New hope for treating
pancreatic cancer – from a sponge
December 21st, 2016 by Holly Cornish
Two of the most frightening and disturbing words in any language have got to be pancreatic cancer. Although survival rates are improving, this form of cancer is still widely seen as a death sentence.
The disease has been in the news a lot recently, having taken the lives of some beloved heroes and icons like actor Patrick Swayze… Apple CEO Steve Jobs… opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti… and many others, all just in the past decade.
Steve Jobs had essentially unlimited money, sought out the very best care in the world, had his genome mapped (hugely expensive at the time he did it), and even obtained a liver transplant (not easy to do). He still didn’t make it.
Because the outlook is so poor, a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is extremely distressing, even more so than other types of cancer. It’s the fourth leading cause of death by cancer in the US, even though few people come down with it compared to lung, breast, or prostate cancer.
It’s difficult to treat. Symptoms often don’t start to appear until after it has metastasized. And as you may know, the chance of surviving metastatic cancer is much lower than the chance of surviving early-stage cancer.
The organ’s location in the body makes it hard to reach, and traditional treatment does extreme damage to all surrounding tissue.1
In short, the prognosis is grim. What can you do? There’s something new in the works. Unfortunately it may be a while before patients have access to it, but it’s important news I want to share. . .
Here’s Real Bladder Relief
A sponge from the sea contains a secret weapon
that can aid in the battle against pancreatic cancer.
Genetics are a peculiar thing. As complex as the human organism is… as complicated a machine as the human body is… you may be surprised to know that many of the same genes found in the human body can also be found in sea sponges that have lived at the bottom of the ocean for more than 600 million years.
Thanks to the similarities in our genetic structures, scientists are able to utilize some of the natural compounds found in these sponges and apply them to human subjects for treatment of disease.
Off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have found a new form of sponge which contains a compound that may be effective against this dreaded form of cancer.
How does a sponge fight cancer?
This sponge contains leiodermatolide, a natural product with some impressive cancer-fighting abilities.
The compound may be a survival mechanism unique to this species of sponge, one that keeps it from being eaten by predators or strengthens it against the elements. Natural byproducts like these often confer an edge in the battle for survival.
This compound is being discussed for use in treating many forms of human cancer, and specifically pancreatic cancer. Using even extremely small doses of leiodermatolide has been shown to block the division of pancreatic cancer cells and inhibit their growth.
Here’s how it works:
This compound is cytotoxic, which means it’s toxic to cells.
It is also antimitotic, meaning it disrupts cellular division by interfering with microtubules. These are the structures that pull a cell apart during its division into two daughter cells (the process called mitosis).
The cytotoxic and antimitotic properties of leiodermatolide are specific to cancer cells, and even more specifically, the cell lines found in pancreatic cancer. They aren’t generally toxic to healthy cells.
Not only does this compound stop cancer cells from multiplying and program them to die off, but it can actually reduce the size and weight of a pancreatic cancer tumor.
There’s more good news: Leiodermatolide also shows selective cytotoxicity towards skin, colon and breast cancer cells.2
Leiodermatolide vs. Gemcitabine
Currently, the treatment for pancreatic cancer consists of major surgery followed by chemo and radiation therapy, if the disease is caught early.
In advanced stages, after the cancer has spread from the pancreas to other organs or into the blood, surgery will do more harm than good, so a regimen of drugs is used instead.
In these cases, curing the disease is no longer the goal. The idea is to extend the lifespan in as comfortable a way as possible.
One of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer is Gemcitabine.
Like other chemotherapy drugs, Gemcitabine is cytotoxic and antimitotic— it attacks cells that are rapidly dividing and halts the division, causing the cells to kill themselves.
But the drug doesn’t discriminate between cancer cells and normal rapidly dividing body cells, such as hair follicles or cells of the mouth, skin and stomach. It is this inability to differentiate between cells that leads to unpleasant side effects like hair loss, mouth sores and nausea.3
In contrast, leiodermatolide does choose which cells to attack, which may greatly reduce the unwanted side effects. We don’t know that for sure, as the sponge extract has been tested on cells cultured in the lab, and some studies have been conducted on mice, but none yet on humans.
Like certain chemotherapy drugs, leiodermatolide stops cancer cells from dividing by interrupting the activity of microtubules. Once the microtubules stop pulling the cells apart, they assume their work is done and reprogram themselves to die, the natural cell death called apoptosis, which you want to see in cancer cells.
Taxol is another common antimitotic drug used for the same purpose.
But like most chemotherapy drugs, Taxol is also a poison… the body does not want it around. Taxol inflames the vein into which it’s injected, and can cause serious tissue damage if it escapes the vein. The list of precautions even for administering the drug is exhaustive.
Many people experience severe allergic reactions to Taxol, and must take a battery of extra medications to combat these side effects.4
Results so far indicate leiodermatolide achieves the same function of disrupting microtubules, but through an entirely different means of activity and without the irritation or allergic reactions. The exact reason for the response is unknown, but encouraging nonetheless.5
When will this be available for use?
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University has been granted a patent on its process of extracting leiodermatolide from sea-sponges. The initial results have been exciting enough to create some buzz in the cancer world. The researchers involved are hoping to see the compound’s use in the near future.
How near that future will be is hard to say, because, having patented the process, it’s most likely the aim is to develop an expensive pharmaceutical drug that will have to be put through the FDA’s wringer of human studies. The approval process may take years.
Assuming human trials are successful, I’m hoping that an enterprising supplement company will circumvent the medical-industrial complex and bring this natural substance to market soon, and at a low price. The molecule itself can’t be patented. The FAU people have patented the extraction process. They probably can’t tie up rights to the leiodermatolide molecule itself.
But it appears that, one way or another, there may finally be a treatment that’s helpful against pancreatic cancer. That’s cause for rejoicing during this Christmas season. The question is how long we’ll have to wait, and how much we’ll have to pay.
The mysteries of the sea…
Hats off to the scientists at the oceanographic institute. They’ve done some exciting work. I hope they prove me wrong and make this remedy available to suffering people soon, at the price of a sponge, not the price of gold bullion mined on one of the moons of Jupiter.
I realize their explorations and research were not free. But they are presumably a public institution – the taxpayers paid for their work — and profiteering off the discovery is unbecoming (to put it nicely).
Funny how the “nonprofit” sector in our society makes so much money, pays the highest salaries, has the best benefits… but I wander off the subject…
Every expedition that travels farther into the depths sends back news of fascinating life forms, often sporting a kaleidoscopic array of colors and strange shapes. If private companies want to pay for this wonderful science, then they can reap the rewards. If the public pays, I think we need a different social contract.
In re-reading this article I think I may have left the impression that pancreatic cancer is more hopeless than it is. This is because I was talking mostly about conventional treatments. If you or someone you love is suffering from this type of cancer, there is some hope, but I think the best place to find it is at one of the alternative clinics we recommend. These doctors can treat you with whole body hyperthermia, ozone therapy, intravenous vitamin C, laetrile or mistletoe extract – and a whole variety of other treatments you can’t do yourself at home.
If you’re not familiar with alternative cancer clinics, the best source of information – and this may not sound humble, but it’s true – is our series of books, America’s Best Cancer Doctors, German Cancer Breakthrough, and our guide to the Mexican clinics, The Amish Cancer Secret.