The p53 gene and cancer - the ´guardian angel´ in our genes
This article by Dr Olga Galkina-Taylor, an expert on p53 and cancer, and David Broom, MIRCH, a qualified Medical Herbalist, looks at the role of p53 and how damage can lead to cancer. Yet (as they tell you towards the end of the article) a variety of natural bioactive compounds, from resveratrol to fish oils and herbs like sage and ashwagandha, can restore the p53 gene and protein. Dr Galinka-Taylor states that a fully working p53 gene can then stop a cancer in its tracks and cites a number of cancers including breast cancer and lung cancer. So, this could well be a crucial ingredient in an Integrative and Complementary Cancer Programme to defeat your cancer. Judge for yourself:
Cancer, degenerative disease and accelerated ageing, can all be linked to one single problem, a breakdown in the normal ability of our cells to maintain and repair themselves. This occurs when part of a gene pathway is damaged or falls out of balance. There can be a number of reasons why cells get damaged in the first place. Infections, continual stress, toxins and malnutrition all contribute to cell stress.
Without genetic stability the immune system is compromised and cancer cells can multiply unchecked. When something goes wrong with a gene pathway, it fails to do the job which nature intended and this can have dire consequences.
Gene pathway diagrams tend to confuse even the experts who produce them. Trying to understand them is like getting lost in the London underground. You can travel back and forth and still end up where you started and none the wiser for your experience. When it comes to cancer and other degenerative diseases, researchers keep returning to the Waterloo Station of Gene Pathways which is known as p53.
When the p53 gene is working properly it stops cancer cells in their tracks and works by helping the rogue cells to commit suicide – a process known as apoptosis.
The p53 gene has emerged as the most significant immunity pathway responsible for our survival. Hence it has become known as the ‘Guardian Angel of the Genome ‘
How important is the p53 gene in cancer?
From the first 4 articles in 1979, the number of published scientific studies and review articles relating to p53 protein and p53 gene, has reached over 45,000. If nothing else this draws our attention to the fact that scientists view p53 seriously and want to understand more about the way it works.
When p53 gets switched off by invasive agents from outside the body, chaos reigns and the loss of immunity can result in cancer.
Furthermore, the evidence suggests that many cancer treatments will prove ineffective unless the p53 gene and pathway are operating properly. Removing or shrinking tumours alone does not remove the cause or provide any incentive for the body to retrieve it’s natural ability for self repair.
p53 - Protecting the body against a tidal wave of cancer
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the devastation which followed was due to the breaching of the levees by a massive tidal wave. If you can imagine ‘cancer’ as the tidal wave then P53 molecules can be seen as the protective levees which are designed to defend the city of the body from harmful cancer cells.
Nature - the p53 protector
Does nature draw a blank when it comes to restoring normal activity to damaged genes?
Research experiments reveal that there are over 120 different substances, including some antibiotics, antioxidants and many natural products which can make cancer cells commit suicide and strengthen the p53 pathways.
Perhaps our absence of knowledge is this area has more to do with the fact that researchers have to get funding for their projects.
If they were to discover a cure for cancer growing in a hedgerow or in someone’s back yard, maybe the public may not have to undergo expensive and potentially dangerous treatments under the strict regulation of the pharmaceutical companies.
Recent legislation concerning the regulation of herbal medicine in Europe does nothing to inspire us, since it could ultimately lead to the demise of traditional herbalism. This may be one of the last bastions of free choice in health care in the new world order which threatens to engulf us all unless we do something about it.
Primary care treatments for cancer are not under threat from the complementary health sector. The same cannot be said for complementary medicine which is frequently under attack from blinkered academics whose primary motivation is to remove any imagined ‘threat’ to their conditioned thinking.
Continual bickering between rival groups with differing opinions does nothing for the unsupported patient struggling to find a way through unpredictable dilemmas.
Conventional medicine focuses on radical surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and complementary therapists look to softer options which include lifestyle, nutrition, herbal and homeopathic treatments.
The irony is that the effects of chemotherapy can be so damaging to the immune system, as to compromise the very gene pathways which need to be restored for complete healing to take place.
Equally, it has to be realised that, in the absence of a surefire way to get the immune system working, radical and invasive treatments can be necessary to limited term survival in some cases.
p53 restoration - A CASE HISTORY
The following illustrates successful management of a cancer patient, using corrective gene pathway protocols and support therapies.
