Stress and Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Cancer stem cells

Last night I was flipping through an older book on cancer that I’d sent to my mother in 1997 when she’d been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – it had spread to her bones and I was combing all the book shops (no Internet then!) to find anything and everything I could to help her.

The book I sent was “Heal Cancer: Choose Your Own Survival Path” [1] by Dr Ruth Cilento, and reading it back in 1997 was the first time I’d come across the idea of “stressed cells”, but even in 1997 it was not a new idea. Cell biologists have long known that if cells are stressed, this can lead to cancerous changes.

Considering the fact that there are over 37 trillion cells in the human body, all stemming from that one single cell that heralded your conception, it’s all a bit mind-boggling, really. But what are stressed cells, and how do we avoid that situation?

Stressed cells have lost the minerals, vitamins and nutrients they require to protect them and their electrical charge. They may have been invaded by toxic substances which have leaked through their damaged membranes and this depletes their ability to do what they need to do, and it alters the programming of the cell.

There are many things that can cause stressed cells – mental stress (more on that below), bad nutrition, smoking cigarettes, drug use, hormone imbalances, radiation, extremes in temperature, repeated trauma, environmental pollution, chemical toxins, invasion by viruses, fungi or germs – the list is long.

As a breast cancer coach, however, one of the things that women tell me most frequently is that in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis they were under a lot of chronic (long term) mental stress. It was the same for me, and it’s obvious that mental stress equals stressed cells. We are, after all, a unity of body and mind. What happens to one happens to the other.

But I wanted to understand the mechanism by which this happens. What’s going on in our physiology when we’re under stress?

Why Chronic Stress is a Factor in Cancer

A new 2019 study [2] on mice with breast cancer has recently uncovered what just might be the answer to that question, and it’s the first study to do so. Apparently chronic stress can accelerate the growth of cancer stem cells. This is important because you can kill the tumor, but if you haven’t also dealt with the stem cells, the cancer can regrow. And guess what? Radiation and many forms of chemotherapy don’t kill cancer stem cells, in many cases they spur their growth. [3]

We already know that chronic stress can lead to a higher risk for heart problems, poor gut health and even cognitive impairment. But what exactly is going on in the body that causes stress to fuel the growth of cancer stem cells?

The 2019 study [2] had researchers looking deeply into how physiological factors changed in the mice that experienced chronic stress. They found that the hormone epinephrine (aka adrenaline) was at the center of it all. The stressed mice had much higher levels of epinephrine than the mice not experiencing the stress. So they gave the stressed mice a drug that blocked epinephrine, and that resulted in their cancer tumors shrinking, and they had fewer cancer stem cells.

Cortisol Has a Part to Play, But …

In the past, we believed that it was cortisol in stressed people that was suppressing the immune system and causing stressed cells and cancer. And cortisol certainly plays a part in all of this. But apparently cortisol isn’t the only factor – epinephrine actually assists cancer stem cells to thrive and the mechanism by which this happens is interesting. The 2019 researchers [2] found that when epinephrine binds to ADRB2, a cell receptor that interacts with epinephrine, the interaction boosts an enzyme known as lactate dehydrogenase. This enzyme acts to increase energy to muscles in situations of danger (which triggers the release of epinephrine), thus allowing the person to either fight a threat or to flee from it. When this occurs, a compound known as lactate is produced. If there is active cancer present in the body, tumor cells feed on lactate to acquire more energy for themselves.

The researchers from the 2019 study [2] then validated their findings by studying the epinephrine levels of 83 breast cancer patients. They found that those who had high blood levels of epinephrine also had high levels of lactate dehydrogenase in their tumors (they had access to the tumors through breast biopsy samples). They also found that those who had higher levels of epinephrine had poorer outcomes after treatment when compared with patients who had lower levels of epinephrine.

Help for Stressed Cells

Fortunately, the researchers in this study also looked at strategies which would block the ill effects of epinephrine. In cell studies with human breast cancer cells, they analyzed the effects of a few approved drugs on the production of lactate dehydrogenase. The most promising substance wasn’t a drug, however – it was good old plain vitamin C! Touted for YEARS in natural health circles as being a potent anti-cancer weapon, vitamin C blocks lactate dehydrogenase in cell studies and in mice. It makes tumors shrink.

