Commentary on the Widely Disseminated Article entitled “Dietary
Supplement Use During Chemotherapy and Survival Outcomes of Patients with
Breast Cancer Enrolled in a Cooperative Group Clinical Trial (SWOG SO221)”
Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, December 2019
The DELCaP study, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology evaluating
the use of dietary supplements during chemotherapy, has alarmed many patients
and raised troubling questions for health practitioners.
The purpose of the study was to evaluate associations between ‘antioxidant’ supplement
use and breast cancer outcomes in light of the widespread use of supplements
during cancer therapies and the ongoing debate over concerns that antioxidants
could reduce the cytotoxic effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated
by chemotherapy agents. The authors claim that the use of dietary supplements
before and during chemotherapy is associated with an increased risk of
recurrence and, to a lesser extent, death.1
great deal of fear surrounds the combination of botanical medicine and modern
medicine that isn’t based in truth or scientific rigor, but rather on theory or
hearsay. Unfortunately, that deters many patients from treatment protocols that
can greatly enhance their quality of life and prolong their life as well.
There is an extensive body of research demonstrating in vitro and in vivo (animal and human) synergy between natural products and anti-cancer drugs including chemotherapy, targeted agents, and immunotherapy against primary cancer, cancer resistance, and particularly cancer stem cells.
I often find myself thinking that modern medicine has it all wrong when it comes to treating cancer. Miraculous new treatments for cancer make headlines every day, but what are the long-term results of these treatments? Are these wonder drugs truly extending life, and more importantly, are they enhancing quality of life?
According to a recently published paper in the British Medical Journal, one of the most prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journals, more than one-half of cancer drugs approved by the European Medicines Agency from 2009 to 2013 show no improvement in quality of life or survival.
I recently read a paper entitled “Integrative Oncology” 1 published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. To say I was shocked at the misrepresentation presented as “fact” is an understatement.
I am strongly compelled to offer a rebuttal to this article. I can only hope that those who most need the perspective of someone who has worked in clinical practice with cancer patients on a daily basis for almost three decades will benefit from my experience.
Personally, I prefer to use the term “Unified Medicine” over “Integrative Oncology” to more appropriately describe the wholistic ETMS (Eclectic Triphasic Medical System) model I developed and practice, known as ‘Mederi Medicine’ or ‘Mederi Care’.
Mederi Medicine is an approach where all aspects of an individual are addressed for optimal health and well being. This includes the fundamental building blocks of nutrition, herbs, lifestyle, and spiritual and emotional health, with the tools of modern conventional medicine employed when necessary. As a musician, I think of Mederi Medicine as similar to the way that the various parts of an orchestra each play an essential role in creating beautiful music. The ETMS is not a fragmented approach, but is synergistic, meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This harmonious approach is something that is sorely lacking in modern conventional medicine”.
What’s Wrong with the “Integrative Oncology” Paper?
Honestly, when I first saw the title “Integrative Oncology” I felt hopeful. I thought perhaps this paper would offer helpful information to those suffering from cancer, or to those who dedicate their lives to working with people with cancer. Instead, I found bias, misrepresentation, and outright twisting of the facts and outcomes of studies. This paper clearly states that it has been peer-reviewed, but given the many errors, I find that difficult to believe.
Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens
Aging is associated with a decrease in adaptive abilities along with increased vulnerability to stress. At the same time, aging is a complex process involving a persistent activation of some stress response systems, often involving transcriptional reprogramming, and the activation of vitagenes, which can be consider a ‘geroprotective’ adaptation.13Environmental stressors induce specific and predictable epigenetic changes that can eventually result in an adaptive response to the stimulus. It seems likely that mild stress-induced hormetic response involves mechanisms similar to those that underlie developmental epigenetic adaptations.
The illustration below shows the involvement of hormesis in the epigenetic processes that determine age-related disorders and longevity.14
Dose–response curve depicting the quantitative features of hormesis
In my last post, I broadly discussed the exciting field of epigenetics, which is radically changing the landscape of what we’ve long believed about genetics and biological destiny. Emerging research shows that food and herbs may be the most important factors in our genetic well-being, directly affecting our health, disease risk, and longevity.
As a clinical herbalist, I find the relationship between herbs and epigenetics particularly compelling. A large body of research shows that a wide array of botanical compounds work in a variety of ways to maintain health at the cellular level, and offer great promise in improving our molecular expression, protecting against cellular stressors and aging by normalizing gene behavior. We cannot change the genes we have, but we can positively alter the fate and behavior of our genes by supplying them with beneficial herbal and dietary compounds.