Cancer Specific Treatments

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-28 (EDT)


Dr. Heidi Kussmann, ND, FABNO

Cancer development is a complex process involving much biochemical communication within the tumor itself, and between the tumor and patient. Modifying this biochemical communication can change a tumor's behavior. Naturopathic doctors use natural therapies to modify tumor behavior while strengthening the health of the patient.

Anti-Cancer Effects

Natural therapies can have anti-cancer effects such as:

  • Antiproliferative: Block cancer cell growth or blood vessel development
  • Antimutagenic and Chemopreventive: Prevent normal cells from transforming into tumor cells, or improve the immune system's ability to identify and destroy abnormal cells
  • Carcinogen-Blocking: Prevent exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
  • Antioxidant: Aids the immune system in destroying abnormal cells
  • Stem Cell Targeting: Destroy the cells that can most contribute to a tumor recurrence.
  • Vitalism: Increase vitality of the patient and enhance immune function.


The factors that influence tumor growth are similar to those needed to operate a car -- brakes, acceleration, and fuel. [1] [2]

The brakes are tumor suppressor genes. A functional tumor suppressor gene signals the immune system to destroy abnormal cells. Mutation in tumor suppressor genes removes the "brakes" from tumor growth.

The gas pedal is activation of oncogenes. In healthy cells, oncogenes are normal genes involved in activate cell division for purposes of growth or wound healing. Tumor cells mutate these oncogenes so that the accelerator becomes stuck in the "on" position.

Fuel for tumors is blood supply, sugar and nutrients, and activation of the energy power plants (mitochondria). As tumors mutate, they become able to create their own blood supply by permanently activating blood vessel growth (angiogenesis, VEGF mutation, copper shunt). Tumors also change the patients metabolism to direct sugar and nutrients towards the tumor and away from the patient. These metabolic changes can cause [anorexia cachexia syndrome] if they persist.

Conventional and naturopathic therapies target a tumor by addressing these methods that a tumor uses to grow and spread. For example, the drug Tarceva/erlotinib targets a protein that activates tumor growth, and the drug Avastin/bevacizumab targets tumor blood vessel formation.

Anti-proliferative naturopathic therapies include:

  • Target the brakes (tumor suppressor genes): p53 is a primary target. Green tea (EGCG) and curcumin are some of the therapies.
  • Target the gas pedal (oncogenes):
  • Target the fuel (angiogenesis, metabolism): Address angiogenesis with convolvulus, bioflavonoids, ascorbate, and balancing the zinc to copper ratio. Balance metabolism with a high protein diet that is low in refined carbohydrates, l-carnitine and essential fatty acid supplementation, and antioxidants.

Chemopreventive and Antimutagenic

Chemoprevention involves targeting the cell signals (cytokines) that stimulate tumor growth while supporting the immune system's ability to destroy cancer cells

Carcinogen Blocking

  • Soaking meat in vitamin C, citrus juice, or green tea prior to grilling significantly decreases the formation of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. [4]
  • Female hormones can promote or block the formation of cancer. Broccoli and cauliflower favor the formation of anti-cancer estrogens while blocking the formation of pro-cancer estrogens.[5]


  • The immune system uses oxidation to destroy cancer cells. Cells use antioxidants to regenerate the compounds that are needed to continue oxidative killing of tumor cells. Diets rich in plant antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of developing cancer.[6]

Tumor Stem Cells

Tumor stem cells are thought to drive tumor recurrence, and they are not fully destroyed by cytotoxic chemotherapy or radiation. Tumor stem cells have been found in breast, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers, amongst others. Sulforaphane from broccoli and cabbage destroys tumor stem cells in preliminary studies.


The vitality of the patient strongly affects survival, quality of life, and tumor growth. Conventional oncologists measure vitality via performance status (PS), and use this measure to determine what treatments a patient receives. Recent science is also rediscovering the importance of "host factors" in controlling tumor behavior, and researchers are developing drugs and tests to try to address "host factors". [7] This is a return to to the advice of Hippocrates: "It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has." Naturopathic doctors are specialists in addressing these host factors. Naturopathic doctors work with their patients to reestablish the foundations of health and to increase vitality . Therapies used include lifestyle counselling , clinical nutrition , hydrotherapy, nutritional supplementation, homeopathic remedies, and botanical medicine.


  1. "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  2. “The Biology of Cancer” from: Clinical Oncology : A Multi- Disciplinary Approach, 8th edition by Rubin (ed.)
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