There are a few other things that will help stressed cells, besides vitamin C. Here are some of the best:

Flaxseed oil – An important essential fatty acid, flaxseed oil helps by creating healthy cell membranes. It also starts the conversion of oxygen to energy for every cell. When we breathe in oxygen, essential fatty acids in cell membranes attract, capture and transport oxygen into, and carbon dioxide out of, the body. Essential fatty acids also carry oxygen through red blood cell walls and help to combine with iron-containing “heme” to form hemoglobin, the main oxygen-carrying molecule in our blood. For more information on the importance of consuming healthy essential fatty acids like flaxseed oil, read the writings of Udo Erasmus and Johanna Budwig.

Juicing organic vegetables, greens and fruits – Consuming the juice of organic produce provides instant nutrition to the cells of our body, without requiring much energy for digestion. Juicing provides us with loads of cell-protective antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and hundreds of anti-cancer phytochemicals that are immediately available for the body to deliver to our cells. It’s one of the best things you can do to feed stressed cells and deliver natural anti-tumor phytochemicals right where they’re needed.

Meditation – Because it’s obvious that chronic stress leads to cancer – and promotes the growth of cancer stem cells – dealing with it effectively becomes critical. That’s where meditation comes in. Meditation has been shown in a number of studies to help reduce stress. A 2000 study [4] found that meditation significantly eased stress, anxiety, depression, negative thoughts, and anger in cancer patients. A 2005 study [5] found that meditation reduced stress and anxiety for nurses working in a high-pressure environment. A 2014 study [6] found that meditation decreased depression and stress in family caregivers of people with dementia. Apparently, the longer we meditate, the better the outcome – so if at first you don’t notice a benefit, stick with it. A 2019 study [7] found that long-term meditators recovered from stress more quickly, experienced more positive emotions after being exposed to stress, and adapted better to stressful situations than did non-meditators. Meditation is easy to learn (I can teach you!) – the hardest thing about it is taking the time to actually sit still and do it.

Feed Your Adrenals – Epinephrine/adrenaline is produced in the adrenal glands and chronic stress can lead to adrenal burnout = stressed cells. There are a number of herbs that feed the adrenals, including ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, holy basil (aka tulsi), licorice root, and Siberian ginseng. Please work with a qualified naturopath or herbalist when using herbs to improve your health.

There are many other strategies that will help to avoid stressed cells. Avoiding smoking cigarettes, drug use, extremes in temperature (when possible!), environmental pollution, and chemical pollutants are all wise. If you’d like my help with some of this, use the Contact form above and put “Coaching” in the subject line. It’s my honor to help you through this stage of your life.

References:

[1] Heal Cancer: Choose Your Own Survival Path, Dr Ruth Cilento, Hill of Content Publishing Co Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia, 1993

[2] Stress-induced Epinephrine Enhances Lactate Dehydrogenase a and Promotes Breast Cancer Stem-like Cells – https://www.jci.org/articles/view/121685

[3] Article: Common Cancer Treatments May Create Dangerous Cancer Stem Cells – https://www.livescience.com/23511-cancer-treatments-create-cancer-stem-cells.html

[4] A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients – https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2000/09000/A_Randomized,Wait_List_Controlled_Clinical_Trial.4.aspx

[5] Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Health Care Professionals: Results From a Randomized Trial – https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/00a3/f4a4906373dff0a0290f1354d7bd0f2bd016.pdf

[6] Meditation-based Interventions for Family Caregivers of People with Dementia: a Review of the Empirical Literature – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24093954

[7] Exploration of Psychological Mechanisms of the Reduced Stress Response in Long-term Meditation Practitioners – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30849720

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The Impact of Intermittent Fasting for Breast Cancer Patients

The Impact of Intermittent Fasting for Breast Cancer Patients

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The Impact of Intermittent Fasting for Breast Cancer Patients

The Impact of Intermittent Fasting for Breast Cancer Patients

If fasting is a new concept to you, it might not sound like much fun because we are conditioned to eat frequently. However, if you are actively battling breast cancer, or are a breast cancer survivor, there are ample reasons for choosing to fast now and then, and today I’m going to share with you exactly what fasting can do for you.

