Rethinking Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Published : Friday 29 December 2023
In our pursuit of cancer treatments, the current system marginalises the untapped potential hidden within safe, affordable drugs, some of which have already shown significant promise against cancer ...
This article should not be considered health advice. It is provided from a lay persons perspective "as is". Please do your own research and if concerned about your health speak to a qualified professional.
In the relentless battle against cancer, the pursuit of effective treatments has rightly become an imperative, although prevention should be our ultimate aim.
While cutting-edge therapies and groundbreaking research dominate headlines, there exists an often-overlooked frontier in the realm of cancer treatment - the untapped potential of existing drugs which could be re-purposed.
The financial and research models currently in place often prioritize the creation of novel patentented drugs, overlooking the possibilities hidden within compounds that are cheap, have already been proven safe for human use, and in many cases hinted at enormous promise against cancer.
- Drug repurposing in cancer - Science Direct
There are many promising examples, from every day medications familiar to everyone, to more obscure examples :
Dervived from Willow bark, the now common-place asprin was originally a pain relief but has since been found to have anti-inflamatory, cardio-protective and more recently cancer prevention and treatment potential. It has proven to be a multi-faceted and safe drug in humans.
In 2021 a meta analysis of current data showed that there was a 20% reduction in cancer mortality in groups that took asprin highlighting that it should be considered as part of cancer treatment pathways.
- Aspirin and cancer survival - PubMed
Ivermectin is a very safe and effective antiparasitic drug, part of the avermectins class of compounds. Originally discovered in the late 1970s, Ivermectin has become a cornerstone in the fight against diseases such as river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. Its safety profile and wide availability have made it a crucial tool in public health campaigns globally.
More recent research has sparked interest in its potential as an anti-cancer therapy as it appears it may inhibit some cancers through various mechanisms and pathways.
- The multitargeted drug ivermectin: from an antiparasitic agent to a repositioned cancer drug - PubMed
Fenbendazole, another well-established antiparasitic medication is widely used in veterinary medicine to combat intestinal parasites in animals, and has shown similar potential beyond its original purpose. Initially developed in the 1970s, Fenbendazole which is part of the benzimidazole class of compounds, has proven effective against a range of parasitic infections. Its safety and tolerability have made it a trusted choice in veterinary care.
Recent investigations have unveiled Fenbendazole’s potential applications in the realm of cancer therapy. Preliminary studies suggest that Fenbendazole may exhibit anticancer properties, with indications that it could interfere with specific cellular processes and impede cancer cell growth.
Sodium dichloroacetate (DCA) is a chemical compound that has attracted attention for its potential role beyond its original use. Initially explored for metabolic disorders, DCA has found its way into cancer research due to its impact on cellular metabolism. While not a mainstream cancer treatment, studies have investigated whether DCA may exhibit anticancer properties by influencing the metabolism of cancer cells.
While DCA has been studied for various medical applications, including its potential role in cancer treatment, the available data on its safety is not as extensive as that for drugs with longer histories of use.
Vitamin D, Omega-3 and exercise
It’s undoubtedly true that prevention is better than cure, but many do not have the epiphany until they face a life-changing event, such as cancer itself. Many don’t fully appreciate that a large number of cancers result from lifestyle factors, and risks can be reduced with small, simple changes. Exercise is critical, even if just walking; giving up smoking or drinking, and improving the diet can have dramatic effects not only on cancer but also on overall health and well-being.
Studies have shown that simple accessible dietary suppliments and lifestyle changes such as Vitamin D, Omega-3, and exercise can reduce the risk of cancer, and it appears it is never too late:
- Combined Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and a Simple Home Exercise Program May Reduce Cancer Risk Among Active Adults Aged 70 and Older - PubMed
Given the evidence, it is very surprising that Vitamin D isn’t much higher on the public health agenda. It should certainly raise eyebrows that even during 2020 it didn’t get much of a mention, despite being cheap, safe, and effective.
These are just a few notable examples, but other common and well-known drugs, such as Metformin, and lesser-known drugs, such as Disulfiram and Propranolol, have potential as preventive and curative options in the fight against cancer. Some may offer treatments in their own right or act as an adjunct to others, including existing cancer treatments to improve their efficacy. Additionally, there are non-pharmacological interventions, such as near-infrared light, which has been shown to stimulate the immune response to cancer cells.
This is a large field with enormous potential, much of which could be tapped today, especially for those with late stage and terminal cancers. So why not?
Following the Second World War, there was considerable focus on ethics in response to the human atrocities, including widespread human experimentation. In 1947, The Nuremberg Code outlined the ethical principles for human experimentation, with one of its guiding principles being voluntary informed consent. The World Medical Association expanded on these medical ethics principles, highlighting the need to balance scientific and social benefits. This led to the creation of the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964. The Declaration outlined principles for conducting medical research and notably addressed the use of “Unproven Interventions in Clinical Practice”:
In the treatment of an individual patient, where proven interventions do not exist or other known interventions have been ineffective, the physician, after seeking expert advice, with informed consent from the patient or a legally authorised representative, may use an unproven intervention if in the physician’s judgement it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering. This intervention should subsequently be made the object of research, designed to evaluate its safety and efficacy. In all cases, new information must be recorded and, where appropriate, made publicly available.
- Declaration of Helsinki - WMA
The interventions discussed in this blog along with many others are widely available, with proven well understood safety profiles, and highly affordable, especially compared to novel and experimental treatments.
“The health of my patient will be my first consideration”
It seems these principles and messages have become diluted and lost in Western medicine. Anecdotally, there are still doctors who practice medicine, particularly in Asia, South America, and Africa. However, here in the West, we have become heavily protocolized with “conventional wisdom.” With it taking 10 to 20 years for today’s research to reach clinical practice, and the financial models heavily biasing research towards novel patented therapeutics, this is all really bad news for patients.
The exploration of repurposed drugs like Ivermectin, Fenbendazole, and others offers great potential for innovation in cancer treatment. Coupled with simple lifestyle changes and supplementation from a preventative perspective, we have at our fingertips the opportunity to make a major impact on the cancer landscape.
However, the pervasive problem of current funding models heavily favoring the development of novel patented drugs hinders the exploration of cheaper, existing approaches that have shown great potential.
Recognizing the untapped potential in these overlooked alternatives and addressing the limitations of current funding paradigms will be crucial for advancing more accessible and effective solutions in the relentless pursuit of cancer care.
If we all lived healthier lives, we would not only reduce the burden of cancer but also many other diseases and ailments.