Cancer is a Metabolic Disease: What does that mean?

The Cancer Care Program at our Nature Cures Clinic is built on the idea that cancer is a metabolic disease. This is an idea that has gained a great deal of credibility even in the conventional treatment world. That credibility grew significantly with the publication of a book that is, oddly enough, titled Cancer as a Metabolic Disease by Dr. Thomas Seyfried.

So what does it mean to think of cancer as a metabolic disease? The answer to this question is crucial to understanding why we approach treatment the way that we do.

In the traditional view, cancer is a disease of “good cells gone bad.” In that model, normal cells accumulate some mutations in their DNA. Once enough of these mutations accrue, it causes the cell to “misbehave,” no longer playing by the rules that should tell it when to stop dividing and, most importantly, when to die.

Treatment, in this model, has two goals: first, kill cancer cells. The second and more recent goal is to develop genetic therapies that might repair the mutations that are thought to drive the cancer process.

The second of those goals, to develop genetic therapies that will “fix” the mutations of cancer cells, is a high tech, big profit adventure that has little chance of even trivial benefit to patients so I’m not going to spend time on it here.

The first of those goals is sensible enough in theory, but tragic in its consequences. There are no therapies that will kill cancer cells exclusively. Normal, healthy cells are always killed as well, the unfortunate collateral damage. Further, the therapies that are used to kill cells (chemotherapy and radiation, predominantly) are known to induce further mutations in healthy cells, thus leading to an increased risk of yet other cancers later in life.

On top of that, a comprehensive review of the impact of chemotherapy on survival of cancer patients (looking at all types of cancers collectively) found that the therapy has contributed a paltry 2.8% overall toward increased survival of cancer patients in the United States. The war on cancer is not faring well. Maybe a different approach is in order.

Another approach is to think of cancer cells not as simply broken, but as adapted. We typically think of adaptations as good and beneficial. However, that isn’t always the case. Being in shock, for example, is an adaptation to some set of circumstances, but it is also an adaptation that can lead to death.

How are cancer cells adapted? Cancer cells are extremely sophisticated, producing a complex set of hormones and other chemical mediators that have both local and systemic effects. Those are not the activities of cells that are broken. Cancer cells exhibit an amazing set of behaviors and adaptations that make them uniquely able to survive and multiply. They have gone through extensive metabolic “rewiring” in order to optimize their survival. Recognizing this about cancer cells opens up a whole new set of treatment strategies.

By analogy, think of another metabolic disease: diabetes. Diabetes happens when cells become resistant to the action of insulin, leading to elevations of sugar in the blood. While it is very unhealthy for the cells to resist insulin’s effects, no one is suggesting that a good therapy would be to kill the insulin resistant cells. Instead, therapies are done to correct the underlying defect. Drugs like metformin, and nutrients like chromium, are used to make cells more sensitive to insulin and thus to reduce blood sugar. Dietary therapies are also used to change metabolism, from low carbohydrate diets to incorporation of fish oil and other important nutrients.

With cancer, a metabolic approach uses therapies that correct the conditions that led to the initial adaptation in the cell. At the same time, other therapies take advantage of the cancer cells’ unique way of running its affairs. The great benefit of these kinds of therapies is that they have toxic effects on cancer cells, but little affect on healthy cells. They are therapies that work to “coax” the cancer cells out of their adapted state and back to their normal functioning.

A comprehensive cancer care program does not neglect the important goal of getting rid of cancer cells. However, it also does not focus on that to the exclusion of other goals that are just as important. Recognizing cancer as a metabolic disease opens up a whole new set of options for not just controlling its growth, but for preventing its recurrence once it’s first appearance has been successfully treated. We utilize a calorie-restricted ketogenic diet, metabolic and mitochondrial therapies, IV nutrients, pancreatic enzymes, Iscador (injectable mistletoe extract), and many others.

If your oncologist is not familiar with the idea of cancer as a metabolic disease, I encourage you to buy Dr. Seyfried’s book and give it to your oncologist to read. If you are interested in learning more about the program that we utilize in our clinic for all types and stages of cancer, you can call our clinic at 503-287-4970 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. This can be either in the office or by phone. I would be happy to explain what we do and why we do it this way.