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Part Two - Integrative Oncology 

Updated: Jul 11


Only Good Vibrations
Only Good Vibrations

So, we reviewed the current state of affairs as it stands today with what cancer is, how it develops, and the cellular changes that allows it to take the lives of more than 1600 Americans each and every day. Cancer is a metabolic disease, not a genetic one. Now that we’ve established what causes cancer in the first place, let’s get into how we approach the disease that close to half of us will face at some point in our lives. 





A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care 

Here’s the first problem with the current system – we're going about this all wrong. Why wait until a cancer diagnosis is made before doing anything about it? We live in a cancer-filled world. Let’s just assume the writing is on the wall and take measures to prevent that day of “You have cancer” from happening in the first place. Outside of genetic inheritance and the powerline you grew up under as a kid, the bulk of risk associated with cancer development is amenable to some sort of intervention. Being mindful of what drives risk and doing everything within our power to mitigate that should be step number one. 


The second problem is our approach to cancer. In the conventional system we wait for a detectable mass, cut it out, poison it with chemotherapy, and then radiate the shit out of it – not necessarily in that order, but you get my point. Both of my parents had cancer. I was there. I saw firsthand what that strategy does to a person. It’s barbaric. I don’t care how expensive or smart your chemo is, it is not just killing cancer cells. It’s killing healthy cells too. Your hair falls out, nerve endings get fried, people are exhausted, brains are fogged. Radiation has a similar MO. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve certainly gotten better at targeting. We’re not just blasting your entire pelvis for prostate cancer, but there are other structures around a man’s prostate that are understandably unhappy about being radiated. Burnt skin, urinary incontinence, rectal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fatigue, erectile dysfunction. You throw Napalm at cancer and there is massive collateral damage. What percentage of guys do you know care about the functionality of their penis? Enough said on that. 


The last, and potentially biggest, problem in the conventional cancer care model, is that we stop treating patients as people. We treat them as the cancer they have instead. This is a fundamental failure as I see it. Your body is something you live in - an avatar. That’s it. You are you. And you have a spirit, a vibration. You are energy – energy with a connection to other people, the planet, the universe. You have a past, a present, a future. Your spirit might have trauma or fear, toxic relationships now or previously. These are things we can’t measure with a blood test or CT scan. When patients are in the throes of cancer treatment, our focus on the spiritual part of being a human often goes completely by the wayside. We concentrate our efforts so much on rescuing the physical body yet forget about the person living inside of it. That’s not how this life works. Your spiritual health is what determines your physical health. An equal if not more amount of energy needs to be spent on keeping our spirit strong. 


Integrative oncology is a whole-body approach to cancer care that combines treatment of the cancer while supporting the physical and spiritual body diagnosed with it. Conventional treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can play a role, but they must be done alongside complementary therapies that support the whole person. This holistic approach addresses the physical aspects of cancer and the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of the patient. Integrative oncology aims to improve the quality of life, enhance recovery, and improve survival outcomes by utilizing evidence-based complementary therapies alongside standard treatments. 


Before we get into the integrative side, I want to take a moment to review the conventional approach. These are big words that you’ve likely heard before but may not understand fully or not at all. Let’s get into it.  



Understanding Conventional Cancer Care 

On the menu we’ve got surgery, we’ve got medications, and we’ve got radiation.

  

Let’s start with medications first because surgery is straightforward. These cost a mint, and the bar for efficacy was set pretty freaking low by the FDA. Cancer medications come in various classes, each working in different ways to target and destroy cancer cells. The following is a guide to explain the main types of cancer medications, how they work, and specific examples of each type. 


Chemotherapy 

  • How It Works: Chemotherapy drugs kill all fast-growing cells. Cancer cells grow fast, so chemo is great for these. What other cells grow fast? Hair cells, skin cells, blood cells, and cells in your gut – so these get killed too. It works by shredding up DNA, inhibiting important enzymes needed for cell division, and convincing cells to commit suicide. Conventional chemotherapy is kind of like sending a medieval Orc with a military flail into a house to steal a diamond from a locked safe. Oh, he’ll get into that safe alright – right after he bashes in the front door, destroys Grandma’s curio cabinet, and lights the living room curtains on fire. He’ll get to the target, but this is no covert operation. Lots of collateral damage along the way. Effective? Sure. Sexy? Not so much. 

 

Medieval Army

  • Common Side Effects: Hair loss, nausea, fatigue, increased risk of infection.  Examples (my favorite museum relic of combos - ‘ACT’, circa 1970).

  • Adriamycin (Doxorubicin): An ‘anthracycline’ medication commonly used for breast cancer, bladder cancer, and lymphoma. 

