What About Chemotherapy? - October 31, 2009

It's been almost three weeks since my last post, and nobody is complaining too much. And there are a few out there that like to read this blog, so I shall continue for your benefit. Blog stats indicate that about 30 folks hit this blog each day on average, and about a quarter of them stay for more than a few seconds. Some are harvesting the images, and a significant number stick around and read several pages. So for the silent minority out there, this blog's for you!

I get a couple of cancer news items emailed to me weekly, and one recently told of the discovery by a local university that glutamine also has a role in the long-established medical model that CANCER LOVES SUGAR. Some of the background and findings are interesting, and it does highlight the simple (but apparently not well-known) fact that cancer has a serious lust for sugar. Not just any sugar, mind you, but specifically glucose. I may discuss the simple chemistry of common sugars and starches and how they contribute to blood glucose in a future post. Today's post will focus on how blood glucose feeds cancer directly, and how a clever technique can use this fact to target chemotherapy to kill cancer cells without causing widespread damage in your system. Why discuss this here, when BCG is the treatment protocol I am using? Because when BCG fails, we need to be ready with something besides radical surgery to remove bladder, prostate, and lymph nodes in "yard sale" fashion. HK in Toronto and Ed B. in Washington state have both had serious reactions to BCG, so even our little bladder cancer fraternity of blog readers here yields a significant sample who are interested in an alternative.
HK is at the mercy of the Canadian doctors and their system, but he might choose to venture abroad for alternatives. Ed B is already looking, just in case.

In my last post I disclosed the ten things I recommend to battle cancer, and I showed a logic model to support the multi-pronged approach.
Number one on the list is to follow medical advice - preferably with research and a support team to back you up. Most people I encounter do this, and for the majority that is ALL that they do. The few that do anything more usually skip down to #9 and take some vitamins and/or supplements. The exercise nuts do #10, but they were all doing that before their cancer. In my opinion the second priority after allopathic medicine is to STOP EATING SUGAR and simple starches. Ironically this is both the easiest and the hardest thing in the world to do. Easy because you just have to say "No!" Difficult because sugar is in everything and human beings love it almost as much as cancer does. Let's look at the article I referenced initially from the Salt Lake Tribune, found at this link and reprinted in its entirety below. Boldface type emphasis was added by me:

Tumors Hungry for Sugar
Huntsman Institute » Findings point to new ways to fight cancer.
By Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 08/24/2009 09:48:06 AM MDT

Utah biochemists have made a breakthrough in understanding how cancer cells feed on glucose, possibly paving the way for new drugs designed to starve cancer into submission.

Cancer cells use glucose in tandem with another crucial nutrient, the protein glutamine, an amino acid found in many foods, according to findings published this week by researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The findings could spur development of new chemotherapies that would stall tumor growth by deactivating cancer cells' ability to use glucose, said Don Ayer, a professor of oncological sciences whose lab published the research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science .

For decades, science has known that cancer cells suck up inordinate quantities of glucose, nature's ubiquitous biological fuel, in a process that quickly blows tiny tumors into deadly malignancies.

PET scans use cancer cells' high rate of glucose metabolism to build images of tumors. These cells also need glutamine, just like normal cells.

"It's absolutely clear you need both for tumor growth. They seem to need it more than other nutrients. If you deprive them of one or the other, tumors don't grow," Ayer said.

Mohan Kaadige, a postdoctoral researcher in Ayer's lab, spearheaded the study, whose co-authors include Ayer; Sadhaasivam Kamalanaadhan, also a member of the Ayer lab; and Ryan Looper, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

The lab's work, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, seeks to unlock the molecular mysteries associated with tumor proliferation.

"Research into the factors that regulate the metabolism and growth of cancer cells is still at an early stage," said Janet Shaw, a U. professor in the Department of Biochemistry and a former Huntsman researcher. "Dr. Ayer's discovery that glutamine and glucose utilization are linked is important because it identifies a number of new molecular targets that could be manipulated to interfere with the growth and survival of tumor cells."

