Doctors often tell us that triple negative breast cancer is harder to overcome because the usual hormonal therapies don’t work for this form of breast cancer. Don’t let that worry you though – there are plenty of things you can eat and supplements you can take which will greatly help your return to wellness.
What Does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Mean?
If the term “triple negative” is unfamiliar to you, it refers to the fact that this type of breast cancer has no hormone receptors on the surface of the cells, meaning it is not fueled by hormones. It is estrogen receptor negative (ER-), progesterone receptor negative (PR-), and it does not overexpress HER2, three of the things your pathologist will be looking for when a tumor has been removed and is examined to see what therapies should be recommended. It is often referred to as “TNBC”.
Does Food Actually Make A Difference?
Yes it does. A recent small study done on 354 women with TNBC found “that dietary modulations and/or micronutrient supplementations may prevent or reverse TNBC phenotype, so tumors can be treated with less toxic therapeutic strategies, particularly in genetically susceptible women.” 1
In another study reported in 2013, scientists found that “omega-3 and its metabolites undermine proliferation in all cell lines. However, they were dramatically more effective in inhibiting proliferation in the triple-negative cell lines.” 2
Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have Triple Negative 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. If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash – wash – wash it extremely well. Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.
Here’s the list:
Apples, arugula, bell peppers, black pepper, blackberries, blueberries, bok choy, blackcurrants, boysenberries, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries (both sweet and sour), coconut oil, collard greens, cranberries (not the sugared dried ones), cucumbers, flaxseed (freshly ground is best), garlic, ginger, grapes (red are best), green tea, hemp, herring, honey (minimally processed), horseradish, hot peppers, kale, lake trout, leeks, lettuce – romaine, mackerel, mangoes, mustard & mustard greens, omega-3 fats, onions, parsley, peas, pomegranate juice, pumpkin, raspberries, reishi mushrooms, saffron, salmon (wild), sardines, seaweed, spinach, squash, tomatoes, turmeric, tuna, turnips, turnip greens, walnuts, watercress, watermelon, zucchini.
There are also quite a number of essential oils that research has indicated are helpful as well, if you would like to know more about which ones to use, contact me.
For information on the food that should be avoided, as well as a list of supplements and nutrients that support a healthy body and should be included in your health regime, see my page Diet and Cancer.
A big thank you for part of the food list goes out to http://foodforbreastcancer.com/ – written by Sarah Charles, herself a breast cancer survivor, and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.
1. Combined genetic and nutritional risk models of triple negative breast cancer:
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Slow Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation:
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Photo courtesy of Photokanok / freedigitalphotos.net
The Latest On Breast Cancer Stem Cells
So what are breast cancer stem cells?
They are a specific group of stem cells, which are undifferentiated biological cells capable of creating more cells of the same type, ad infinitum, and from which certain other kinds of cells arise by differentiation.
Breast cancer stem cells were first discovered in 2003 by scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. UM scientists found that just a few breast cancer stem cells were responsible for the growth and spread of breast cancer. They also found that unless the cancer stem cells could be destroyed, a tumor would be more likely to return and spread malignant cells to other parts of the body, a process called metastasis.
Conventional Therapies For Advanced Breast Cancer Targets The Wrong Cells
Because cancer stem cells are resistant to traditional chemotherapy and radiation, new treatments are needed that can be targeted directly at these stem cells, thus the ongoing research. UM scientists believe that conventional therapies for advanced breast cancer have limited effectiveness because they are targeting the wrong cells. These therapies were designed to shrink cancers by killing all the rapidly growing cells in a tumor. The scientists at UM believe that therapies could be more effective and cause fewer side effects if they were aimed specifically at cancer stem cells. Here is a short 36-second video with Dr Max Wicha from UM explaining a little about breast cancer stem cells. There are other, longer videos available on You Tube to view should you wish to know more.
Additionally, the study that I linked to above noted that a small percentage of women with triple-negative breast cancer also had faulty DNA-repair pathways, and put that figure at about one in 9 of women with TNBC.
So What Do We Do With This Information?
First of all, don’t worry about it. I have only written about this because a few of my readers have asked about breast cancer stem cells.
If you follow the advice I give in my Diet and Cancer page, you will be well-protected. Specifically, see my entries about breast cancer stem cells in “broccoli” and “turmeric”. Keep a strong immune system (for more advice about that see my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System), keep your stress levels down (Yes, take that vacation! You need it!) and follow my advice in my newsletters and e-books. If you are doing all these things, you are miles ahead.
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, and/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.
Searching around for hopeful things for breast cancer patients is one of my favorite things to do (call me crazy but I like to help) and today I found some interesting research from City of Hope, a cancer center in Duarte, California.
The research demonstrated that blueberries have the ability to control tumor growth, decrease metastasis and induce cell death in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)
A Quick Explanation of Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple negative breast cancer is a particular subtype of breast cancer that lacks estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) receptors and because most breast cancer tumors do have at least one of these receptors, doctors are able to target them with specific therapies.
