Category Archives: HER 2 Positive

Study Shows Curcumin Works As Well As Herceptin In Some Cases Shows Curcumin Works As Well As Herceptin In Some Cases

While doing some research for one of my newsletters about curcumin, the pigment derived from the root spice turmeric, and its good effects for breast cancer, I ran across a study on curcumin that had some great information for those with HER2 positive breast cancer.

About 15-25 percent of breast cancer patients are HER2 positive, meaning that their tumors have an overexpression of this oncoprotein which researchers have observed is associated with a poor prognosis, increased disease recurrence and metastases. One of the drugs that has been created to address this problem is trastuzumab, also called Herceptin.

There is little doubt that Herceptin is saving lives, but there’s a problem for some people.

Quite a few women have contacted me from various parts of the world where Herceptin is either not available or too expensive – Africa being the main location where this is happening. These women have been diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer and are quite concerned that Herceptin is not available for them.  Another couple of problems exist as well. The tumor cells of some women have a resistance to Herceptin. And for some, Herceptin is too hard on their heart and/or lungs. So it is for these women that I am sharing this information.

The study I read was released in 2012 and its title is “The Potential Utility of Curcumin in the Treatment of HER-2-Overexpressed Breast Cancer: An In Vitro and In Vivo Comparison Study with Herceptin” [1].

As denoted by the title, the study was both an in vitro (test tube) study and in vivo (in body – with animals) study done with various lines of breast cancer cells and on mice. I believe the results are very interesting and are certainly worth considering, especially in view of the fact that not everyone has access to the drug Herceptin, some are resistant and some are just not able to tolerate it. These people need Herceptin alternatives.

The Research

Researchers wanted to gain some insight about what worked best for tumors that overexpress the HER2 oncoprotein. So they divided up various lines of breast cancer cells (listed below) in test tubes and also test animals into 8 different groups:

1. Those who received DMSO only
2. Those who received Herceptin only
3. Those who received curcumin only
4. Those who received a combination of Herceptin and curcumin
5. Those who received Taxol only
6. Those who received a combination of Taxol and Herceptin
7. Those who received a combination of Taxol and curcumin
8. Those who received a combination of Taxol, curcumin and Herceptin

The results revealed that curcumin reduced the cell viability of several different breast cancer cell lines, including MCF-7 (ER-positive, HER-2-negative), MDA-MB-231 (ER-negative, PR-negative, HER-2-negative – also known as triple negative), BT-474 (ER-positive, HER-2-positive), and SK-BR-3-hr (ER-negative, HER-2-positive but Herceptin-resistant) cells.

Herceptin Combined with Curcumin

Researchers found that when a low dose of Herceptin was used with curcumin, there was a synergistic effect, but when a high dose of Herceptin was used, there was an antagonistic effect, meaning that the combination didn’t work as well. So for someone having high doses of Herceptin, taking curcumin would most likely not provide an advantage.

In BT-474 cells (ER-positive, HER-2 positive), curcumin effectively decreased tumor size.

Also, researchers noted that curcumin had the ability to inhibit Herceptin-resistant breast cancer cells (SK-BR-3). This is of great importance to those who are HER2 positive but who are resistant to Herceptin. Researchers stated “The ability of curcumin to downregulate EGFR and HER-2 oncoproteins and inhibit the phosphorylation of Akt and MAPK and NF-kB activation suggests that curcumin has potential in the treatment of HER-2-overexpressed and/or herceptin-resistant breast cancer.”

In the animal study, curcumin treatment effectively reduced the tumor size by 76.7%, compared with the control; however, it was not as effective as Herceptin, which achieved an 86.7% tumor reduction.

Did you get that? Curcumin alone reduced tumor size by 76.7%. Yes, Herceptin did a better job, it reduced tumor size by 86.7% but Herceptin is also pretty hard on the body and curcumin is not.

Researchers also revealed that the combination of Herceptin and curcumin showed a greater antitumor effect than curcumin alone (87.5% versus 76.7% in tumor regression).