This week's discovery builds on the lab's previous research identifying the role of MondoA, a protein that switches genes on and off, in tumorigenesis. This protein affects the gene TXNIP, which suppresses tumor growth by blocking glucose uptake into cancer cells. The Ayer team discovered that in the presence of glutamine, MondoA deactivates TXNIP. This is important because it suggests new ways to impede tumor growth.

"If you don't have glutamine, the cell is short-circuited due to a lack of glucose, which halts the growth of the tumor cell," Ayer said.

The next step is to learn how the Mondo protein works in relationship with glutamine.

"If you can modify the metabolism of the tumor cell you can have a benefit. This is not a new idea," Ayer said. "If we can figure out how glutamine signals to Mondo, that has quite a bit of chemotherapeutic potential."

Were it developed, a drug that blocks glucose uptake would not likely choke off normal cell growth, as many cancer chemotherapy drugs currently do because of their toxicity.

"Tumor cells seem to be addicted to glucose. Normal cells are not. They grow at a slower rate and if you challenge them with nutrient deprivation they can be more flexible," Ayer said.

Ayer emphasized that his lab's findings shed no light on dietary impacts on tumor growth. Glutamine is the most common amino acid in our bodies and glucose levels are tightly regulated by our endocrine system, regardless of sugar consumption.

So here I am recommending something directly disputed by the last paragraph above. While it is true that the endocrine system "tightly regulates" blood glucose, Dr. Ayer is taking a very simplistic view of things. The endocrine system does indeed strive to keep blood glucose at a constant level, but it is not successful except when looking at the average. There are spikes in blood glucose (temporary hyperglycemia) as well as dips (temporary hypoglycemia). My approach #2 is to avoid eating things that make a your blood glucose spike, washing cancer in a bath of its favorite food. Sure there is enough blood glucose on average to allow cancer to survive, but why do anything to supercharge it by flooding your blood with glucose to be easily snagged by cancer cells?

Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT)

Perhaps something more could be done to exploit this trait of cancer cells. By using insulin a doctor can also regulate the blood sugar of a patient. Seems like we could just drop the blood sugar down until the cancer dies, and then all would be well. As simple and elegant as this approach might be, it will also kill the patient! The Utah researchers in the article above noted a connection with glutamine, and hope to devise a new treatment after more research. Some of us don't have that long to wait, and there is some good news. There is an existing treatment, permitted to be used in the United States (and nearly everywhere else), that exploits the cancer-sugar relationship by using insulin to regulate blood glucose along with low doses of conventional chemotherapy. This mechanism is called Insulin Potentiation Therapy, or IPT. Some prefer to call it by the slightly more familiar-feeling name of Low Dose Chemotherapy. The theory behind this protocol is to carefully lower a patient's blood sugar to induce starvation in cancer cells, which respond by sending out "wide open" feelers (aka insulin receptors) to take any glucose that comes along. This process is very short - maybe 10 minutes to lower the level to a minimum safe one, then maintain for five minutes - 15 minutes total. Then the doctor injects a low dose of chemotherapy drugs followed by an intravenous bag of glucose solution. The cancer in its greed for sugar also absorbs a disproportionate amount of the chemo drugs, causing the desired effect of cancer cell mortality. All with far fewer side effects than a full dose of chemo will give, preserving immune system function to deal with fighting cancer recurrences.

Many established medical organizations in the United States have denounced IPT, primarily because of the lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed studies to substantiate its effects. There are also some criticisms of the expense associated with the treatment, but to be fair, even the most egregious charges are smaller than the routine costs of conventional chemotherapy. In any case, one could try IPT for effect and follow with full dose chemo if needed. So there is little risk in trying IPT first.
And it is very important, especially with Stage 3 and 4 cancers, that IPT be tried BEFORE conventional chemo, because the destructive effects of full dose chemo on the immune system makes it nearly impossible for the body to safeguard itself from a relapse of cancer.

