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Part Three - Treating Cancer as a Metabolic Disease 

Updated: Jul 11


Cancer's Not So Sweet!
Cancer's Not So Sweet!

Welcome back! High fives to everyone who made it this far in my “around the world in 80 days“ with cancer. You won’t regret hanging in here with me - this section is all the good stuff. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we talked about what cancer is, what drives its formation, and traditional strategies for management. More importantly we discussed the fundamental mechanism underlying our lack of progress in the war on cancer:


Our failure to recognize cancer as a metabolic disease.



If cancer is a disease of energy metabolism – and not of mutated genes, then we need to shift our treatment focus there. Let’s get into it. 

 

If we're operating on the principle that cancer cells can only survive by eating sugar and fermentable fuel, then we've got to stop feeding it with sugar and fermentable fuel. The most sensical first step in targeting cancer cells is the elimination of sugar (glucose) through fasting, intermittent fasting, and a time restricted ketogenic diet. 

 

You say the word 'diet' to a person with cancer and everyone freaks the fork out. No, no, no! This is not the time for a diet! I will never forget being with my mom when she met with the nutritionist in oncology. She had just been diagnosed with cancer and we were in the throes of the crash course. Meeting the doctors, the pharmacists, the support staff, and now it was time for the dietician. This was our first soirée with a life-threatening diagnosis, and I was having an out-of-body experience. First the drug cocktail – which was straight out of 1970, then the surgery, the full-time job that would become her radiation schedule. Omg. My mom was a boss through the whole thing – I was not. I was like an incredulous child questioning every step of this insane process. When the nutritionist came in to meet with us my exhausted mother turned to me and said, “Kristen - please try to behave.” Fine.  

 

The nutritionist appeared to be about 18 and arrived with this big board that was all neatly folded up. She took it out of her bag and opened it to show us. My mom had already lost some weight, and she didn’t have much to spare. The oncologist was worried about this. The nutritionist’s board had a bunch of different food sections on it, but she wanted us to focus on the ‘Calorie Dense’ section up at the top. I almost had a stroke. My mother immediately gave me the look reminding me to shut up and be polite. I just sighed. I sat there and listened to this woman encourage her to eat cookies, cake, ice cream, muffins – as much refined sugar and processed carbohydrates as she wanted. She needed to maintain her weight, and this was their brilliant solution for doing so. Unbelievable. 

 

Lord only knew what her blood sugar was from all the steroids they were giving her – Now she was supposed to eat muffins?? Sugar is literal gasoline on a cancer fire. I thought everyone knew this – certainly the dietician must know this? Cancer LOVES sugar. Can’t get enough of it. Here’s the tip I refrained from giving the dietician. At my mother’s request.  

 

If you want your cancer to metastasize like wildfire, just eat a freaking muffin. 

 

When it comes to cancer, what you choose to put in your mouth can be the difference between life and death. Cancer cells need fuel to live. They need sugar. Following a ketogenic diet takes that away and cancer cells starve. We need to stop calling it ‘a diet’. It’s a medicine. Food is medicine. This isn’t a weight loss plan, it’s a How-Not-To-Die plan. Got me? Just like any medicine, it must be done correctly. Healthy cells can use ketones as well as sugar, cancer cells cannot. In general, ketogenic diets are low in carbohydrates and high in fat. There’s math for this. This strategy lowers sugar while raising ketones effectively putting the squeeze on cancer cells.  

 

Cancer cells can use something else for fuel too – an amino acid called glutamine. Remember, this was the missing piece in Warburg’s metabolic theory of cancer. Pulling sugar out of your diet is relatively straightforward. Getting rid of glutamine is a little trickier. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the whole body. It’s in basically every single food we eat. There are even some studies suggesting glutamine might play a beneficial role in treating cancer. So how can glutamine be bad?


This is where Dr. Thomas Seyfried comes in. 