Interestingly, researchers anticipated the study to reveal that there would be a synergistic effect when combining Herceptin with curcumin, but in the animal study, combining Herceptin and curcumin was no better than Herceptin alone.

Taxol Combined With Curcumin

In the animal study, the combination of curcumin with Taxol had an antitumor effect comparable with combining Taxol and Herceptin, which is one of the current preferred chemotherapy regimens for those with HER2 positive breast cancer. The combination of Taxol, Herceptin and curcumin was associated with the smallest tumors, but was not “statistically different” from that of the Taxol and Herceptin regimen.

I take that last paragraph to mean that combining Taxol with curcumin is just as good as combining Taxol and Herceptin. That’s huge! And combining Taxol, Herceptin and curcumin provided the best results in the animal study.

In conclusion, I believe this study is significant. In people who do not tolerate Herceptin well or are unable to get this drug due to finances or geographical location, or for those whose tumor cells are Herceptin resistant, according to this study, the combination of Taxol and curcumin is just as good as combining Taxol and Herceptin.

For dosage advice of curcumin, see my article: Harvest The Power Of Curcumin To Kill Breast Cancer Cells.

1. The Potential Utility of Curcumin in the Treatment of HER-2-Overexpressed Breast Cancer: An In Vitro and In Vivo Comparison Study with Herceptin –

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two

Image Source: / Jana Koll
Image Source: / Jana Koll

Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two

Because I like to keep you updated with the latest information and research, this post is a follow up to my post “Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?” dated 2/18/2014.  Since writing that post, I have read some newer research and I wanted to share this with you.

A Synopsis Of My Last Post…

In my February 2014 post I  referred to one study done in 2002 1 in which 114 women, all of whom had metastases to other parts of their bodies, were given only Herceptin to treat their HER2 positive breast cancer.  The researchers reported that seventeen (57%) out of thirty patients had an objective response (which means either a partial or complete response) and twenty-two (51%) out of forty-three patients had what was termed a clinical benefit, an informal term which generally means anything other than progression of disease.  These patients also did not experience progression of disease at the follow-up appointment scheduled 12 months later.  Loosely translated, this means that roughly fifty percent of women with metastatic, HER2 positive breast cancer, treated only with Herceptin, remained alive after twelve months.

An Update Of The HERA Trial

The other article I referenced which appeared on the National Cancer Institute website 2 in 2011 discussed the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial, run by the Breast International Group beginning in 2001.  At the time of reporting the HERA trial was not complete.  We now have the final results of the HERA trial which was carried out for 8 years.

After finishing surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, 5102 women with HER2 positive breast cancer were randomly assigned to one of three groups.  In the first group 1703 patients received trastuzumab (Herceptin) every 3 weeks for 1 year, a second group of 1701 patients were treated with Herceptin for 2 years, and in the third group 1698 patients were merely observed and given no Herceptin.  After the initial results of the study were released in 2005 the observation group was offered the chance to be moved into one of the two groups receiving Herceptin.

One of the reasons the HERA trial was conducted was to decide how long Herceptin should be given to achieve the best, disease free survival.  In terms of percentages, 75.8% of women who took Herceptin for two years were still alive, and 76% of women who took Herceptin for one year were still alive.  So taking the drug for an additional year conferred no extra benefits.  As a result of this study, most oncologists recommend that Herceptin be taken for one year.

The Latest Research

In my previous article about the efficacy of Herceptin I didn’t give a very glowing report and indeed, the statistics weren’t all that impressive, at least not to my eyes.

Unfortunately we don’t have any research indicating what a good healthy diet and specific supplements would do for women with HER2 positive breast cancer, no one will be funding THAT study.

In the meantime I have had some newer research put in front of me by an interested reader, which study was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year.   This research study followed 406 node-negative (meaning cancer had not spread to their lymph nodes) women with stage 1, HER2 positive breast cancer. These women had tumors up to 3 cm in size and were treated with a combination of paclitaxel (Taxol) and Herceptin weekly for 12 weeks, followed by 9 months of Herceptin alone.  The 3 year survival rate was 98.7%, a much more impressive figure.