Again, I am not doing IPT now. If the BCG continues to work (along with the other nine things I am doing), I never will need to try IPT. But if BCG fails, it will likely be the very next thing I investigate. If you are looking for an alternative to BCG for bladder cancer or full dose chemotherapy for any other cancer, take a hard look at IPT. More information and a list of practitioners worldwide can be found in the links below.

In the meantime, despite Dr. Ayer's fatalistic advice above to eat what you please, I shall continue to avoid sugar in all its forms to prevent glucose spikes. This is a real struggle, as sugar in some form is included as an ingredient in nearly everything, both prepackaged and prepared in restaurants. But if you take the attitude that sugar is deadly poison and work hard to avoid it, you can be successful. Sugar is beautiful, seductive, and addictive. And it tastes good, too! So tasty and so seductive. We have to ask ourselves, is sugar good enough to die for?

Dealing With Any Type of Cancer - WHAT TO DO? - October 11, 2009

 UPDATED in March, 2014.  
(Changes from original post noted in red text)

I will begin with the answer to the question implicit in the title. How should someone, or ANYONE, deal with a cancer diagnosis? All the answers start in one place. YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE NOT TO DIE FROM CANCER. That is the front line defense and the bottom line of any treatment regimen. If you accept that your cancer is a death sentence, then ultimately it will be.

Don't get me wrong - I am not going to suggest using willpower for self healing and other miracle working. I intend something much more practical. Here's the deal. If anybody I know has cancer, or any of their friends or family, I hear about it. Same goes for my family - if any friends or relatives of friends have cancer, they hear about it, and then I hear about it from them. Generally the situations described are grave, and people will imply that there is little hope. Occasionally some will ask, but more often the question is unspoken - what should the person who has cancer DO about it? Since I have cancer and I have done some things that have been successful to date, one presumes that I am somehow qualified to answer the question. I don't know about that, but it's a semi-free country and a free-ish internet, so I do have the forum if nothing else. (As they say on emails, texts, and other electronic media these days - LOL.*)

Here is an example. My mother recently attended her high school reunion - we won't mention how many years. I asked about the class valedictorian, the coolest guy from her small town, who I had met once or twice when I was very young. She said he looked good and was doing fine, but that his wife had cancer and it was terminal. I hear this a lot (this was the second one that day), and it really makes me angry. Perhaps cancer will kill you, but to just accept that it will seems to me to be fundamentally and morally wrong. This fellow's scenario is typical. His wife has cancer of some type, it is a strong one (i.e. malignant), it has spread (i.e. metastasized), and there is really no hope. Of course they are getting the best doctors and choosing all the best treatments, but the odds are poor and really it is just a matter of time. Perhaps this will really be the case. My opinion is that it may not necessarily be so, and accepting the fait accompli is needless and dangerous. Often these cancers are treated with surgery plus chemotherapy and/or radiation therapies, which could kill the cancer - if they don't kill the patient first. Other cancers (like mine) have some thankfully easier treatments (albeit still unpleasant). My particular 10 year survival prognosis with treatment for T1 G3 non-invasive bladder cancer was 70-80%, which is VERY high compared to most. So yes, I do count myself blessed and fortunate for that, and for the success to date.

Back to the main point here - we have been trained (especially in America) to ONLY do what the doctor says and hope for the best. I know a lot of doctors and count some of them among my best and most faithful friends. They are some really smart people. I also know that they are human beings - trained in specialized skills to the exclusion of nearly all else. As such doctors are quite valuable resources for the things that they know about. We should pay attention to what doctors know and recommend, and we should work together with them to defeat the cancer. Let me repeat that for emphasis - WORK TO DEFEAT THE CANCER. This is step one. If you cannot take this step, then
you have already decided to die from cancer. Anything you do after that is a simple matter of "just going through the motions." I will develop this logic thread more later. Step 2 is a combination of following the doctor's advice while educating yourself and your support team, and adding to that everything that you can to help your medical treatments to be successful. This last area is one where your doctor has had zero formal training, so he or she probably cannot help you, and most likely cannot even make an educated comment about any of it.

