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Published On: Tue, Nov 1st, 2011

Integrative Approaches

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Dr. Bob  Berger, MS, MVSc, PhD

In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon declared the “War on Cancer”.  At this time, breast cancer struck woman at a rate of about 1 in 16 and usually hit after the age of 50.  It was almost unheard of  [during that era] to hear about a woman with breast cancer in her 30’s or even in her early 40’s. Things are a lot different today. Presently, this ratio has increased to 1 in 8 woman, and the “strike” ages of many woman has dipped into the early 30’s.  It has even been frequently reported to attack many woman in their middle-to-late 20’s!!!!   At this rate, it appears that we are in big trouble…and as far as the “battle” we have waged…let’s just say that General George Patton would have been forced to resign his command if his 3rd Army ever performed in combat like this!!!!   

A Foxhole of  Complacency

I use the analogy of “Old Blood and Guts” because one of the main goals he preached to his troops, (in his famous speech which he gave on June 5, 1944), was to “keep advancing” when encountering the enemy…he never wanted to hear a soldier say; “I am holding my position“.   This is why Patton did not like foxholes; a foxhole “slowed the offensive”…Unfortunately, we’ve lost some of our “attitude” of what Patton referred to as our  comprehension of the need for “Real Battle”…(“Americans love to fight, traditionally.  All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle“).  Instead of taking the battle to our enemy [cancer] and becoming proactive, we have allowed this enemy to be the aggressor, have allowed it to attack, and have let the onset of cancer determine our actions. We react instead of act.  We need to be proactive and beat cancer to the punch, (especially breast cancer)…and, to quote Patton; “When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually.”  Similarly, if  a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and relies solely on traditional therapy methods, and then simply waits to see the effect, (i.e., similar to lying in a foxhole), in most cases, the enemy [breast cancer] will eventually find her [again] as well!!!! 

The difference between a Wehrmacht soldier finding a GI in a foxhole and breast cancer finding a woman [a second time] is quite substantial.  The German soldier was still probably the same man he was before…except maybe a bit more battle-worn.   The breast cancer cell, upon metastasizing or coming back a second time, is not like the previous or primary cancer cell…it is   stronger, more resistant, more resilient, and is definitely more aggressive.  A breast cancer cell reappearing in another part of the body, (i.e., a metastasis), is a most ominous enemy!!!! 

Many cancers of the breast, (as well as those of the ovary, the cervix, the uterus, the prostate, the lung), are not only supported by the exposure of our bodies to various toxins, estrogen-like compounds, plastics, xenoestrogens, organic pesticides, etc., but in many cases, these environment environmental “poisons” are responsible for the initiation of the cancer itself.  As a scientist  educated in traditional Oncology, I am a supporter of the use of   chemotherapy, when  administered in the proper and required situations,  but I also know that chemotherapeutics, no matter how effective it can be, can’t stop environmental poisons, (that are attacking us constantly), from entering our bodies.  This is where the importance of integrative therapy enters into the picture

Understanding  “The What” of Breast Cancer 

Although there are a range of types, stages, and variations of breast cancer, let’s look at a few of the more insidious types of this disease which affect us.  

BRC1 :  This is a “caretaker gene” that has been implicated in familial (type) breast cancer.  Caretaker genes are genes which encode specific proteins, (i.e., “Breast Cancer Gene Type 1 Susceptibility Proteins“), that stabilize the genome and are responsible for the repair of defective DNA double-helix strands , which if not repaired properly, are likely to cause mutations.  These DNA mutations can, (and do), lead to cellular instability, uncontrolled cellular mitotic division, and cancer.  When the BRC1 gene itself becomes mutated or defective, it can no longer perform its protective duties.  Woman who are identified carrying this defective or mutated form of the BRC1 gene have a much greater chance, (i.e., are predisposed), of being hit with breast cancer, as these defects are inherited.   

BRC2:  This is a “tumor suppressor gene” that also has been implicated in familial breast cancer.  One of the functions of tumor suppressor genes is to act as “surveillance” and essentially direct the formation of signal proteins which act as “genetic on and off switches” that control neoplasmic initiation.  Just as with the BRC1, when the BRC2 gene is mutated/defective, it can’t perform its protective duties either.  Woman identified with defective or mutated BRC2 are also predisposed to breast cancer.   

