First Line Naturopathic Cancer Therapies

 

What do I do now?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you've probably asked that question dozens of times.  There is so much that surrounds a cancer diagnosis that trying to keep up can make your head spin.

The simple truth is that there is no 'one size fits all' approach to cancer.  

Every person develops cancer for a unique set of reasons, so each person's treatment will differ.  That's the case even if two people share the 'same' cancer diagnosis.  

It's easy to see why a simple question like "What do I do now?" might not be so simple after all.  It might involve several rounds of testing, trying several treatments to identify what treatment works best in your case.

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That's true of conventional treatments, and we believe the same holds true for any means of positively affecting your clinical outcome.

Our first line naturopathic cancer therapies are designed to do just that.  Naturopathic medicine employed in a cancer treatment plan can have positive effects on your treatment, quality of life, and overall survivorship.  This is especially true when naturopathic therapies are used in connection with conventional therapies.

We believe it's important to try to understand why your cancer developed in order to provide tailored support to maintain your health as you go through treatment and to maximize efforts to avoid recurrence.

Naturopathic therapies in cancer care are beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • May be useful in minimizing the side effects of conventional treatment.  This is especially useful in cases where side effects have required dosage or frequency of treatment to be reduced.  We may be able to support you and keep your treatment on track.
  • May be used to support your immune system whenever appropriate
  • May include therapies or lifestyle changes which interfere with the development or slow the spread of cancer in the body
  • May make cancer more succeptable to conventional treatments
  • May provide a noticeable improvement in quality of life

It's important to know that some naturopathic therapies can have a negative interaction with some conventional treatments or medications.  It's important to understand when not to use a specific naturopathic treatment or when to adjust it to have the intended effect.  Our doctors understand the mechanisms of action of conventional treatment and are skilled at integrating naturopathic treatments into a larger integrative protocol.

Read on to see some of the therapies that we commonly use at our clinic.

None of the information provided below is intented to replace the advice of a doctor who is familiar with your case.  If you're interested in the therapies below or want to see how a naturopathic oncologist might contribute to your well-being, please contact our office.

IV Therapies

Intravenous therapies (IVs) are a safe and effective way to deliver nutrients and therapeutic compounds directly to cells through the bloodstream.  

Most chemotherapy agents are delivered as IVs, so it is a well-recognized method of delivering compounds in a highly available form.

There are a number of reasons that medicines or supplements that are taken orally may not achieve their intended effect.  For instance, a person with a compromised digestive system may not be able to absorb supplements effectively when taken orally.  

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Increasing the amount of a supplement taken may eventually achieve a high-enough level of absorption to produce the intended therapeutic effect; but often, increased levels of oral supplementation carries the risk of unwanted side effects such as nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.  IV therapies tend to avoid these side effects and allow for maximal absorption of whatever nutrients or compounds are being administered.

For people with cancer, we use IV therapies as one of our first-line treatments as they allow us to provide nutrition as well as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents quickly and effectively.

An intriguing point to note is that the IV therapies used at our facility may increase the efficacy of your conventional treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, biologicals) and/or decrease the side effects.  Any decrease in the side effects experienced by a person with cancer translates to an automatic gain in quality of life.

Additionally, people sometimes need to have their chemotherapy dosages lowered due to the harsh side effects they experience.  This means that less drug is given to fight their cancer.

Through the targeted use of IV therapy, we can support a person with cancer and not only keep them feeling better but allow them to stay on course with and receive the full benefit of their conventional treatments.

At Naturopathic Specialists, we also use IV therapy as an effective tool to encourage recovery.  We often incorporate IVs in treatment plans to help the body to heal more quickly and effectively after procedures such as surgery, or radiation.

Outstanding Points About IV therapy:

  • IV Therapy is a safe and effective way to deliver nutrients and theraputic compounds at a cellular level.
  • IV Therapy allows for blood levels that are much higher than could be achieved with oral supplementation.
  • IV administration avoids the side effects that accompany high-dose oral supplementation.
  • Our doctors understand the mechanism of action of the conventional drugs that people are on and adjust IV administration to support and maximize the effect of the conventional therapies being used.
  • We use IV therapy to support the person with cancer, and maximize their bodys ability to heal.

