You’ve heard of regular stem cells, right?
Starting with the discovery of leukemia stem cells in the 1990s, scientists have identified cancer stem cells (CSCs) in a host of malignancies, including breast, brain, colon, head/neck, liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and skin cancers.
Most traditional therapies, however, including chemo and radiation, “lack the ability to effectively kill these CSCs,” and it’s the stem cells and their capacity to self-renew that drive cancer’s proliferation, according to many scientists.
“Conventional therapies are directed towards rapidly dividing cells and fail to eliminate the rare cancer stem cells, resulting in regrowth of the tumor. However, recent studies suggest that when CSCs are targeted and killed, it will lead to elimination of the tumor, “ says one group of cancer stem cell theorists.
Recently, several studies have found that a number of dietary compounds can affect cancer stem cells. Three compounds in particular are garnering attention because they directly target breast cancer stem cells at relatively low concentrations:
● curcumin (in turmeric)
● piperine (in black pepper) and
These food components, as well as many more, also appear to be involved in inhibiting cancer stem cells indirectly by interfering with their abnormal “signaling pathways”—that is, the cascade of signals produced when molecules in cells send out messages. So far, scientists have identified several signaling pathways that play a key role in the CSC’s ability to keep on renewing itself, and the same pathways are often implicated in various types of cancer. In other words, it may not matter whether cancer is in the breast or the brain, for example; what’s important is the underlying cell signaling pathways that have gone awry.
While cancer stem cell theorists continue to work on researching drugs and identifying dietary components, you might want to consider adding some of the more promising nutrients to your diet. Here’s a list of other dietary compounds that scientists think may target CSC signaling pathways:
● catechins—especially EGCG, in green and in white teas
● feverfew–an herb often used for headaches
● hesperetin-citrus (On balance, I’d emphasize lemons, limes and sour oranges– and avoid sweet oranges due to sugars as well as grapefruit until the science on its effects are settled.)
● isoflavones genistein and daidzein—soy (If you choose to eat it, emphasize organic, fermented products such as tempeh, miso or natto in moderation and avoid soy protein isolate.)
● lycopene– processed tomato products especially, also apricots, guava, goji berries, papaya, rosehips, watermelon (but watch the fruit sugars!)
● quercetin (may work in synergy with EGCG)— apples, berries, capers, cherries, citrus, grapes, outer layers of onions, olive oil, parsley, sage, tea
● resveratrol (may work in synergy with curcumin)—berries, skins of dark or muscadine grapes, of plums, of red peanuts
● selenium (may work in synergy with DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid in oily fish) —Brazil nuts, garlic, broccoli, salmon, sardines
● Vitamin A—orange and yellow vegetables, dark leafy greens
● Vitamin D3—sardines, sockeye salmon and sunshine, unprotected for around 20 minutes, especially at midday when the sun is high in the sky. If you live in northern climes, you may just have to take a winter break somewhere warm and sunny. Or talk with your doctor about taking a supplement.
Happy New Year, everyone. Count them and enjoy! You’ve now got 14 ideas for your 2014 anti-cancer diet–plus a good excuse for indulging in a hot vacation.