Conners Clinic | Alternative Cancer Coaching

Cancer and Inflammation

Understanding Cancer and Inflammation

Inflammation is really a double-edged sword. It is a necessary component of healing for in it contains the chemicals of your immune response that kill invaders and promote healing. While it is beneficial at one level, it is also detrimental in chronic forms. Much like most things is life; balance is the key to success. In cancer, the chronic inflammation of a Th2 immune response suppresses the needed Th1 response which is largely responsible to control the cell growth.


Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, once said, “If the soil causes the disease; the cure to the disease also lies in it.” We might say, “The cure for cancer lies in the cause of cancer, namely, the imbalanced immune system.”

For instance, while TNFalpha, Natural Killer Cells (NKC), and Macrophages, some of the pro-inflammatory chemicals of the Th1 (immediate, killer-cell side) immune response brings inflammation, it also brings the cure, the correction, the stimulus that leads to cancer suppression.

Also it is noted that while pro-oxidants produced in the body mediate inflammation, antioxidants (such as glutathione) suppress this response. Inflammation is an important part of the body’s response to both internal and external environmental stimuli. This response serves to counteract the insult incurred by these stimuli to the body – survival is always the body’s goal. When acute inflammation, as seen in a fever, is manifested for a short period of time, it has a therapeutic consequence. However, when inflammation becomes chronic or lasts too long, it can prove harmful and may lead to disease. It’s all about balance.

Cancer and InflammationPro-Oxidants vs. Anti-Oxidants

A similar relationship exists in pro- vs. anti-oxidants. It seems we are overwhelmed with information about the importance of increasing anti-oxidants in our diet; the truth be told: we cancer care without pro-oxidation would prove fruitless. To understand this, let’s discuss the mechanisms.

A free radical is a reactive molecule that tends to damage cell parts so we tend to think that this is always ‘bad’… NOT true.  However, when DNA is damaged, this can mean damaged genes but this is precisely why our body replicates cells and the ‘old’ cell dies.  If the genes controlling cell multiplication are harmed, cell growth can get stuck in the “on” position and cause cancer – this is an example of imbalance.

Cancer cells are very active reproducing and growing causing an increased load of free radicals within the cancer cell. Cancer cells are not good at handling more free radicals, since they already have more in them than normal cells and they tend to spew them out of the cells forming a slime layer that makes it more difficult to penetrate. At first thought, maybe it would be wise to flood the cancer with anti-oxidants. Until we understand that, at the root, the cancer is growing without oxygen, fermenting its energy, we then arrive at a different solution.

Normally the body makes energy through oxidation and is able to quench free radicals produced with substances called antioxidants.  Antioxidants lessen the amount of free radical-induced injury and bring balance. This ‘tug-o-war’ continues and may be illustrated in exercise. We go to the gym and work our muscles, breaking tissue down in the presence of a depleting supply of oxygen (almost a semi-cancerous state) for muscles to ‘recover’ stronger, bigger, more thrifty in their use of oxygen, healthier in what we call ‘better shape’.

Cancer is similar in that the cells have created a survival mechanism to grow and thrive in a hypoxic environment. Since pro-oxidant strategies increase free radicals, it may better seem that the way to kill cancer cells is by bombarding them with pro-oxidants.  This would lead to more free radicals within cancer cells, and injury and eventual death to the cancer cells.

Cancer and InflammationThe mechanism of many chemotherapy drugs, as well as radiation, in destroying cancer cells is by causing free radical increase within cancer cells.  This is the same mechanism in many of the apoptogens (cancer killers) in a nutritional approach.

Many nutriceuticals that are normally considered to be anti-oxidants actually have a pro-oxidant, cancer-killing effect on cancer cells. Curcumin, for example is just one anti-oxidant that acts as a pro-oxidant to a cancer cell. It also elicits anti-inflammatory benefits that aide in breaking down the barrier for an immune assault on the growing cancer mass. Selenium, EGCG (from Green Tea Extract), high dose Vitamin C and others also act like this. Some so-called antioxidants at high levels have other ways of killing cancer cells, like inhibiting certain enzymes (Curcumin inhibits topoisomerase II) that hinder normal apoptosis.

We have to be careful taking dogmatic stances in our nutritional approach. The “anti-oxidants are good for you so excess amounts of anti-oxidants must be better” ignores the very principles of health that regulate homeostasis – balance. Mixing different nutrition can be counterproductive as well; for instance, use of Curcumin along with Glutathione has shown to be a very wrong approach. Extensive research within the past half-century has indicated that Curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry powder, exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-apoptotic (aiding in normal cell death) activities.