To learn more about IV therapy and its use in cancer care, or to schedule a free 10-minute constultation over the phone, feel free to contact us.  Read on to learn more about some of the specific IV's we often use at our clinic.

IV Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Intravenous vitamin C (IVC), is a commonly prescribed therapy at Naturopathic Specialists, and our physicians are experts at knowing how to use it properly and effectively.  

Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling, was the first to expound the many benefits of Vitamin C in the 1970s. Since then it has become one of the most utilized and researched therapies in integrative oncology. 

Intravenous administration of vitamin C is important for 3 main reasons, as IVC:

  1. Allows for blood levels to be up to 70x higher than you can get through oral supplementation (1).
  2. Such elevated blood levels are required to provide the anti-cancer effects of vitamin C (2,3).
  3. High doses of oral vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal upset and IVC avoids this uncomfortable side effect while allowing for very high dosages to be administered.

How does IVC work?

In general, vitamin C is considered an antioxidant.  While true in smaller amounts, (amounts generally taken as vitamin supplementation); if given in high doses, vitamin c actually has a biphasic effect.  While the levels of vitamin c are high in the body, it actually serves as a pro-oxidant.

Since many cancer cells cannot protect themselves from this pro-oxidative effect,  vitamin c can be selectively toxic to cancer cells.

As the dosing becomes lower in the body or if the initial dose given to a patient is on the lower end, vitamin C becomes an antioxidant and a better anti-inflammatory.

A very important point is that both effects can happen at the same IV session, the later does not cancel the former out.  So, it’s like getting two types of treatment at one time.

Further, IVC has also been found to have the following anti-cancer effects:

  1. Anti-inflammatory: reduction of inflammation can starve cancer cells of both food as well as energy for them to proliferate and survive.  Reducing inflammation also helps relieve pain and can reduce or eliminate the need for some pain medications including opiates.
  2. Anti-angiogenic: by inhibiting the process whereby cancer cells produce new blood vessels (angiogenesis), those cells can become starved of the nutrients they require to survive and grow and therefore become more susceptible to any anti-cancer treatments (natural or conventional) as well as more susceptible to an immune attack.
  3. Immune stimulatory:  our physicians have a keen eye on how stimulate the immune system. the use of IVC remains one of the most consistent and reliable ways to improve the number of immune cells as well as the function of those cells.

When used alone or in combination with conventional treatment vitamin C several benefits, including: 

  • Enhancing quality of life (8-11) 
  • Reducing side effects from treatment (8-13)
  • Prolonging survival (14-17)
  • Stimulating the immune system (20-24)
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of some chemotherapies (17-19). 

It should be noted that much of the research done on vitamin C has been done on cells or in animal models.  However, in recent years human studies have been performed and the results have been promising.  

Dr. Rubin, our senior physician and medical director is a world leader in the use of IVC and recently published an article (click here to read the PubMed article) detailing benefits of IVC in the supportive care of cancer patients.  Many years of clinical practice and use in thousands of patients has further confirmed that this therapy provides numerous benefits.  

Our doctors understand not just the benefits of IVC, but also when not to use it as part of a treatment plan.  High dose vitamin C has several promising effects in people with cancer, but it isn't for right for everyone all the time.  It is important that you find a doctor that understands and communicates effectively with the other members of your oncology team as IVC can interact with certain chemotherapy drugs.  

If you're interested in seeing if IVC might be beneficial to you, our doctors are always available for consultation.  If you would like to schedule time to speak with one of them, click here!

IV Curcumin

Naturopathic Specialists was one of the first clinics in North America to begin using curcumin in the IV form.  We have safely administered hundreds of dosages of IV curcumin with little-to-no side effects.  

 Curcumin is responsible for the yellow color seen in turmeric

Curcumin is responsible for the yellow color seen in turmeric

Curcumin, also known as diferuloylmethane, is a yellow pigmented polyphenol which gives turmeric and, to a lesser extent, ginger their yellow color.  

Most forms of curcumin are poorly absorbed when taken orally (newer formulations are more getting better) but when administered per IV route there is 100% absorption (1).  Curcumin has a multitude of effects on the human body owing to it exerting its effects through multiple different pathways.

As a powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory, curcumin is one of the most well-studied and broadly-acting anti-cancer natural agents on the planet.  