To fast is to purposely withhold food for a finite period of time. Fasting is nothing new – it was used by our ancient ancestors for millennia. Whether they were fasting due to the scarcity of food, or for spiritual or healing reasons, our ancestors frequently utilized fasting. Fasting only fell out of favor as a method of healing in recent decades. Doctors who practiced in the earlier part of the 20th century knew about the benefits of fasting and frequently prescribed it for their patients.

There are at least 19 science-backed reasons for fasting [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Fasting has the ability to:

  1. Stimulate genetic healing mechanisms
  2. Turn off “bad” genes
  3. Regenerate the immune system
  4. Stimulate autophagy, the body’s ability to break down old cells and reuse them to make new cells
  5. Regenerate healthy stem cells
  6. Reduce chronic inflammation (and cancer is an inflammatory process)
  7. Help reset and optimize hormone levels
  8. Create more efficient energy
  9. Take stress off digestive system, regenerate tight junctions in the gut, repair gut microbiome
  10. Decrease healing and repair times because energy isn’t being used to digest food
  11. Improve cell-to-cell communication
  12. Enhance fat burning and weight loss
  13. Optimize release of human growth hormone
  14. Improve cognitive function and mental health
  15. Help body rid itself of viruses, bacteria and fungi
  16. Help body make stronger, healthier, more stress-resistant cells
  17. Improve insulin sensitivity
  18. Reduce chronic disease risk
  19. Improve your relationship with food

What Happens During Intermittent Fasting?

When you are fasting and only drinking water, you use up immediately available sources of energy in the form of glucose. Once the glucose is burned, glycogen stored in the liver is burned. Once those two are depleted, the body is forced to use stored fats for energy, a process known as ketosis. It is important to note that muscle proteins are NOT used for fuel during fasting. This only occurs during periods of starvation or certain disease processes, but not when you are fasting intermittently.

Fasting to Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence

We have several studies that indicate fasting for short periods of time is especially beneficial to reduce risk of breast cancer. [6], [7] One of the most compelling studies appeared in 2016 in the journal JAMA Oncology [7]. Researchers investigated the benefits of fasting with breast cancer survivors, analyzing data from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study. They found that those women who fasted for at least 13 hours overnight had a huge 36% risk reduction for breast cancer recurrence. 13 was definitely the “lucky” number – fasting for only 12 hours did not have the same effects of risk reduction.

The lead author of the study, Dr Catherine Marinac, stated “Increasing the duration of overnight fasting could be a novel strategy to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. This is a simple dietary change that we believe most women can understand and adopt. It may have a big impact on public health without requiring complicated counting of calories or nutrients.”

For one thing, blood sugar levels decrease with prolonged periods of fasting. Researchers found that women who fasted for longer periods of time overnight had better blood glucose control. Each 3-hour increase in overnight fasting was associated with a 4% lower glucose level, regardless of how much women ate.

The best part is that fasting doesn’t cost a thing – just your dedication. 13 hours of fasting is pretty easy to do. You simply stop eating at a predetermined time, say 7:00 pm (the time you begin is up to you), and have nothing but water until 8:00 am the next day when you break your fast. Most of that time you’ll be asleep, so 13 hours of fasting poses no real difficulty. I’m speaking from experience, I do this almost every day and it’s easy. Fasting for longer than 13 hours provides even more benefits, although it can be more challenging to do. Read on.

Regenerating Healthy Stem Cells with Fasting

Stem cells are the cells that give rise to other necessary cells. They are basically building blocks for cells and their role is to create different types of cells. They do this by dividing – when a stem cell divides, each new cell will either be a stem cell or will morph into one of many different cells such as muscle, nerve, red blood cells, and so on. These are specialized cells required for growth and repair, they help rebuild damaged or diseased tissues.