I have spoken to quite a few patients whose tumors were triple negative and many were more than a little anxious over their diagnosis particularly because there seems to be a lot of really negative information on the Internet about triple negative breast cancer – that it accounts for only about 15% of breast cancer and that it has a poorer prognosis compared to other subtypes with the receptors present. Thus, whenever I do find some positive research about TNBC, I like to share it.
Blueberries Are a Triple Threat
Dr Shiuan Chen, director of City of Hope’s Division of Tumor Cell Biology said “blueberries help fight triple-negative breast cancers by suppressing pathways critical to tumor development and migration.”
The research has not been carried out on real, live people yet (they are still waiting for the results of that study) but they have used it on TNBC cell cultures and also on laboratory animals with great results. The researchers discovered that the group that received the blueberries had a tumor weight that was 70% lighter, exhibited significantly lower proliferation rates, and higher apoptosis activity (apoptosis means programmed cell death) than the group not receiving the blueberries. So they considered that to be a triple threat against TNBC. I found a YouTube video where they discuss their findings – click here to view it.
Researchers estimated that in humans, a person weighing 130 lbs would need 4 oz daily to achieve the good effects that the studies exhibited.
Got TNBC? Get those blueberries in ya!
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.
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Billy Frank Alexander
Triple Negative Breast Cancer – What It Means
When a cancerous tumor is removed from a breast, a sample (biopsy) of the tumor is taken and a pathologist examines its characteristics to determine the status of three breast cancer specific markers – the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and a form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2).
ER and PR are proteins that bind the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, respectively. These hormones are produced by the ovaries and play a major role in stimulating cell division in breast cells.
Estrogen and progesterone bind to their respective receptors on the surface of cells and stimulate cell division. Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) hormone receptor status have high levels of ER and PR. These types of breast cancer are typically treated with hormone therapy.
HER2 is a receptor protein located on the surface of breast cells. This protein binds growth factors and stimulates cell growth and division. Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) HER2 status have high levels of HER2 on their surface. These types of breast cancer can be treated with a special type of targeted therapy.
The Perceived Threat
Triple negative breast tumors do not have high levels of any of ER, PR or HER2 receptors. In theory triple negative tumors should have a better prognosis than tumors expressing ER, PR, or HER2, because they are not receiving the growth signals provided by these proteins.
This doesn’t seem to be the case, however. Oncologists know precisely how to treat breast cancers expressing ER+, PR+, or HER2+ — they do it with drugs such as Herceptin, Tamoxifen and Arimidex that inhibit the function of the receptors.
But triple negative breast cancer is unresponsive to these targeted treatments. Studies have shown that triple negative tumor cells may be more aggressive than other breast cancer subtypes, but the reasons for this are unknown. About 10-20% of breast cancers are found to be triple-negative. For doctors and researchers, there is intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer.
Depending on the confidence and “bedside manner” of her doctor, patients who are categorized as triple negative can tend to worry quite a bit more than those who aren’t – there is a lot of negative information on the Internet about the lack of treatment options and the “aggressive nature of the tumor cells making triple negative breast cancer more difficult to treat”. Please keep reading!
New research has come to light from Cancer Research UK that breast cancer actually falls into TEN different categories, rather than the subgroups discussed above (estrogen and progesterone receptor positive or negative, and either HER2 positive or negative). One day soon we will be able to offer each woman an individualized therapy, depending on the type of breast cancer she has.
Forget the “Poor Prognosis” Terminology
My main purpose in writing this article is to calm the fears and concerns of women who are found to be triple negative. This is not a death sentence! You might have to fight a little harder, be a little more proactive. You might have to arm yourself with a little more knowledge (something I always recommend anyway!) but this is definitely survivable.
The first thing I would suggest you do (besides attending all of the medical appointments suggested for you) is to expand your mind and read “The Biology of Belief” by Dr Bruce Lipton. Dr Lipton is a cell biologist who has closely examined how our beliefs control our DNA. This is a powerful, life-changing book.
Then you could read “You Can Conquer Cancer” by Dr Ian Gawler, an Australian veterinarian who healed himself from a potentially lethal form of cancer using nutrition, meditation and various other natural forms of therapy.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet had it right when he said, “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Then realize that there are some positives with your diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer:
1. You do not have to take hormone therapy drugs that have a whole host of unpleasant side effects.
2. Research shows that triple-negative tumors respond better to chemotherapy than tumors that are estrogen and progesterone positive. Chemo works better on you!
3. If you remain disease-free for four or more years the chances are your cancer will NEVER return.
4. Research for this type of breast cancer has been given a very high priority – there are study results being published practically weekly.
LASTLY, KNOW WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING THAT YOU CAN BEAT THIS!
If you’d like to stay connected, 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.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer 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!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
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.