by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer
We all know that cancer is a difficult disease to treat. Unlike most conditions, which progress in predictable ways, the latest research reinforces that each individual’s cancer is unique. For example, two people with the same type of ovarian cancer will have mutations and other tumor characteristics that are quite different from one another and may require very different treatments.
Cancer tumors are complex, with a network of interacting communication pathways that have gone out of control and are continually changing. This variability highlights the many challenges we face when treating the moving target that is cancer. But it also points to a strategy: Hit that patient’s individual disease from as many directions as possible. Yes, cancer adapts, but so can we.
Integrating All Approaches
Each year, the Annie Appleseed Project hosts its Complementary & Alternative Therapies Conference. Annie Appleseed and groups like it are critically important to moving forward the needle on cancer care because they offer a greatly expanded view of what contributes to cancer, along with a broad spectrum of approaches to treatment. Practitioners like me share our experiences integrating other modalities and innovative therapies with the best of Western medical approaches.
By doing so, the Project opens up new paths toward preventive and therapeutic success against cancer. The simple act of having an open mind allows us to consider each alternative rationally. Some might not work, others might work wonderfully, and still others might only work in combination. By testing these new approaches, we achieve progress.
Held in late February in West Palm Beach, Florida, this year’s conference addressed a wide range of topics, from emerging information about anticancer herbs to tips on developing an anticancer diet and lifestyle and the effectiveness of cannabis for some and ways to integrate it into therapy.
The conference also highlights how patients can develop the mind/body connection to enhance their therapies. Yoga, spiritual support, fitness regimens, and other approaches were discussed and often practiced at this year’s gathering.
During the conference, one of the main topics was the underlying anomalies that drive cancer. During my own presentation, I zeroed in on three interconnected problems that we must address to control tumors: growth, inflammation, and toxins.
By its very nature, cancer is a disease of unrestricted growth. We accept that as the norm in this disease, but biologically, it is not normal. Cells have numerous safety mechanisms to prevent uncontrolled growth, but these growth-signaling molecules go awry in cancer.
One of the primary drivers of aberrant growth is inflammation. Too many of us suffer from chronic inflammation, and it can have a dramatic impact on our cellular health. Inflammatory signaling can cross up cells, telling them to grow and divide when it’s really not necessary. The chain continues with toxins, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and chemicals in household products. In our modern world, it’s hard to avoid ongoing exposures. There’s a direct link between these various compounds and inflammation. Many toxins are stored in various tissues in our bodies, especially fatty tissues, generating chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and oxidative stress.
Knowing that toxins, inflammation, and faulty growth mechanisms can drive cellular overgrowth and lead to cancer, we have some good clues to guide us in our anticancer approach. The natural world has much to offer to help protect us and promote healthy cell function. Modified citrus pectin (MCP), quercetin, turmeric, and honokiol, for example, are natural compounds known to counteract inflammation and promote cellular health.
At the conference, I highlighted MCP, which binds to heavy metals and other toxins and helps eliminate them from the body. MCP also binds to the inflammatory protein galectin-3, which has been linked to inflammation-driven diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. This ability to both control inflammation and reduce toxicity makes MCP a powerful botanical.
Another effective group of botanicals is medicinal mushrooms. These days, immunotherapy is a hot topic, but these fungi are perhaps the original version. By modulating the immune system, they can help us resist cancer and other conditions.
The Integrative Path
Integrative medicine practitioners do just that—we assess new ideas and adopt therapies that complement each other. At my medical clinic, this approach is especially important when treating cancer, as the disease has the ability to escape any single treatment. Multiple approaches are always recommended.
We know that traditional Western approaches have a host of damaging side effects and a narrow focus on killing the cancer. Fortunately, new immune therapies are emerging that are more focused on harnessing the immune system’s power to fight the cancer.
Integrative medicine has a unique and important role to play because it takes a different view, putting the person at the center of care rather than the disease. This approach improves health and well-being, even during traditional treatments. It combines innovative therapies, potent botanical combinations, and mind-body medicine practices with traditional Western therapies to enhance their effectiveness, reduce side effects, speed recovery, and produce better outcomes.
Conferences like Annie Appleseed remind us that we can use the many tools science and nature can offer us. By keeping an open mind and testing diligently, we will develop more and better ways to address cancer.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more health and wellness information, visit dreliaz.org.