  • Cyclophosphomide (Cytoxan): An ‘alkylating agent’ commonly used for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood and lymphatic cancers. 

  • Taxol (Paclitaxel): A ‘taxane’ medication often used for breast, ovarian, and lung cancer. 


Mustard Gas: The First Chemotherapy Drug 

Want to know what the very first chemo drug used in humans was? Mustard gas! True story. Mustard gas is a lethal chemical bioweapon which caused severe injuries to soldiers during World War I. Exposure to mustard gas causes all sorts of fun stuff – painful blisters, large burns, severe eye irritation, blindness, chemical pneumonia, bone marrow collapse, cancer, and of course, death. During the war, doctors noticed that soldiers who survived exposure to mustard gas had completely decimated bone marrow. This observation led scientists to wonder if perhaps it would be a good idea to intentionally give mustard gas to people with cancerous tumors. Hey, if it kills the rapidly dividing cells in bone marrow, maybe it would kill cancer tumors as well. Brilliant! And lo and behold, it did. Researchers found that mustard gas could indeed kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Like all conventional chemo, it unfortunately kills pretty much everything else that’s living too, so, there’s that. A good idea? You tell me. The use of mustard gas is still very much alive and well today in the conventional oncology arsenal of drugs. 


“Although thousands of nitrogen mustards have been synthesized and tested, only five are commonly used in cancer therapy today. These are mechlorethamine (the original “nitrogen mustard”), cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, melphalan, and chlorambucil.”


-Alkylating agents, NIH.gov 


Moving on... 


Targeted Therapy 

How It Works:

These drugs target specific proteins or pathways that are essential for cancer cell survival and growth. By blocking these targets, targeted chemotherapies can stop the growth and spread of cancer without affecting normal cells as badly as conventional chemotherapy. This is like giving our Orc a Skeleton key. He still has his crazy ball and chain whipping around, but he’s got a key anyway. Shouldn’t need to bash in the safe to get at the diamond. That sounds better, doesn’t it? Yes – but remember it’s a Skeleton key. It opens the safe, but it opens a bunch of other locks too. Targeted chemo is smarter than a carpet bomb, unless the proteins being targeted happen to be present on other important tissue as well as the cancer. Folks on Herceptin get a lot of echocardiograms if you know what I mean. 


Common Side Effects:

Diarrhea, liver problems, skin problems, and high blood pressure. 


Example Drugs: 

  • Imatinib (Gleevec): Used for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). 

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): Used for HER2-positive breast cancer. 

  • Erlotinib (Tarceva): Used for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 



Immunotherapy 

How It Works:

Immunotherapy boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It helps the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells more effectively. This sounds like our best bet, right? Yes and no. In theory, this seems like a much smarter approach. However, now we’re monkeying with an immune system that has already gone off the rails. For example, when you ‘take the breaks off’ the immune system (Checkpoint inhibitors), our Orc doesn’t even need a key. We unlocked the safe – and all the other locked rooms in the house. Getting to the diamond is easier, but what about the jewels under Grandma’s sheets? The rolls of cash in her sock drawer? Yikes. Immunotherapy comes with a whole host of other unfortunate potential side effects like overly aggressive immune system response, permanent endocrine disorders, cytokine storm, and secondary cancers. 


Common Side Effects: Fatigue, skin reactions, flu-like symptoms, and potential inflammation of organs. 

 

Types of Immunotherapies

Checkpoint Inhibitors:

These drugs block proteins that prevent the immune system from attacking cancer cells, effectively "taking the brakes off" the immune response. 


  • CAR-T Cell Therapy (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy): This involves taking a patient's T-cells (a type of immune cell), genetically modifying them in a lab to better recognize cancer cells, and then reintroducing them into the patient's body. 

  • Vaccines: Cancer vaccines stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. 

  • Monoclonal Antibodies: These are lab-made molecules that can specifically target and bind to cancer cells, marking them for destruction by the immune system. 

 

Example Drugs: 


  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Checkpoint inhibitor): Used for various cancers, including melanoma, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. 

  • Kymriah (Tisagenlecleucel, CAR-T Cell Therapy): Used for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL). 

  • Rituxan (Rituximab, Monoclonal antibody): Used for cancers such as Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) as well as certain autoimmune diseases. 

  • Provenge (Sipuleucel-T, Cancer vaccine): Used to treat prostate cancer by stimulating the body’s immune system to attack prostate cancer cells. 