Creating healthy stem cells is super important for breast cancer survivors, because if you’ve been through the gamut of conventional medicine like chemotherapy or radiation, it has been observed that those two therapies induce cancer stem cells – stem cells that give rise to more cancer. Also, increasingly, there exists a rare sub-population of cancer stem cells which are resistant to chemotherapy. [8], [9]

So when I found out that intermittent fasting helped to create healthy stem cells, I knew you’d want to know about this. Here’s what I found out. In order to promote healthy stem cells using intermittent fasting, you need to fast for at least 2 days. 3 days of fasting appears to work even better. For more information, see the section “Here’s How to Go About Longer Periods of Fasting”, below.

Regenerating the Immune System with Fasting

A 2014 clinical study [10] asked participants to fast for 2-4 days on a regular basis over a 6-month period. Researchers found that there was a significant decrease in the production of PKA, an enzyme associated with an increased risk of cancer and tumor growth. There was also a reduction in Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), known to promote each of the key stages of cancer development including growth of cancer cells, blood vessel growth in cancerous tissue, and spread (metastasis). As if that weren’t enough, researchers also found that the immune systems of the participants appeared to regenerate. These findings are especially exciting for those who have had their immune systems blasted away by chemotherapy and radiation.

Professor Valter Longo, lead researcher of the study, said “When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.” This is a process called autophagy. According to the study’s findings, by fasting for 3 days, followed by eating a healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this regenerates the cells of the immune system.

The study’s co-author, Dr Tanya Dorff, stated “While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy. More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

Intermittent Fasting Improves Chemotherapy

Cancer patients are generally told to eat whatever they want when undergoing chemotherapy. It’s pretty bad advice, too. Integrative oncologists and oncology naturopaths know better, and advise their patients undergoing chemotherapy to eat loads of fruits and vegetables to help offset the collateral damage of chemotherapy. We are also finding out that intermittent fasting can assist. For cancer patients, water fasting for 2-3 days prior to treatment and up to 1 day following treatment not only helps the chemotherapy work better, but it reduces treatment-related side effects and toxicity. Several studies [11], [12], [13], [14] have found that short-term fasting retards cancer growth, selectively protects normal cells from chemotherapy toxicity, and does not interfere with the therapeutic effect of the chemotherapy. Prior to fasting, however, please ask your oncologist if you are well enough and strong enough to do this.

Here’s How to Go About Longer Periods of Fasting

If shorter periods of fasting – from 12-16 hours – goes well for you, and you have stable blood sugar levels and your doctor says it’s okay, try some longer periods of fasting. They will definitely be more challenging for you, but if you are wanting to improve stem cell regeneration and immunity, this is definitely worth pursuing. You will probably notice that the first few hours goes just fine, but as you approach lunch time and dinner time, your body is going to expect to be fed. You will be uncomfortable at times. It’s crucial to prepare yourself mentally prior to fasting. See below for other tips on longer periods of fasting for ideas on how to get through it.

36 Hours of Fasting – 1-1/2 days

With this fast, it is recommended that you eat your last meal on a Saturday night (this is optional – the days you choose are up to you), fast all day on Sunday, and break the fast on Monday morning with some green juice. During this fast, you can have all the water you wish – filtered water or sparkling water from glass bottles is best. You may add the following things to your water (they are optional):

• occasional addition of a tiny bit of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, which helps to replace lost electrolytes and minerals – useful if you get any muscle cramping while fasting
• a wedge of fresh lemon or lime for a little flavor and antioxidants
• a drop of your choice of essential oil (citrus oils are nice) for flavor and antioxidants
• 1 teaspoonful of coconut oil or a cup of non-sweetened herbal tea – only if you are really struggling with fasting and feeling quite hungry

3 Days of Fasting

This is the fast recommended for stem cell renewal and immune system regeneration. This one could be done monthly or even quarterly, or time it to changes of season. For this fast, you can drink as much filtered water as you like, herbal teas and organic bone broth. To prepare your body for this longer fast, it is recommended for the 2-3 days prior to fasting that you eat a healthy, mainly organic, raw food diet so that there are plenty of antioxidants and phytochemicals present in your body to aid the renewal process. Make sure blood sugar levels are well balanced. Be sure to read “8 Tips for Longer Fasts” below.

