It’s a distressingly familiar story:
First, a natural substance shows promise as a treatment for cancer. Then a study demonstrates that even though it isn’t clear how it helps the body, this substance enables some people to survive cancers that might otherwise be fatal.
And then almost nothing.
But that doesn’t mean you have to miss the benefits of this discovery.
Read on. . .
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No large pharmaceutical corporation or anybody else with deep pockets wants to spend the money to explore CoQ10’s cancer-fighting potential.
Fortunately, the many people who take CoQ10 as a heart supplement are reaping a benefit they didn’t expect and probably don’t know about.
It’s been more than 20 years since research in Denmark showed that women with breast cancer who were expected to die didn’t succumb when they received supplements of CoQ10 along with their other treatments.1
But nobody since then has tried to replicate this study. However, researchers have finally begun again to look into a variety of other ways CoQ10 can be used to fight cancer.
And it’s about time.
Keeps tumors from forming their own blood vessels
One of the first observations, decades ago, about CoQ10 and cancer noted that people with tumors have low blood levels of this natural substance.
Part of the reason that cancer shrinks the body’s CoQ10 supply may be linked to cancer’s large thirst for a blood supply of its own. Regular readers of this newsletter are familiar with this process called angiogenesis. Tumors activate the creation of webs of blood vessels that keep cancer cells supplied with the nutrients they need.
But research in India shows that CoQ10, if it’s available to the body, can limit the ability of tumors to grow the blood supply that allows them to become large and life-threatening.
Without blood vessels to provide them with oxygen and nutrients, tumors would never be able to get much bigger than the size of a pinhead.2 Unless cancer cells can give rise to the blood supply that researchers call “vascular support,” they die off.
Exactly how the growth of these new blood cells is cultivated by cancer is not well-understood, but researchers think it goes through several steps: First the cancer breaks through a “basement” membrane that surrounds the primary tumor.3 Then endothelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels) are somehow summoned into the damaged area where they join together, stabilizing and beginning the formation of new blood vessels.
At some time during this vessel-forming procedure, however, CoQ10 can interrupt the construction of the new vessels and hamper tumor expansion.
The Indian investigators gave breast cancer patients, who were already being treated with the drug tamoxifen, supplements containing 100mg of CoQ10, 10mg of riboflavin and 50 mg of niacin.
In the women taking the supplements, the researchers observed a “significant reduction in pro-angiogenic marker levels” – meaning the tumors were secreting less of the chemicals needed to help them grow blood vessels.
As a result, conclude the researchers, the CoQ10 along with the two B vitamins, might be able to “offer protection from cancer metastases and recurrence.” 4
Fights cancer by reducing inflammation
Despite some current studies, it’s disappointing that more research hasn’t tried to tap into CoQ10’s power as an anti-inflammatory agent. As I’ve reported before, research shows beyond doubt that inflammation is linked to cancer.
Although the inflammation response by the body’s immune system is supposed to beat back infection, and immune cells are supposed to guard against cancer growth, when certain of these cells malfunction, they actually help cancers grow and accelerate their spread.
According to Bevin Engelward, deputy director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences: “Chronic inflammation drives a lot of cancers, including pancreatic, esophageal, liver, and colon cancers. There are things that people with chronic inflammation could do to avoid exposures that would be problematic for them.” 5
Keeping your weight down, not smoking, exercising and avoiding processed food — including the items sold at fast food restaurants — are all ways to reduce inflammation in your body.
And taking CoQ10 is another way to reduce inflammation that can set you up to be a cancer victim.
For example, research shows that, in men, CoQ10 supplements can reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels by 33%. PSA is an enzyme secreted by the prostate gland that generally reaches high levels when a man develops prostate cancer.
While the association between PSA level and the risk of prostate cancer is controversial, increases in PSA levels can be a sign of cancer in the prostate gland.
The same study also found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can reduce PSA levels while excessive levels of omega-6 fats – the type of fat found in most of the highly processed vegetable oils we consume – increase PSA levels.
The scientists conclude that their investigation demonstrates that “Dietary supplements containing n-3 PUFA (omega 3 fats) or CoQ10 may have a protective effect against developing prostate cancer and/or a therapeutic effect in men with prostate cancer.”
Softens the side effects of chemotherapy
Even though there’s good evidence that CoQ10 can be used to fight cancer, much of the medical research now being conducted is looking at how CoQ10 can protect cancer patients from the harmful side effects of cancer drugs. I guess that’s no surprise, since finding ways to help people survive these drugs is an important goal for Big Pharma.
For instance, the drug doxorubicin, a pharmaceutical used in the treatment of breast cancer, can cause heart failure in up to one in five women who take the drug. Tests at Columbia University show CoQ10 can lower this risk.
Along with killing cancer cells, doxorubicin can lead to damage in the heart’s mitochondria, the little organelles the heart muscle needs to generate energy and keep blood pumping. The mitochondria in the heart contain an enzyme that interacts with doxorubicin to form powerful free radicals – destructive caustic substances. When these substances (known as reactive oxidative species) build up in the mitochondria, they tear through the mitochondrial membranes and lead to the death of myocytes – the long tubular cells that make up heart muscle.
The Columbia study confirms that CoQ10 protects heart cells from this type of damage while not interfering with doxorubicin’s attack on cancer cells.
A supplement with multiple benefits
By all means, keep on taking CoQ10 for your cardiovascular system. But as its role as an anti-inflammatory agent and “anti-cancer pill” becomes more well-known, I’m sure people will start taking it for those reasons, too.
In my view, CoQ10 is a core supplement that everyone should be taking.