CDR and…Cancer

My 13th book, Best Future You, is out!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book and blogging frequently about the main concept in the book – which is the idea of harnessing your body’s internal cellular biochemistry to achieve true balance in body, mind, and spirit – and in doing so, help you to become your “Best Future You” in terms of how you look, how you feel, and how you perform on every level.

Chapter 4 – Don’t Take Antioxidants— Make Antioxidants

CDR and…Cancer

More than one thousand scientific publications describe the relationship between CDR activation and various types of cancer. As described earlier, natural activation of CDRs is perhaps the most important approach to cell defense and survival, because of the simultaneous protection of cells and tissues from a variety of toxicants and carcinogens.

Because CDR activation increases dozens of cellular protective functions, several pharmaceutical activators of CDR are under study in clinical trials. For instance, researchers from the National Cancer Institute state in their review of several studies, that CDR pathways are, “a promising molecular target for cancer prevention” (Cancer Prevention Research, 2008). Researchers from China found that CDR pathway activation, “plays a critical role in the protective mechanism of cells” (Food Science and Human Wellness, 2013). Other findings from a study published in the July 2004 issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics suggest that CDR can positively influence the expression of genes linked to cancer inhibition. And recently, results from a Rutgers University-based study found that the defense enzymes mediated by CDR-signaling pathways can contribute to cellular protection against . . . carcinogens (Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2013). While more research is still needed, these studies and others comprise a growing body of evidence demonstrating that CDR activation is indeed a potentially powerful weapon against cancer.

Skin Cancer

Researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Neuroscience at Louisiana State University found that CDR-activating herbs could suppress both the development and spread of skin cancer. Elevated levels of protective antioxidant enzymes, including MnSOD (+21%) and SOD (+35%) led to a 57% reduction in number of skin tumors (PLoS One, 2009). In a follow-up study, the same research group found that CDR-activating herbs significantly reduced the development of skin cancer following exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals (PLoS One, 2010) – suggesting that the multiple modes of action in CDR-activating herbs could potentially be used as novel chemopreventive agents due to their ability to modulate underlying mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis (Enzyme Res. 2011).

Colon Cancer

Due to the multiple modes of action of CDR-activating herbs, researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver investigated effects on activation of CDR and dozens of cellular protection genes (Mol Aspects Med. 2011). CDR-activating herbs significantly modulated 25 of 28 (89%) colon carcinoma gene targets, leading the authors to conclude that CDR activators “may well spawn a new class of drugs to target the so-called ‘diseases of aging,’ including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.”

Breast Cancer

CDR-activating herbs were shown to suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer by researchers from the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at Louisiana State University (The FASEB Journal. 2012). The study compared the potential of CDR-activating herbs and Tamoxifen (an existing drug used to treat breast cancer) to reduce the growth/spread of human breast cancer cells. Results showed that CDR-activating herbs and Tamoxifen were effective in reducing breast cancer cell growth by many of the same biochemical signals (PGDF, IL-5, MCP-1, Angiogenin, GM-CSF, and IL-6).

Ovarian Cancer & Myeloma (Bone Marrow Cancer)

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Prasongsook, Biomedical Sciences Thesis, 2014.) showed that several CDR-activating herbs produced a range of significant anti-cancer effects against ovarian cancer and myeloma (bone marrow cancer). In a series of studies funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDR-activating herbs were shown to have anti-cancer effects in ovarian cancer cells and myeloma (bone marrow cancer) cells, while sparing normal healthy cells. CDR-activating herbs showed anti-tumor and anti-proliferative effects (reduced tumor formation and growth) across 8 different ovarian cancer cell lines, including both chemotherapy-sensitive and chemotherapy-resistant cells (Cisplatin/cisplatinum and Taxol/paclitaxel). CDR-activating herbs showed selective cytotoxicity (cell-killing) effects in ovarian cancer cells and myeloma cells – while sparing normal (non-cancerous) cells.

The Importance of CDR Balance for Cancer

In addition to the wide range of “anti-cancer” studies suggesting a chemo-preventive role of CDR-activation, there are a handful of recent studies pertaining to the role of one specific CDR pathway (Nrf2) in both cancer prevention and cancer development/progression. Some of the recent publications include effects on cellular metabolism due to mutations in certain genes that may increase the risk of some types of cancer (such as the human BRCA1 gene associated with risk for breast cancer).

What some of these mutation studies suggest, is that some forms of cancer can “hijack” different aspects of CDR metabolism, such as the Nrf2 pathway, to help those cells escape detecting and elimination. The way that this happens in certain types of cancer is by continuously activating the Nrf2 pathway (an abnormal process called “constitutive” activation). In this mutated scenario, the protective Nrf2 pathway is “always on” – which is an abnormal situation that is completely different from the temporary induction (transient or pulsatile), whereby the Nrf2 pathway and other CDRs protect cells. It is through the pulsatile nature of CDR-induction that many scientists feel that cells are optimally protected by natural dietary ingredients such as sulforaphane from broccoli, flavonoids from berries, and herbal constituents including pine bark, green tea, turmeric, and others.

It might help to think of the difference between abnormal constitutive (always “on”) activation compared to natural pulsatile (fluctuating “on/off”) activation of the CDR pathways as you might think of the light from a desk lamp. When you need more light, you flip the switch and the light bulb brightens the desktop until you flip the switch back off. This is all good—you get light when you need it and dark when you don’t. But, it can all go wrong when you flip the switch on and forget to switch it off—because the light comes on and stays on—and you end up burning the house down because the bulb got too hot and caught the drapes on fire!

In this light bulb example, the light is neither good nor bad—but it’s the balance of when we have it switched on or off that determines the ultimate outcome. CDR induction is something that has the potential to help virtually anyone to effectively manage and balance their biochemical balance and cellular stress, by transiently activating cellular protective mechanisms against damage caused by various stressors. But, like every biological system, it comes down to a matter of proper balance, which is where natural pulsatile induction of the CDR pathways really shines.

When it comes to people undergoing active treatment for cancer (i.e. chemo- or radiation therapy), it is typical for oncologists (cancer doctors) to want no dietary or herbal supplements in the mix. This is because every type of cancer, every regimen of treatment, and every patient is a unique collection of variables. As such, it’s prudent to remove the potential variable of any supplements and the potential for cancer cells to be “protected” by those supplements from the oxidizing effects of their chemo/radiation therapy. Another reason for discontinuing all dietary supplements during cancer therapy is that optimal chemotherapy and radio-therapy doses have been determined in groups of people who were not taking supplements, making it prudent for the patient to be in a similar condition to the clinical trial groups. Yet an additional reason for stopping supplementation during cancer therapy is that some chemotherapy agents require processing by liver enzymes, the levels of which might be changed by CDR induction in the liver, the body’s primary detoxification organ.

In many situations, the cancer doctors will want patients to stop any supplements during active therapy, but then allow the supplements to be added back into the mix after the therapy is completed to support the CDR induction benefits for immune system function, normal cellular defenses, etc. (but that is always a discussion for the patient/doctor to have and a decision for them to make together).

Thanks for reading – be sure to tune in for the next installment about “CDR and…The Cardiovascular System

Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN
Nutritional Biochemist and Author
801-915-1170 (mobile)


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The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House)
The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House)
Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House)
Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books)
The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)
A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)
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