8 Tips for Longer Fasts

  1. If you have diabetes (any type), you should speak to your doctor to see if longer periods of fasting are safe for you. For many, it will be okay and probably even encouraged because decreasing levels of glucose are good for you and fasting creates this. Some doctors (especially integrative doctors) believe that intermittent fasting and low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets are one of the best ways to deal with diabetes.
  2. If you have cancer and also have cachexia (muscle wasting), longer periods of fasting may not be the best thing for you, so be sure to ask your doctor about it prior to undertaking fasting. For you, it may be better to do daily fasting (for instance the 13 hour fast discussed above).
  3. If you get the go-ahead from your doctor for fasting, prior to doing an extended fast, transition into eating a healthy, mainly organic, plant-based diet and reduce meat eating. This will give your body the building blocks it needs to keep going during the fast.
  4. Water drinking helps to suppress that feeling of hunger and you can drink as much water as you wish. Fill yourself up with water when fasting – take a big mouthful because that is similar to eating a mouthful of food – it keeps your digestive tract working. It will also make you urinate a lot, but that’s a god thing, it helps with the detoxification process.
  5. Create an environment that is conducive to rest and fasting. Don’t plan on doing much during this 3 days of fasting. Give yourself permission to rest and relax. If you can, take time off work, perhaps go into the country where you can be out in nature and breathe in clean air, and focus on your body’s healing. Stay away from stress as much as possible – both physical and mental. Consider this a healing break. We should all be doing this!
  6. During those times when you are struggling with fasting, employing mind-body techniques like yoga and meditation really help to take your mind off the urge to eat. Or go for a gentle stroll outside.
  7. When you do resume eating, go slow. If you have fasted for 3 days, take the next 3 days to eat really mindfully, avoiding prepackaged and GMO foods. Avoid stuffing yourself full of any food, because after fasting for 3 days, your body will have decreased amounts of digestive enzymes, so don’t go out and eat a steak dinner. Allow at least one full day of slowly reintroducing food that is easy to digest like fresh juices (not bottled), kefir water, herbal teas, fruits, fermented foods for your gut, freshly prepared vegetable soups, and organic bone broth. Take digestive enzymes to help you digest the food you do eat.
  8. Especially avoid eating junk food when you resume eating. As you begin to incorporate intermittent fasting into your life, you will notice that the junk food cravings ease over time anyway.

Mix Up Periods of Intermittent Fasting

Various studies have found that the best benefits of fasting occur when people mix up the types of fasting they do – it keeps their bodies constantly having to adapt and that appears to work very well for us. In other words, rather than keeping with the exact same type of fasting you always do, choose one day to fast for 16 hours, then several days later you could fast for 14 hours. Occasionally, do the 36-hour fast and quarterly, do the 3-day fast.

As you can see, intermittent fasting has some very real applications for the cancer patient. By combining a healthy organic diet with exercising at least 30 minutes per day, and doing some intermittent fasting, you can reduce inflammation, promote healthy stem cells, replenish your immune system – and all of these are vital for reducing breast cancer risk/recurrence. So start to develop your fasting discipline (and make no mistake, it is a discipline) – I think you’re going to love how you feel afterward.

References:

[1] Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/

[2] Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5411330/

[3] Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease – current state of evidence – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434759

[4] Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815756/

[5] Calorie restriction and cancer prevention: metabolic and molecular mechanisms – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829867/

[6] Biomarkers of dietary energy restriction in women at increased risk of breast cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19656771

[7] Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4982776/

[8] Radiation induces the generation of cancer stem cells: A novel mechanism for cancer radioresistance – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103903/

[9] Therapeutic resistance and tumor-initiation: Molecular pathways involved in breast cancer stem cell self-renewal – https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jco.2007.25.18_suppl.528

[10] Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression – https://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(14)00151-9?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1934590914001519%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

[11] Fasting and differential chemotherapy protection in patients – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048045/

[12] Fasting vs dietary restriction in cellular protection and cancer treatment: from model organisms to patients – https://www.nature.com/articles/onc201191

[13] Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to Chemotherapy – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3608686/

[14] Fasting Enhances the Response of Glioma to Chemo- and Radiotherapy – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439413/

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About Marnie Clark

marnie clark breast cancer coach

Hi I’m Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor turned coach. I have 20 years of experience in natural medicine.  In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.

