Holistic and Supportive Therapies for Treating Cancer
If you are reading this, it is likely you or a loved one has been given a diagnosis of cancer. Maybe you are new to cancer, or you just found out your cancer has come back, or maybe you have had cancer for a while and all the current conventional options have failed. Whatever the situation, the physicians at the Center for Integrative Medicine are committed to working with you and your oncologist to provide the most comprehensive treatment plan suited to treat your cancer.
At the Center for Integrative Medicine, we utilize treatments including oxidative therapies like intravenous high dose vitamin C, ozone therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, as well as anti-cancer agents and nutraceuticals that aim to slow the cancer process. We work alongside your oncology team to provide you with the best possible outcome using researched based therapies.
What is integrative oncology?
Integrative oncology is the use of complementary, or integrative, therapies alongside conventional medicine. These therapies work together with standard treatment methods like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—to suppress the cancer process.
In countries where modern medicine predominates, 40% to 50% of patients with cancer use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It is not uncommon for patients to do their own online research around “alternative” treatment options and come in with many ideas on how to treat their cancer. Most conventional oncologists are not trained in integrative therapies and may be unable to answer your questions.
How do we monitor for treatment response
One of the most important parts of a physician’s job is to ensure that the therapies that they are recommending are working. Conventional and integrative practitioners use imaging—CT and PET scans—to look at the tumor and see if it is growing or shrinking or if satellite tumors have spread to other parts of the body. While this is helpful, it is also good to know what is going on between scans, on treatment holidays or when you are told you are in remission and there is no further follow up needed.
The doctors at CIM use a reputable data-driven test called Signatera by the lab Natera to monitor our patients. Signatera is a molecular residual disease (MRD) assay that looks for cancer cells circulating in your blood. This test can identify if cancer is present and if cancer is spreading before imaging tools show actual changes in the tumor itself. This test is run at a frequency that is determined by your type of cancer and what treatments you are undergoing and may be done every 4-8 weeks. This gives us a trend over time that helps determine if our treatment is working.
Why is cancer so difficult to treat and what can we do about it!
Cancer is a dysfunction of certain cells that have been “turned on” to proliferate. They avoid self-destruction and evade the immune system, thus allowing tumors to grow and produce circulating tumor cells that move throughout the bloodstream. One key goal of integrative oncology is to activate the immune system to recognize the abnormal cancer cells. One of the most effective ways to do this is via Mistletoe therapy.
Mistletoe has been used in European countries for decades and is included in up to 80% of conventional cancer treatment plans in Germany. Mistletoe works in a few different ways. By subcutaneous injection, the mistletoe infiltrates the lymphatic system which activates the immune system. The lectins in the mistletoe do the following:
- Inhibit the tumor from creating new blood vessels (angiogenesis)
- Induce cancer cell death
- Inhibit ribosome and protein synthesis in cancer cells
- Reduce platelet aggregation and cancer extravasation
- Decrease cancer related fatigue
Another way to administer mistletoe is intravenously (IV). In IV form, the viscotoxins in the mistletoe are natural chemotherapy-like agents that directly go after cancer cells and destroy them.
There are three types of mistletoe species that are used in integrative oncology: viscum albeis (fir tree), viscum mali (apple tree) and viscum pini (pine tree). Each type is specific for different cancer types as well as different cancer stages.
In addition to mistletoe, another vigorously researched integrative cancer treatment is vitamin C or ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C IV Therapy
When given intravenously, high levels of vitamin C in the blood generate the production of hydrogen peroxide, a known toxin to cancer cells. Whereas normal cells can reduce the effects of hydrogen peroxide, cancer cells do not and are very vulnerable to this type of oxidative stress.
In lab and human experiments, it is shown that vitamin C at high concentrations –we are talking over 10 grams per dose—does not work as an antioxidant (as it does when taken orally at lower doses) but as a pro-oxidant. Pro-oxidants cause cancer cell death because tumor cells have low levels of antioxidant properties and cannot deal with oxidative stress. Vitamin C at high doses only acts as a pro-oxidant, similar in mechanism to some cancer medication therapies but without the toxic side effects.