Curcumin inhibits at least 10 cancer pathways, here is a simplified synopsis of ways curcumin interacts with some of them:

KEY TERMS DEFINED:

Cancer Pathway:  Refers to biological pathways that cancer cells use to grow, divide and metastasize.

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS):  ROS are chemical compounds containing oxygen that can cause cellular damage.  ROS are produced normally in our body, but environmental triggers such as exposure to radiation can significantly increase their production leading to widespread cellular damage.

p53 and Bax:  Both p53 and Bax are proteins which can trigger damaged or mutated cells to undergo programmed cell death.  Mutations in these proteins or their pathways can lead to continued cell replication in abberant or damaged cells which may lead to carcinogenisis.

  1. Antioxidant activity - Curcumin can inhibit the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and acts as a scavenger of free radicals. Free radicals can directly cause DNA damage which may lead to the development of cancer. 
  2. Inflammation - Curcumin suppresses the activation of nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-κB) which is one of the bodies main inflammatory pathways.  It also suppresses the COX-2 and iNOS inflammatory pathways.  It has been well established that chronic inflammation can lead to the development of cancer.  Therefore, by suppressing inflammation, curcumin may inhibit cancer formation. 
  3. Angiogenesis - As cancers grow they need to create their own blood supply.  They do this by releasing a protein known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which stimulates the formation of new blood vessels.  Curcumin inhibits VEGF thereby preventing new blood vessel formation.
  4. Invasion - As cancers grow they may be able to invade into surrounding tissue.  They do this by releasing matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which break down the scaffolding holding cells together allowing cancer cells to grow into this newly created space.  Curcumin inhibits the release of MMP-9 and MMP-10 which may prevent cancer invasion. 
  5. Growth - One of the hallmarks of cancer is upregulated growth signaling.  This is mediated through the mTOR (also called the mammalian target of rapamycin and mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway which is constitutively expressed in cancers.  Curcumin has been found to inhibit the mTOR pathway which in turn can prevent tumor growth. 
  6. Apoptosis - Another hallmark of cancer is that cancer does not respond to normal cell death signaling (known as apoptosis).  Curcumin upregulates the expression of p53 and Bax which may induce cell death in cancer cells.

And, one more VERY important aspect of curcumin therapy:  it has been found to increase the efficacy and decrease the side effects of common conventional therapies such as radiation therapy (17-18), docetaxel (19), FOLFOX (20), gemcitabine (21), capecitabine (22) and gefitinib (23).

IV ALA (Alpha Lipolic Acid)

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a compound which occurs naturally in our bodies in small amounts.  When produced by the body though, ALA is bound to proteins and is not bioactive.  It is believed that only free ALA, the supplemented form, has a therapeutic effect in the body.

Historically ALA has been researched for its antioxidant effect.  ALA has been found to neutralize harmful reactive oxidants in the body such as reactive oxygen species (ROS)(1).  

ROS are chemical compounds containing oxygen that can cause cellular damage.  ROS are produced normally in our body, but environmental triggers such as exposure to radiation can significantly increase their production leading to widespread cellular damage.  

ALA has also been found to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, glutathione, CoQ10 and possibly vitamin A (1).  

One of the best studied areas of ALA is in the treatment of neuropathy.  ALA has been found to improve the flow of blood in small vessels near nerves while reducing the oxidative stress which further prevents damage (3-4).

Another potential mechanism is that ALA prevents lipid peroxidation (rancidification of fats in our bodies) which is a known cause of neuropathy (5).

Neuropathy is a common side effect of numerous chemotherapies especially regimens containing taxanseand platinum compounds.  Studies have shown that supplementing ALA while undergoing these chemotherapies can prevent and reverse neuropathy (4,6).

Dr. Rubin was one of the first physicians to publish on the use of Intravenous ALA clinically as an anti-cancer agent.  He is also one of the few physicians to publish studies showing that IV ALA can be an effective treatment in some types of cancer.  

In one published case report, a patient with pancreatic cancer with metastasis to the liver was administered IV ALA alongside low dose naltrexone (LDN, see LDN section of website) (9).  Before initiation of ALA, chemotherapy had failed and there was disease progression.  After initiation of the treatment the patient had improvement of symptoms and 78 months after beginning treatment the patient had no disease progression and remained symptom-free (9).  