 

Dr. Seyfried is a brilliant biology professor at Boston University. He wrote “Cancer is a Metabolic Disease” after doing years of research on the cellular metabolism of cancer. He is the scientist who published the data from Part 1 showing that it isn’t cancer genes that cause cancer, it’s dysregulated metabolism that causes cancer. Healthy cells use oxidative phosphorylation and anaerobic glycolysis to make fuel. As the result of damaged mitochondria, cancer cells ferment glucose and glutamine instead. Lactic acid, reactive oxygen species, and damaged DNA are the resulting collateral damage. He and his team of researchers have developed a cancer treatment strategy targeting the dysregulated cell metabolism fueled by glucose and glutamine called the “Press-Pulse Protocol”. 


You want to wage a war on cancer? This is how you do it.



The Nuts & Bolts of the Press-Pulse Protocol 


Targeting Glucose with Ketogenic Diet: 

  • The cornerstone of the protocol is a ketogenic diet, which is high in fats and low in carbohydrates. This diet forces the body to switch from glucose metabolism to ketone metabolism. 

  • Cancer cells don’t even know what a ketone is let alone how to use it. In the absence of a fuel source, cancer cells start to die.  

 

What is Ketosis? 

Ketosis is a natural metabolic state where your body starts to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Usually, your body gets its energy from carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, grains, sugar) by breaking them down into glucose. When you drastically reduce your intake of carbs, your body needs to find something else to use for energy. This is where fat comes in. Your body starts to break down stored fat into molecules called “ketones”, which can be used by healthy cells for energy. Your body prefers carbs – it's easier and we’re all lazy. You can basically mainline sugar. Making ketones takes a few extra steps but it can be beneficial for weight loss, improving cognitive function, controlling epilepsy, and defeating cancer. 

 

Caloric Restriction & Fasting

  • Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting are used to further reduce blood glucose levels and increase ketone production. The 'ketone to glucose ratio' is monitored regularly and used to guide intensity of therapy and timing of other interventions. 

  • These strategies enhance the metabolic stress on cancer cells while preserving normal cell function. 


Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

  • HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, which increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. 

  • Cancer cells basically don’t like oxygen – remember they prefer aerobic glycolysis/fermentation? Increased oxygen levels induce severe oxidative stress on cancer cells, not unlike what we see with radiation therapy. But without the radiation. More dead cancer cells.


Press-Pulse Strategy

  • The "press" involves continuously applying metabolic stress through the ketogenic diet and caloric restriction. 

  • The "pulse" involves periodic treatments that exploit the weakened state of cancer cells. These treatments can include HBOT, specific drugs, and other metabolic therapies. 



Targeting Glutamine with DON (6-diazo-5-oxo-L-norleucine): 

  • DON is a glutamine antagonist that inhibits glutamine metabolism, which is crucial for the growth and survival of cancer cells. 

  • By targeting glutamine metabolism, DON can further starve cancer cells of essential nutrients. Glutamine is a significant energy source for rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. 



What is DON?  

DON (6-diazo-5-oxo-L-norleucine) is a glutamine analog and an inhibitor of glutamine metabolism. It has a similar structure to glutamine but contains modifications that interfere with its normal function. DON inhibits several key enzymes in the glutamine metabolism pathway, such as glutaminase and glutamine synthetase. By doing so, it disrupts the production of energy that is critical for cancer cells. 


DON was initially developed and investigated as a potential chemotherapeutic agent for various types of cancer. It showed promise due to its ability to disrupt the metabolic pathways essential for tumor growth but was found to have significant toxicity and side effects. It wasn’t selective enough for cancer cells so like traditional chemotherapies, it damaged healthy cells as well.  

 

Interestingly, Dr. Seyfried has discovered that when used in conjunction with a ketogenic diet, DON preferentially disrupts glutamine metabolism in cancer cells only. Healthy cells are protected by ketones. Many clinical trials have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of DON using the Press-Pulse Protocol in animals and more recently in humans. This combination beautifully exploits the metabolic weaknesses of cancer cells more effectively while sparing normal cells. 