Recent studies have investigated whether the anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic activities assigned to Curcumin are mediated through its pro-oxidant/anti-oxidant mechanism. Much data has revealed that TNF-mediated NF-κB (markers found to accelerate cancer) activation was inhibited by Curcumin – therefore Curcumin acts to slow cancer growth. Glutathione, normally a great anti-oxidant (some would argue that it is the body’s greatest) reversed the inhibition – that means that Glutathione negated the cancer stopping benefits of Curcumin. This is just one example of what can go wrong with taking too many supplements!

Cancer and InflammationCellular pro-oxidants, called reactive oxygen species (ROS), are constantly produced in our body. As stated, excessive ROS can induce oxidative damage in the cell and promote a number of degenerative diseases including accelerated aging. Cellular antioxidants protect against the damaging effects of ROS and have long been the sales-pitch of health practitioners. However, we cannot ignore normal balance; in moderate concentrations, ROS are necessary for a number of protective reactions. ROS are essential mediators of antimicrobial phagocytosis (killing bio-toxins), detoxification reactions carried out by the cytochrome P-450 complex (the main liver detox pathway), and apoptosis which eliminates cancerous and other life-threatening cells. Can you say ‘balance’ again?

Excessive ingestion of antioxidants could dangerously interfere with these protective functions, while temporary depletion of antioxidants can enhance anti-cancer effects of apoptosis. This is just another lesson against ‘cookbook nutrition’. This is where practitioners educated in Kinesiology may have an advantage in determining the correct approach for the patient. Functional medicine testing measuring ROS baselines may also prove effective on determining a nutriceutical attack, as each patient is different.


PARENT Essential Fatty Acids (DPAs, ALAs, EPAs & DHAs)

Essential fatty acids have undergone extensive studies with cancer and their potential anti-inflammatory effects on the body. In a recent study out of Finland, Jyrki Virtanen, from the University of Eastern Finland, analyzed blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as C-reactive protein (CRP) – a marker of inflammation, in Finnish men, ages 42 to 60 years. Results showed that is omega-3 levels increased, CRP levels decreased. Specifically, docosapentanoic acid (DPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) increase significantly, whereas no change in levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) were observed.  The study authors conclude that: “Serum [omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids] and especially the long-chain [omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids] concentration, a marker of fish or fish oil consumption, were inversely associated with serum [C-reactive protein] in men.”

Essential fatty acids are a great anti-inflammatory fat that everyone needs to consume. How much is enough? First understand that farm-raised salmon and other fish are NOT a good source of Omega-3’s. Do NOT buy fish that are farm-raised; these are fed prepared fish foods and not natural. To get EFAs from food, eat cold water, ocean caught fish that are products of their natural environment. There are also arguments on whether it is best to take supplements of fish oil or use PARENT oils (which are cold pressed seed oils – I list the source we use below). Either way, you must spend the money and purchase a good brand that ensures little to no contaminants and has a reputation for quality.

Cancer and InflammationBecause omega–3 fatty acids are in shortest supply in the typical American diet and have been so imbalanced in most people for decades, I often recommend you obtain EFAs from a PARENT source. This means the oils are from unadulterated sources that are from sources that contain the ‘parents’ of both Omega-3 and Omega-6. These ‘parent essential oils’ (PEOs) are Linoleic Acid and Linolenic Acid. This is one of the simplest, safest, yet most effective steps you can take to quell chronic inflammation in your body. I also recommend that everyone include a small handful of raw nuts and seeds in your diet daily, especially walnuts, which are good sources of PEOs.

It is important to have the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet and to let the body make them through using PEOs. We know that Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation which, from the outside looking in, isn’t good. However, there MUST be a proper balance between an inflammatory ‘attack’ response and the anti-inflammatory ‘clean-up’. Everything in life is about balance!

Prof. Brian Peskin is a world-leading scientist specializing in parent EFAs — termed PEOs — and their direct relationship to both cancer and cardiovascular disease. He currently spends time advancing the scientific understanding of the role of essential fatty acids in the body’s metabolic pathways, and has developed a means for alleviating cancer’s prime cause, as postulated by Nobel Prize-winner Otto Warburg, M.D., Ph.D., by increasing cellular oxygenation (The Hidden Story of Cancer, From an immune standpoint, there is a fundamental cancer / heart disease connection, whereby the same physiologic solution helps solve both conditions.

