Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net 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: http://denvernaturopathic.com/

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 (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

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11 thoughts on “Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer

  1. This is a very interesting discovery Marnie. Hopefully human trials will show the same sort of positive findings.

    But like you say, in the mean time there’s no harm in taking flaxseed as it’s so good for you generally anyway.

  2. I’ve never had breast cancer, but over 14 years ago I was dx with stage 1V Ovarian cancer. After finishing treatment and surgery, I started following the Johanna Budwig protocol (loosely) using 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil, 6 tablespoons of fat-free cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds (2 tablespoons before grinding) – over fresh fruit. So, for the last 14+ years I’ve been taking this wonderful stuff every single day for breakfast. I should add – sweetened with either honey or Stevia and cut out sugar and bad fats (only use flaxseed oil and coconut oil). Thankfully I’m still enjoying remission:-)

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Fabulous! My father first introduced me to the Johanna Budwig protocol and I also used it when I was going through breast cancer. It just felt right – like my body needed it – and although I don’t believe that this is the only way to heal from cancer, it is definitely an integral part. Thanks for sharing with us!
      Warmest regards,
      Marnie Clark

  3. I can recommend the budwig muslie for breakfast too. I started this one month before my cancer diagnoses as I suspected the lump was for real as my c reactive was elevated for the first time in my life. You don’t feel hungry till lunch time (I have walnuts and organic coconut with a little Jarrah active honey on mine) Aside from the possible cancer benefit, I have found that my arthritis has eased, I have had no antihistamines and hardly any asthma puffers since using it. The only time that I needed my puffer was in hospital and not on flax. Do not take flax oil or seeds before an op or you will bleed. A couple of days ago I had to have the CT and bone scans done and boy I bleed so much the radiographer nurse asked me if I was on blood thinners. I really believe that the flax oil and quark works better at a cellular level compared to fish oil. I have taken fish oil for years and have not had this remarkable benefit. That is my opinion anyway. x

    1. Leoni,
      Thanks for your testimonial! Yes it is quite true that ground flaxseed is excellent for so many aspects of health, it is a potent anti-inflammatory, hence the easing of your arthritis and asthma, which are both inflammatory conditions (as is cancer, obviously). I agree with you that flaxseed and quark/cottage cheese works better than fish oil. I would just recommend buying organic whenever you can. Thanks for sharing!
      Warmest regards,

  4. What about using this protocol for estrogen positive cancer? There seems to be contradictory information out there regarding using flax seeds/oil with this type of cancer due to flax’ estrogenic properties. Not sure how to reconcile this?

    1. Hi Beth,
      I apologize for the delay in responding to you, I was away for a short break. Yes, you are quite correct, there is a lot of contradictory information about the supposed estrogenic properties of flaxseed but I can assure you that this is OLD information, quite outdated and I am doing my best to educate people that it just isn’t true. Please see my article: http://marnieclark.com/fatigue-in-breast-cancer-survivors-linked-to-inflammation/ In this article, I have links to research proving the fantastic benefits that flaxseed offers for those fighting breast cancer (and yes, estrogen receptor positive is included). Please have a look at some of that research and if you still have questions, feel free to contact me. You might also like to sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books, full of my best information. You can do that from any page on my website. I hope this helps you with your question.
      Best regards,
      Marnie Clark

  5. Hi marnie , my sister have 4 th stage breast cancer and she currently taking conventional tratment like radiothearpy , herceptin and horminal thearpy , would you like to advice her to take flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed in her daily meal , is it gv her any benfits to treat her Er and pr and her postive cancer pl reply thanx alot in advance this is jignesh from india mumbai

    1. Jignesh,
      I apologize for the delay in responding, I have been away. I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I would definitely recommend that your sister include flaxseed oil/ground flaxseed in her daily regimen. It will definitely help her. However, I would not recommend that she ONLY do this to help herself heal. Have you or she signed up for my free newsletters and ebooks which teach people the best ways to heal from breast cancer and keep away recurrences? You can sign up from any page on my website. Thanks for helping your sister, Jignesh. That makes you an amazing person.
      Warmest regards,
      Marnie Clark

      1. Thanx marnie for your such a honest reply will surely try to start flax seed oil and cotton cheese as like dr . Budwing diet also have already started conventional treatment herceptin and oral chemo capacitabine and result is quite good, sister is improving little bit not so much great but hope she will get well soon …also i have subscribed to your news letter as well thanx a lot again for your kind reply

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