The Alternative Options
Below is a list of alternative medicines that purport to have properties that make them suitable in the fight against brain tumours.
Homeopathy seems completely counter-intuitive in that the more diluted the medicine, the higher the potency. Yet millions of people use homoeopathy worldwide, and they spend billions too. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2008 Australian’s paid US$7.3 million on homoeopathic remedies, the French more than US$408 million, Germans US$346 million and UK citizens more than US$62 million. In 2007, adults in the United States spent a staggering $2.9 billion. Perhaps the free market economy had judged?
Perhaps the best known of the brain tumour homoeopathic remedies is the Banerji protocol. The Banerji’s have a long history of treating brain tumours and one of their papers reports having treated 30,288 malignant tumours in the period 1990–2008. Of these, they claimed that 21% had completely regressed, and 23% had improved or were stable. If such statistics are correct, then the protocol compares extremely favourably with conventional treatments for cancer.
There is a range of supplements that are supposed to help combat brain tumours.
Boswellia is a herbal medicine traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s the focus of some clinical trials researching its efficacy in treating brain tumours.
Curcumin is a substance in turmeric that is thought to have medicinal properties which help the body fight off pain and inflammation. Some laboratory tests suggest that curcumin may block the growth of certain kinds of tumours.
DCA, or dichloroacetate, is a very simple chemical that some researchers have found causes cancer cells to stop multiplying and die. Furthermore, unlike chemotherapy agents, DCA isn’t thought to affect healthy cells.
Coriolus Versicolor, or Turkey Tail mushroom, has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for boosting the immune system. There have been Western studies that suggest it protects the immune system during chemotherapy, but research has also begun to consider whether it could help fight cancer in its own right. One American trial found very compelling results as to its efficacy in treating breast cancer.
Maitake D-Fraction is purported to have antitumor effects and helps enhance the immune system.
Chemically, melatonin is N-acetyl–5-methoxy tryptamine, a hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness and induces sleep. A 2005 meta-study of its use in treating solid tumours found that: “The substantial reduction in risk of death, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention suggest great potential for melatonin in treating cancer.”
Studies indicate that zinc may play a significant role in cancer treatment. Indeed, zinc deficiency may be a contributory factor in cancer development.
Apricot kernels are reported to be beneficial for brain tumour patients. However, they contain the substance laetrile, whose active ingredient is hydrogen cyanide, a potent toxin at high doses. Laetrile has been actively promoted as beneficial for cancer patients since the early 20th century, but its use has become highly controversial. In fact, the U.S. Federal Drugs Agency actively prosecutes those promoting it as a cancer cure, calling it a, “highly toxic product that has not shown any effect on cancer”.
Omega 3 is a well-established brain food.
According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, there’s growing evidence to suggest that whey protein can help prevent and attenuate disease. They say that we’ve known for centuries that it forms an essential constituent of a healthy diet. For example, a very well-known nursery rhyme, first appearing in print in 1805 (but may date back to the 15th century) mentions whey protein: “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey”. Researchers think that whey protein is an anti-carcinogen because it replenishes the immune system and helps the body respond effectively to disease. It does this through the delivery of one of the principal protective mechanisms of a cell’s protective antioxidant system, glutathione.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Brain tumours have hypoxic areas, and it is believed that HBOT has a role to play in treating them because it promotes oxygen delivery.
Cannabis produces a series of unique compounds, called cannabinoids, which exhibit some biological effects by activating cannabinoid receptors (the so-called endocannabinoids) in humans and animals. Perhaps the best known of these cannabinoids is the highly potent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis that is responsible for producing a ‘high’. It is this property that also makes the drug illegal in many countries around the world. This, of course, has stigmatised cannabis, which is unfortunate because there are a growing number of studies that suggest that cannabinoids may inhibit tumour growth. Below is a graph showing the annual searches on PubMed for the phrase “cannabinoids and cancer”. Note how the number of searches has a recent upward trend.
PubMed Annual Number of Searches for the Phrase “Cannabinoids and Cancer”.
In fact, there are one or two interesting US patent applications that suggest the beneficial medicinal properties of cannabis. The first is application 20130059018: Phytocannabinoids in the treatment of Cancer. The second is the granted application 6630507: Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The abstract of the paper describing that patent starts with the following paragraph:
Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
This patent is interesting because it was filed by the Government of the United States Of America, as represented by their Department Of Health and Human Services. So the use of cannabis as a medicine is considered beneficial by the highest of powers. Indeed, there are a growing number of countries who have legislated to allow the use of medical cannabis.
Alternative Health Clinics
There are many alternative brain cancer clinics in America. One example is the Burzynski Clinic. But is Burzynski a quack or a saviour? You can easily find conflicting views on the Internet, including a documentary that seems to suggest the clinic is the victim of a conspiracy by the US FDA. Part of the controversy is that treatment costs US$100 thousand. But that cost is actually dwarfed by the price of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It’s simply that American Health Insurance schemes fund conventional therapy, but not alternative treatments, such as Burzynski. That leaves interested patients having to find the money for themselves.
There must be some truth to the proverb: “We are what we eat”. It is disappointing that the standard of care from the UK’s NHS does not include food. It is unforgivable to feed patients junk while they are hospitalised. It’s also a shame there aren’t more studies involving diet and brain tumours.
There are many diets purported to have anti-cancer properties. Gerson therapy, the ketogenic diet and the alkaline diet are to name but a few. Getting children to eat anything out of the ordinary is often problematic. Indeed, care should be taken when considering dietary changes for a child and it would be wise to seek the advice of a professional nutritionist.