Are there natural treatment options for brain cancer? Several studies have investigated how to treat brain cancer naturally with promising results.
Most of these studies have investigated the effects of natural treatments for glioblastomas, the most aggressive and deadly of gliomas, cancerous tumors of the glial cells in the brain. Glial cells surround the brain’s nerve endings and support neurons, the “information messengers” of the nervous system.
A glioblastoma, as MD Anderson Cancer Center neuro-oncologist Ashley Aaroe, MD, points out, “is always a Grade 4 glioma.” Grade 4 tumors contain cells that divide more rapidly than slower-growing tumors, causing them to grow quickly – making early detection, diagnosis, and treatment a must.
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
While only one-third of all brain tumors are cancerous, patients who experience symptoms of a brain tumor would be wise to get an appointment with their physician at their earliest convenience. It’s even more critical if a patient has one of the risk factors for glioblastoma, such as radiation therapy early in life to treat head, neck, or brain cancer, has a family history of the disease, or is male and in his 50s.
Symptoms of a brain tumor include:
- Severe headaches
- Trouble in speaking, understanding language, or even thinking
- Changes in personality
- Paralysis or weakness on one side
- Dizziness or difficulty in balancing
- Changes in vision or hearing
- Tingling or numbness in the face
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disorientation and confusion
After the healthcare provider reviews the patient’s symptoms and performs a physical examination, he or she will usually perform an MRI to see if a tumor is present. If the MRI reveals a tumor, the physician will usually recommend a biopsy, a procedure in which a surgeon removes part of the tissue in the tumor to examine under a microscope at a lab.
At the lab, Aaroe says, a pathologist will examine the genetic material in the tissue for the presence of the IDH enzyme, a substance that affects the cells’ metabolism, and 1p191, a marker that differentiates astrocytomas from oligodendrogliomas.
Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy number among the usual conventional therapies for malignant brain tumors. However, glioblastomas’ aggressiveness often requires both radiation therapy and chemotherapy in addition to surgery.
For that reason, researchers have worked hard to find integrative cancer treatments that use holistic medicine in conjunction with traditional therapies.
A 2018 brain cancer study published in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology looked at the effect of five kinds of herbal teas on glioblastoma patients, adjusting the composition of the teas to the patient’s responses, as indicated by MRI and CT scans. Five patients volunteered for the study, including three who used an integrative approach, using the herbal teas and traditional treatments, and two who took the herbal teas after completing conventional therapies.
In general, glioblastomas (GBMs) have a poor prognosis. Primary glioblastoma patients, the study indicated, have a median survival of only five months, while secondary GBMs, affecting mostly younger patients, have a median survival of only eight months. Overall, the five-year survival rate for glioblastomas, the researchers said, was only 2%. Certainly, a search for treatments outside conventional boundaries, such as phytotherapy (the use of plant-based medicines), would be well worth exploring.
The herbal teas these researchers used were blends of various herbs, using best practices to harvest and dry the plants to keep their active components at an optimum level. After the researchers prepared the blends, patients drank the teas from these blends five times daily, using each of the five blends once daily.
The results were astounding. Even after 48 months, three patients displayed “no clinical or radiological signs of the disease,” and one patient’s tumor shrank, putting him in stable condition. The other patient survived for 48 months, even with a “large primary tumor and a massive recurrence,” all of which occurred well after he completed the phytotherapy treatment.
Phytotherapy looks like a promising non-toxic complement to conventional therapy. As the researchers suggested, they would need further studies to look at herbal medicine as a standalone alternative cancer treatment. However, using it in an integrative approach could give patients a way forward where few exist, given the failure of traditional approaches in glioblastomas.
Another 2018 paper published in Oncotarget addressed the resistance of cancer stem cells to even initial chemoradiation therapy. Their resistance increases, the study showed, from “deregulation of many signaling pathways.”
Certain natural compounds have shown anticancer properties, some of them in glioblastoma cell lines, the researchers pointed out. Historically, Native Americans used mayapple roots to treat skin cancer. Later, scientists discovered that this plant contains podophyllotoxin, which has anticancer properties. In addition, during the latter part of the 20th century, the National Cancer Institute identified that a plant-derived compound called Taxol also proved to be a fruitful source of treatment for solid tumors.
In fact, almost one-third of the cancer-fighting medications currently used in the US – or their synthetic analogs – come from nature.
This paper explored the potential of holistic medicine, with its “less toxic agents,” to treat gliomas, collating the results from a variety of studies from across the world. Several compounds look promising, according to the authors of this literature review and another similar paper. They include:
Quercetin: A naturally occurring flavonoid in various fruits and vegetables, this compound “increased the sensitivity” of certain glioblastoma cell lines to TMZ, a potent cytotoxic drug. It also induced mitochondria-mediated cell death in a mutant GBM cell line.
Resveratrol: An antioxidant found in some purple-colored fruits, resveratrol also decreased TMZ resistance, making it a potent weapon in integrative treatment for brain tumors, especially glioblastomas. Another cancer treatment literature review detailed studies that showed it effective in treating gliomas, as well as cancers elsewhere in the body, including breast and colorectal malignancies.
Icariin: A derivative of a Chinese medical herb, icariin both “significantly decreased” the growth of GBM cells and “augments the cytotoxicity of TMZ.”
Propolis: This honeybee resin decreased the rate of cell proliferation in GBM cells and lung fibroblasts, giving it great potential in treating cancer cells that have migrated from the lung to the brain. Using it with TMZ, propolis “inhibited the growth of U87 [glioblastoma] cells.”
Chokeberry extract and curcumin: Using these nature-derived compounds together looks to be a powerful addition to fight glioblastomas. While both compounds decrease viability in U373 glioblastoma cells, curcumin-induced cell death directly in these cells. Used on its own, turmeric-derived curcumin both inhibits cancer growth and angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels), a necessary ingredient in tumor growth. It also induces cell death in both in vivo and in vitro models of a variety of cancers. In GBM specifically, curcumin contributed to overall survival rates in studies on mice.
Mistletoe extract: A galactoside-specific lectin derived from mistletoe (ML-1) demonstrated robust immunostimulatory activity, increasing the survival rate significantly in both astrocytoma patients with grades III and IV cancers.
At Brio-Medical, we offer a variety of ways to treat brain cancer naturally, including many of these treatments. Whether you want to combine traditional therapies with nature-based treatments or use a natural approach on its own, we have a wealth of alternative therapies to offer you.
Discover what we can offer with a free consultation with our caring team. Schedule yours today!