Hormone Therapy 

How It Works:

Some cancers rely on hormones to grow. Hormone therapy works by either lowering the levels of these hormones in the body or by blocking their effects on cancer cells. This only pertains to a few kinds of cancers, like breast and prostate. Cancers grow for a whole host of bizzaro reasons, but in the case of some cancers, hormones can help fan the flame. Blocking those hormones takes that piece out of the equation. If you know me, you know how important hormones are, however. Estrogen receptors aren’t just found in some breast cancers: they are in every organ system in the body. Brain, bone, blood vessels, heart, gut, skin, bladder, immune system – they all need estrogen to work properly. If you block estrogen to breast cancer, it gets blocked everywhere. Nothing works right anymore. 



  • Common Side Effects: Hot flashes, fatigue, weight gain, and mood changes. 


  • Example Drugs

    • Tamoxifen: Used for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. 

    • Letrozole (Femara): Used for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. 

    • Leuprolide (Lupron): Used for prostate cancer. 

 


There are other classes of chemotherapeutic agents as well – angiogenesis inhibitors, oncolytic virus therapy, stem cell transplantation – but you get the point. Different poisons aimed at killing cancer cells, all capable of killing healthy cells or disrupting healthy physiologic pathways while doing so. Radiation therapy is similar. Instead of taking a pill or a drug, things like x-rays and gamma rays are aimed from outside the body, to misbehaving cells on the inside. Just like nuclear missiles, the target is wounded, but so is everything else. Radiation both kills and causes cancer. 

 

We’ve no doubt come a long way in the sick care model of treating cancer once we know it’s there. Back to my number one gripe. By the time a cancer tumor is detectable by conventional standards, it’s been there for a while. Like years. Wouldn’t it be better to nip that rogue cell in the butt before it pours lactic acid all over everything and invades surrounding tissue? I would think so. 


We have amazingly sensitive tools for screening for cancer. I’m sure you’ve heard about them in depth, so I’ll just briefly mention them here: 


Galleri Early Cancer Detection Testing
Galleri Early Cancer Detection Testing

 

Grail's Galleri Test (https://www.galleri.com/) 


 

The Galleri test by Grail is a type of liquid biopsy that screens for multiple types of cancer using a simple blood draw. You provide a blood sample, just like you would for a regular blood test. The test looks at small pieces of DNA that are floating around in your blood. This DNA can come from different cells in your body, including cancer cells. The test specifically looks at something called "methylation patterns" on the DNA. Methylation is a process that can change how genes are expressed, and cancer cells often have unique methylation patterns that are different from normal cells. By analyzing these patterns, the test can detect signs of cancer and even help identify where in the body the cancer might be originating from. 


A liquid biopsy is a non-invasive test that detects cancer-related information from a blood sample. Unlike traditional biopsies, which require tissue samples from a tumor (usually through surgery or needle biopsy), liquid biopsies are much simpler and less invasive. Cancer cells, as they grow and die, release tiny fragments of their DNA into the bloodstream. A liquid biopsy collects and analyzes these fragments to detect cancer. Liquid biopsies circumvent the need for surgery and complicated procedures, can detect cancer early, and help doctors monitor how well treatment is working or if cancer has come back. 


Galleri Early Cancer Detection Testing
RGCC - Developing Personalized Cancer Testing

 

RGCC Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Test (https://northamerica.rgcc-international.com/

 

The RGCC circulating tumor cell test is a blood test that looks for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the bloodstream. A small sample of blood is taken, just like during a regular blood test. 


The test searches for circulating tumor cells. These are cells that have broken away from a primary tumor and are floating in the bloodstream. Once CTCs are found, the test analyzes them to provide detailed information about the cancer cells, such as their number, type, and sometimes genetic characteristics. 

 

The presence of CTCs can be an early indicator of cancer, sometimes even before a tumor is detected through imaging tests or symptoms appear. By measuring the number and type of CTCs over time, doctors can monitor how a cancer is progressing or responding to treatment. The test can help detect if cancer has returned after treatment by finding new CTCs. Information from the CTC analysis can help doctors tailor treatments based on the specific characteristics of your cancer cells, leading to more personalized and potentially more effective treatment plans. Unlike traditional biopsies that require tissue samples from tumors, this test is much less invasive since it only involves a blood draw. 


Prenuvo MRI Screening
Prenuvo MRI Screening

 

Screening MRI/Prenuvo (https://www.prenuvo.com/

 

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a type of scan that uses strong magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of your body. It’s different from X-rays or CT scans because it doesn’t use any radiation. 