To see the full results of the trial, check out “Clinical practice-changing trials: the HERA study paradigm”4 below.  It’s a downloadable PDF file.  See especially Table 1 Efficacy Results Of The Herceptin Adjuvant Study With Different Follow-Up Times, page 3 of that document.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Word Of Caution

I’d like to insert a couple of things here, just a tiny word of precaution.  Take into account, please, that the research was supported by Genentech, the company that stands to gain the most by the research.  Also please note that in the 2015 research the women who took part in the study were considered stage 1, their tumors were small and the disease had not spread elsewhere in the body.  These are the women who have the best chance of survival anyway, their disease being caught early.

Another thing to consider is that both Taxol and Herceptin can be very hard on the heart.   Nine patients (true, a relatively small percentage, only 0.54%, but if you’re one of those women…) in the HERA trial who received Herceptin developed severe congestive heart failure.  Even the researchers in the 2015 study 3 stated “the decision to use trastuzumab and chemotherapy is influenced by the toxicity of the treatment regimen.”

This cardiotoxicity may or may not be reversible.  If you are considering going on this drug, it might be wise to consult a naturopath for correct dosages of cardio-protective supplements, such as CoQ10, garlic and grapeseed extract.


1.  Efficacy and safety of trastuzumab as a single agent in first-line treatment of HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer –

2.  Trastuzumab after Chemotherapy Is Effective in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer –

3.  Adjuvant Paclitaxel and Trastuzumab for Node-Negative, HER2-Positive Breast Cancer –

4.  Clinical practice-changing trials: the HERA study paradigm —

For some good dietary tips for HER2 positive breast cancer, see my article The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook ( to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

Image source: rgbstock / AI71 Image source: rgbstock / AI71

The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

Continuing my series of articles on dietary recommendations for particular types of breast cancer, this one is for those of you who have been diagnosed with HER2 Positive (HER2+) breast cancer.

What Exactly is HER2 Positive Breast Cancer?

HER2 positive refers to a type of breast cancer that overexpresses the HER2/neu gene. About 15-20% of breast cancers are HER2+, meaning the cancer is fueled by over-production of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein.  HER2+ breast cancers contain excess copies of this gene, leading to dramatically more HER2 protein on the surface of cancer cells.  Because of this protein, which produces signals that tell the cells to grow, they do so out of control, causing this form of breast cancer.

Many women are told that a HER2+ diagnosis is associated with a significantly higher chance of local breast cancer recurrence (that means the cancer often returns in the same breast as the original tumor). Before the late 1990s, women with HER2+ breast cancer had poorer survival rates. Today, however, because of targeted therapies like Herceptin, this is no longer the case and it is a much more treatable disease.  Herceptin works by attaching to HER2 receptors on cancer cells, blocking signals that cause growth, and alerting the immune system to destroy the cancer.

Can Diet Make A Difference?

Please know that there are plenty of things you can eat and supplements you can take which will make a big difference for you and will assist your return to wellness.

Research shows that there are some foods and spices that are especially potent in inhibiting HER2+ breast cancer cell growth and proliferation and in promoting the process known as apoptosis (programmed cell death).  In addition, some foods have been found to amplify the effects of Herceptin.

Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have HER2+ Breast Cancer

Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to the pesticide and herbicide residues.  You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body a better chance to heal.

Here’s the list of foods and spices (or their components) which have been found to inhibit the growth or proliferation of HER2+ breast cancer cells. Many of these things also help to counteract the toxicity of Herceptin:

bell peppers (capsicum), black pepper, blueberries, red cabbage, green cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy/Chinese cabbage, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, purple carrots, cherries (particularly sour cherries), celery, cranberries, red grapes, green tea, horseradish, herring, hot peppers, lake trout, mackerel, mustard and mustard greens, extra virgin olive oil, red onions, parsley, pomegranates, raspberries, black rice, wild caught salmon, sardines, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips and turnip greens, walnuts, watercress. See also my article Study Shows Curcumin Works as Well as Herceptin In Some Cases.

