“The results have been nothing short of remarkable. It is one of the single most powerful natural anti-cancer agents. It is a very exciting compound when it comes to cancer therapy.”
So enthuses Isaac Eliaz, M.D., founder and medical director of the Amitabha Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa, California. Dr. Eliaz will already be known to many of our readers as the formulator of an important remedy called Pectasol (Issue #145 and Issue #323)
But Pectasol is not what he’s raving about this time. It’s a breakthrough extracted from magnolia that’s just starting to gain recognition in Western medicine. Here’s the scoop. . .
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Mitchell L Gaynor, M.D., recently deceased, was a board certified medical oncologist and pioneer in integrative oncology. He used the magnolia extract for years to treat cancer and to prevent cancer from becoming active.
He said it “has a wide range of applications that target the specific mechanisms cancer cells employ in order to grow and spread inside the body.”
And Dr. David Williams, a leading authority on natural healing, says, “…the amount and variety of beneficial activity stemming from this one compound is staggering, particularly when it comes to treating cancer.”
Used by Asian healers for thousands of years
The bark, cones and leaves of the species Magnolia officinalis have been used in traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years.
In China it’s called houpa. Another species, Magnolia obovate, has been used in Japan, where the common name for it is koboku. In both countries it has been employed on its own and in combination with other plants to treat a wide variety of ailments including anxiety, inflammation, cough, digestive disorders and allergic diseases.
Although three ingredients in magnolia have been isolated and found to have anti-tumor properties, the one that has been the most studied and is available as a purified extract is called honokiol.
Crosses the blood-brain barrier
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a highly selective semi-permeable membrane that protects the brain from pathogens and separates specialized brain fluid from the blood that circulates in the rest of the body.
Essential as this is, it means that chemotherapy drugs and natural agents are also kept out of the brain.
As honokiol is a very small molecule, scientists at the West China Medical School wanted to find out if it could cross the BBB and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier in rodents.
They found that this was indeed the case, and went on to demonstrate that honokiol inhibits the growth of brain tumors (gliosarcoma).
Kills cancer cells directly
A study published in the medical journal Cancer in 2012 looked at the effect of honokiol in a bone cancer (osteosarcoma) mouse model.
Seven days after injecting the remedy, the spread of micrometastases (tumors less than 2 millimeters) in the lung was reduced by 41% and the number of macrometastases (greater than 2 millimeters) was reduced by 69% in the lung and 80% in the liver.
Honokiol caused rapid cell death in osteosarcoma cell cultures. It did so by attacking and then killing these aggressive tumors directly. The researchers concluded that “honokiol has considerable potential for the treatment of metastasizing osteosarcoma.”
Cancer is a process that can be defined as out-of-control replication of abnormal cells.
In cancer, the normal feature of programmed cell death (apoptosis) fails. Chemotherapy drugs as well as natural compounds often work either by inducing apoptosis or by re-establishing the ability of cancer cells to trigger their own destruction.
Unlike compounds that target a single pathway to induce apoptosis, honokiol achieves this through multiple pathways, including the two principle ones called the death receptor pathway and the mitochondrial pathway.
Laboratory studies in both animals and test tube cultures demonstrated apoptosis in cancers of the liver, lung, breast, colon, prostate, pancreas and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Honokiol was also found to be “highly effective in inhibiting melanoma cancer cells….”
In a process called angiogenesis, cancer cells are able to build their own blood supply by forming their own network of blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrients. This allows cancer to grow and eventually spread.
As with apoptosis, there are a number of different pathways that can be targeted with drugs or other therapies to stop this process.
Honokiol has been shown to achieve this by suppressing the overactivity of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB), a protein that supports cell growth.
Honokiol has also been found to inhibit one of the main pathways involved with tumor growth, called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Some cancer drugs focus on blocking this important pathway.
Another factor that plays an important role in angiogenesis is STAT3. Honokiol was found to act on this gene’s pathway to inhibit the spread of gastric cancer in mice.
Other important influences
p53: The tumor suppressor gene known as p53 is important in ensuring correct DNA replication, preventing mutations and regulating the cell cycle. It plays a role in both apoptosis and anti-angiogenesis.
A defective p53 gene can cause mutations, thereby increasing the risk of cancers and making them more aggressive and resistant to treatment. Honokiol has been shown to prevent signaling in tumors with faulty p53.
Ras: This refers to a family of genes that, when mutated, stimulates growth in about one in three cancers.
Honokiol prevents Ras from switching on phospholipase D, an enzyme that allows cancer cells to stay alive when they would ordinarily die.
Jack Arbiser is an M.D., Ph.D., and professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. He says honokiol “is particularly potent against tumors with activated Ras.”
EGFR: Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor is a protein that is overabundant in many cancers and in virtually all head and neck cancers. Honokiol has been shown to bind strongly to EGFR, blocking its actions. In this respect it outperformed, both in cell lines and mice, a drug commonly used to treat head and neck cancers.
mTOR: This is another pathway in cancer cell growth that honokiol is able to target. While a drug like rapamycin can also target mTOR, it has a strong inhibitory effect on T cells, the body’s natural cancer fighters.
Honokiol has been shown to act on prostate, breast and glioma cell lines without affecting critical T cell functions.
Boosts conventional and natural treatments
Honokiol can safely be used along with chemotherapy and appears to improve patient outcomes. Honokiol enhanced the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine against pancreatic cancer. It boosted the cytotoxic drug cisplatin against colon and ovarian cancer. It worked synergistically with imatinib against human leukemia cells. It also enhanced the potency of three drugs in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells.
Radiation and chemotherapy drugs sometimes lose any effectiveness they may possess because cancer cells become desensitized and resistant to them.
Honokiol has been shown to resensitize tumors to an antibiotic used in uterine cancer. It has also been effective in radiation therapy, sensitizing treatment-resistant colon cancer stem cells.
Honokiol also has strong anti-inflammatory activity and is a powerful antioxidant. Like vitamin C, in high doses it acts as a selective pro-oxidant against cancer cells.
In combination with modified citrus pectin (Pectasol, mentioned earlier), it dramatically reduced the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.
Available as a supplement
While a large body of research demonstrates the powerful anticancer effects of honokiol through multiple mechanisms and in many different tumors, as yet there are no human studies.
In the research conducted so far, honokiol appears to be a safe compound. The only direct toxicological study performed on rats also found it to be safe.
It is available as a supplement called HonoPure. The dose suggested for cancer prevention and long term maintenance is 2 x 500 mg capsules per day. Full disclosure: Dr. Eliaz formulated HonoPure and has a financial interest in the product. In my experience, he’s a great doctor doing wonderful work.
Our last issue carried a report on the Cancer Control Society convention in the Los Angeles area. This is perhaps the most important annual event in the alternative cancer field.