Formula for inappropriate commercial success:
1) Put forth an untested theory about how your product will "cure you without any side
2) Provide testimonials to "prove" it works.
3) Make up a conspiracy theory to explain why doctors don't endorse it.
Confusion about Prevention
That certain life style practice
can reduce the risk of getting a disease
does not mean it will also be
effective as a treatment for that disease.
For example, we can effectively reduce the risk of lung cancer if we quit smoking, but
cessation of smoking is unlikely to reverse an existing lung
When it comes to the potential
of lifestyle changes to influence a disease, the type of disease
... Improving ones diet and exercising can help to
manage heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke - because these
diseases are mediated by dietary factors - such as the type of fats
But cancer is another
... We wish it was
otherwise, but food-level doses* of herbs, or changes to diet are not likely to change the
mutations that drive the behavior of cancer cells. It is just
What about organic foods - can these help? Choosing
organ foods is a good idea to reduce risk and to maintain the health
of our planet. It will reduce our risk by reducing exposure to
pesticides. But in cell
cultures, cancer cells will thrive as well as normal cells in an
Adopting a healthful
lifestyle will help indirectly, or might reduce the risk of a second
cancer - but it should not be considered an alternative to treatment
when treatment is needed - and there is no evidence from a
well-controlled clinical trial to support the claim that dietary
supplements or changing ones diet can effectively treat cancers.
* Cancer drugs are derived from natural sources - vincristine,
etoposide, and Taxol are a few examples. For natural compounds
to influence the behavior of
cancer cells requires study to identify the dose that achieves
therapeutic levels in the blood. At such doses there will also
be side effects.
Consider the dose
It's common to
see reports about the activity for a natural compound in cell
culture experiments. But we should ask: how much
of the compound would I need to take to approximate the dose
in the cell culture? Is it safe to take at that dose?
Can the dose (the blood level) be achieved by taking the
experiments are sometimes done on cancer cells that may be
similar but are very different than the cancer cells in our body.
Cancer cells can be challenging to keep alive outside the
body in cell cultures - so the effects of compound on these
cells is only a starting point in research.
about the effective doses for specific conditions, and
also the bioavailability of natural products is rarely provided by promotions of herbs and vitamins as cancer
Natural does not mean not toxic
associate "natural" with safety. But many plants
and animals produce poisons in order to avoid being eaten by
animals and insects, or to kill off competing plants.
Consider how many common house plants are toxic to our pets.
Example of natural
compounds that have been developed to treat cancer: Taxol
(Yew tree), Etoposide (may apple), Vincristine (periwinkle)
Supplements that are considered to be safe may be toxic at high doses.
When you give
vitamins or herbs at very high doses, the compounds can have
drug-like effects, which may have risks that are not known
Rule of thumb: When a compound is given at a dose that
is sufficient to have treatment effect on cancer it will almost
certainly also have side effects.
Supplements may interfere with treatment or with how a drug
is metabolized. Therefore, we believe it's prudent to avoid
taking any supplements the same day you are receiving
Theories are easy to come by. But when experiments
show that a natural compound can help to
treat a disease it would be actively studied in a
prospective (pre-specified) clinical trial and the results
would be published.
Efficacy trials require a control group to objectively
compare the results with a placebo or another treatment.
The study of cancer compounds begins with dose-finding
studies - to identify the dose that is needed to have a
treatment effect - and if that dose is safe. If there
is potential for a natural product as a cancer therapy it
will be first studies in this way - monitoring blood levels
and patient safety.
Testimonials can be persuasive. But such accounts
should not be confused with clinical evidence.
See for the many
limitations of testimonials - the many reasons
they should be regarded with suspicion.
Mixed and unexpected effects
supplements are taken at doses that achieve high levels in
the blood there can be unexpected
and adverse effects and interactions - particularly if used during treatment.
Mouse studies (the basis for some herbal promotions)
mouse studies do not reliably predict effects in the body.
"A mouse is not a man
(or woman). The behavior of a drug in a mouse need not be
the same as in a human. Meaning, the drug may distribute
differently, proportional differences per blood and organs
and tumor, in mouse vs. man. Drug exposures (the amount of
drug and for how long) in different body parts , including
tumor, may be quite different ... "
Petri dish experiments (the basis for some herbal promotions)
(Other terms: in-vitro / cell
Such experiments do not predict effects in the complex
environment of the human body.
Often, natural products are promoted based on cell culture
activity that fail to take into account how the compound is
affected by digestion, and other metabolic processes - its
"To understand the translation of
cell culture studies to the whole person, we must first
consider all of the systems operating in the human body that
are not present when human cells are grown in plastic Petri
dishes. .... (DEAM)
| Absorption | Metabolism
While measuring bioavailability, scientists also
do sophisticated calculations to determine the peak blood
concentrations, when they occur, and how quickly the body
clears the substance.
Source: Why Petri dish studies don't always translate
into benefit for patients
vitro studies (the basis for some herbal promotions)
refers to experiments on cells that are done outside the
body in test tubes or cell cultures.
cells are changed significantly when removed from the host
environment - the cells may die spontaneously when removed
from the body. Thus, evidence of activity of a herb or
vitamin in a cell culture is only a starting point for
additional experiments and studies.
For Open-source background:
products and supplements are not regulated by an independent
agency, and the risk or ingesting inferior or
contaminated herbal products is significant and well
immunity with herbs and diet?
may only improve our immune system if a deficiency in the
vitamin is the underlying cause.
issue with cancer is not immune strength but a failure to
recognize and act on the abnormal cells - in part because
cancer cells are considered to be part of oneself - cells
that boost immunity by introducing antigen-like substances
(pokeweed, etc.) are more likely to rev up the system,
like sirens and whistles without a plan. This course of
action is unproductive and perhaps may contribute to immune
depletion in the long run. See for more detail:
In summary, adopting a healthful life style is
recommended to improve one's general health and fitness.
However, there is no evidence that taking dietary supplements
and herbs will be effective as treatments for cancer.
Prepared by PAL