 

Prenuvo is a company that offers whole-body MRI screening that aims to detect various conditions, including cancer, early on. This comprehensive approach can identify abnormalities in various organs and tissues. The MRI produces very detailed images that can reveal even small changes or abnormalities in your body’s tissues. By looking at these detailed images, doctors can spot signs of cancer early, sometimes before you experience any symptoms. Early detection is crucial because it often leads to better treatment outcomes. Unlike some other imaging tests, MRI does not use radiation, making it a safer option for repeated use. The procedure is non-invasive, meaning it doesn’t involve any needles or surgical instruments, just lying still in the MRI machine. Regular MRI screenings can help keep track of your health over time, making it easier to spot any new changes or developments early. 

 

Convention medicine is still in the stone age using their eyes and fingers for ‘early detection’.  Did your doctor happen to mention we have multiple state of the art technologies to detect cancer down to the DNA level? Rhetorical question, I know. These tests are not covered by insurance, but they are available to anyone wanting to look closer or be more aggressive with screening. What is your health worth? I cannot emphasize this enough: Early detection is key. OK – preventing cancer in the first place is key, but if God forbid it happens, you want to know yesterday so we can get after it now.  

 

Shortcomings in the Convention Cancer Care Model 

So standard of care dictates we cut cancer out, burn it with radiation, and poison it with chemotherapy. The strategy is we push the body right to the brink of death and HOPE that any healthy cells that survived the torture are strong enough to find their way back. But none of the cancer cells, of course. 


But there’s more to the story. Something nobody talks about. Aside from the obvious shortcomings of side effects, cost, and treatment failures, the conventional cancer model has a secret. It’s a dark secret – one that will likely surprise you. Although these therapies can be effective at killing rapidly dividing cancer cells, they leave something important behind. Cancer doesn’t come from outer space. Something silently lurking in your body is making it. And that something is impervious to every caustic weapon available to us in the current arsenal we have to treat cancer. Most people have never heard this, but it’s true.   

 

Conventional cancer therapy does not kill cancer stem cells.  

 

Ever wonder why cancer comes back? A person survives the battle of cancer surgery, surgical recovery, weight loss, hair loss, puking their brains out, neuropathy, radiation burns, brain fog, all to get to that end goal of remission. But then one day, there’s a knock at the door. It’s cancer – and it’s back.  

 

What are Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs)? 

Cancer stem cells are the real villains of the story. Cancer stem cells are a small subset of cells within a tumor that self-renew and differentiate into various cell types that make up the cancer. They are thought to be responsible for the initiation, growth, and recurrence of cancer.  Conventional chemotherapy targets cells that are rapidly dividing. This includes most of the cancer cells, as well as some normal cells in the body that also divide quickly, like those in the hair, skin, and gut. This approach can shrink tumors and reduce the number of cancer cells, but it often fails to completely eradicate the cancer. Why? 

 

Cancer stem cells are stealthy. They don’t behave like regular out of control cancer cells. No, no. They are calm and calculating. They divide slowly and methodically, adjusting their war tactics as they go. They’ve seen chemotherapy before, and they know every trick in the book for getting around it. This is actually crazy. Cancer stem cells have weapons regular cancer cells simply don’t. For example, cancer stem cells have something called ‘efflux pumps’ that quite literally pump chemotherapy out if it even manages to get inside in the first place. Cancer stem cells have enhanced DNA repair mechanisms which allow them to survive the DNA-damaging effects of chemotherapy. Many cancer stem cells will actually go into hibernation mode during chemotherapy treatment. They will simply STOP dividing until the chemo is gone. They have their own underground bunkers. While we launch bombs and missiles at regular cancer cells, the cancer stem cells are in hiding, protected from the assault. And then, once the smoke clears, they emerge. And when they do, they come back with a better, stronger, smarter game plan. 

 

This is a problem. 

 

I know this sounds very doom and gloom, but I don’t say this to depress everyone. I want you to understand what we’re up against. Cancer is everywhere and there are big holes in the current conventional treatment model. Knowing this is important because it allows us to more accurately identify the problem and fix it.  

 

There is good news here, folks. I promise. Cancer isn’t a death sentence. We finally have a firm grasp on what causes cancer to develop and because of that, we know the best strategies to treat it – starve malignant cells of the nutrients it needs to grow, target the trigger that set it off in the first place, and support the body as a unified system to keep it strong, healthy, and positioned to defeat any future attempts of sabotage. In Part 3 of the Cancer Series, I’ll outline lifestyle changes you can implement today, supportive and alternative therapies that have well documented efficacy in the cancer arena and delve into the Press-Pulse treatment protocol proposed by Dr. Thomas Seyfried which gives cancer – any kind of cancer – the one two knockout punch.  


Part 3 drops tomorrow xo.

 

 

 

 

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