Another publication by Dr. Rubin and colleagues, looked at 3 patients with metastatic and non-metastatic pancreatic cancer all who had similar results to the above patient (7).  While larger studies are needed these cases studies point towards ALA having anti-cancer effects against certain types of cancer.

If you're curious about ALA and if it could be useful in your treatment plan, schedule a consultation with one of our naturopathic oncologists.  We're happy to help!


Mistletoe

In Europe, Mistletoe is widely used in the oncology setting where it has been noted to provide numerous benefits.  Both the viscotoxins and lectins have been found to inhibit cancer cell growth and cause cancer cell death (2,8-10).  Additionally, Mistletoe has been found to increase the number of circulating anti-cancer immune cells, and at the same time, improve how well they function (3-7).

Mistletoe therapy has been found in numerous studies to increase quality of life in people with cancer (11-12), for the reasons listed above as well by reducing side effects experienced from conventional therapy (13).

 One of the many varieties of Mistletoe

One of the many varieties of Mistletoe

Mistletoe therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy (14-21).  Current research indicates that mistletoe may actually enhance the effectiveness of these chemotherapy and radiation treatments, one reason why it is commonly used at our clinic. 

Another reason to use mistletoe therapy is to increase overall survival.

One study showed that people with cancer on mistletoe therapy survived 40% longer than those not on mistletoe therapy (14).  In a few cases use of mistletoe therapy has been shown to lead to disease stabilization and even remission (20-21).

Mistletoe therapy has been studied in patients with breast cancer (22), pancreatic cancer (23), colorectal cancer (24), ovarian cancer (25), lung cancer (18) and melanoma (20-21).

A physician must be consulted before beginning mistletoe therapy and you must be monitored while undergoing mistletoe therapy.

Quick Facts About Mistletoe:

  • Mistletoe, Viscum album L, is a plant native to Europe that grows on deciduous trees.  It is a semi-parasitic plant that does now grow on its own, it has to “piggyback” on a tree.
  • Viscum album L is one of the most prescribed integrative therapies in Europe and is commonly used alongside conventional therapy in Germany and Switzerland.
  • Depending on its host tree, the time of year it is harvested, and its processing method Viscum contains numerous and various highly active compounds such as specific lectins, viscotoxins, polysaccharides and, all which may provide unique benefits to people with cancer or other conditions (1).
  • Mistletoe can be administered via injection subcutaneously or intravenously.  At Naturopathic Specialists we teach patients to inject mistletoe subcutaneously.  This makes the therapy cost-effective and allows it to be performed at home.

If you're interested in finding out if mistletoe therapy could be a good fit for you, please schedule a consultation with one of our doctors. 


Metabolic Therapies

Cancer is identified as the uncontrolled growth and division of aberrant cells.

One of the core traits of these aberrant cells is that they all have impaired energy metabolism.  There has been some discussion that some types of cancer develop due to damaged mitochondria, the energy producing 'factories' of our cells (1).  Although this remains as a hypothesis, we believe that treatment at the metabolic level is an important consideration in all people with cancer.

Back in the 1920’s German physiologist and Nobel laureate, Dr. Otto Warburg, noticed that cancer cells are in a continual state of aerobic glycolysis due to their increased growth rate (2).

Here's Why This Matters:

The cells that make up our body have more than one way to produce energy.

Generally, they prefer to involve oxygen in their energy production.  When the amount oxygen our cells actually recieve is reduced (perhaps due to a strenuous workout) our cells are able to switch the mechanism they use to produce the energy they require to function.

Instead of the normal, more efficient way (utlilizing oxygen), they switch to an inefficient method of “fermenting” glucose into lactate.  It's this lactate (or lactic acid) produced as a byproduct that causes you to “feel the burn” and eventually slow down as you exercise.

The body isn't designed to function in this aerobic way indefinitely, and sooner or later, the signals you recieve as fatigue and 'the burn' cause you to stop the exercise, rest, and return to relying on oxygen to produce energy.

Dr. Warburg had discovered that the process of fermenting lactate is not only present in almost all cancer cells but it is their preferred  method of producing energy, even in the presence of oxygen.  