Dr. Peskin’s protocol, termed “the Peskin Protocol” will lead to a new understanding of how to better care for patients with both cancer and heart disease. The basis for Peskin’s current work, grounded in physiology — can be found in his seminal work and peer-reviewed medical journal articles. Clinical physicians throughout the world have validated Prof. Peskin’s EFA recommendations. In the most exciting development to date, Dr. Peskin’s theoretical conclusions were recently and completely validated in a physiological experiment by precise instrumentation capable of measuring arterial compliance. This experiment (IOWA experiment) provided the first conclusive clinical proof and validation of Prof. Peskin’s theory. Peskin pharmaceuticals have a patent pending on the medicament that embodies this development.

What is a Parent Essential Oil (PEO)?

There are really only two (2) essential fatty acids, LA (parent omega-6) and ALA (parent omega-3). They MUST come from food. To work properly, they CANNOT be heated, chemically processed, and MUST be organically raised to guarantee full physiologic functionality.

The typical American diet tends to contain 15 – 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids – and they are all adulterated! A 1:1 ratio of parent omega-3 : parent omega-6 would be perfect but not very practical if you think you are getting from your current food sources.

Cancer and InflammationThe Mediterranean-type diets have a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. I prefer even a more-strict Paleo-type diet for most people, eliminating grains, ‘bad’ carbohydrates, grain-fed meats, and obtaining most of your nutrition from your vegetables, juicing, and stone fruits. Many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease and have a much greater chance of surviving cancer.

People who follow an Anti-inflammatory diet tend to have higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, which help promote heart health. Inuit Eskimos, who get high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from eating fatty fish (and even blubber), also tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides (fats in the blood). Yes, they eat fat and are healthier, have less fat in their blood and liver, and have less cancer! Finally, walnuts (which are rich in alpha linolenic acid or ANA, which converts to omega-3’s in the body) have been reported to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol levels.

Most clinical studies examining parent omega-3: parent omega-6 fatty acid supplements for autoimmune disorders have focused on rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. A number of small studies have found that it helps reduce symptoms of RA, including joint pain and morning stiffness by reducing the acute inflammation.

Eating foods rich in PEOs seems to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer according to research and observance. For example, Eskimos, who tend to have a high fat diet as described above, but end up eating high amounts of PEOs, have a low rate of colorectal cancer. Animal studies and laboratory studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent worsening of colon cancer as well. Preliminary studies suggest that taking PEOs daily may help slow the progression of colon cancer in people with early stages of the disease. Although not all experts agree, women who eat foods rich in PEOs over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer.

Population based studies of groups of men suggest that a ‘good’ fat diet including PEOs help prevent the development of prostate cancer. The biggest thing to remember about good oils and cancer is the anti-inflammatory benefits. Remember, rapidly reproducing cells (cancer) give off a large amount of acidic waste that form an inflammatory ‘slime’ layer around the growing mass that protects it and prevents your immune system from killing it. Anything one can do to decrease this ‘slime’ layer will have benefits in allowing your body to kill the cancer cells.

PEOs and Cancer

The his book, “The Hidden Story of Cancer”, Dr. Peskin details the molecular biochemistry of why cancer develops and shows that no ‘genetic cause’ will ever be found to the majority of cancers. Remember that cancer is not a foreign invader, but is rather a primitive defense mechanism for survival in a very unhealthy environment. Medical research understood that cancer comes from within our own bodies, but they viewed our bodies’ cells as being somehow genetically programmed to “turn on themselves.” “This is where they make their mistake: The body is not turning on itself; instead, it is struggling to survive in the only way it can,” write Peskin. Cancer cells survive by making energy using fermentation.

Most cancers are not and have never been genetic in origin. What is correct is that the cancerous tissue is surrounded by unhealthy, oxygen-deprived tissue that has allowed the uncontrolled growth to take place. However, it gets worse. Many tissues are oxygen deprived along with the cancerous ones – it is NOT a local problem, it is a systemic problem. Homer Macapintac, M.D., chair and professor of nuclear medicine at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for stating this truth: “Breast cancer is not a local problem. It is a systemic [whole body] disease.”

One MAJOR reason that our tissue becomes oxygen deficient and more acidic is simple: by eating adulterated oils and fats from the food processing industry and from your supermarket’s cooking oil section! These adulterated oils have a long shelf-life but have lost their oxygenation ability. They started out containing the functional, vitally needed oxygen-transferring PEOs (Parent Essential Oils), but they were ruined by processing and refining. Your body can’t make them on its own; they MUST come from food. We are giving ourselves cancer by eating common, everyday processed foods! Trans fats are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the methods used by food processors to obtain long shelf-life and ruin the oxygenation capability of fats. PEOs work like tiny “magnets” drawing oxygen into all cells, tissues, and vital organs.

Dietary Sources

Plant and nut oils are the primary dietary source of PEOs. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil (BUT do NOT take canola oil or soy products with cancer!!), pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil.

