Disclaimer & Warning: The information in this blog is only provided for informational purposes. This information is not designed to be used to treat any disease or health problem. Instead, always consult with your physician for proper treatment.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cancer and Inflammation

In Latin, the word "inflammation" means "Ignite, set alight" and like gasoline, that's exactly what it does to cancer. A microenvironment of chronic inflammation can increase the risk of cancer, bolster chemotherapy resistance and turn on oncogenes, genes that can turn cells into tumors.

Most importantly, inflammation promotes the spreading and mutating of cancer cells while continuing to push the mutations within the cancer cells' development. Inflammation also enhances tumors ability to recruit blood supply (angiogenesis) and more.

Unfortunately, inflammation and cancer signaling pathways are ignored for most cancers in the oncology world. Basically, inflammation is one of the leading factors that contributes to uncontrolled growth of cancers cells and spreading (metastasis).

Uncovering and treating the cause of inflammation, rather than just treating the symptoms, is an important key when fighting cancer or chronic disease. To get to the root of the inflammation, we have to learn what causes inflammation and how to deal with it.

What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body's response to tissue damage, caused by physical injury, ischemic injury (caused by an insufficient supply of blood to an organ), infection, exposure to toxins or other types of trauma. The body's inflammatory response causes cellular changes and immune responses that result in repair of the damaged tissue and cellular proliferation (growth) at the site of the injured tissue.

Inflammation can become chronic if the cause of the inflammation persists or certain control mechanisms in charge of shutting down the process fail. When these inflammatory responses become chronic, cell mutation and proliferation can result, often creating an environment that is conducive to the development of cancer. The so-called "perfect storm" is an extreme challenge that cancer patients face.

This is true for the onset of cancer, but also even more important for advancement of the disease. The cancer a patient begins with becomes very different in the later stages, becoming more mutated and complex to treat. Various signaling pathways are key contributors to creating epigenetic changes on the outside of the cell, switching on these internal mutations. Therefore, treating the inflammatory causes is always important.

The Link Between Cancer and Inflammation
Despite popular belief, less than five percent of cancer is solely genetic (in the sense of being directly inherited by family members). Most cancers have a cause and those causes bring about chronic inflammation as part of the process. New research suggests an emerging link between infection, epigenetics and cancer. Changes catalyzed by pathogenic inflammation can transform cells into cancerous tumors.

According to ScienceDirect.com, "Several types of inflammation—differing by cause, mechanism, outcome, and intensity—can promote cancer development and progression."  A study by the Cancer Research Institute also agrees, saying, "Chronic inflammation plays a multifaceted role in carcinogenesis."

Many cancers are linked to viruses or bacteria that promote reversible, epigenetic changes in the body's cells. At minimum, 20 percent or more of cancers are linked to infectious disease, according to the Journal of American Medical Associates. Some well-known examples include:
    Human Papillomavirus leads to cervical cancer.
    Hepatitis C leads to liver cancer.
    Epstein Barr leads to lymphoma.
    Herpes Virus Six leads to brain cancer.
    Helicobacter Pylori leads to stomach cancer.

We are thought to only have fully recognized about 13% of infections worldwide, making infection a bigger contributor than typically reported. These infections bring about changes and chronic inflammation as well.

One thing anyone with chronic inflammation will tell you is that it causes heat. Abnormal body heat can also lead to thermogenesis and enhance metabolic spread of cancer during metastasis. The locations with the most metabolic hotspots may indicate the most common areas of cancer spread. This is seen in animal testing where various cancer images have been superimposed.

Inflammation is known to cause other such changes in the microenvironment of cells. Cells often undergo adaptive changes to survive stressful or toxic environments. These adaptive changes can include: an increased expression of antioxidant enzymes; increased anaerobic respiration; and development of angiogenic factors. This adaptation is usually transient, however, and allows normal cells to survive only until the toxic condition is alleviated.

There are many signaling and inflammation pathways that cause cancer to grow, spread or outgrow treatment via resistance. Helping enhance cancer treatment as a whole involves strong comprehensive anti-inflammatory and signaling treatments.

That means it's not enough to have a strategy to kill cancer cells – chronic inflammation needs to be blocked and stopped at its roots to prevent the cancer from mutating and spreading.
Note: There is no singular drug that can currently treat all of these pathways from a conventional medical perspective. However, there are some integrative and alternative approaches that, when used properly, can impact these inflamed targets from a multi-dimensional approach.

How Inflammation Leads to Cancer
So how does inflammation lead to cancer? Here’s the current thinking.

When a tiny tumor starts growing from a few rogue cells, it can scavenge enough oxygen and nutrients from its surroundings. But as it grows bigger, demand starts to outstrip supply, and things start getting desperate.

As they struggle to survive, and as they accumulate more and more genetic faults, the cancer cells release chemical signals that lure immune cells called macrophages and granulocytes to infiltrate the tumor.

Once inside the tumor’s inner sanctum, these cells secrete molecules (called cytokines) that kick-start the growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis), which bring in much-needed oxygen and nutrients.

Other cytokines encourage growth of a sort of cellular ‘pillow’ called the stroma against which the tumor rests. Meanwhile, other inflammatory cells attack the tumor with molecules (free radicals) that further damage their DNA. Inflammation might also fire the starting gun for metastasis by producing chemicals that help tumor cells break away from its surroundings.

Taken together, it’s clear that fledgling tumors hijack inflammation and use it to accelerate the progression towards full-blown cancer.
Treating inflammation is only one part of a complete treatment plan – there are many other aspects to consider, including nutrition, building the immune system, targeting chemotherapy and much more. However, if you can slow down the growth of cancer, it makes it much easier to maintain and hopefully, overcome. 

Otherwise, if it keeps growing, the cancer can outgrow any treatment. It becomes a race to slow down the metabolic growth and spread of cancer enough for other therapies to do their job effectively. The best part about these treatments is they are helpful for most, if not all cancers. If you have any questions about your cancer, or would like to know more about how integrative medicine might help, please contact us today.

Inflammation Diagrams
The following (first) diagram identifies the key root causes and co-factors associated with chronic inflammation.
Chronic Inflammation

The following diagram depicts how inflammation develops in the human body and can lead to various diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Inflammation Pathogenesis

Note: Refer to the training program or ebook for more details.

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