Lactate, as a byproduct of cancer cell energy production further activates oncogenes (cancer causing and related genes) and causes DNA mutation (the basis of the development of cancer).  As lactate is transported out of the cancer cells, it festers in the local area just around the cancer cells/tumor, and creates an acidic microenvironment which can enhance and promote a cancer’s growth rate.

The process of fermenting glucose into lactate is highly inefficient and to be able to do this cancer cells require large amounts of glucose.  This is why you may have heard that “cancer cells feed on sugar”.  While it has been found that cancer cells can be fueled by multiple substrates, it’s believed that if we can limit a cancer cells preferred fuel source and interfere with how they produce energy, we can slow their growth.

By interfering with how cancer cells produce energy we can inhibit their growth and make them vulnerable.  Therapies such as alpha lipoic acid, the ketogenic diet, hyperbaric oxygen, and certain off-label pharmaceuticals as well as natural agents (supplements) can interfere with how cancer cells produce energy.  This makes the cancer cells more susceptible to cell death by both the immune system and conventional therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Read on to see some of the specific metabolic therapies our doctors are using.  If you have any questions about how metabolic therapies could be useful in your case, feel free to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.

Ketogenic Diet

One of the metabolic therapies being used as an adjunct in cancer treatment is the ketogenic diet.  

A ketogenic diet refers to a diet that is high in fat (60 - 80 % of calories), low to moderate in protein (15 – 25% of calories), and low in carbohydrates (5 – 10% of calories).

The goal of a ketogenic diet is to lower your body's blood glucose level so that it switches to using ketone bodies as a fuel source instead of glucose.  Many types of cancer cannot effectively use ketone bodies as a fuel source.  This slows their growth and makes them more vulnerable to other therapies.

Key Words Defined:

Ketones or Ketone Bodies:  When glucose and glycogen stores are depleted,  the body begins breaking down fat stores into molecules called ketone bodies and begins using these for fuel. There are three ketone bodies that are created in the body they are:

  • beta-hydroxy butyrate,
  • acetoacetate, and
  • acetone.

IGF-1: (Insulin like growth factor one).  IGF-1 is a protein that may stimulate cancer cells to replicate.

mTOR: A biological pathway that contributes to uncontrolled cellular growth if it is upregulated.

It has been shown that a ketogenic diet slows the growth of cancer by decreasing IGF-1 levels and inhibiting mTOR both of which stimulate cancer cell growth (1,11-12).  A ketogenic diet has been shown to inhibit cancer cell blood vessel growth as well as decrease inflammation (13).

Ketones may also be directly toxic to cancer cells (2).  Recent research has shown that a ketogenic diet may even enhance the immune system which can further combat cancer (3).

A ketogenic diet has been found (in some cases) to increase the efficacy of both chemotherapy (8) and radiation therapy (10).  Additionally, individuals on a medically monitored ketogenic diet have reported a reduction in side effects from conventional therapy (9).

Human trials thus far looking at the ketogenic diet and cancer are currently lacking due to the many challenges of carrying out a diet based study.  However, there is good evidence that a ketogenic diet is beneficial in cancers of the brain, rectum, and lung:

  • Two pediatric patients put on a ketogenic diet had decreased tumor cell glucose uptake.  Both patients saw clinical improvements and one experienced a stable remission after 12 months on the diet (4).  
  • Ten patients with incurable cancer were put on a ketogenic diet.  After 28 days half of the patients had a stable or partial remission (5).
  • Eleven patients with advanced cancers were put on a ketogenic diet and it was found that after 4 weeks 54.5% of patients had stable or improved disease (6). 
  • Six patients undergoing radiation therapy were put on a ketogenic diet.  Five of the six with early stage cancer experienced tumor regression (7).
  For More Information Explore Our Three-Part Blog Series on the Ketogenic Diet

For More Information Explore Our Three-Part Blog Series on the Ketogenic Diet

What cannot be overstated enough is that the ketogenic diet is not a cure for cancer, but instead is one part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan. 

However, it can be used as therapeutic tool to help manage and potentially shrink tumors as well increase the efficacy and decrease the side effects of conventional therapy.  At Naturopathic Specialists we have a medically supervised ketogenic diet program that helps guide patients through the diet.

To learn more about the ketogenic diet and cancer, take a look at our three-part blog series on the subject.