In addition to the "doctor knows best" conditioning, we also tend to accept that there is nothing else that can be done. Just surrender to the doctors and hope/pray for the best. Please do not misinterpret me - I heartily recommend most things that doctors will suggest. I also think there is plenty more that can be done, and these things lie outside the areas of your doctors' collective training. They are not particularly weird or strange, and they certainly should NOT be viewed as ALTERNATIVE therapies. They are simply ADDITIONAL therapies. This whole nomenclature of "alternative medicine" has been a tremendous disservice. It's really wrong-headed from every angle. It's not medicine, and it's not an alternative. These are reasonable and proper actions that can be taken
in addition to taking conventional medical actions. Together they form a multi-pronged attack on the cancer and provide the basis for a healthy and longer life. After all the goal is not to die FROM CANCER. Which gives you the privilege to die from something else, hopefully much later in life. Say something like a skydiving accident on your 100th birthday, having too much sex, or other happy pursuits. (LOL* again)

How does all of this work together? I have developed a logic model that shows how many actions can play together to secure the desired result: CANCER-FREE STATE. The actions one can take (including conventional medicine) are listed on the left, and the logical outcomes are traced out from left to right, resulting in the final desired goal - the cancer-free state. The model is still in draft form, but it's now mature enough to make sense to the few logical readers out there in cyberspace who may choose to pick through it. My mother's friend from high school is a very smart guy, so perhaps this will appeal to him and others like him. One further disclaimer - the software I used to create the model is designed to make the chart attractive and easier to read, so the actions at left are not necessarily in priority order. And you WILL need to click on the diagram to get a much larger and readable version.  Note: I have not updated the chart to include baking soda (#4 below), but it falls in the same area as FOCC.


Please Click on Diagram to Enlarge!

Apologies to any who have found the discussion so far (or the diagram above) to be confusing. It was not my goal, and I shall try to summarize more succinctly. All of the actions at the left side of the chart are actions that I, myself, have taken and continue to follow. As a group these actions logically appear to be much more effective towards reaching a cancer-free state than conventional medicine alone. They boil down to a radical lifestyle change in terms of attitude, diet, and exercise. Seems so simple, but...

When I give some of these ideas to people whose family and friends have severe forms of cancer, the suggestions are generally met with derision and perhaps a roll of the eyes. Even if they pass them on, the cancer sufferers tend to have the same reactions. I accept that I cannot help anyone who does not want to be helped. But if you are willing to CHOOSE NOT TO DIE FROM CANCER, then you might also be willing to choose to do some things you would not otherwise do. Certainly I would choose NOT to have a tube of bio-cooties jammed up my favorite private part, yet people tend to accept this type of thing more readily than something simple like, for example - stop eating sugar. I find it very odd, but a good friend pointed out that it actually took 3-4 months for me to come around to my current point of view. Thankfully I had that much time!

Attitude is the key. Whether you have the herculean strength to draw it from yourself like some have, or whether you are content to draw from an outside source (i.e. God, support group, relentless spouse, etc.), having the attitude that it is possible to survive renders all the actions more effective. I described in a previous post how David Eliot from New Zealand noticed the same phenomenon and applied it in his own case with some degree of success. I think he went about it the hard way, yet the results are there. So if you believe that you can survive, the next step is to decide what you will do to survive. Many follow only their doctors' advice and do OK, but many more still die of cancer. So I believe that something more can and must be done. Here is the list of 10 things I have done in priority order:

  • #1 - Surgery and Biotherapy to remove and attack the cancer
  • #2 - Stop eating sugar, simple starches, and micro-processed food to avoid glucose spikes to feed the cancer
  • #3 - No chlorinated water or drinks made with chlorinated water or ice to preserve intestinal function
  • #4 - UPDATE 2014: On an empty stomach and well before your next meal, take 1 teaspoon (5 g) per day of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) dissolved in 6 oz (175 ml) of water or more to maintain body alkalinity (does not affect blood pH which stays in a very tight range, but will increase the pH of lymph, saliva, urine and other bodily fluids and environments).  In addition, eat Flax Oil & Cottage Cheese (FOCC) daily weekly to boost cell respiration (aka Budwig protocol - see my FOCC post) I now have FOCC only once per week, because it tends to spike body acidity.  Despite this fact, all of the positive benefits are still there.  For people with active or recent cancer - who have been recently diagnosed or within the first two years after surgery, I still recommend FOCC daily, along with the baking soda.  Just don't take them together!
  • #5 - Avoid potential carcinogens (eat organic, all-natural, and wild foods - avoid bottom feeders and artificial sweeteners of all types) to avoid triggering new cancers
  • #6 - Eat foods with beneficial compounds (see Beliveau book or cookbook, Servan-Schreiber book, or read this post of mine) to add to the assault on cancer cells
  • #7 - Consume natural enzymes and pro-biotics to improve digestive function
  • #8 - Eat more fiber and less protein very few carbohydrates to improve digestive function and general health
  • #9 - Take immune-system boosting and other supplements and vitamins just in case
  • #10 - Exercise regularly too keep the whole system operating and lubricated - ranked last because I still HATE it
Do I need to do every one of these things? Probably not. Will I experiment on myself by deleting them using a cleverly designed experiment to see which factors are the most influential in cancer prevention and risk a recurrence? No thanks! Are there other things I can or should do? Perhaps. The beauty of the internet is the wealth of information available. The curse of the internet is the fact that most or all of this information is buried beneath and surrounded by a nearly insurmountable pile of absolute bullshit. So I decided to go with the list above.

I promised to come back to the thread about folks who have already decided to die. For many years at work I sat beside a brilliant man. It would be reasonable to describe him as a "rocket scientist," or perhaps more accurately a missile engineer. He is also a neighbor who lives 2 blocks away. Six months ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that was found to have metastasized. His condition is grave. I went over and shared what I was doing. I even made a small batch of FOCC and showed his wife how easy it was to prepare. She and I both thought it tasted pretty good. He tasted it, made a face, spit it out, and said, "Yech! I will not eat that. It tastes like pancake batter!" I was quite taken aback - standing before him as living proof of success (so far) in battling cancer, a person he knows to be of some intelligence, offering a simple recommendation to follow - yet he chose to ignore my input. It later became clear that he had (at least subconsciously) chosen to die and was not going to be inconvenienced by any extra unpleasantness or hassles suggested by me. Certainly what the doctors are doing for him is unpleasant enough. For whatever reason I find that many otherwise intelligent people abandon reason, almost as if they have operant conditioning, to accept that medical science is the only existing reaction for any recourse against cancer. The hard truth of the matter is that the results for medical success are staggeringly low. Any logical person must therefore realize that the odds are stacked against them. Since they know the probability is that they will soon die from cancer, they are not willing to do anything unknown or "unscientific". Deep down inside they believe that since they are going to die anyway, why should they give up their favorite foods or take pills that their doctor did not recommend? And they accept that they will inevitably die from their cancer. If this is your situation, you should also face up to the reality of your attitude. By choosing not to do anything extra or potentially difficult, you have chosen instead simply to die, especially if the doctors have told you that there is little or nothing that they can do for you. At least you can help them make a few boat payments on your way out...

Perhaps people like David Eliot, Dr. David Servan-Schriber, myself, and countless others who have chosen to do other things in addition to the medical approach are fools. But to "just go through the motions" and then die a slow and painful death from cancer? I say "To hell with that!!!" Let it instead be said that we are just stubborn - too stubborn to die of cancer.