I’ve been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!

So it is my duty to help you unconfuse and untangle all that information, and find what works for YOU.

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and eBooks.

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Breast Cancer Stem Cells – Stopping Them In Their Tracks

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Breast Cancer Stem Cells – Stopping Them In Their Tracks

A growing area of cancer research, breast cancer stem cells were first identified in 2003 by scientists at the University of Michigan (UM) in the United States. With this article I will do my best to explain breast cancer stem cells, and offer some guidance about natural therapies that help to create healthy stem cells.

Healthy Stem Cells vs Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Think of healthy stem cells as “mother cells” that have the potential to become any type of cell in the body. One of the chief characteristics of stem cells is that they have the ability to self-renew or multiply while maintaining their potential to develop into other types of cells like blood cells or heart cells or bone cells. When the DNA of healthy stem cells becomes impaired or damaged, that’s when they can become cancer stem cells.

Conventional cancer theory states that any cell in the body may undergo changes in their DNA sequences and become a  rogue cancer cell. Researchers at the Ludwig Center at Stanford, however, postulate that “our normal stem cells are the only cells that reproduce themselves and are therefore around long enough to accumulate all the necessary changes to produce cancer.” 1

According to UM researchers, breast cancer stem cells (hereinafter “BCSCs”) are identified by a cell surface glycoprotein marker named CD44, which is responsible for cell to cell communication, cell adhesion and migration. Also on BCSCs are very low or no levels of a surface marker named CD24, another glycoprotein on the cell surface of most B lymphocytes, a white blood cell and part of the immune system. UM researchers discovered that just a few BCSCs were required for the growth and spread of breast cancer and that unless the BCSCs could be destroyed, tumors were likely to recur and spread to other parts of the body (called metastasis). 2

Although BCSCs comprise only a small population within a tumor, they are resistant to conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy because BCSCs do not renew themselves through normal cell division as other cancer cells do. In fact, these therapies are known to stimulate BCSCs and make them grow faster. 3, 4

Let me repeat that. Chemotherapy and radiation do not kill BCSCs. Any cancer therapy that ignores BCSCs in favor of killing non-tumor causing daughter cells in order to shrink a tumor will not result in destroying the root of the cancer.

My friend Elyn Jacobs, a cancer strategist in New York City, advises: “Don’t be misled into thinking that tumor reduction guarantees that you are making progress with respect to overcoming the disease, as you may not be. Shrinking a tumor by killing the less damaging cancer cells (the non-stem cells) with chemo and/or radiation may NOT improve long term survival and may increase the likelihood that these cancer stem cells will metastasize, allowing them to regenerate tumors elsewhere in the body. So although you may get an 80% reduction in tumor bulk, you are not targeting the most dangerous of the cells.” 5

The BRCA1 link

For those who have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, this part may be of interest. As we know, the BRCA1 (or breast cancer 1) gene is a tumor suppressor gene, mutations in which are strongly linked to breast and ovarian cancers.

UM Cancer Center scientists have discovered that the BRCA1 gene regulates self-renewal of BCSCs. When the gene is mutated, BCSCs multiply abnormally.

So the task becomes clear – we must take in the nutrients that help our stem cells and genes be as healthy as they can be. By doing this, we not only combat any BCSCs currently circulating in the body, we are also actively creating healthy cells and genes that have no damaged DNA.

Natural Therapies To Combat Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Glyconutrients.
The exterior of most healthy cells are covered densely with things that appear to be tiny little trees, called glycoforms or glycans. These glycoforms prevent viruses, bacteria and other enemies from entering the cell by blocking the entrance to the cell’s surface. The glycoforms of healthy cells are also responsible for assisting in cell-to-cell communication, indeed they play an intimate role in nearly every single human physiological process. Glycoforms can also hold onto an enemy cell for safekeeping until an immune cell comes to destroy it (kind of like a holding cell at the police department!). The objective is to create healthy glycans/glycoforms so that our cells are able to communicate effectively, and this helps in a myriad of ways, including the formation of healthy stem cells and immune cells. In order to create healthy glycans/glycoforms we need to be consuming at least 8 simple sugars, known as monosaccharides, from our diet and the problem is we are only consuming two – glucose and galactose. The other 6 sugars are missing because of things like fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, harvesting fruit and vegetables too early – before they are completely ripe – thus most of the all-important simple sugars are either missing or extremely depleted. We absolutely must supplement with glyconutrients in order to build healthy cells that do the jobs they were meant to do.