Sergio (not his real name) was 42 years old with tumours in his bladder, lung and adrenal glands. He was a heavy smoker with a stressful life and a poor diet. He was diagnosed in 2004 at the Portuguese institute of Oncology with bladder cancer and admitted for surgery followed by chemotherapy.
In 2007 he was told he also had cancer in the right lung. In addition there were signs of metastasis showing that the cancer had spread further. Chemotherapy followed, but one year later a PET scan detected lesions on the left clavicle from the original lung lesion and a large carcinoma on the left adrenal gland. There was immediate surgery followed by more chemotherapy.
He decided to seek further advice at this point, prior to undergoing surgery for the third time to remove the adrenal gland. Sergio followed a holistic program of treatment over the following 2 years. Treatment included taking a biological response modifier, which activated the natural killer cells, support for new blood vessels, and a chemotherapeutic like natural agent that selectively destroys cancer cells but not normal cells.
His diet consisted of fresh fruit and vegetables , juices, whole grain cereals and nuts. In February 2009 the PET scan showed the total elimination of lesions on the clavicle, and the hospital report indicated a favourable metabolic response for four lesions, and a partial response to one lesion. There were still some remaining lesions on the PET scan.
At this point blood tests were taken in June 2009 at the Neurolab Clinic under the supervision of Dr Olga Galkina -Taylor. These were to evaluate the activity of the p53 pathway. The results clearly showed the presence of mutated p53. The patient went on to follow a treatment program which consisted of oligonucleotides, peptides, and low molecular-weight antioxidants, extracted from various natural sources .
Subsequent tests showed that the cancerous cells disappeared along with the mutated p53. During this time the p53 pathway was activated and what’s more the process continued months after the therapy was discontinued. Dying cancer cells were detected, by measuring the telomerase activity in the blood. This is over produced in most cancer cells that may become resistant to most forms of destruction.
The p53 gene can be restored to fight cancer
Prior to the therapy in 2009, results clearly showed the presence of mutated p53. However, after 3 months of treatment with a focus on activating the pathway, followed by 4 months without any treatment, there was a gradual rise in normal p53 production to a high level.
When natural products were introduced as activators of the natural killer cells there was significant cancer tumour regression.
When the p53 pathway was tested and found to be blocked due to Mutant p53, the treatment to activate this was given – again using natural products, resulting in complete remission.
It is also notable that the patient suffered no side-effects during the treatment to correct the pathway.
Tumour regression and prevention is something which the body can accomplish if we are able to improve the natural stress-limiting functions, followed by a return to normal cellular action.
In normal circumstances the body, through the p53 pathway, has the ability to stop cancer cells in their tracks so why is cancer research not focusing clearly on finding a complete range of safe and natural compounds to fight cancer cells?
We know that environmental chemicals, radiation and electro magnetic fields damage our health. The quality of our food and water puts us further at risk. These are not always under our control. However, when a problem occurs at cellular level, Holistic supportive treatments focused on restoring p53 function can provide a vital link in the infra structure of the healing model.
More research on p53 with bioactive compounds needed
Researchers at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre have found that compounds in nature can restore the normal function in a variety of cells by depleting mutant p53 (the defective gene) Phenethyl isothyanate (PEITC) found in cruciferous vegetables like watercress, cabbage and broccoli, not only decreases the level of mutated p53 protein in human cells but also restores the ‘wild type’ (healthy p53).
You will find references to these foods and others in Chris Woollams´ revised book, THE RAINBOW DIET, which has proved hugely successful in Holistic treatment programs.
Click here to order your copy of The Rainbow Diet
And there are other natural compounds that assist in the normalization of p53 – like Ginger, Curcumin, Paw Paw Seed, and Resveratrol found in grapes and red wine. Herbs which also have this effect are Ashwagandha extract and Rhemannia Glutinosa which should only be taken under supervision by a qualified practitioner.
BUT BEWARE: There are also foods which when eaten in excess will promote p53 Mutation and add to the life span of cancer tumours – eg Diets which are rich in refined sugars and starches found in many junk foods, and too much red meat (Slattery et al 2002).
p53 mutation inhibits the Treatment of many cancers
Understanding the significance of the p53 pathway and the recurrent danger of carrying a mutant gene, underlines the importance of having this and other pathways tested prior to treatment and also to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the diet.
