Chlorophyll Leads to a Kinder, Gentler Way to Treat Cancer
February 10th, 2016 by Holly Cornish
Here’s important news: The unique energy-absorbing properties of chlorophyll are now being put to another use: treating cancer.
You probably know that chlorophylls are unique types of natural substances that give plants their green color. Their particular molecular structure allows plants to absorb energy from sunlight and convert it into food – a talent that animals lack, for the most part.
Animals (including ourselves) have to get food by eating either plants or other animals that have eaten plants. We can’t make anything out of sunlight. Green plants can perform this bit of magic by the process called photosynthesis that yields the products they need to live. So the source of all food comes down to plants – and it mostly comes down to chlorophyll.
Now chlorophyll is more than the mother of all food, it’s also a potent medicine. .
Continued below. . .
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The type of chlorophyll being adapted for medical use is called bacteriochlorophyll – the variety that is employed by bacteria for their production of life-giving energy.
But for cancer treatment, the bacteriochlorophyll is combined with a type of metallic compound so that it is suitable to use in what is called “photodynamic” therapy.
In photodynamic therapy, a cancer patient is given a substance that is absorbed by tumors and makes them more sensitive to light. When the treated tumor tissue is exposed to light, the light-sensitive substance is activated and the cancer cells are destroyed.
But photodynamic chemicals other than bacteriochlorophyll have had serious disadvantages in treating cancer in human patients. They had only limited usefulness in eradicating the disease.
For one thing, the previous substances that were used to make tumors sensitive to light were only useful in treating tumors that were thin and fairly flat. This meant the treatment could be used for cancers in places like the skin, throat, esophagus and bladder, but not for cancers in difficult-to-reach places or those that were buttressed by thick layers of other cancer cells.
For example, when a substance called porfimer sodium is used to treat esophageal cancer that is threatening to totally block the esophagus, the light that is applied to the cancer cells is unable to penetrate more than about a centimeter (about a third of an inch).
In addition, the drugs used in these treatments remain in the body for days or weeks. Because the light-sensitive substances are absorbed by most of the cells in the body, including the skin, people being treated can’t go outside or be exposed to bright light until the drug clears out of their systems. Otherwise, they suffer serious burns.
In the case of porfimer sodium the patient needs to stay indoors for up to six weeks – the drug makes the eyes as well as the skin hypersensitive to light for that long. In addition to the potential for burns, this agent can lead to pain, scars and serious swelling if the patient is exposed to strong light. (Porfimer sodium can also cause stomach aches, painful breathing, coughing, shortness of breath and trouble swallowing.)1
But the new form of bacteriochlorophyll being used against cancer poses far fewer problems. The substance, developed in Israel and called Tookad (Hebrew for “warmth of light”), clears out of the body quickly, in a matter of hours, and is non-toxic.2
This form of bacteriochlorophyll is engineered to react with what is called “near-infrared light,” a part of the light spectrum that penetrates deeply into tissue. It can help destroy thicker tumors than is possible with other photodynamic agents. The wavelength employed in the therapy penetrates many times further than other types of light used with other photodynamic substances.
Tookad, since it is basically just a variety of chlorophyll, also has relatively negligible side effects compared to other photodynamic drugs.
Much of the earliest work with Tookad has been on prostate cancer. Clinical trials have taken place in Europe (where a second phase III clinical trial was recently completed) and Latin America. The treatment of early prostate tumors with bacteriochlorophyll is now approved in Mexico.
During the procedure, after a patient receives Tookad intravenously, a near infra-red laser is beamed at the tumor using tiny optic fibers that are threaded into the cancerous prostate tissue with ultrasound guidance.
The very small beams of light activate the bacteriochlorophyll’s destruction only in the cancer cells and in the blood vessels that are feeding the tumor, while sparing normal cells. It causes the release of caustic molecules – radical forms of oxygen and nitric oxide — that burn through the membranes of cancer cells and destroy their cellular structures.
The researchers say that cutting off the blood supply to the tumor ensures that even if a cancer cell survives the near-infrared irradiation, the tumor tissue dies fairly quickly in a process called “coagulative necrosis.”
Another advantage of this process, according to lab studies, is that it releases molecules from the tumor that stimulate the immune system to attack the tumors.
The bacteriochlorophyll advantage
Compared to other ways to treat prostate cancer – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – using bacteriochlorophyll seems to be safe and effective. The side effects of conventional medicine’s “cut, poison and burn” techniques can include urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, bowel dysfunction (like diarrhea or fecal incontinence) and infertility.3
And you can also throw in the usual chemotherapy side effects like fatigue, pain, nausea, hair loss and bleeding as well as other undesirable consequences like a weakened immune system.
Keep in mind that the photodynamic approach has tested well on prostate cancer, then compare it to the use of hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer, which deprives your body of testosterone. The side effects of hormone therapy include erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, bone loss, potential memory problems, weight gain, heart problems, anemia and osteoporosis.
In comparison, the side effects of Tookad are just about nil.
The scientists who developed Tookad believe this therapy is very beneficial in these days of over-diagnosis and over-treatment of prostate cancer, the result of widespread screening of men for high PSA levels.
The blood test for PSA (prostate-specific antigen) reveals the presence of many prostate cancers that are too small and non-aggressive to cause serious health issues. In many cases, men get treated for prostate cancer and end up with disturbing side effects, when all the while it would have been safe for them to leave the cancer alone and do nothing.
With the use of Tookad, the researchers believe, these small tumors can be eradicated with a 90 minute procedure that does little or no damage to a man’s quality of life.