The Aging Effects of Chemo
Does chemotherapy have long-term side effects beyond the known immediate toxicity? Though most patients never get a chance to consider, let alone voice a concern over long-term side-effects of chemo as they get herded through the traditional oncological procedures, new studies suggest they exist. Depending on the regimen of chemotherapy chosen, potential long-term adverse effects include premature menopause, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular and neuromuscular toxicity, and secondary malignancies as the chemo may kill rapidly replicating cells but then leaves circulating tumors cells to thrive. Recently, two groups of investigators have studied whether premature aging is also a possible effect.
Sanoff and colleagues (1) cite evidence that “adjuvant chemotherapy may confer effects consistent with molecular aging of 10 to 15 years in breast cancer patients”. The observed cellular senescence is due to the drugs activation of INK4/ARF locus on chromosome 9p21.3, which codes for the tumor-suppressor proteins p16INK41 and ARF in peripheral blood T cells. Studies have also shown that other markers of aging, including decreased leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and expression of senescence-associated cytokines such as interleukin 6 are present in a much higher degree post-chemo. (2)
Post-chemo expression of p16INK4a and ARF corresponds to an almost 15-year chronological aging in the hematologic compartment, specifically CD3+ lymphocytes. The senescence-associated cytokines VEGFA (vascular endothelial growth factor A) and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 were also persistently elevated with adjuvant chemotherapy.
Understand, chemotherapy has three main applications. It is thought to be curative for only a small number of malignancies including childhood leukemia, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has a palliative role for most metastatic epithelial malignancies. Finally, it is used in an adjuvant role in several types of epithelial malignancies particularly breast cancer. First employed in the mid 1970s, adjuvant chemotherapy has been associated with up to a 30% relative improvement in long-term overall survival in high risk breast cancer but demonstrates significantly less absolute improvement.
Now that adjuvant chemotherapy is being recommended in nearly every cancer case, both the relative and absolute improvement in overall survival is even less impressive. With a growing number of long-term cancer survivors, we are only now able to define the delayed implications of adjuvant chemotherapy. These long-term side effects include acceleration of neurocognitive decline, musculoskeletal complications such as early onset osteoporosis, premature skin and ocular changes and the most common long-term complaint; mild to profound fatigue. This complex of problems is suggestive of early onset frailty. (3)
If I may offer some suggestions, those exposed to chemotherapy might consider:
- Green Tea Extract (EGCg) at a daily dose of 1500-2500mg. This can help promote osteoblastic activity and decrease overall IL-6 levels.
- Resveratrol at a dose of 10-20mg TID. Don’t be fooled into believing that drinking a glass or two of red wine supplies your resveratrol needs. A fluid ounce of red wine averages around 90 micrograms of resveratrol. The studies on resveratrol supplementation suggest 20 mg (20,000 mcg) of resveratrol is needed to positively affect aging. Therefore, 20-mg resveratrol provides approximately 220 times the amount of resveratrol found in one fluid ounce of red wine. Since a glass of wine is approximately 5 and 1/3 ounces, a person taking one 20-mg resveratrol supplement may ingest the equivalent amount of resveratrol found in 41 glasses of red wine. Needless to say, that is a lot of red wine and no one needs the alcohol. When reversing the telomere decay from the effects of chemotherapy, I suggest a higher dose of resveratrol and throughout the day. Since resveratrol has a very short half-life in the body, it is very necessary to spread out the dosage over time.
- Liver pathway support. It is essential to support methylation and other detoxification pathways. There are numerous good products on the market available to do so and I suggest you keep patients on something for this for life.
- Decrease brain inflammation. We use a product we’ve developed that we call BAM (Brain Anti-inflammatory Mix) but generally you want to use herbs such as Ginkgo, Turmeric, Boswelia, White Willow Bark, Ginger Root, Nettle Root Extract, Arnica Extract, and Celery seed. You can add Bacopa to this list as well as ALA, NAC, etc.
- Heal the barriers (gut and brain) with appropriate nutrition and diet.
- Decrease any other inflammatory causes.
Should You Do Chemo?
The only person that can answer this question is you! Since I am schooled in an integrative approach to cancer, I do not believe that all chemotherapy is bad. Low-dose chemo and insulin potentiated chemotherapy have shown to be tremendous aides in slowing fast-growing tumors, but remember, chemo does not kill cancer stem cells and can create drug resistant circulating tumor cells. Former White House press secretary Tony Snow died in July 2008 at the age of 53, following a series of chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer. Three years prior to his death, Snow had his colon removed and underwent six months of initial chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer (remember, chemo does NOT kill cancer stem cells, it only ‘knocks-down’ the current cancer).
Two years later (2007), Snow’s cancer returned (because it was never really gone – the stem cells remained) and he underwent surgery to remove a growth in his abdominal area, near the site of the original cancer. “This is a very treatable condition,” said Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Many patients, because of the therapies we have, are able to work and live full lives with quality while they’re being treated. Anyone who looks at this as a death sentence is wrong.” But of course we now know, Dr. Ocean was dead wrong because he ONLY looked at traditional methods (chemo, radiation and surgery) to treat Snow and his other patients.
The media headlines proclaimed that Snow died from colon cancer, although they knew he didn’t even have a colon (it was surgically removed in 2005) anymore. As is all too common when the ‘cause’ is not addressed, the malignant cancer had “returned” (from the drug-resistant circulating tumor cells and stem cells) and “spread” to the liver and elsewhere in his body. Now unable to heal the ‘causes’ of the original cancer (in addition to the newly created ones), Snow’s body developed new cancers in the liver and other parts of the body and he was finished.