Healthy cells are more adaptable to metabolic shifts and do great with ketone bodies. Cancer cells rely exclusively on glucose and glutamine, making them way less flexible. They are total Karen's about what they eat. By targeting metabolic pathways rather than genetic mutations, the Press-Pulse approach takes cancer cells out at the knees. No food and they're smoked. Bye, Felicia.


In summary, Dr. Seyfried's Press-Pulse protocol offers a novel approach to cancer treatment by targeting the metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer cells through dietary modification, metabolic stress, and targeted therapies like DON. This multifaceted strategy selectively impairs cancer cell survival while minimizing harm to normal cells. It is brilliant. All cancer cells use glucose and glutamine for fuel – breast, brain, colon, prostate – all of them. Even cancer stem cells use fermentation of glucose and glutamine for fuel. The beauty of this protocol is that it doesn’t matter what kind of cancer you have, how advanced it is, what your other underlying medical conditions are, Press-Pulse works. Which is why you’ve never heard of it. 

 


Additional Interventions to Target Cancer 

I know I’m railing on conventional tactics here, but the fact that we’re told that’s all there is irritates me to no end. Anything outside of the standard 'cut, poison, radiate' has basically been ridiculed into oblivion or shadow banned to outer space. Or Mexico. Look, you are not helpless against cancer. You are a bad ass. If you or a loved one has cancer, you’re not going to take that diagnosis sitting down. There are boatloads of things a person can get started on right now to take back the war on cancer. 


Lifestyle Optimization 

Lifestyle factors play a crucial role in cancer prevention and treatment. This goes without saying, right? Making positive changes in daily habits can significantly impact cancer risk and improve outcomes. These are admittedly, the easiest and at the same time the hardest changes to make.  


Quit Smoking 

Duh. You know you should quit smoking. You've tried a thousand times - but this time is the real deal. Smoking is not allowed. Smoking is a major risk factor for pretty much every kind of cancer under the sun. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer in the first place as well as improve outcomes for those already diagnosed. And it's literally the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life. Big Tobacco knew what they were doing. Listen to me - quitting smoking is the hardest but most important thing you will ever do to stay alive. Nicotine isn't the villain in this story - it's the other three million carcinogens in cigarettes that kill people. Stick on a patch, chew some nicotine gum, and put those cigarettes in the trash.


Exercise 

Exercise is good for basically every single health metric we're able to measure. Regular physical activity can help prevent cancer by reducing inflammation, improving immune function, and regulating hormones. Exercise has also been shown to improve survival rates and quality of life for cancer patients. The powers that be recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week for adults. I disagree. No two people are alike. High intensity exercise can increase cortisol and blood sugar levels if done in excess. Try to get to the middle here, folks. If your only physical activity is picking up your coffee cup and putting it down, try scheduling in a daily brisk walk or yoga class during the week. If you're already running 10 miles a day, monitor your blood sugar and ketone levels to make sure your attempts at making the rest of us look bad isn't putting too much stress on your system.


Moderate Alcohol Consumption 

While moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with some health benefits, excessive drinking increases the risk of several cancers. To improve health in general, we should be moderating alcohol. If you live here in Wisconsin, you likely should be moderating alcohol dramatically. And if you’re onboard with Press-Pulse, get rid of it all together. 


Meditation & Stress Reduction 

Chronic stress weakens the immune system and increases blood sugar levels. I was listening to a podcaster interview a cancer survivor who noticed his blood sugar increased to over 120 mg/dL while playing a particular video game. Just sitting on his couch! That means no Grand Theft Auto, people. Meditation and other stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga and mindfulness, can help manage stress, improve emotional well-being, and support the body's natural defenses against cancer.  


