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.’ “
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.