This is not an exhaustive list – indeed, there are many other foods which are known to have anti-cancer benefits – but this is the list that we have research for which indicates a potent anti-HER2+ activity. See my page Diet and Cancer for a list of other foods that have anti-cancer activity.

I recommend that breast cancer patients and survivors with HER2+ breast cancer include as many of the things on the “good” list above and limit or avoid the “please avoid” things that appear below.

Please Avoid These

No food list is complete without mentioning the things that should be avoided for HER2+ breast cancer because they have been shown to promote HER2+ breast cancer growth or increase HER2+ expression. Those things are: alcohol, folic acid supplements, genistein supplements, grapefruit, the Chinese herb ligusticum chuanxiong, the Chinese herb Si-Wu-Tang (may interfere with the effectiveness of Herceptin), soy protein isolate, cigarette smoking.

Foods That Assist the Effects of Herceptin

The following foods have been found to assist the effects of Herceptin against HER2+ breast cancer:

açaí berries, blackberries, boysenberries, cherries (particularly sour or tart), blackcurrants, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts etc), flaxseed, green tea, extra virgin olive oil, passion fruit, purple or red plums, pomegranates, black raspberries, black or purple rice, strawberries, purple sweet potatoes, walnuts

There are also quite a number of essential oils and other supplements which research has indicated are helpful against HER2 positive breast cancer so be sure to check out those resources on my website.

Thanks for some of the dietary recommendations in this article goes out to – written by Sarah Charles, also a breast cancer survivor and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?


Artwork courtesy of / ba1969
Image Source: / ba1969

Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?

I have had a couple of questions about HER2 positive (“HER2 +”) breast cancer and the drug known as Herceptin, or trastuzumab, and its effectiveness.  I did a bunch of research, here’s what I found out.

HER stands for human epidermal growth factor, and it is a protein that can affect the growth of some breast cancer cells.  It is actually found on the surface of healthy breast cells — in a healthy breast there will be approximately 20,000 HER2 receptors, but when the cells are creating too many copies of this protein, known as overexpression, which occurs in approximately 25% of patients, there can be over 2 million receptors and that’s important because overexpression of the HER2 protein, as well as amplification of the HER2 gene, have been associated with impaired prognosis in patients with both early and advanced breast cancer.

How HER2 + Breast Cancer Is Different

In the late 1990’s researchers and doctors, being faced with an aggressive form of breast cancer that did not respond as well to the usual chemotherapeutic drugs, observed that for some breast cancer patients, overexpression of a particular gene known as HER2 meant that that patient often had a more aggressive form of breast cancer.

The HER2 gene makes a protein which creates a receptor that sits on the outside of a cell.  HER2 receptors act like antennae on the surface of cells and they receive signals that stimulate the cell to grow and multiply.   Breast cancer cells with too many HER2 receptors receive too many growth signals and thus start growing and multiplying too quickly.  Left untreated, this form of breast cancer can progress rapidly.

How Herceptin Works

Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody, or MAB, made by Genentech BioOncology.  MABs are a type of biological therapy made in a laboratory.  Monoclonal just means all one type.  MABs are designed to recognize and attach to specific proteins on the surface of cells.  Each MAB recognizes one very particular protein, in this case, the HER2 receptor.

Once Herceptin attaches itself to the HER2 receptor on the outside surface of breast cancer cells, it blocks them from receiving growth signals and flags it for destruction by the immune system.  It also blocks HER2 signalling within the cell, thus slowing or stopping the growth of the breast cancer.   According to Genentech BioOncology, the drug can also increase the effectiveness of other chemotherapeutic agents and it is designed to be used in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs.

Is Herceptin Effective?

That’s a good question.  I will share the results of two studies I found: Efficacy and Safety of Herceptin (Humanized Anti-HER2 Antibody) As A Single Agent In 222 Women With HER2 Overexpression Who Relapsed Following Chemotherapy For Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Click that link to view the full PDF article.  You can print it out and take it to your doctor to explain the medical jargon.  If I read this correctly, the women in the study had metastatic breast cancer (meaning the cancer had already moved to other parts of the body) and so the results won’t be as good as for patients whose disease was caught at an earlier stage.  In this study, “57% of the responding patients were known to be free of disease progression at 12 months or more of follow-up.”  You can draw your own conclusions from that.