Sleep 

Turn off your damn phone and go to sleep. Doomscrolling is melting everyone's brain anyway. Sleep is when your body fixes itself, so it's important to get some. Poor sleep quality and duration have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and minimizing exposure to screens before bed, supports healthy immune system function and speeds overall recovery. 



Supplementation 

Introduction 

Back to my mom and her cancer crash course. It was time to meet with the pharmacist. He came in and handed my mom his list of ‘approved over the counter medications and supplements’. Tylenol for pain, Prilosec for heartburn - the usual Walgreens suspects. I had given her a well thought out list of supplements I suggested she take to help support her body as she embarked on this 'let's burn the whole house down' approach – these were all crossed off the list. When I asked him why he stopped all her nutritional supplements he straight faced told me, “Oh, none of those things work for cancer”. One of many palm-to-forehead moments. Seriously people, do your own research here. It’s called reading. I suggested he try it when I later sent him a flash drive with thousands of citations on the benefits of 'supplements' and cancer. You know – just trying to be helpful. 


Supplements play a hugely supportive role in cancer prevention and treatment. Why do you think cavemen didn’t even know what cancer was? They drank Dandelion tea and ate apricot seeds. They didn’t use Cisplatin, I can tell you that. 


Vitamin D 

This is top of the list. Vitamin D plays a critical role in immune function. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with all the bad things including cancer. Adequate levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing cancer and improve outcomes for those already diagnosed. Studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation can help lower the risk of cancer across the board. Recommended dosages vary, so it's important to consult with your healthcare provider when determining how much. And try going outside. Sunshine is good for you. 


Melatonin 

Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, has shown tremendous promise as an anti-cancer agent because of its immunomodulatory effects. Research indicates that melatonin helps inhibit cancer cell growth and supports immune system function. Typical dosages range from 3 to 20 mg per day, depending on individual needs and medical guidance. Some studies go way beyond that for dose. 


Green Tea Catechins (EGCG) 

Green tea contains catechins which are powerful antioxidants that can protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. They suppress tumor cell proliferation and also have glutamine inhibition properties.



Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA/EPA) 

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can support immune function. Research suggests that omega-3s may help reduce the risk of cancer and improve outcomes for those undergoing treatment. Sources of omega-3s include fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish oil supplements. Typical dosages range from 1,000 to 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA combined per day. 


Cannabis (CBD & THC) 

Cannabis contains compounds like CBD and THC, which have been found to have anti-cancer properties. They can also help manage symptoms like pain, nausea, and loss of appetite and inhibit cancer cell growth. Research suggests that both CBD and THC can reduce inflammation, promote apoptosis, and inhibit angiogenesis.  


At the risk of putting you all to sleep, I thought it might be easier to just include some of the big hitters below by believed mechanism of action. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it includes many of my favorites:


  • Anti-inflammatory: Boswellia, resveratrol, ursolic acid, nattokinase, serratiopeptidase 


  • Blood sugar control: Berberine, flavonoids  


  • Polyphenols: Hesperidin, caffeic acid, genistein  


  • Redox mediators: Quercetin, high dose and oral vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, curcumin, sulforaphane 


  • Immune modulators: Mushroom extracts, garlic extracts, N-acetylcysteine, Echinacea, high-dose vitamin D, vitamin E (tocotrienols) 


  • Adaptogens: Ashwagandha, Eleuthera, Rhodiola  

  • Multiple modes of action: High-dose melatonin, methylene blue 


Supplements can play a hugely supportive role in cancer prevention and treatment. These supplements can enhance overall health, reduce inflammation, and support the body's natural defenses against cancer. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine appropriate dosages and ensure quality sourcing. 



Adjuvant and Repurposed Therapies in Cancer Treatment 

Introduction 

Adjuvant therapies are additional treatments used alongside conventional cancer treatments to enhance their effectiveness, reduce side effects, and improve overall outcomes. Often times patients aren't candidates for 'conventional therapy' or simply opt out of the status quo altogether. This section explores several adjuvant therapies that have shown promise in cancer care. 


