Lung Cancer

Lung CancerThe most prevalent primary carcinoma of the lung (thorax) is bronchogenic carcinoma. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in American men and is rapidly approaching this status in American women as well. While lung cancer has been clearly linked to various respiratory carcinogens, such as asbestos and coal dust, its major cause is cigarette smoking. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that cigarette smoking causes about 83% of lung cancer cases among men and about 43% among women. Prognosis for lung cancer treatment is poor because lung cancer is not usually diagnosed until it's in an advanced stage.

Although smoking has been implicated as the most significant cause of all types of lung cancer, many other causative agents have been identified, including the following:

  • Genetic predisposition. Smokers related to lung cancer patients have about 11 times more risk of developing lung cancer than smokers who have no family history of the disease.
  • Respiratory carcinogens. Smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer when combined with exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos; exposure to asbestos, when combined with cigarette smoking, multiplies the cancer risk nearly 60 times. Also, growing evidence shows that even passive smoking (inhaling cigarette smoke generated by others) increases the nonsmoker's cancer risk.
  • Environmental pollutants. While most lung cancer patients are smokers, we are seeing an increase in patients who have never smoked and are not around smokers at home or in the workplace. This increase mirrors the increased incidence of all types of cancer, the odds of developing cancer in 1950 was 1 in 7, whereas today it is 1 in 3. We attribute this increase in cancers to an ever pervasive toxic environment which promotes the development of all cancer types.
  • Immune suppression. Cancer, particularly squamous cell cancer, is highly immune suppressive. While this is recognized by the medical profession, they usually ignore that the immune system first must be compromised before a cancer can become established. It is this mechanism whereby parasites, viruses, and other infectious agents make their contribution to the development of cancer. Environmental pollutants usually also work in this manner, although many are also directly carcinogenic.

Not everyone who smokes develops lung cancer; only about 12% to 15% do develop the disease. Some other factors that influence a person's chances of developing the disease include the role of vitamin A, necessary for normal growth and development of bronchial mucosa; the role of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylases, a series of enzymes that activate chemical carcinogens; and the possible predisposing effect of tissue scarring from unrelated previous lung injuries. The status of the immune system is of major importance.

The term "Lung Cancer" actually refers to several types of cancer. The four most common are:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid)
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Small cell carcinoma

Small cell carcinoma is usually the most aggressive type of lung cancer with the poorest prognosis. Thus, often patients are told they have small cell carcinoma or non-small cell carcinoma, combining the three non-small cell types together, as they are relatively less aggressive. Ironically, there is some evidence that small cell carcinoma may be more responsive to chemotherapy in the short term.

The relative characteristics of these cancer types are seen in Table 1.

relative characteristics of lung cancer types

The only way to distinguish between these types of lung cancer is by a tissue biopsy. Figure 1 indicates how the pathologist visually determines the cell types. This determination is straight forward when the tumor cells are well differentiated, but more problematic when there is less differentiation.

Lung Cancer types

Lung Cancer Treatments:

Conventional medicine classifies lung cancer by a staging system (Table 2) which is similar for all the non-small cell types of lung cancer. This follows the standard TNM sequence (tumor - nodes - metastasis). Conventional lung cancer treatment is less dependent on this staging than with other cancers such as breast, colon, etc. Here the only curative treatment, in the opinion of the Immune Recovery Centers, is surgery.

Lung Cancer Staging

Chemotherapy and radiation (C & R) are only palliative, since most cases of lung cancer are detected at a late stage. We also see little if any curative effect even in early stages of the cancer. Complementary or alternative medicine usually accepts surgery as a potentially curative procedure. We agree, but believes that surgery should follow immune therapy , when possible, but in all cases immune therapy should also be given after surgery. The immune system has seen the tumor and has been battling the tumor - the first line of defense is the immune system. Lung cancer, particularly squamous cell cancer, is highly immunosuppressive. Immune boosting before and after surgery increases the chances for a cure or remission. Chemotherapy and radiation further weaken or destroy the immune system and we believe that their only use should be for short term palliative effect to ease breathing, etc.

If surgery has removed all of the detectable tumor, then C & R given as a prophylactic against tumor recurrence is a poor choice; it is non curative and most likely sets the patient up for a recurrence by its immune destructive actions. It is irrational to believe that C & R can prevent cancer. IRCs  and others believe that immune therapy would be more effective than C & R following surgery, based on scientific reasoning, common sense and observation. IRF believes that C & R leaves the patient more vulnerable to long term recurrence and to metastasis.

If surgery has not removed all of the tumor, then C & R will not change the course of the disease and most likely not increase survival time. When there is such residual tumor, the patients’ only real option is immune therapy augmented with some alternative cancer treatments - in the opinion of the IRCs.