The second article appeared on the National Cancer Institute website:  Trastuzumab after Chemotherapy Is Effective in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer which discusses the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial reported in Lancet Oncology on February 25, 2011.   In this Italian study, 1,703 women received one year of adjuvant therapy with Herceptin (trastuzumab) while another 1,698 women were placed in an observation group.  Four years later, 79% of women in the Herceptin group were disease-free, compared with 72%  in the observation group.

The Down Side

Am I crazy or is that only a difference of 7%?  Not exactly huge, is it?  Especially considering that a one year course of Herceptin treatment costs about $70,000 in the United States, and that it comes with a long list of side effects, which include flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cells, muscle pain and, in 5-30% of patients, heart damage, especially when combined with the chemo drug Adriamycin.

2015 Update: I have written a follow-up to this post:  Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two.


Slamon DJ, Clark GM, Wong SG, et al. Human breast cancer: correlation of relapse and survival with amplification of the HER-2/neu oncogene. Science. 1987; 235:177-182.

Cobleigh MA, Vogel CL, Tripathy NJ, et al. Efficacy and safety of Herceptin (humanized anti-HER2 antibody) as a single agent in 222 women with HER2 overexpression who relapsed following chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. Program and abstracts of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 34th Annual Meeting; May 16-19, 1998; Los Angeles, California. Abstract 376

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

T-DM1 Approved For Her2 Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of and antpkr
Photo courtesy of and antpkr

T-DM1 Approved For Her2 Breast Cancer
Further to my post of August 15, 2012, New Chemotherapy Drug for HER2 – Genentech’s T-DM1, I have an update for you.  The FDA has finally approved T-DM1, now known as the brand-name Kadcyla, for women with HER2+, metastatic breast cancer. The new therapy has been approved for use in patients who have already undergone unsuccessful treatment with a combination of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and a taxane. 
An Interesting Method of Delivery

Kadcyla is a conjugate – it combines the drug trastuzumab, better known by the brand name Herceptin, and a powerful chemotherapy drug called DM1.  The trastuzumab portion targets HER2+ cells, then the attached chemotherapeutic molecule – the DM1, which is too toxic to deliver directly into the patient’s bloodstream – is delivered and attacks the cancer cell.   T-DM1 has helped inspire a new generation of antibody + drug conjugates.

Study Results

FDA approval was based on a study known as EMILIA, in which patients with HER2+, metastatic breast cancer who had failed treatment with a combination of trastuzumab and taxane were randomized to ado-trastuzumab emtansine or conventional therapy with lapatinib and capecitabine (Xeloda).  The patients given ado-trastuzumab emtansine resulted in significant improvements in both progression-free survival (9.6 vs 6.4 months) and overall survival (30.9 vs 25.1 months). 

The Down-Side (Why Is There Always A Down-Side?)

This sounds like really great news, however, the drug is not without risk (what else is new?).  The FDA requires labeling on Kadcyla to warn of risks of liver toxicity, reductions in left ventricular ejection fraction for the heart, and death.  In addition, there is risk of severe birth defects, so a woman’s pregnancy status should be determined before starting treatment, the FDA said.  The most common side effects associated with the drug were nausea, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, thrombocytopenia, elevated liver enzymes, headache, and constipation.

As if all of that weren’t enough, the drug will cost $9,800 a month, or about $94,000 for a 9.5-month course of therapy.  Let’s hope it can keep people alive.


I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Raw Vegetables Diet Shown To Protect Against Her 2 Positive Cancers

Photo courtesy of and Grant Cochrane
Photo courtesy of and Grant Cochrane

Raw Vegetables Diet Shown to Protect Against HER 2 Positive Cancers

I’m always on the lookout for good nutritional information for my readers with breast cancer, particularly for those in the HER 2 positive category because they are typically given such a dismal prognosis.  Today I’ve come across an interesting study done in Italy clear back in 2007.