Mistletoe Extract 

Mistletoe isn't just for Christmas time kissing, my friends. European mistletoe has a pretty fascinating medical history. Unlike the red berried American mistletoe, European varieties have white berries which flower in the winter. Can you imagine our ancestors walking through the snow and finding a plant flowering on an oak tree in the middle of winter? Mistletoe is a 'semi-parasitic' plant which grows on various host trees. The stems, leaves, and berries contain compounds called 'lectins' and 'viscotoxins' which vary by host tree and the time of year the plant is harvested. Super cool stuff. Contrary to the 'mistletoe is toxic' narrative pushed by the media mouth pieces here in the US, these compounds have well demonstrated beneficial immunomodulatory properties. Various mistletoe extracts have been used in Europe for decades as an adjunctive therapy for cancer. In fact, it's considered part of their standard of care in both treating cancer and preventing recurrence. These extracts stimulate the immune system, improve quality of life, and enhance overall survival in cancer patients. Mistletoe is not approved for use in cancer here in the United States but can be prescribed 'off-label'. Mistletoe therapy is typically administered through subcutaneous injections under the guidance of a healthcare provider. This is a whole topic in itself.


Mebendazole

Mebendazole is an old medication traditionally used to treat parasitic infections but has shown significant potential as an anti-cancer agent both alone and in combination with conventional therapies. It's toxicity risk is extremely low, even at high doses which are typically needed when used in cancer. To increase its bioavailability, mebendazole is often taken with a high fat meal or in conjunction with an antacid medication called cimetidine which has also demonstrated anti-cancer activity. It works by disrupting cancer cell metabolism and inhibiting tumor growth.


Metformin

Metformin, a drug primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, has shown promise in improving cancer outcomes through several mechanisms. Metformin decreases hepatic glucose production and improves insulin sensitivity. Lower insulin levels reduce the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling, which is known to promote cancer cell growth and proliferation. By mitigating insulin resistance, metformin helps lower the risk of cancer development and slow tumor growth. Metformin also activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays a crucial role in cellular energy homeostasis. Activation of AMPK inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, which is often overactive in cancer cells, leading to reduced cancer cell growth and proliferation.


Metformin reduces inflammation, inhibits cancer stem cells, has direct antiproliferative effects and enhances the efficacy of many conventional cancer therapies. It is well tolerated and costs about a dollar.


Cimetidine

Cimetidine is a medication commonly used to treat heartburn and peptic ulcers, has been found to have potential benefits in improving cancer outcomes through several mechanisms. It modulates the immune system by enhancing the activity of NK or 'natural killer' cells, inhibits histamine receptors which reduces tumor growth, blocks adhesion of cancer cells to endothelial cells which disrupts cancer metastasis, stimulates cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death), decreases inflammation, and also has synergistic effects with other cancer therapies. Like metformin and mebendazole, cimetidine has long been off patent, so costs almost nothing to take.


Itraconazole

Itraconazole is an azole-antifungal medication. It too has shown to be beneficial in treating cancer through a number of different mechanisms of action. Itraconazole shares several similar benefits with metformin and cimetidine by reducing cancer cell proliferation (inhibiting of mTOR), promoting programmed cancer cell death, and directly killing cancer cells. Itraconazole also specifically targets cancer stem cells, helps prevent chemotherapy drug resistance, and blocks tumor growth by inhibiting the 'Hedgehog Signaling Pathway' which is associated with cancer development and progression. Cost? You guessed it. A few bucks.


Low Dose Naltrexone 

Naltrexone is another really old generic medication that was historically used to treat drug addiction. It is still used today by emergency rooms and the police department for life threatening opiate overdoses under the trade name 'Narcan'. In 1986, naltrexone was studied by a group of scientist in very low doses and found to be beneficial for treating a whole host of health issues that didn't have anything to do with heroin. In these very low doses, naltrexone (LDN) does a bunch of really cool things. One of which is it modulates the immune system - effectively reminding it how to do its job. Among its many other demonstrated uses, it is used for its immunomodulatory properties in chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and cancer. LDN is typically taken orally in low doses, usually between 1.5 to 4.5 mg per day, under the supervision of a healthcare provider. 


