Monday, July 1, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 23

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. 

Today is Day 196 living with cancer; on Wednesday is chemo session no. 10.  Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians.

Let’s talk about a few complementary and alternate therapies:

Vitamin C: In a research study published in 2006 in CMAJ, Dr. Mark Levine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) writes about the efficacy of high doses of Vitamin C given intravenously to cancer patients deemed “terminal”:
Early clinical studies showed that high-dose vitamin C, given by intravenous and oral routes, may improve symptoms and prolong life in patients with terminal cancer. Double-blind placebo-controlled studies of oral vitamin C therapy showed no benefit.
Recent evidence shows that oral administration of the maximum tolerated dose of vitamin C (18 g/d) produces peak plasma concentrations of only 220 μmol/L, whereas intravenous administration of the same dose produces plasma concentrations about 25-fold higher. Larger doses (50–100 g) given intravenously may result in plasma concentrations of about 14 000 μmol/L.
At concentrations above 1000 μmol/L, vitamin C is toxic to some cancer cells but not to normal cells in vitro. We found 3 well-documented cases of advanced cancers, confirmed by histopathologic review, where patients had unexpectedly long survival times after receiving high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy.
This shows that cancer is a disease of the individual and one therapy might be better than another. for some individuals but not enough to say that Vitamin C, in any form, is a cancer therapy. Some individuals say that taking Vitamin C supplements reduces the risk of many diseases, including cancer. Yet, recent studies on the link between Vitamin C and cancer show that taking Vitamin C supplements does not in a way prevent cancer.The American Cancer Society writes on its website:
However, studies that observed large groups or people and clinical trials of vitamin C supplements have not shown the same strong protective effects against cancer. Apparently, vitamin C is most helpful when it comes from fruits and vegetables, because of the other active ingredients in the food. A 2007 review of 68 clinical studies of antioxidant vitamin supplements concluded that taking vitamin C supplements had no detectable effect on lifespan.
Medical Marijuana: Marijuana, or Cannabis, is a plant from central Asia and is a controlled substance in Canada, the United States and many other nations. In Canada, cancer patients can get a medical certificate from their doctor (usually an oncologist) to use “medical marijuana” as a way to relive the symptoms of nausea.

There have also been clinical studies on animals that show that marijuana has some curative effects on cancer; there have been no large-scale human clinical trials thus far. There has been one small clinical trial in Spain, published in the British Journal of Cancer (2006), which you can read about here.

The National Cancer Institute writes on its web-site the following known facts about its use and potential benefits:
Cannabis may be taken by mouth or may be inhaled. When taken by mouth (in baked products or as an herbal tea), the main psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis (delta-9-THC) is processed by the liver, making an additional psychoactive chemical (a substance that acts on the brain and changes mood or consciousness).
When Cannabis is smoked and inhaled, cannabinoids quickly enter the bloodstream. The additional psychoactive chemical is produced in smaller amounts than when taken by mouth.
A growing number of clinical trials are studying a medicine made from a whole-plant extract of Cannabis that contains specific amounts of cannabinoids. This medicine is sprayed under the tongue.
Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Cannabis or cannabinoids?
Preclinical studies of cannabinoids have investigated the following activities:
Antitumor activity
  • Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
  • A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment.
  • A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse modelsof liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancercells and breast cancer cells.
  • A laboratory study of cannabidiol in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells.
The next rational and scientific step is to conduct clinical trials. If marijuana can indeed have curative effects on cancer, it would be both irresponsible and immoral for governments to stop or stymie its research—especially if ideological reasons are at the root of decision-making. [There is an interpreting article from Cancer Research UK on cancer research as it relates to cannabis in Europe that is worth reading.]

Ginger Tea: Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, is native to Asia and has been used for at least 4,000 years for medicinal purposes among Asian, Native and Arabic peoples.

While many sites focused on non-traditional medicines say that ginger has curative effects, I view the use of ginger as more of a treatment against nausea, induced by chemotherapy; there is not yet any scientific evidence that ginger is an effective treatment against cancer, although it is an important part of many individuals’ approach to feeling better.  

The end goal of any treatment or therapy is to restore the individual to a healthy state of well-being without inducing excessive side effects or other risks. Chemotherapy is neither ideal nor perfect as a treatment of choice, but it is effective and its risks well studied and well known. Whether alternative therapies become widely used will ultimately depend on how well they work for a large percentage of patients. Such is how science works today.

For cancer patients, as is the case for all individuals suffering some disease, illness or condition, well-being is important. After all, when you feel better, you are more inclined to have a good appetite and eat and, most important, enjoy what you eat. Such contributes greatly to our lives. 


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