For more than 2,000 years, Chinese medicine has used arsenic to treat a variety of conditions.
I’m not pulling your leg! You probably know the chemical arsenic mainly as a poison used in many U.S. households to stop rats from invading the home.
Despite this, when used properly, arsenic can be a highly effective remedy for a variety of ills for everything from psoriasis to sexually transmitted diseases.
Now, Chinese scientists have determined that arsenic may put the kybosh on leukemia cells, too. And U.S. scientists have confirmed their finding. This is exciting news for people who suffer from this form of cancer. . .
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t arsenic cause cancer… and can’t it KILL you?”
The answer to both questions is “yes.” But arsenic can also have beneficial effects when administered properly. Recent scientific findings tell us why.
Arsenic is all around you…
Arsenic is a natural element found in the earth’s crust, as well as in soil and minerals. Its compounds can be used in pesticides, wood preservatives and other industrial applications.
You may be exposed to arsenic by:
- Breathing sawdust or smoke from arsenic-treated wood
- Ingesting small amounts in food and water
- Living near areas with high levels of arsenic in rock
- Working where arsenic is made or used
According to the World Health Organization, long-term exposure to arsenic through contaminated drinking water has been linked to cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder, and kidneys.
And some less life-threatening conditions associated with arsenic exposure include diarrhea… drowsiness… headaches… and muscle cramps…
So, what makes scientists think this lethal carcinogen also can be an effective remedy against cancer?
Used for more than 2,000 years and counting
Chinese medical practitioners have actively promoted using arsenic for at least two millennia. But record of its use as a cancer therapy is more recent…
In 1992, a group of Chinese doctors first demonstrated that arsenic could be an effective treatment for the blood and bone marrow cancer known as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).
Of the initial 32 patients treated with arsenic, 16 survived more than five years without additional therapy!
The positive reports of these and other treatment results from China led to a pivotal trial of arsenic in the United States for patients with relapsed APL. The New England Journal of Medicine published the amazing results, which showed that 11 of 12 patients experienced a complete remission after a treatment period ranging from 12 to 39 days.
In 2010, a multi-center study led by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center determined that arsenic had “a significant positive effect on the survival of patients with APL, when administered after standard initial treatment.”
Already used in some cases of relapse
Standard treatment for APL typically means chemotherapy plus an oral vitamin-A compound. Doctors have found that despite the widespread use of these methods, cancer sometimes resurfaces in patients after they’ve undergone standard treatment protocols.
When chemotherapy fails, arsenic trioxide—sometimes followed by a bone marrow transplant—is often used to get these patients back into remission. But the Wake Forest team discovered that administering arsenic earlier improved patients’ response to the initial standard treatment.
Lead investigator Bayard L. Powell, M.D., professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest Baptist, said not only did the leukemia rarely return in patients who received the arsenic—but those patients also lived longer to boot!
Here’s how arsenic delivers
a knock-out punch
APL affects your blood and bone marrow, causing a decrease in your production of red blood cells and platelets. Although doctors knew arsenic was effective at helping APL cancer patients go back into remission, they only recently pinpointed how it works.
The specifics on how arsenic interacts with cancer cells became clearer when researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Medical Genomics in Shanghai, China, used modern technology to find out.
In a paper published in the journal Science, lead researcher Zhang Xiaowei described how his team used modern technologies to identify how arsenic attacked specific proteins that would otherwise keep the cancer alive and well.
Professor Zhang’s team noticed that patients didn’t experience some of the uncomfortable side effects of chemotherapy, such as hair loss or suppression of bone marrow function. Plus, the researchers said that treating APL with arsenic resulted in over 90 percent of patients surviving at least five years with no signs of the disease! That’s remarkable.
Handle with care…
Although arsenic trioxide may be an effective treatment for APL cancer—you should still be wary of exposure to arsenic outside of a controlled clinical setting. I repeat: This is not a home remedy.
Remember that arsenic is a heavy metal. And scientists have shown that heavy metal buildup can dull your nerves… cause your heart to swell… and even rot your brain.
Because you’re exposed to toxic metals in the environment every single day—it’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE for you to escape them completely. But you can detox your body to help rid yourself of excess arsenic.
For example, you can:
- Take chelating supplements to grab the toxins and flush them from your body. While self-chelation has become popular, I urge doing it under the care of a doctor who’s experienced in this treatment.
- Eat sulfur-rich foods (e.g. garlic, onions, poultry and eggs) to protect your cells from toxins.
- Eat fiber-rich foods to bind toxins and eliminate them from your system.
These simple measures can help protect you from environmental arsenic and other poisons. But when prepared and handled appropriately arsenic has proven it can give leukemia a run for the money. If you or someone you love suffers from leukemia, bring the research to your doctor and ask him or her about arsenic trioxide treatment.
- Soignet SL, Maslak P, Wang Z-G et al. Complete remission after treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia with arsenic trioxide. N Engl J Med 1998;339:1341-1348.
- Soignet, S.L. Clinical experience of arsenic trioxide in relapsed acute promyelocytic leukemia. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.6-suppl_2-11 The Oncologist April 2001 vol. 6 Supplement 2 11-16
- Wake Forest Baptist Health. Nov. 2010. Arsenic early in treatment improves survival for leukemia patients.
- Zhang, Xiaowei et al. Arsenic trioxide controls the fate of the PML-RARa oncoprotein by directly binding PML. Science 9 April 2010: Vol. 328 no. 5975 pp. 240-243. DOI: 10.1126/science.1183424.