As much as we hate to admit it, we suck at treating cancer. All types. Some, like pancreatic, have almost no hope. Billions have been spent on research but we’re no closer to a “cure.”
The best we have is a toxic mess that leaves the patient sicker than when he or she started. Many type of cancer treatments currently used are designed in an attempt to target rapidly dividing cells and try to kill off the cancer cells before too many of your own rapidly dividing cells get knocked off as well. This is where many of the side effects come from. Unfortunately, the immune system contains lots of rapidly dividing cells and, much like the GI tract and heart, take a beating as well during cancer treatments.
Few things could be as important to completely clearing your body of tumor cells as the immune system. Much like antibiotics with a bacterial infection, the antibiotic will not clear out every last vestige of the infection–it is the immune system that swoops in an clears out with is left.
This is why it is so vitally important to protect your immune system with lifestyle during any stage of the cancer process as well as preventing cancer in the first place. I personally believe that our bodies our always fighting off new cancer cells via the immune system. It is not until our immune system is suppressed or toxic cancerous cells become too many that cancer gets out of control and begins to cause the problems we view as cancer.
While prevention remains critical, we will always need a place for creative and effective experimental cancer treatments. I have a patient who, despite a very good lifestyle, developed a very unusual reproductive cancer that required specialized treatment to overcome. Another close, long term patient who had an exemplary lifestyle, recent succumbed to lymphoma that I was sure she was going to beat.
Don’t get me wrong–there certainly are new styles of cancer treatment out there. Immunotherapy approaches that teach the immune system to target specific cells (most notable is Herceptin for HER-2 positive breast cancer patients). These approaches, however, are very specific to a type of cancer and very expensive. Many times this treatment needs to be maintained indefinitely.
Of course, there are alternative clinics with strong success rates like Burzynsky’s clinic in Texas, the Gerson clinic in Mexico and Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez in New York. These approaches are all designed to support your body’s amazing ability to heal itself despite incredible odds.
But what about a truly creative approach of new treatments for pancreatic cancer that use the weaknesses of cancer cells to destroy them?
I remember reviewing an article years ago on calorie restriction coupled with chemotherapy. The idea is that a cancer cell loses the ability to adapt to calorie restriction the way that a normal cell does. Under calorie restriction, a normal cell will undergo changes to protect itself from injury, while a cancer cell will not. Theoretically, calorie restriction coupled with chemotherapy could require lower dosages of drugs at a much greater level of effectiveness.
This particular article gives us some idea of how creative thinking could be used to destroy pancreatic cancer cells when they metastasize.
Another weakness of cancer cells is that they create an immunosuppressed environment around them. Without this, the immune system would swoop in and destroy the cancer cells. However, this may make the cancer cells uniquely susceptible to certain types of infections.
So what if someone made a bacteria that was attenuated (weakened so it could not cause a disease, much like many vaccines) and then attached a small radioactive molecule to it? That is exactly what researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York did. They found that using this method in a very metastasis prone mouse model of pancreatic cancer cut metastasis down by a whopping 90%, while doing very little damage to healthy cells.
While experimental cancer treatments like these are in the very early stages, it is creative thinking like this that needs to be fostered, not more of the same development of toxic crap that were rely on so heavily for cancer treatment here in the developed world. Keep your fingers crossed.