch upon it in this week’s Nutrition Nuggets for dogs. Cat people should check it out also, since I will include a lot of information relevant to our feline friends.


Dr. Jennifer Coates


Sources and References

Integrative Oncology: Parts One and Two. Robert J. Silver DVM, MS, CVA. Wild West Veterinary Conference. Reno, NV. October 17-20, 2012.

15. Simone CB 2nd, Simone NL, Simone V, Simone CB. Antioxidants and other nutrients do not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation therapy and can increase kill and increase survival, Part 1. Altern Ther Health Med 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):22-8.

17. Conklin KA. Dietary antioxidants during cancer chemotherapy: Impact on chemotherapeutic effectiveness and development of side effects. Nutr Cancer 2000;37(1):1-18.

Image: mykeyruna / via Shutterstock

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