*Laughing Out Loud

BCG News - Good News - and Bad News - October 4, 2009

One thing new to report from my last round of BCG is the emergence of the "flu-like" symptoms that have been described by so many as a side effect. My past BCGs have pretty much been a day of misery and urinary fire, then being a bit fuzzy or tired until the afternoon of the day following. With the reduction to 1/3 dose several months ago, the misery of the day has been dramatically reduced. All of those have been tracked on my BCG backup pages in great detail. But the last round was different, because of the increased flu-like side effects for 2-3 days after the BCG day. It starts with loss of appetite the afternoon of the treatment, with a pretty good headache the night of treatment day. Then near-total exhaustion, cramps, body-aches, and even minor chills through the night and all the next day or two. My final treatment last week was the worst so far - not the urinary symptoms or duration, which were fairly mild. But I had a two hour nap in the morning followed by a 4 hour nap after lunch on the day after the treatment. Mental functions seemed fine, but physically I was just exhausted. I skipped a nap on Saturday, 2 days after the treatment on Thursday, but that was a mistake. After going out for a long, late brunch on Sunday, I came home and collapsed into bed for a couple hours. Each day of the workweek showed a significant reduction in tiredness, and by Friday (8 days after treatment) all was pretty much back to 98% of normal. All of these symptoms are a good sign that the body is reacting to the BCG, which is exactly what we want it to do. But I have not tracked these symptoms in the past. If they recur next time (scheduled for March 2010), I will start reporting them for your education and entertainment.

Next we have some absolutely brilliant good news from David F. in England. He met with his "consultant" (doctor) on Saturday to review his case. He received a near-final "all clear" based on the results of his last biopsy. While some atypical cells were present, it was not considered to be a problem. The consultant toyed with the idea of "retiring" David to annual flexible cystoscopies (for life). But instead she chose to do one more "final" hard cystoscope and biopsy next April, the "gold standard" treatment to guarantee all clear. It seems to me that this is exactly what David was told last time, but he is in for one more trip to the hospital for a most unpleasant diagnostic. He is good with it, so all the rest of us will celebrate with him for the near-perfect good news he got last Saturday. Only one more procedure for him to be free from major interference for a lifetime! Here's a pic of Gemma Atkinson raising a pint in celebration of David's very good news indeed...

On the flip side we have some bad news from HK in Toronto. From the very first time his BCGs have been far worse than any others reported to me. During his first series of six, he was in absolute agony. He wondered to me if it was better even to die. I suggested discussing reduced dosages with the doctors. They gave him pills and pretty much treated him as he was just a complainer. The next series was also bad, and the last one was cut to 50% dose. It was almost too much for him to bear. After an initial diagnosis of epididymitis, they finally diagnosed him with BPH - Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. This condition makes the TUR surgeries, the insertion of the BCG tube, and the voiding of the BCG and other bits all VERY PAINFUL. He has suffered much, and now the Canadian doctors have him on Flomax, Cipro, and Phenazo, for urinary symptoms, and Celebrex plus Tylenol #3 (with codeine) for pain. Here is how HK describes his symptoms:

1) I get pain from to waist right to the perineum (sharp pain)
2) At night I get up every hour to go to the bathroom to urinate, but it does not empty
3) Sometimes I can not walk properly because of all the pain

The docs have told him no more BCGs forever. If his cancer returns, they must find another treatment. HK has had bloodwork taken (no results yet) and and had cystoscopy, urine test and a CT scan. Cysto was clear except for evidence of sever reaction to BCG. He will have urine, bloodwork, and CT results within the next two weeks.
He asks for all our prayers for an all-clear cancer report and relief from his agonizing pain.

Despite HK's rough times and suffering, he is continuing to research and study the problem. He found the very encouraging video below, which is a treatment that can be given by the Valley Cancer Institute in Los Angeles. Their website is full of advertisements, testimonials, and some research describing the process and its effects. But it does not say whether such is covered by insurance or how much it costs. Still might be worth looking into for those seeking an alternative to BCG.