You’d never guess these things can fight cancer

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published November 1, 2018

Key Takeaways

We all know that a healthy diet, regular activity, and even a daily aspirin can help prevent many cancer types. But did you know that baking soda might also help with cancer treatment, or that a vaccine made from a common parasite in cats may be used to halt and prevent tumors? Take a look at some of the ordinary, everyday things that are now being investigated to aid in the fight against cancer.

Baking soda boosts immunotherapy

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but a spoonful of baking soda may help immunotherapy drugs fight hard-to-treat tumors, researchers reported. Cancer immunotherapy has been shown to be less effective in acidic conditions (which develop during hypoxia) because T-cell activation is reduced. In an experiment with mice, researchers attempted to reverse these acidic conditions by giving the mice baking soda in their drinking water. This reversal appeared to make the tumors more sensitive to immunotherapy, the researchers observed. Read more about the role of acidity in cancer progression—and baking soda's cheap and simple potential in reversing it.

Blueberries enhance effects of radiation therapy

Researchers found that blueberry extract is a helpful radiosensitizer—a non-toxic compound that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy—that can improve treatment efficacy and potentially reduce treatment toxicity. Although radiation alone reduced cancer cells by 20% in experiments with human cervical cancer cell lines, blueberry extract alone reduced cancer cells by 25%. Even more surprising, when the researchers combined blueberry extract with radiation therapy, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by about 70%. The researchers noted that blueberry extract not only makes cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, but also reduces the abnormal cell growth that fuels cancer development. Find out about blueberries' cancer-busting properties here.

Cat parasite may make a marvelous cancer vaccine

Researchers are now developing a cancer vaccine from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii that turns the parasite's immunological power against tumors. The primary hosts of this parasite (which causes toxoplasmosis) are ordinary house cats. "We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer," said investigator David J. Bzik, PhD, professor, Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College, Lebanon, NH. When Dr. Bzik and colleagues tested the T. gondii vaccine in a mouse model, it not only provoked a strong antitumor response, but also rejected new tumors from developing. Learn more about this cat parasite and its potential to prevent cancer.

Probiotic-veggie combo may prevent colon cancer

Researchers reported that an engineered probiotic combined with a diet of cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts—reduced colorectal cancer cells in both in vivo and in vitro experiments. In this study, the investigators genetically engineered a non-pathogenic strain of Escherichia coli into a probiotic that binds with a protein found in colorectal cancer cells. When the researchers combined the probiotic with broccoli extract, the combination inhibited more than 95% of colorectal cancer cells in a petri dish. When tested in mice with colon cancer tumors, the experimental mix decreased the number of tumors by 75%. Click here to read more about how this combination works.

Vitamin D linked to lower cancer risk

Results of a large prospective study in Japan showed that a higher level of circulating vitamin D was associated with a lower risk of cancer—a finding that further supports the hypothesis that vitamin D may have protective effects against many types of cancer, researchers noted. Participants in the study who had high levels of vitamin D had a 20% lower risk of cancer overall compared with participants who had the lowest vitamin D levels. This finding persisted even after adjusting for confounding factors such as age, body mass index, physical activity, smoking status, and alcohol intake. Read more to find out how vitamin D levels related to risks for specific cancers.

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