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Unbeknownst to most, a Copernican revolution has already taken place in cancer theory. Today, the weight of evidence indicates that plants and not chemicals are the solution for reversing the global cancer epidemic.
Our understanding of what causes cancer has undergone something akin to a Copernican revolution in the past decade. Biological fatalism has been the predominant force in medicine over the past half century, where most conditions including cancer were believed predestined 'in the genes,' and therefore impossible to reverse. Instead of looking for root cause resolution of disease (RCRD), we resigned ourselves to 'finding it early' and in the case of cancer, when doing so (even when it was benign), we waged war against it, quite literally using weapons grade materials (mustard gas- and nuclear materials-derived agents). Now, however, in this post-Genomic era, factors above (epi-) the control of the genes – epigenetic factors – are taking center stage; these include environmental exposures, stress, nutritional factors, and various lifestyle-based variables that are within the ambit of our control and volition, and which are often reversible.
In other words, cancer is now being understood as epigenetic dysfunction, a direct and even adaptive response to the post-industrial, carcinogen-saturated environment, in addition to a diet of faux, mostly chemically-produced 'food,' combining to produce an environment – 'inner terrain-- within the body ideal for cancer promotion.
Indeed, in a new study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology titled, "The use of plant-derived bioactive compounds to target cancer stem cells and modulate tumor microenvironment," the authors note the powerful implications of this new epigenetic view of cancer:
"A fundamental aspect to be taken into account is that epigenetic changes can possibly be reversed by modifying epigenetic factors, such as diet and lifestyle. Nowadays, identification of these factors is crucial to develop epigenetically-based preventions and more effective anti-cancer intervention strategies."
Moreover, they note that natural interventions are once again (after countless millennia of worldwide use), at the cutting edge of medical intervention:
"Virtually, all dietary compounds have the ability to act at the epigenetic level in cancer cells thus influencing the epigenome in a positive or negative way. Particularly, plant derived compounds, such as polyphenols, have the capacity to reverse adverse epigenetic mutations in cancer cells, to inhibit tumorigenesis progression, to prevent the metastatic process or to sensitize cancer cells to chemo and radiotherapy (Vanden Berghe, 2012)."
The new study highlighted the following points, the implications for the future of cancer treatment are truly revolutionary:
- Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are chemo-radiotherapy resistant, causing tumor relapse.
- CSCs are known to reside within specific hypoxic and acidic tumor niches.
- Phytocompounds affect CSC self-renewal, metabolism and microenvironment.
- Phytocompounds might be exploited for cancer prevention and treatment.
As we have covered extensively in previous posts, the discovery of a subpopulation within tumors of cells known as cancer stem cells, reveals that our half-century old war on cancer, officially inaugurated in 1971 with Nixon's signing of the National Cancer Act, was extremely misguided. The notion that cancer is simply a byproduct of cells within the body going rogue due to DNA damage and replicating clonally through fundamentally chaotic – stochastic – processes, has been called into question by the discovery that tumors are actually sophisticated, hierarchically organized communities that express highly intelligent, survival-based behaviors, albeit evolutionary ancient in origin. The establishment views cancer as something 'you have or don't have,' and the equivalent of being infected by 'terrorist-like' cancer cells that must be treated as an enemy and obliterated by any means necessary. This treatment ensues regardless of the collateral damage to the patient. The emerging and far more nuanced cancer stem-cell based perspective, precipitated primarily by epigenetic factors – e.g. chemical exposure, dietary incompatibilities, metabolic acidosis and low oxygen (hypoxia) – offers a far more promising and empowering view of prevention and treatment.