The Italian Research Study

The Italian researchers hypothesized that various dietary factors associated with breast cancer risk might differentially influence the HER-2 status of the cancers that develop.  They followed 8,861 volunteer women and observed that four dietary patterns developed among these Italian women:

  1. Salad Vegetables, which was a high consumption of raw vegetables and olive oil;
  2. Prudent (interesting name, don’t you think?) which was mainly cooked vegetables, poultry and fish;
  3. Western, which was meat, potatoes, eggs and butter;
  4. Canteen, which was pasta, tomato sauce, wine

The researchers observed that the first diet, comprising mainly raw salad vegetables and olive oil, exhibited a protective effect against HER-2-positive cancers (Sant M, Allemani C, Sieri S, Krogh V, Menard S, Tagliabue E, et al. Salad vegetables dietary pattern protects against HER-2-positive breast cancer: a prospective Italian study. Int J Cancer. 2007;121(4):911-914).  Here’s a link to the study abstract.

The UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco, California) has also published a lengthy report titled Nutrition & Breast Cancer and they cite this same study in their report.  UCSF further advises “A lifelong commitment to a plant based diet may lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and may also reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer.  A plant based diet consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, and other plant protein sources.”

Besides all of this data, you just plain FEEL BETTER when you eat this way.  That’s your body telling you what it needs!

See my page “Diet and Cancer” for more information on exactly which vegetables and fruits confer the most protective effects.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (  It is my honor to help you through this.

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer
Photo courtesy of and Stoonn

When my mother had breast cancer in 1996-98, I took her to see a naturopathic doctor, Dr Jacob Schor, here in Denver.  I am a subscriber of his very interesting newsletters and today’s newsletter was exciting enough to share with you because it discusses a study done on mice that shows flaxseed oil enhances the effect of Herceptin for those with HER2+ breast cancer.

Dr Schor admitted that he prefers to write about human trials and, indeed when he writes papers for publications such as Naturopathic Doctors News and Review and the Natural Medicine Journal, they prefer that he only write about recent human clinical trials.  But he says “…I printed out a paper this morning that describes a mouse study that I feel compelled to write about because the information, if it holds true in human trials, is so clinically relevant that it seems silly to wait until those studies are published.”

This research came out May 21, 2010 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology by Julie Mason and her colleagues at the University of Toronto and it examined the effects of flaxseed oil on select breast cancer cells and how it reacted to the chemotherapy drug Herceptin.

Both Dr Schor and I agree that flaxseed oil is not the best way to get the protective lectins that it provides – it’s much better to take flaxseed meal or, better yet, grind flaxseeds yourself and create the freshest, most bioavailable lectins in your own little coffee grinder.

The Exciting Study Results

The 2010 study looked at how flaxseed oil interacts with the drug Trastuzumab, better known as Herceptin.  Herceptin is the drug of choice to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.  As Dr Schor’s newsletter states, “anything that may help in treating this particular subgroup of women is of interest, even if the research was only done in mice.”  I agree.

For the study, Dr Mason implanted HER2+ human breast cancer cells in immune-deficient mice.  The mice were given flaxseed oil as part of their diet and various doses of Herceptin.  In the control group of mice who received neither oil nor drug, the tumors grew unchecked, some increasing in size by 187% over the four weeks the experiment lasted.

Herceptin was given at two different doses.  The tumors in the mice receiving the lower dose (2.5 mg/kg body weight) did not grow, staying the same size through the course of the study.  The higher dose of Herceptin (5mg/kg body weight) worked better than the low dose – the tumors decreased by 75%.  That’s remarkable enough, but read on.

The mice who received flaxseed oil did even better.  The tumors in the mice who got the drug at low doses but also received flaxseed oil regressed by 89%.  For mice receiving the high drug dose plus flaxseed oil, the tumors regressed 84%.  So for these mice, more drug was not necessarily better.