Research shows that IV vitamin C prolongs survival times and improves quality of life in some cancer patients. Benefits are especially seen among patients with metastatic cancer, lung cancer, and lymphomas. More research is ongoing regarding the benefits of IV Vitamin C in disease management.
Another form of pro-oxidative and anti-cancer treatment used at the Center for Integrative Medicine is called Ozone therapy.
At the Center for Integrative Medicine, we use a type of ozone therapy called Major Autohemotherapy (MAH). MAH involves the injection of medical grade ozone gas into a specific quantity of the patient’s blood. The ozone is allowed to mix with the blood and then the ozonated blood is intravenously infused back into the same person. It will be a much brighter red color than the drawn blood without ozone because it is more fully saturated with oxygen.
Ozone therapy improves how your body utilizes oxygen by increasing a coenzyme (NAD) in your cells which in turn improves mitochondrial function. Like high dose vitamin C, ozone therapy works directly on cancer cells by overcoming their antioxidant defenses and triggering cell death.
Major Autohemotherapy is a specific, medical procedure that must be performed by properly trained, medical professionals in accordance with strict protocols. Our staff at CIM go to great lengths to ensure you are adequately prepared for any of our oxidative treatments, including ozone therapy, by optimizing your antioxidant status before and after treatment as well as monitoring for tolerability and treatment response.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a therapeutic technique designed to do two things: increase the amount of oxygen available to your cells and act as oxidative therapy similar in function to ozone therapy and high dose vitamin C. Normal air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other stuff. When we breathe, oxygen is taken up by the lungs and transported to all the cells in our body to be used as fuel. When you have hyperbaric oxygen therapy, we increase the air pressure around you to three times normal. This change in pressure helps your lungs absorb even more oxygen, which in turn increases the levels in your blood.
Having high levels of oxygen in your body triggers the release of naturally occurring substances like stem cells that stimulate the healing process. It also helps fight bacteria and infection in your body.
Cancer cells also need oxygen to survive, which is why they build new blood vessels around the developing tumor to help it grow. However, as the tumor grows, it quickly outgrows its oxygen supply. Unfortunately, that doesn’t inhibit its growth as cancer cells have evolved to survive and even thrive in a low oxygen environment.
By flooding your bloodstream with concentrated oxygen, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can help make your cancer cells easier to kill with treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Additional benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for cancer treatment include triggering the growth of new blood vessels, which increases the flow of blood and nutrients to your tissue; boosting the performance of your white blood cells to prevent infection and kill bacteria; and reducing pressure, swelling, or pain at your cancer site. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also FDA approved to treat radiation-induced tissue necrosis and fibrosis by promoting new cell growth.
There are currently many studies seeking to determine when and where HBOT might play a roll in cancer treatment. A quick review of the literature shows very encouraging results. As with all therapies, there needs to be continued interest in using HBOT in oncology to fund more studies. Here are a few citations worth reading:
Moen I, Stuhr LE. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and cancer–a review. Target Oncol. 2012 Dec;7(4):233-42. doi: 10.1007/s11523-012-0233-x. Epub 2012 Oct 2. PMID: 23054400; PMCID: PMC3510426.
Chen, SY., Tsuneyama, K., Yen, MH. et al. Hyperbaric oxygen suppressed tumor progression through the improvement of tumor hypoxia and induction of tumor apoptosis in A549-cell-transferred lung cancer. Sci Rep 11, 12033 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-91454-2
Zhang L, Ke J, Min S, Wu N, Liu F, Qu Z, Li W, Wang H, Qian Z, Wang X. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Represses the Warburg Effect and Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Hypoxic NSCLC Cells via the HIF-1α/PFKP Axis. Front Oncol. 2021 Jul 21;11:691762. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.691762. PMID: 34367973; PMCID: PMC8335162.
De Wolde SD, Hulskes RH, Weenink RP, Hollmann MW, Van Hulst RA. The Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygenation on Oxidative Stress, Inflammation and Angiogenesis. Biomolecules. 2021 Aug 14;11(8):1210. doi: 10.3390/biom11081210. PMID: 34439876; PMCID: PMC8394403.