What I Would Do If I Had Cancer...

OK- so that was probably way more information than anyone ever wanted to read about cancer - which is why I gave everyone a break this month and spoon fed it to you over three days. I know I'm going to get this question, so I'm just going to answer it - bullet point style. I didn't talk about every single solitary thing on this list, but I covered most of it. If I was diagnosed with cancer today, this is what I would do:


  • Get myself into dietary ketosis ASAP

  • Investigate and consider my conventional options

  • Check my labs and optimize levels

  • Make sure I'm taking the right supplements

    • Vitamin D

    • Melatonin

    • Omega-3

    • EGCG

    • CBD

    • Vitamin C

    • Methylene blue

    • Enzymes (nattokinase, serratiopeptidase, pancreatic)

    • Tudca

    • Pecta-Sol

    • Personalized gut support

  • Make sure I'm taking the right repurposed medications

    • Metformin

    • Mebendazole

    • Cimetidine

    • LDN

  • Start Mistletoe extract therapy dependent on cancer type

  • Press-Pulse Protocol

    • HBOT

    • Glutamine inhibition

  • See a Biological Dentist to check for occult infections - root canals gotta go.

  • Get some f*ing sleep

  • Move my ass by more than just picking up and putting down my coffee cup

  • Take a vacation from stress

  • Prioritize mindfulness and time with my best people


Conclusion 

Congratulations on making it through the deep dive! This post is intense (and longgg), but it's packed with crucial insights that I believe will revolutionize cancer treatment as we know it today. We've explored the metabolic theory of cancer and highlighted the transformative potential of understanding cancer's energy sources. By targeting the metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer cells we can create a multifaceted attack that not only impairs cancer cell survival but also spares and protects our healthy cells. I truly believe it is time to rethink cancer treatment and embrace a holistic, metabolic approach. Please don't walk away from this thinking I'm completely anti-establishment. The conventional tools have their place. Cancer is an incredibly personal and emotional diagnosis. Whatever route you chose to take, know that there are countless supportive therapies available to help you on your journey. I hope you find this information empowering. There is so much we can do to both prevent and treat this devastating disease. Remember—you are not a number. You are not just a patient. We are all warriors in the fight against cancer. 


Resources

Green Tea Catechins: Nature’s Way of Preventing and Treating Cancer


Anticarcinogenic potentials of tea catechins

 

PHARMACOLOGICAL AND INITIAL THERAPEUTIC OBSERVATIONS ON 6-DIAZO-5-OXO-L-NOR1,EUCINE (DON) IN HUMAN NEOPLASTIC DISEASE

 

Natural Compounds as Regulators of the Cancer Cell Metabolism


U.S. Study of Intravenous Mistletoe Extract to Treat Advanced Cancer


Mistletoe in cancer: a systematic review on controlled clinical trials


Emerging Perspectives on the Antiparasitic Mebendazole as a Repurposed Drug for the Treatment of Brain Cancers


Clinical Trials Using Mebendazole


Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO)—mebendazole as an anti-cancer agent


Repurposing drugs in oncology (ReDO)—cimetidine as an anti-cancer agent


Histamine type 2 receptor antagonists as adjuvant treatment for resected colorectal cancer


Anti-neoplastic action of Cimetidine/Vitamin C on histamine and the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in Ehrlich breast cancer


Repurposed itraconazole for use in the treatment of malignancies as a promising therapeutic strategy


Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO)—itraconazole as an anti-cancer agent


Low-Dose Naltrexone as an Adjuvant in Combined Anticancer Therapy


Low Doses Naltrexone: The Potential Benefit Effects for its Use in Patients with Cancer

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