Dr Schor reports “Tumor sizes were tracked for several weeks after the drugs were stopped and the results got even more interesting.  The benefit seen in the low dose drug plus flax seed oil mice continued to increase even after stopping the drug so that two weeks after the drug was stopped the tumors in the low drug dose plus oil mice were 87% smaller than in the mice that only received the drug at low doses. They tied with the mice that had been given the drug in high doses.  The concerns often expressed by medical oncologists that the supplements prescribed by naturopathic doctors seem in this particular situation to be unfounded.  The study abstract reaching the conclusion: ‘Flax seed oil did not interfere with Trastuzumab but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined flax seed oil and low dose Trastuzumab was as effective as high dose Trastuzumab treatment.’ “

Recommended Dosage

Dr Schor admitted that “translating dosing information obtained from mice to humans is never an easy task but if the data obtained in this study were to hold true in humans, adding flax seed oil to a patient’s regimen might enhance the effect of the chemo during the 12 weeks of 2 mg/kg dosing.”  He recommends dosing at 1-2 tablespoons per day for a person.

Now obviously we would much rather see the results of a human trial but since flaxseed meal (or oil) is so good for you anyway, there seems little reason to wait until such data has been published.

If you are HER2+ I’d say “Get it in you!”

Dr Schor’s contact details: Dr Jacob Schor, Denver Naturopathic Clinic, 1181 S Parker Road, Suite 101, Denver CO 80231, website:

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 May 21. [Epub ahead of print]
Flaxseed oil-trastuzumab interaction in breast cancer.
Mason JK, Chen J, Thompson LU.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 150 College Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E2, Canada.
Flaxseed oil (FO), which is rich in n-3 fatty acid, is commonly consumed by breast cancer patients because of its potential anti-cancer effects. Trastuzumab (TRAS) is the primary drug for epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer. We investigated in athymic mice whether combining dietary FO (8%) with TRAS treatment (2.5 or 5mg/kg body weight) can cause better or adverse effect on established human breast tumors overexpressing HER2 (BT-474). Control tumors significantly grew 187%, TRAS2.5 treated tumors did not change, while TRAS5, FO+TRAS2.5 and FO+TRAS5 treated tumors significantly regressed 75%, 89% and 84%, respectively, after 4 weeks treatment. Two weeks after stopping TRAS treatment while continuing on same diet, tumor size in FO+TRAS2.5 group was 87% lower than in TRAS2.5 group and was not different from TRAS5 group with or without FO. Combined TRAS2.5 treatment with FO caused a significantly lower tumor cell proliferation and higher apoptosis compared to TRAS2.5 treatment alone and showed similar effect to TRAS5 treatment with or without FO. Hence, FO did not interfere with TRAS but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined FO and low dose TRAS was as effective as high dose TRAS treatment. Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

I selected this post to be featured on Breast Cancer Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

HER 2 Positive? Know Which Nutrients Help To Combat This Form Of Breast Cancer

HER 2 Positive Know Which Nutrients Help To Combat This Form Of Breast Cancer
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and svilen001

I’m finding it slightly alarming that so many of my new blog readers have been diagnosed with HER 2 positive breast cancer.

In order to provide my HER 2 positive patients with the best new information and research, today I’m sharing a really informative article which recently appeared in Life Extension Magazine about epigenetics and the nutrients which research demonstrates are proving to be extremely useful against this form of breast cancer.

A relatively new science known as epigenetics is helping individuals to understand the enormous control we have on whether or not we develop cancer.  Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence.  This new science is teaching us that we can use factors such as nutrition to turn a gene on and off. For a better, more in-depth explanation of epigenetics, see the Wikipedia entry.

This is important because genes contain the blueprint for the various proteins a cell needs to stay healthy and function normally.  Some genes and the proteins they make can influence how a breast cancer tumor behaves and how it might respond to a specific treatment. Cancer cells are tested to see which genes are normal and abnormal, and the proteins they make can also be tested.

What is HER 2 Positive Breast Cancer?

HER 2 positive is a type of breast cancer that has an over-expression of the HER2/neu gene and its associated protein HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2).  Science has found that those with HER2+ breast cancer seem to have a higher chance of disease recurrence.

