The conventional cancer therapies currently available are surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy; aka the "cut, poison, burn" model. Chemotherapy is typically the main regimen for most cancers.Resveratrol—A Natural Chemosensitizer
However, many tumors develop resistance to these harsh drugs, known as chemoresistance, which can complicate matters, to say the least. Chemoresistance also leads to other complications.
Hence researchers are looking for effective chemosensitizers that can help overcome such resistance. This strategy basically uses one drug to enhance the activity of another, by modulating the mechanisms that cause the resistance.
A number of natural products and compounds have been shown to act as effective chemosensitizers. Two of the most promising are resveratrol and curcumin, which I'll address here. Last year, several interesting studies were published on these two products, pertaining to their value in the treatment of cancer.
Natural agents such as resveratrol, a potent antioxidant chemical found in red wine and other foods, have multitargeting properties, which make them ideally suited for anti-cancer drugs. In fact, more than 60 percent of the cancer drugs currently available are based on natural ingredients for this very reason. Natural compounds are also inexpensive, low in toxicity, and are readily available.
In a 2011 review of dietary agents that sensitize tumors, making them more susceptible to the treatment with chemotherapy drugs, resveratrol was featured as a clear candidate. Specific types of tumors shown to respond favorably include:
Lung carcinoma Acute myeloid- and promyelocytic leukemia Multiple myeloma Prostate cancer Oral epidermoid carcinoma Pancreatic cancer
The first evidence of resveratrol's anti-cancer effects was published in 1997. The findings received great interest from cancer researchers, and many studies have been devoted to this potent antioxidant since then. Resveratrol, which can be found in red wine, red grape skins, fruits, vegetables, legumes and weeds, has been found to have the following actions and functions:
According to the review, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciencesii:
- Broad-spectrum antimicrobial
"The anticancer activities of resveratrol are mediated through modulation of several cell-signaling molecules that regulate cell cycle progression, inflammation, proliferation, apoptosis, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis of tumor cells. It has been shown that resveratrol can sensitize resistant cells to chemotherapeutic agents by overcoming one or more mechanisms of chemoresistance. In some tumor cells, however, resveratrol has been shown to act as chemoprotector."The fact that it can in some cases act as a chemoprotector, meaning, it can reduce the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents, "present a major caveat for use of resveratrol as a chemosensitizer," the authors warn. In an earlier study, the researchers concluded that using resveratrol with the cancer drug Paclitaxel, for example, was detrimental in certain types of cancers, such as breast canceriii.
- The antioxidant resveratrol and curcumin (the active substance of the spice turmeric) both show promise as natural chemosensitizers—substances that can help overcome resistance to chemotherapy drugs
- Both nutrients have a wide spectrum of anti-cancer actions and functions
- By modulating inflammatory pathways and inflammatory molecules, resveratrol may also help alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of conventional cancer treatment, such as wasting, fatigue, depression, neuropathic pain, cognitive impairment and sleep disorders
- Among all nutrients, curcumin has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer. Researchers have found that curcumin can affect more than 100 different pathways, once it gets into a cell
- Epigenetic regulation constitutes an important mechanism by which dietary components can selectively activate or inactivate gene expression. Both curcumin and resveratrol induce epigenetic changes