Foods/Herbs that Help.
Cruciferous vegetables (and especially broccoli sprouts) contain particular phytochemicals such as sulfurophane which work in a myriad of ways to block the formation of BCSCs. 6
Curcumin – literally hundreds of studies have been done on curcumin and its ability to kill cancer cells, but it also targets BCSCs and improves the sensitivity of certain chemotherapy drugs in estrogen receptor positive (ER+), progesterone receptor positive (PR+) and estrogen receptor negative (ER-) breast cancer cell lines. 7 One study also indicated that curcumin inhibited the migration of BCSCs, an important factor for metastasis. 8 Get it by using loads of turmeric in your cooking, by all means, but the best way is to supplement with it. Make sure that your supplement has been optimized for bioavailability by the addition of piperine and an oil, as they both improve absorption.
Ginseng – a chemical component called ginsenoside F2 derived from ginseng has been tested for its efficacy against BCSCs. Research found that ginsenoside F2 suppressed BCSC proliferation (rapid growth) and increased apoptosis (planned cell death). 4, 9
Raspberries (both red and black), and more specifically ellagic acid and ellagitannins, help our immune system find BCSCs by removing the protein that hides them from our immune system. While it may be tempting to take ellagic acid via a supplement, you must eat the berries because they contain the all-important ellagitannin complex within them. Raspberries also have many anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties and are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, they help reduce inflammation and encourage apoptosis. 10
Fermented soy products including soy sauce, miso, natto and tempeh have research indicating they help to reduce cancer symptoms, reduce chemotherapy side effects, decrease chemotherapy resistance, increase survival rates and improve cancer stem cell differentiation, suggesting reduced aggressiveness of cancer. 11

This by no means an exhaustive list, but the items listed above are definitely among the best things that are known to help create healthy stem cells rather than BCSCs.

Please do avoid all sugar, processed food (if it has a bar code, check out the list of ingredients carefully), preservatives, conventionally grown produce (always buy organic), chemically laden body products and cleaning products, drinking from plastic bottles and drinking tap water.

For more information about some more healing foods, check out my page Diet and Cancer.

Research:

1. The Stem Cell Theory of Cancer – https://med.stanford.edu/ludwigcenter/overview/theory.html

2. http://www.mcancer.org/research/stem-cells/breast

3. Targeting Breast Cancer Stem Cells: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1574789110000517

4. Breast Cancer Stem Cells: A Novel Therapeutic Target –http://www.clinical-breast-cancer.com/article/S1526-8209%2812%2900221-2/pdf

5. Cancer Stem Cells and Progression of Disease – What You Need to Know Now – http://elynjacobs.com/2015/07/08/cancer-stem-cells-and-progression-of-disease-what-you-need-to-know-now/

6. Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4432495/

7. Curcumin Improves the Tumoricidal Effect of Mitomycin C by Suppressing ABCG2 Expression in Stem Cell-Like Breast Cancer Cells –http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549178/#pone.0136694.ref009

8. Curcumin Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cell Migration By Amplifying the E-cadherin/ß-catenin Negative Feedback Loop – http://www.stemcellres.com/content/5/5/116

9. Ginsenoside F2 Induces Apoptosis Accompanied By Protective Autophagy In Breast Cancer Stem Cells – http://www.cancerletters.info/article/S0304-3835(12)00100-0/abstract

10. The Truth About Ellagic Acid and Red Raspberries – http://jonbarron.org/article/truth-about-ellagic-acid-and-red-raspberries#.VKHrV14AGA

11. Managing Immunity In Resistant Cancer Patients Correlates To Survival: Results and Discussion of a Pilot Study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25961344

The Trophoblast and the Origins of Cancer – By Dr Nicholas Gonzalez

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