The mainstream media, of course, still insist Snow died from colon cancer while they ignore the fact that it was really the treatment that killed him. Maybe I should say that it was the ‘lack of treatment’ that killed him. As we (in the cancer world) continue to ignore the truth that cancer is a symptom of a body’s inability to manage its environment and think that we are ‘treating’ the patient by ‘killing the cancer’, bodies will continue to pile up at the door of the morgue.
Is Chemo Right For You?
While making that decision, remember, it is extremely difficult for even the healthiest patient to heal from this condition while being subjected to the systemic poisons of chemotherapy and deadly radiation. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake and don’t get an antidote for it, isn’t it likely that your body becomes overwhelmed by the poison and, therefore, cannot function anymore?
Before Tony Snow began his chemo-treatments for his ‘second bout’ with colon cancer, he still looked healthy and strong. But after a few weeks into his treatment, he started to develop a coarse voice, looked frail, turned gray and lost his hair. Does this sound familiar? Did the cancer do all this to him? Certainly not! It wasn’t the cancer that destroyed Snow’s immune system, eroded epithelial tissue, non-selectively destroyed all reproducing tissue, and poisoned his body. It was the chemical toxins we call ‘therapy’ because it’s the ‘best we have to work with’. I have no doubt that his doctors were caring individuals trying to make the best decision in an attempt to save Snow’s life. If they are heroes, they are fighting the wrong battle.
Do the mainstream media ever report about the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows chemotherapy has zero benefits in the five-year survival rate of colon cancer patients? Or how many oncologists stand up for their cancer patients and protect them against chemotherapy treatment which they very well know can cause them to die far more quickly than if they received no treatment at all? Can you trustingly place your life into their hands when you know that most of them would not even consider chemotherapy for themselves if they were diagnosed with cancer? What do they know that you don’t? The news is spreading fast that in the United States physician-caused fatalities now exceed 750,000 each year. Perhaps, many doctors no longer trust in what they practice, for good reasons.
You MUST define the battle you are fighting! There can be a time and place for chemotherapy. If your purpose is to slow down an aggressive cancer so you have time to clean-up the environment that allowed it to flourish – then go for it. If you are seriously taking steps to change your life, your diet, your emotions, your health, then explore low-dose chemo or a less aggressive chemotherapy regimen. If you are putting yourself in the hands of your oncologist and rolling the dice on traditional medicine alone without taking responsibility for the reason the cancer is growing in your body, well I hope you are feeling lucky!
Put it this way – traditional approaches to cancer are optional (and may be the best choice in your case), but the ‘alternative’ approaches like lifestyle changes, dietary changes, RIFE, detoxification, and many others are just NOT OPTIONAL!
Just think about it: how messed up are we in our thinking? Eating right, exercising, proper nutrition, stress management, getting normal nerve flow to the tissues through chiropractic care, massage therapy, colon therapy, physical therapy, herbal therapy, etc., are considered ‘alternative’. Goodness sakes, these things are not alternative, secondary choices; they are primary, necessary steps to health. These are the Biblical approaches that should be considered FIRST.
Traditional drugging, cutting and burning should be considered “alternative”; they are un-natural, invasive, and oftentimes inappropriate. Granted, traditional medicine has a large place in our healthcare needs and saves lives in emergency situations every day, but don’t go there first.
In adults, a cancer diagnosis means the cells have been multiplying for years to reach the numbers (well over a million cells) to be diagnosed by any means. There is a reason they are not being killed by one’s immune system and our first order of events should be attempting to find that reason and change the milieu of the body that has allowed it to grow. Whatever your decision is regarding surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, make it balanced with doing everything possible to heal your body.
Biblically, we are called to ask for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5. We MUST take a balanced, unbiased approach to living. I am NOT here to bash traditional care, I’m here to bring balance and encourage you to seek God and His wisdom FIRST. Surrendering your will to anyone, whether it’s a doctor or a preacher, is wrong. James writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:17.
Be open, gentle, pure, impartial and sincere in the way you seek truth and in the way you make decisions. Don’t let anyone RUSH you down a pathway you are not perfectly clear you should take. SLOW DOWN and become a student of truth.
I’ll be praying for you!
Well, once again, I hope this helps!
- Sanoff HK et al. J Natl Cancer Inst 2014 Mar 28. Duggan C. J Natl Cancer Inst 2014 Mar 13.
- THE FRANZ BUSCHKE LECTURE: LATE EFFECTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY AND RADIATION THERAPY: A NEW HYPOTHESIS PHILIP RUBIN, M.D. Chairman, Division of Radiation Oncology, University of Rochester Cancer Center, Rochester, NY 14642
- Possible acceleration of aging by adjuvant chemotherapy: A cause of early onsetfrailty? Ronald Eric Maccormick, Medical Hypotheses, Volume 67, Issue 2, 2006, Pages 212–215
Dr. Conners graduated with his doctorate from Northwestern Health Sciences University in 1986 and has been studying alternative cancer care for over 20 years. He holds AMA Fellowships in Regenerative & Functional Medicine and Integrative Cancer Therapy.
He is the author of numerous books including, Stop Fighting Cancer and Start Treating the Cause, Cancer Can’t Kill You if You’re Already Dead, Help, My Body is Killing Me, Chronic Lyme, 3 Phases of Lyme, 23 Steps to Freedom, and many more you can download for FREE on our books page.