If you're curious about whether a ketogenic diet could be appropriate and make a difference in your situation, please call our office and schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.

Dichloroacetate

Dichloroacetate is a chemical produced as a by-product of water chlorination.  It has been used as an investigational drug for over 30 years in areas such as metabolic disorders (1).

Interest in its use in an oncology setting began in 2006 when Dr. Evangelos Michelakis found that DCA inhibited cancer cell metabolism (2).

DCA inhibits pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase which, in effect, normalizes cancer cell metabolism and reduces lactate formation (2).  According to research, this may allow cancer cells to undergo normal cellular death while not affecting normal cells (2).

Furthermore, since DCA normalizes metabolism it increases oxygen consumption by tumor cells which may make them more susceptible to conventional therapy (2).

Although most of the research is in pre-clinical stages use of DCA has showed promising results.

 

DCA has been found to be efficacioius in:

  • Glioblastoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Melanoma
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Renal Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Prostate Cancer
 
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It is important to understand that DCA has been found to increase the effectiveness of some chemotherapies and hinder the efficacy of others.  Further, DCA use has a potential to cause peripheral neuropathy and must always be used under the supervision of an experienced physician who can prevent and manage this side effect as well as monitor blood work.  It is important to speak with your physician before commencing any DCA therapy.

At Naturopathic Specialists we use DCA in conjunction with other metabolic therapies to maximally impact tumor cell metabolism.  Also, we tend to use DCA away from conventional therapies due to its potential to interfere with them.

Speak with one of our physicians if you're interested in finding out more about the potential for DCA in your case.

Metformin

In the early 2000’s it was discovered that patients with diabetes who also were taking metformin had reduced rates of cancer.

Since then epidemiological studies have shown that metformin significantly reduces the incidence and mortality in multiple types of cancer (1-4).  Research has found that metformin acts to inhibit cancer cell growth and cause cancer cell death by inhibiting a biological pathway that cancer cells exploit called the 'mTOR pathway' (5).  When the mTOR pathway is upregulated, it promotes unregulated cell growth, so it is important function to monitor.

Metformin has further been indicated to:

  • Target cancer stem cells (reducing their ability to survive) (6),
  • Increase the efficacy of some chemotherapies (6), and
  • Reverse chemotherapy resistance in some cancer cells (7).

Metformin has been in clinical use for many years and is a safe and effective therapy.  At our clinice, we have seen a benefit to the use of metformin as part of a comprehensive metabolic anti-cancer protocol when indicated.

Metformin is available only by prescription, and may not be appropriate in every case.  To find out if metformin could be useful as part of a larger metabolic approach to your cancer therapy, please schedule a consultation with one of our physicians.


Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals refer to highly-refined and strongly-potent natural products that typically contain a single ingredient derived from a dietary or botanical source.  Nutraceuticals are typically aimed to effect very strategic processes in the body.

Caution must be taken when venturing into the realm of nutraceuticals for at least the following reasons:

  1. The word nutraceutical is not covered under US law, so items marketed as nutraceuticals may or may not actually contain what is advertised on product labels.  In some cases, even if a product does contain what is advertised, it may not be in a form that is readily absorbable by the body, so the actual intended therapeutic effect may never be achieved.  Obtaining nutraceuticals from a trusted source, such as those specifically obtained through our office is highly recommended.
     
  2. Because nutraceuticals have the potential to effect very specific processes in the body, they may not be beneficial in a specific type of cancer, or alongside certain conventional therapies. In some cases, certain agents may even be quite harmful or interfere with other treatments you may be undergoing.
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We understand that people want to do everything possible to support their health, this is especially true when going through a health crisis like a battle with cancer.  It’s been estimated that over 50% of all people with cancer are using complimentary and integrative care before, during and after their diagnosis.

While interest in your own health is a key factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, unguided use of nutraceuticals can carry risks.

For instance, people with cancer who come to our clinic for their first visit often bring with them a list of the supplements, including nutraceuticals, that they have been taking in connection with their health care program. Many of them are ‘self-medicating’ by doing research on the internet or reading the labels in their local health food stores, and picking out anything that is marketed as beneficial.  Often, if it claims to help they jump on it.