The Immune Recovery Centers of America consider themselves to be medical clinics that primarily stresses immune therapy and that this is actually a fourth modality of conventional cancer treatment. Immunotherapy of cancer is not well understood in much of the medical community. This results in a failure to accept the treatments as conventional. Thus, immune therapy is sometimes classified as alternative medicine, despite Nobel Laureates having contributed too much of the immune knowledge being employed. It is ironic but there is more knowledge of immune function outside conventional medical practice than within. It is the domain of the research scientist, a few medical practitioners and a large number of lay medical enthusiasts. Our centers use whatever cancer treatments, alternative, conventional or natural which it feels will help the individual patient and their individual disease.

The IRCs'  approach is to integrate those therapies to accomplish a set of goals:

  1. To slow or halt the growth of the tumor.
  2. To determine and correct the damage sustained by the immune system.
  3. To determine and correct the causes of immune damage.
  4. To contrasuppress the tumor.
  5. To stimulate the immune system towards a major immune attack.
  6. To put the cancer in remission, or barring that outcome, to gain and hold   a quality of life for the patient.
  7. To teach the patient life-style and dietary changes.

To accomplish these goals an individualized protocol will be developed for each patient utilizing some of the many possibilities available.

There are many so-called alternative medicine agents with a record of slowing cancer growth. There are claims of cures with many of these agents; the data is inconclusive, however, the data on slowing cancer growth is definitive. There are also drugs purported to cure, as Laetrile, Ukrain, etc, but again the data is usually inconclusive; yet there are so many of these claim that they should not be dismissed. Then there is a large group of agents, available as supplements, which are more useful to maintain health and prevent cancer, that is, prophylactic use. Their primary value is as part of a maintenance program following therapeutic treatment.

  1. The newest and best hope for halting tumor growth is the process of antiangiogenesis {see link}. Blocking new blood vessel formation greatly limits the tumors ability to grow and metastasize. Antiangiogenesis is the new “buzz” word in the pharmaceutical industry, with several biotech type drugs (monoclonal antibodies) in clinical trial. These new drugs are designed to inhibit the growth factors which promote blood vessel growth, but only have a 10 % rate of effectiveness. They are very toxic and are obscenely expensive. Almost ignored are agents from conventional medicine, as Thalidomide, cox-2 inhibitors, IFN-alpha and IL-12. Completely ignored are more than a dozen natural and alternative products which are active because they block blood vessel growth. The more interesting ones are Curcumin, Genestein, Quercetin and Silymarin. IRF utilizes these and others. The most promising new agent for antiangiogenesis is Tetrathiomolybdate.
  2. Damage to the immune system can only be determined by immune blood panels, some highly specialized. Agents which have utility in immune restoration and cancer treatments are several homeopathics, intravenous ascorbic acid with vitamin-mineral formulations, selected alternative products and certain cytokines.
  3. Although smoking is the primary culprit in lung cancer, other causes of immune damage which renders the patient susceptible to cancer are chronic viral infections (Epstein-Barr, cytomagalovirus, and others), chronic yeast and parasitic infections. To these we must add heavy metal toxicity (arsenic, lead and mercury) and the ever present pesticides and organic industrial pollutants. The processes of chelation and detoxification can reduce some of these factors. It is critical that these underlying problems be corrected to avoid a repeat of the conditions which allowed the original tumor to become established. We feel a major cause of disease recurrence is the failure to address these problems and correct them following conventional treatment.
  4. Contrasuppression of the cancer means the blocking of the tumors ability to suppress the immune system. Thus, actions which hinder immune attack on the tumor are reduced. Most tumors cause immune suppression by inducing the production of suppressor T-cells, blocking macrophage activity by producing prostaglandin, and other mechanisms. There are conventional drugs which can induce this contrasuppression.
  5. Immune stimulation can elicit an immune attack on the cancer similar to a tissue transplant rejection (tumor rejection) by increased production of natural killer cells and tumor specific T-cells. While there are many agents to accomplish this activity, we feel the best are certain cytokines (interleukins and interferons), cancer vaccines, and transfer factor.
  6. Most patients come to our clinics following a failed conventional program, or have suffered a relapse of the disease. Immunotherapy for cancer is successful in early disease but also offers the possibility of reversing or halting later stage disease. Late-stage patients are physically unable to respond adequately to some therapies, and the cancer may be too established and widespread for elimination. When tumors can be slowed through antiangiogenesis, there will be more time for the therapeutic lung cancer treatments to be effective. The IRCs always have the goal of tumor reduction and remission. However, in some cases this is impossible and we can only hope for an extension of quality of life.
  7. To assist with these goals, the patient will be provided with a maintenance program including dietary supplements and a pharmaceutical regimen.