HER2/Neu:  Also known as HER2-Positive breast cancer, this is a specific type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells display an amplified/overabundant amount of  [tyrosine kinase- containing] protein; Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 Protein (HER2).  This type of breast cancer is  most aggressive These proteins bind with other specific proteins which stimulate cancer cells to replicate and grow in an uncontrolled manner.  These proteins, when combined with other specific proteins, are involved in the signaling of cellular growth and their differentiation.  Controlling cell growth and differentiation is vital, and when the gene for HER2 is “over-expressed”, (i.e., uncontrolled), there is an associated increase in breast cancer recurrence and an increased susceptibility for breast cancer to appear/reappear.  In essence, there is an unregulated HER-mediated signaling pathway, which usually results in non-regulated growth and spread of cancer cells, first in breast tissue, and potentially…throughout the body.

The heterogeneity of breast cancer occurs as a result of the un-regulation of many oncogenic (cancer) pathways as well as to the numerous non-genetic, (acquired) factors resulting from the many genetic, un-regulated factors.  A recent study from Duke University, showed that some of these factors are due to micro-environmental  stresses caused by the presenting tumor/cancer itself,  such as hypoxia, (low cellular oxygen), glucose (sugar) deprivation, and lactic acidosis [Gatza, M.L. and Kung, H.N., et. al., (2011)  “Analysis of tumor environmental responses and oncogenic pathway activation identifies distal basal and luminal factors in HER2-related breast tumor subtypes”  Breast Cancer Research, 13, R62.].  It is imperative that these factors be addressed and corrected if a patient is to survive.  If these factors/symptoms are due to secondary or metastatic effects of HER2-positive breast cancer, the primary cause must be addressed along with some form of palliative care.  For example, if we use the accepted therapy for the HER2/Neu model in order to treat [and/or debulk] the tumor, tumors, or metastatic spread which may be present, we would (most often) be utilizing  Herceptin®, (Trastuzumab), and Taxol®, (Paclitaxel), which when used in combination appears to be the most effective treatment for  HER2-positive breast cancer [Gori, S. and Colozza, M., et al., (2004) “Phase II study of weekly paclitaxel and Trastuzumab in anthracycline-and taxane-pretreated patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer” British Journal of Cancer, 90, 36.]. (Herceptin® is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the HER2 protein which then blocks the other specific, required proteins from binding to the HER2 protein. This action also stimulates the immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells which are bound to the Herceptin® molecules.  Taxol ® is a mitotic inhibitor which intercalates (binds) DNA and halts cellular division.)  Now the secondary problems, (hypoxia, glucose deprivation, lactic acidosis), must be addressed… 

So, Besides Chemotherapy…What Do We Do?!!!!

Once again…look at what it is we are facing.  Going about trying to defeat an enemy of this magnitude by using a one-dimensional approach is no longer an option!  An example of why this does not work is quite transparent; the fact that when treating  HER2-positive breast cancer, the reason oncologists had to turn to the combined use of Herceptin® and Taxol® [given together], was because this disease usually becomes resistant to the original therapy agents being used, such as the original use of anthracyclines, (i.e., doxorubicin).  Imagine a disease so powerful that it has the ability to adapt and become resistant to biological poisons and anti-metabolites!!!! 

The “Tenacious” Ten 

1. Keep a positive mental outlookThis is just as important as anything…especially if you are in the early stages of breast cancer.  A positive mental attitude keeps endorphin levels steady, which in turn, supports immune function. 

2. Exercise...Even moderate weight-bearing exercise may be beneficial.  Depending upon whether or not the cancer has progressed [which stage you are in] and your all-around general fitness, this can be important for immune strengthening .  Always speak to your general physician and/or oncologist before beginning any exercise routine.

3. A balanced diet and proper nutrient intakethis is self-explanatory.  If you feel you need to do so, consult with a  Registered Dietician (RD), who is well-versed in cancer nutrition.  There are some great supplements out there with loads of research behind them…look at VitaminD3  for instance…go to the Pub-Med website, (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed), and you can read over 1000 research abstracts on Vitamin D and breast cancer.  Make sure anything you take into your body has a plethora of research and data backing from research institutions, colleges, universities, or established industry, (i.e., The Research Triangle or Oak Ridge Laboratories), and has been published in respected medical/scientific journals.  

4. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins, poisons and estrogens, various hormones, xenoestrogens, etcall can be breast cancer instigators. Xenoestrogens can actually displace our own natural estrogens, (i.e., estrone and estriol) and “mimic” the most powerful estrogen; estradiol.  These xenoestrogens  can sit on/attach to estrogen receptor sites and direct excess breast cell mitotic division, which itself can be a prelude to cancer. This is especially important for those with estrogen-positive [driven] breast cancers.

5. Try to keep a steady weight & maintain a manageable lean body: fat body ratiomaintaining steady weight is very important while fighting breast cancer, especially in Stages II and/or III.  This is where a woman should be working with an MD, DO, or an ND and/or an RD (Registered Dietician).  Allowing oneself to lose excess weight due to lack of appetite or to depression is a true negative for immune system function.  Concurrently, allowing oneself to assume a significant rise in body fat, while showing a drop in lean body (muscle tissue) percentage, is also bad. Fat will hold toxins and estrogen, which have the potential to be released in the body and stimulate cancer growth in estrogen-positive breast cancers. This is where you must have true health professionals working with you.  

6. Utilize stress reduction regimensstress increases the production of glucocorticoids…especially the hormone, cortisol.  Cortisol production is important, but when it is overproduced, it has negative effects on the body. It increases the catabolism of lean body tissue (muscle) and causes it to hold on to a lot of water and supports lipid (fat) accumulation.  This is obviously bad just by itself.  For a woman fighting breast cancer, this is extremely bad.  Excess fat storage holds on to fat-soluble toxins, estrogens, plastic breakdown products, xenoestrogens, etc…all of these compounds can stimulate many forms of breast cancer cell initiation and metastasis.

7. Support and modulate your Immune Systemnever  over-stimulate it.  Over-stimulation can cause inflammation and may stimulate mast cells to produce various “reaction” chemicals and hormones, (i.e., histamine, serotonin, prostaglandins, etc).  An example: if a woman is suffering from “Inflammatory Breast Disease“…an extremely insidious and aggressive form of breast cancer…extraneous inflammatory responses could cause it to spread even more rapidly.  Modulation is the key

8. Before using supplementation/nutraceuticals, always check with your doctor and/or oncologistMany physicians are becoming knowledgeable in the use of legitimate supplementation regimens.  In my humble opinion, there are 2 types of people to avoid…but this is your call

           i.  Practitioners who haven’t got a clue…these are the ones who haven’t read an article in PubMed since Methuselah was weaned off of breast milk, and think the “NIH” is only the name of the knights in Monte Python and the Holy Grail. 

          ii. “Cure-Everything” con-men!!!!  These are the folks who claim a single supplement cures everything…nothing cures everything and making claims like these is totally bogus…in reality, one can’t even claim that chemotherapy “cures” cancer.  Also, never put your health into the hands of people who hide behind titles, such as “Doctor of the Divine Spirit” or some other nonsensical title.  Listening  to many of these people may cause you to join the “Divine One” sooner than think!!!!  Finally…be aware of two-legged parasites who preach that they can perform “mental/spiritual surgery” and have “powers” that enable them to remove tumors from your body by telepathy.  These types of people are nothing but two-bit con-men who play on people’s desperation…believe it, these folks can’t remove anything from you except the hard-earned savings from your bank account!!!!  Go with professionals…those with background experience in health care, who are degreed, and those with legitimate health centers that employ knowledgeable staff. 

9. Think “Integrative“…don’t listen to people who make a “career” of putting down cancer-research  hospitals like “Sloan-Kettering” and “St Jude’s Hospital”, and the brilliant physicians and researchers who have dedicated themselves to these highly regarded institutions.  Integrative therapy requires the use and knowledge of traditional medicine, if it is required, along with nutritional, dietary, and lifestyle adaptations. 

10. Surround yourself with supportive, positive people and other good thingsavoid negative, unsupportive, mean-spirited people…their “aura” is bad for coping with your disease and your subsequent recovery.  Adopt a pet… companionship with a loving canine or feline will do wonders for your health, recovery, and all-around outlook on life!!!!



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