We feel it is very important to consult a qualified physician who understands how to identify not just the supplements that are most effective in any given circumstance, but also which supplements are most beneficial (or dangerous) in your case specifically.   At Naturopathic Specialists, we use only professional brands of supplements that we can guarantee have the correct potency and efficacy that you may require.

It takes an intimate understanding of conventional treatments (chemotherapies, radiation, etc.) as well as a deep understanding of nutraceuticals to safely integrate them into a cancer treatment protocol. Many people with cancer are referred to our clinic by conventional doctors for just that reason. We believe that to be used safely and effectively, nutraceuticals should be monitored and recommended by a specialist.

If you’re curious whether your supplement use is beneficial in your case, schedule a consultation with one of our naturopathic oncologists.  Our physicians are happy to make sure your nutraceuticals are safe, effective, and will not negatively impact the results of the conventional therapies you may be receiving.


Pharmaceuticals

Naturopathic Specialists is not a ‘nature cure’ clinic in the sense that our doctors will prescribe pharmaceuticals when it is in the best interest of the patient. 

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While in general practice, our non-oncology specific doctors excel in helping people to reduce the number of prescription medications that they may need to be on; in the realm of oncology, there are times where a strictly naturopathic approach just cannot provide what the person with cancer needs at that particular moment.

The care we provide is always individualized, always personalized.  That includes understanding when a person with cancer is better served by a pharmacological (or other) approach.  

While there are almost always things that naturopathic medicine can help to modulate and improve, there are many pharmaceuticals such as pain medications, antibiotics, anti-nausea medications and steroids that can greatly improve patients’ quality of life, or in some cases even be lifesaving.

In Arizona, naturopathic doctors have the right to prescribe pharmaceuticals.  Our physicians understand the mechanism of action of pharmaceuticals and their interactions with the disease state upon which they are applied.

Additionally, in some instances, we may use pharmaceuticals in an ‘off-label’ way.  

A pharmaceutical’s use is considered ‘off-label’ when it is used for an indication, age group, dosage, or route of administration other than that which it is specifically intended.  An example of an off-label use of prescription medication can be seen in the Metformin section above.

In this case, Metformin, which is specifically designed and manufactured as an anti-diabetic medication is sometimes used by our physicians because of the drug also has specific, predictable, and well known effects on certain cancers.

While ‘off-label’ may sound scary at first, it is actually quite a common practice for prescription drugs to be given to people for reasons other than the condition which the manufacturer specifies.  In the event your physician believes an off-label medication may benefit you in your specific case, he will inform you of why specifically he believes there is evidence to support its use will benefit you.

Some common prescription medicines sometimes used in connection with cancer care at our clinic:

 
  • LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone)
  • Metformin
  • Varieties of Anti-Biotics
  • Some Pain Medications
  • Some Anti-Nausea
  • Sleep Meds
  • Anti-Anxiety Meds
  • Thyroid Meds
  • Hormones (HRT)
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Any prescription medications that may be needed are assessed on a case by case basis.  For more information on our doctors skilled integration of medications for your personalized care, please contact our office.


Botanicals

Naturopathic doctors are extensively trained in the use of botanicals in patient care and are thus able to incorporate various preparations into treatment plans. 

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When used appropriately, botanicals can often be used alongside certain conventional therapies to either enhance a desired effect or to reduce a side effect experienced from treatment.

In some cases, botanicals can even be used in place of a conventional medicine to achieve a similar or even superior therapeutic effect, and oftentimes, without the side effects common to the conventional therapy.

At our clinic, we use botanicals in various forms, including but not limited to

  • Tinctures (oral liquids)
  • Topicals
  • Capsules 
  • Injectables: (These are by prescription only and can be used per IV or injection route)

Many botanicals modify the way the liver processes compounds such as medicines, which is one reason why certain botanicals can either increase or decrease the efficacy of certain prescription medications or conventional therapies. 

It is important to speak with a naturopathic oncologist who is familiar with both botanicals and conventional therapies to determine which botanicals are safe and effective to take in your case.

Interest in botanical medicine continues to grow.  It’s estimated that over 50% of people with cancer are using some form of botanical medicine (1). 

However, as botanicals rise in popularity, there is no shortage of people supplying misinformation or overinflating claims about the use of botanicals in treatment of cancer.  While many people equate natural substances with safety, the opposite can in fact be true; especially in cases where botanicals could negatively interact with and undermine the effectiveness of conventional treatment plans.