There’s a really good in-depth article on about HER2 status.

Your pathology report, which gives you information about your particular tumor, will give you information about your HER 2 status.

Up To 50% of Breast Cancer Cases May Be Preventable

According to Alexander Johnson in his article Epigenetics for Breast Cancer Prevention, Life Extension Magazine, November 2012, up to 50% of breast cancer cases are now thought to be preventable through simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

The science of epigenetics is going a long way to shed light on how nutrients and certain drugs can change the way breast cancer cells age and reproduce.  The use of specific agents to prevent cancer from developing is called chemoprevention.  If utilized properly, these agents can eliminate pre-malignant cells, block the progression of normal cells into invasive tumors, and stop a cancer before it reaches a detectable size or cause symptoms.

With the HER2/neu gene, two things are quite important: (1) taking chemopreventive nutrients that keep DNA from being damaged, and (2) taking chemopreventive nutrients that control regulatory genes

Nutrients That Prevent DNA Damage

  1. Lycopene – suggested dose 15 mg daily
  2. NAC (N-acetylcysteine) – suggested dose 600 mg daily
  3. Coenzyme Q10 – suggested dose 200 mg daily
  4. Caffeic acids – even though caffeic acid can be found in coffee, it is unrelated to caffeine.  Together with its derivative caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), caffeic acid is a naturally occurring organic compound that is the product of many plants, including coffee beans. Caffeic acid is an antioxidant and it can also act as a carcinogenic inhibitor.  Suggested dose 400 mg three times daily.
  5. Tocotrienols – members of the vitamin E family.  An essential nutrient for the body, vitamin E is made up of four tocopherols and four tocotrienols, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.  Tocotrienols protect cell membranes, active enzyme sites, and DNA from free radical damage.  Suggested dose 400 mg daily
  6. Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) – found at relatively high levels in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens and kale, also available as a supplement.  Suggested dose 80-160 mg daily.
  7. Green tea extract – suggested dose 725 mg daily
  8. Curcumin – suggested dose 400 mg daily
  9. Melatonin – suggested dose up to 10 mg daily
  10. Sulforaphane – broccoli extract – suggested dose 400-800 mg daily
  11. Metformin – originally created as an anti-diabetic drug, Metformin is a drug that is being studied for its ability to suppress HER2 oncoprotein overexpression.  Here’s a link to the research on
  12. Soy Isoflavones – suggested dose 35-55 mg daily
  13. Pomegranate juice and extracts – suggested dose 500 mg daily
  14. Silibinin and silymarin (milk thistle extracts) – suggested dose 750 mg daily
  15. Resveratrol – suggested dose 100-250 mg daily
  16. Selenium – suggested dose 200 mcg daily

Nutrients That Help to Control Regulatory Genes

  1. Sulforaphane – see #10 above for suggested dose
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids – EPA suggested dose 1,400 mg daily / DHA suggested dose 1,000 mg daily
  3. Caffeic acids – see #4 above for suggested dose
  4. Lycopene – see #1 above for suggested dose
  5. Resveratrol – see #15 above for suggested dose
  6. Genistein – a soy isoflavone, see #12 above for suggested dose

Because cancer has multiple causes and phases of development, a multi-targeted approach is the best way to attack this disease.

In addition to the above two factors (protecting DNA and controlling regulatory genes) it is also important to:

  1. fight cancer-promoting inflammation;
  2. block excessive cell replication;
  3. transform malignant cells back into healthy ones
  4. kill cancer cells;
  5. restore receptors to a healthy state;
  6. if you have estrogen or progesterone receptor positive status along with HER2+ you’ll want to inhibit the enzyme aromatase;
  7. block abnormal growth factors;
  8. cut off the blood supply to growing tumors;
  9. prevent the tumors you have from spreading.

There are natural chemopreventive agents to tackle each of these, and they have research backing them – if you’d like the complete list and article, CONTACT ME.


“Epigenetics for Breast Cancer Prevention” by Alexander Johnson, Life Extension Magazine, November 2012


If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (  It is my honor to help you through this.