Taking a supplement is really necessary unless you eat a perfect diet. I often use (each patient is different – I test them) Dr. Peskin’s Protocol now with PEOs. Some of our non-cancer patients fare better with fish oils (see our book on this subject, “You’re Crazy”, available as a free download at and recommend Premier Research Labs products. Premier Research Labs has Parent Essential Oils (PEOS) are organically produced, cold-pressed seed oils containing “parent” omega 6 and “parent” omega 3. They are often better than fish oil supplements for those with cancer.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is the real problem. It almost always lurks beneath the surface of nearly every chronic disease including diabetes, cancer and every autoimmune disorder. Most of the time you can’t see or feel it, but this low-grade, constant type of inflammation increases the risk of every leading cause of death.

To understand and therefore control inflammation is a major key to conquering cancer. I have often said that cancer is a Th2 dominant disorder that imposes a Th1 immune suppression. Your Th1 system is the main ‘killer’ portion of your immune response that also helps ‘kill’ cells that are supposed to die and be cleaned out of the body. If the Th1 system is suppressed, cancer has a better chance to proliferate.

Both sides of the immune system fire inflammation. The Th1 system creates a more acute inflammation where the Th2 system enables a slower, more insidious inflammation that may largely go unnoticed by the patient. It is common for a person with a Th2 dominant autoimmune condition to be completely unaware of their problem and blame stiffness, arthritis, brain fog, and other chronic inflammatory symptoms on ‘old age’ or worse, allowing a doctor to give them a medication that suppresses the symptoms and the problem continues.

Let’s look at a common condition in America: high cholesterol. Millions are diagnosed with this every year and placed on some statin drug that readily lowers their numbers and gives the patient a false sense of victory. Was the reason why the liver was producing an excess amount of cholesterol addressed? What causes your body to make cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a necessary ingredient to life; it is the precursor to all your hormones including Vitamin D. Side note: Since Vitamin D is crucial in apoptosis (normal cell death that is NOT happening in cancer) and every cancer patient is arguably low in serum Vitamin D levels AND since cholesterol is the precursor to Vitamin D production, do you think there is a correlation between the 80 billion dollar per year Lipitor industry and our rise in cancer rates? It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to figure some of this stuff out!

Excess cholesterol isn’t good either, but why is the body making too much? I think that THIS is the type of question that must be asked! Your body makes cholesterol for numerous reasons but one is in response to inflammation. See the connection? If a person has chronic inflammation they can have elevated cholesterol. Find the source of inflammation!

Vicious Cycles

Illness is an outcome of vicious cycles. Here’s just one possibility: A person is exposed to a high amount of toxins in their lifetime, some of which settle in their tissue. An immune response from a completely normal response, let’s say to an infection of some sort, causes a spike in the Th1 system to kill the infector. This Th1 immune response carries a slurry of different chemicals that are just looking for something to kill (because that is the only thing your immune system does). If the infection is easily quenched, excess Th1 cytokines may ‘find’ a toxin lodged in your tissue that the immune system was never supposed to ‘turn on’ against. If these chemicals initiate a response against such a toxin, we have a problem. Since the immune system only kills things, its attempt to ‘kill’ a toxin will simply result in a constant, ramped-up response that destroys local tissue and leaves inflammatory cytokines that choke-off detoxification pathways and clog extracellular spaces. This is really the definition of an autoimmune disease!

If the subsequent immune response is dominant in Th1 chemicals, it is called a Th1 dominant autoimmune condition and is marked by more acute destruction and often leads to a greater number of symptoms for the patient that may cause them to seek help and receive a diagnosis. A greater number of Th2 chemicals leads to a Th2 dominant autoimmune response that can be just as destructive but is often slower in process and more insidious, leaving the patient with diffuse, lower-grade symptoms that may go undiagnosed and undetected. The Th2 response still breeds chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation down-regulates cell receptors against things that aide in normal cell death (like Vitamin D receptors that are supposed to help old cells die and not become cancerous).

We are left with a breeding ground for cancer!

I could give a hundred different example of ‘vicious cycles’ but the important thing to understand is that EVERY disease is a product of one. Failure for you and your doctor to ‘dig back’ and figure out the vicious cycle that has lead you to your problem is just WRONG. To give the patient a label of cancer or any disease for that matter, without finding the reason it is there is malpractice in my book. I thought that this is what a doctor was supposed to do. Any educated individual can ‘google’ their symptoms and compare their lab results to patterns to reach a reasonable diagnosis; it’s WHY the problem exists that must be solved!

Have Questions?

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