If you’re interested to find out if botanicals could be a helpful addition to your treatment plan, schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.  We examine each case carefully and create an individualized treatment plan for each person.


Laboratory Testing

At naturopathic specialists our physicians use diagnostic methods to interpret each person’s unique physiology and how they are responding to the cancer cells in their body.  Each person develops cancer for a different collection of reasons and it is our job to discern that using testing as well as our depth of knowledge of the physiology of cancer.

The lab tests we run allow us to understand an individual’s unique physiology and biochemistry.

Conventional labs, approved by the FDA and insurance companies, such as blood counts, thyroid and lipid panels can be drawn at any lab draw station such as LabCorp or Sonora quest.  While a lot of important information is gathered from conventional lab testing, sometimes we need more information than can be gathered by conventional lab testing alone.

This is where specialty lab testing comes in. We use state of the art specialty lab testing to look at other aspects of a patient’s health which helps direct treatment decisions. Some of these labs are not recognized by the FDA and are not covered by insurance.
 
The importance of these labs is that they can give us insights into what factors could have led to the development of cancer. It also lets us look at the overall health of our patients.

We use this information to our advantage and from it build individualized targeted therapies to modify our patients’ physiology and biochemistry to create an inhospitable environment for cancer to develop, grow and spread.

 

Some of the specialty lab testing we use at our clinic are

  • Circulating tumor cells – “Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cancer cells that have shed from a primary or metastatic tumor and circulate in the bloodstream. The identification and isolation of CTCs in cancer patients can be used with or as an alternative to traditional tissue biopsies in order to evaluate what might be taking place on a real-time basis. This technology may be used to evaluate a patient prognosis as well as their response to therapy.” From: https://biocept.com/technology/
     
  • Genetic/ Molecular testing – At our clinic we use advanced genetic and molecular testing to look at a patient’s tumor genetics and molecular profile. By learning the characteristics of a patient’s tumor, we can discern how it is interacting with their body. This helps us determine which treatments are most appropriate for our patients. It also allows us to closely monitor ever evolving tumors and modify treatments accordingly.

We run numerous other specialty tests such as food intolerance testing, SIBO testing, heavy metal assessments, stool analysis, neurotransmitter testing and much more.  We determine what tests should be run for an individual on a case by case basis.

Some of the genetic and molecular tests we use at our clinic are:

  • Biodesix- This test looks at lung tumors genomic and proteomic profile to determine prognosis and determine what therapeutics may specifically target your tumor. 
     
  • Foundation one- FoundationeOne provides a comprehensive genomic profile for many solid tumors. It provides information that to guide treatment decisions by including potential targeted therapies, clinic trials and markers of response to immunotherapy for patients.
     
  • Guardant 360 – This test looks at 73 different cancer related genes and if there are any alterations in them. By determining which genes are mutated we can individualize treatment to you. 
     
  • Oncoblot – The Oncoblot test looks for a specific protein found only on the surface of malignant cancer cells. It can be used to detect the presence of cancer before many conventional test and can determine what tissue the cancer originated from. 
     
  • Micronutrient testing – Many pharmaceuticals and chemotherapies deplete our bodies of essential nutrients. These nutrients are essential to normal physiological processes in our bodies. Furthermore, our immune system depends on adequate levels of these nutrients. By determining which nutrients our patients are deficient in we can replace them and bring our patients back to optimal health.
     
  • Microbiome testing – Microbiome testing looks at the composition of gut microbes that inhabit an individual’s gastrointestinal tract. Imbalances in an individual’s microflora could lead to numerous health problems. Research is finding that the microbiome can impact the efficacy of pharmaceuticals, chemotherapies, targeted therapies and immune therapies. Determining the composition of an individual’s microbiome can help us enhance the efficacy of conventional therapies as well as alleviate the side effects of them as well. 
     
  • Hormone testing – At NS we have developed a comprehensive testing program to look at how your body is reacting to hormones. We look at the current levels of hormones in your blood. We look at your genomics to see how your body converts and uses these hormones. We also look in your urine to see how your body is metabolizing hormones. Using this information, we then create a protocol that is customized towards you and your physiology.
 

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