What is Cancer?
To stimulate NARPO members to write articles/topics on any subject they feel would be of interest to others as a knowledge sharing media, I have written this brief article on cancer to start the ball rolling.
Those of you that know me are aware I have been fighting prostate cancer for a long time and I am happy to share my cancer ‘journey’ with you.
My journey has been ‘interesting’. I was told in 2002 by my hospital consultant that my disease was terminal and I had 2 years to live. This was on the basis I had radical surgery and radiotherapy and yet my PSA (a tool used to measure prostate cancer) was still rising. Hmmm, didn’t like that so I thought I would get a second opinion. I went to a prominent oncologist in Sheffield and sent all my medical notes to him and he agreed with the 2 year prognosis. Drat! Need a third opinion so I went to an oncologist in Chichester and he too agreed. No point in going to any more as even if the next one disagreed it would still be 3 against 1 – not good odds and it was expensive as these opinions were privately funded, so I settled for my lot.
I won’t go into treatment detail too much in this publication but suffice to say I had surgery, 6 weeks of radiotherapy, hormone therapy by the bucket and this continued for the next 10 years (to 2011). I then had a tumour appear in my groin the size of a hens egg and was put on chemotherapy for 7 1/2 months.
Following chemotherapy I carried on with hormone therapy but alas my PSA started to rise again so I was put on one of the latest wonder drugs called abiraterone. This worked very well but after 18 months this too started to fail and my PSA began to rise again.
A CT scan confirmed the cancer was in my groin lymph nodes and had increased in size compared to the last scan 3 months earlier. My consultant advised me that as the abiraterone was no longer working he could not prescribe anymore (understandably) and there was little more he could offer me and he suggested I go home and enjoy myself.
I was released from Southend hospital with no further appointment or medication but before I
left I did manage to persuade him to refer me to a clinical trial on a new drug being conducted Guys in London. I knew my PSA is rising fast so I must now look at other options including those outside of conventional treatments whilst I am waiting for appointments at Guys.
I was enrolled on this trial with an experimental drug call enzalutamide. This kept my cancer at bay for another 15 months, which brings us up to Christmas 2015. This new drug also started to fail as the cancer continue to grow. I was then transferred to the Royal Marsden, where I am now as at February 2016, and I am about to embark on a Phase One clinical trial on immunotherapy.
So that’s my potted cancer history and of course along this long and winding road I have amassed huge amounts of information, some of which I learned just be having treatments, but I also have studied the science of cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer can form in almost any organ or area of the body and while the disease is widespread, it is hard to treat. Some treatment does exist but a true “cure” for cancer using modern medicines is still many years away. In spite of our lack of knowledge of many of the exact details of cancer, there is a great deal that is understood about its overall behaviour.
We need to start at the cell
Every living thing is made of cells, and these cells grow, eat, live, and die just like the things they make up, like people. In fact, Bacteria are living things composed of only a single cell. The continuous process of growth, division (called mitosis), and death (called apoptosis) is called the Cell Cycle.
A cell requires food to keep living and carrying out its role in the body. As a cell grows it reaches a point where it is contains two copies of DNA inside it and divides all the cell components into two cells (it duplicates itself) in a process known as mitosis. In the simplest terms, cancer is what happens when some cells in the body undergo a mitosis, which damages their DNA, and results in a cell that does not undergo natural cell death, called apoptosis, ignoring the normal cell cycle. This mutated cell refuses to die and multiplies significantly, with lethal consequences for the body.
When these cluster of cells, or tumour, becomes malignant it is called cancer. Malignant means it has the ability to invade other organs and spread to other tissues.
As there are cells everywhere in the body then cancer can occur anywhere in the body.
There are two major differences between a cancerous cell and a normal cell, these are: the cancer’s uncontrolled growth, and the resistance of cancer to cellular death. The uncontrolled growth of cancer cells causes even one cancerous cell to rapidly grow to form a fully-fledged tumour.
Why can’t we just kill these cancer cells?
With other illnesses, e.g. influenza, pneumonia, urinary tract infection etc., these bacterial or viral cells enter the body from the outside. They are foreign invaders called pathogens. There are both good bacteria, which we all have and need in our body, and bad bacteria, which cause the spread of infection.
With bacterial diseases we can offer antibiotics that track down these bacterial invaders and kills them. It kills them because they are different – some being only a single cell. However, some bacteria are immune to antibiotics. With viral invaders antibiotics will not work and we let the body’s built-in immune system do the job. So, with outside invaders, or pathogens, we either kill them off with antibiotics or our own immune system.
So why can’t we do the same with cancer cells? Well the answer is because they are not invaders. Our bodies are made up of trillions of white blood cells. The function of white blood cells is to attack and destroy anything that is harmful to our bodies. Cancer cells have been produced by the cell production process within the body and therefore our immune system does not recognise them as being hostile invaders.
Nature does have one last trick up its sleeve to kill these cancer cells. Each cancer cell has a protein outer membrane to stop the white blood cells from attacking it. A very effective defence mechanism.
The pancreas produces many enzymes, one is called Trypsin. In sufficient quantities Trypsin locates and digests the outer membrane of the cancer cell to absorb the protein. With this membrane removed then the white blood cells can now invade and destroy the cancer cell.
So why not flood our bodies with Trypsin?
In the early 1900’s a doctor in Wales, John Beard discovered that pancreatic enzymes destroyed cancer cells. In 1911 he tested pancreatic enzymes for stopping cancer in mice and it worked. Naturally and unfortunately, he was blackballed and died in obscurity. Decades later a Dr. Kelly read about his work, and cured himself of cancer using pancreatic enzymes and started treating and curing many cancer patients using pancreatic enzymes. A Dr. Gonzales decided to investigate Dr. Kelly, liked what he saw so much that he also treats cancer using pancreatic enzymes.
The major reason enzymes levels become depleted in our bodies is that we eat mostly processed, irradiated and cooked food. The human digestive system was designed to process raw food. Raw food, when it is picked ripe, has enzymes in it that help break down that food in the upper stomach where it sits for 30 to 45 minutes. The enzymes in the food predigest that food. Then in the lower stomach the pancreas excretes more enzymes.
When you eat cooked, irradiated and processed foods, the enzymes have been killed; the food does not predigest in the upper stomach. So when it reaches the lower stomach two things happen. Firstly, the pancreas must make extra enzymes to try and break down the food and often the food is only partially digested, secondly, the pancreas, after decades of overworking, eventually is no longer able to produce an adequate supply of enzymes. So you develop low enzyme levels of all types of enzymes, and your body cannot naturally kill cancerous cells using enzymes.
So why not just take enzyme supplements?
You can. These are readily available on the internet and can have some benefit. Indeed I have benefited from them. The good ones come from California and should be used with other supplements. This treatment is called metabolic therapy. The good thing is that you do not need prescriptions, they are a natural product available in specialist health food shops. For
those interested in this I can give you lot’s more information.
I am very grateful to be part of the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Cancer Research Institute machine. Here they are developing this new approach of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a new class of cancer treatment that works to harness the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer. Because of the immune system’s unique properties, these therapies may hold greater potential than current treatment approaches to fight cancer more powerfully, to offer longer-term protection against the disease, to come with fewer side effects, and to benefit more patients with more cancer types. I show in this image on the right detailed information on it.
Whilst we live in hope scientist will discover a magic bullet, that is probably decades away. There are ways we can help ourselves in the meantime with things like metabolic therapy, specific enzymes consumption and lifestyle regimes.