Research has proved the efficacy of certain herbs combined with nutrition and effective homoeopathy, to improve chances of remission and recovery . At the same time there are significant guidelines for limited chemotherapy or radiation treatments provided that the research supports their use.
For example, in page 361 of Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures 2008, it is mentioned that Breast Cancers with p53 mutations appear to be relatively resistant to ionized radiation and have been seen to benefit from CMF chemotherapy.
In a research report by Gasco in 2002 , it was found that p53 mutation occurs in 100% of medullary breast carcinomas . This is particularly significant since the overall frequency of p53 mutation in breast cancer is normally just over 20%.
It has been found that there can be a poor response to the drug Doxorubicin when there is p53 mutation.
With cancer patients, medication works only in 25% of the recipients. This coincides with the fact that a defective p53 pathway has been found in at least 70% of all types of tumour.
Other genetic pathways, cancer and bioactive compounds
Bcl2 and Survivin are other genes which act as markers for cancer growth. Unlike p53 these are both active in forming tumours so low levels are desirable. p53 comes to the rescue once more as it serves to inhibit the growth of both of these. Lab tests are available to cover all three of these gene pathways.
Once more there is research to support the fact that natural compounds inhibit BCL2 and Survivin – thus acting against tumour formation.
EPA from fish oil is one of these. Then there is LICORICE and MISTLETOE
The herbs SAGE, ROSEMARY and BASIL all contain Ursolic acid found to inhibit Bcl2 – the pro-tumour gene.
One of the many plants named in research studies is CHELIDONEUM a medicinal herb which is used under strict supervision in homeopathic doses. Research shows that cellular activity responds to very small dilutions (nanograms or picograms) which would otherwise be too toxic for the body to handle.
Cytotoxic formulas from natural substances have been seen to attack cancer cells in a targeted way and this is a clear signal for us to direct valuable research funds into this area.
Chemotherapy may shrink a tumour by 50% or more, but in the presence of a defective p53 gene pathway, the process is likely to recur, since the body lacks the ability to ‘stop’ the process of cancer growth.
It is known that practically all cancer sufferers have a defective p53 gene pathway, so the first logical stage of any treatment should begin with a blood test to provide information on the p53 gene pathways, including Bcl2 and Survivin.
In the presence of a mutated p53 pathway, either inactive or overactive, treatments are available, aimed at assisting the body to return to it’s normal cellular state. This applies to a variety of diseases and is not exclusive to cancers.
If you are low in p53 or the mutated gene is present, you have a higher chance of developing cancer cells.
Following Lab testing , some doctors and practitioners are in a position to advise on dietary and lifestyle changes , nutritional supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies, hormone balancing and bio-oxidative therapies. These can be taken alongside routine therapy where the oncologist has no objection.
Research tells us that this is not a time for taking sides or deciding who is best qualified to deal with the cancer epidemic. Medicine in the past has not progressed significantly without a confluence of minds , and the united efforts of qualified individuals from differing academic backgrounds.
It would be foolishness, indeed to ignore the benefits of using safe and effective natural substances which are defining the future of research due to their efficacy. At the same time practitionersneed to acknowledge theimportance of lab testing , without which we do not have sufficient evidence on which to base an effective program of treatment.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dr Olga Galkina-Taylor is a graduate of the Faculty of Natural Science, the Russian equivalent of Oxford University, situated in the academy town of Novosibirsk, Russia. In her distinguished career as a neuro scientist and pathologist she has received awards from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and The New York Academy of Medical Sciences, amongst many others. Olga provided the tests for the p53 and Bcl2 tests linked to the case history mentioned in this article. Her comprehensive testing protocols have been widely acclaimed throughout the world. She is currently the Director of The Galkina Laboratory in Bournemouth, Dorset.
David Broom MIRCH is a Medical Herbalist , Nutritionalist and Naturopath. Together with his wife Judy he runs Hurn Forest Clinic near Ringwood in Hampshire. David uses Kirlian Photography and Bio Resonance systems in his practice with herbs, juices and diet as the fulcrum of his treatment programs. He also hold seminars and workshops on various aspects of healing and complementart medicine.