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Antioxidants are always debated as to their merits in the treatment of cancer patients. Especially when people are on chemotherapy this question is often asked, so let’s have a closer look at the working of antioxidants and also their merits and exceptions for use.
Three agents, classified as antioxidants, have been shown to decrease the effectiveness of radiation or chemotherapy in vivo (1) :
Studies have demonstrated that antioxidant vitamins can enhance the efficacy of certain chemotherapeutic agents on tumor cells in culture (2). Antioxidant vitamins could be an important adjuvant to standard treatment of human cancers (3)
An in vivo study : antioxidant vitamins could enhance the cytotoxic and apoptotic effects of paclitaxel and carboplatin on non-small cell lung cancer. (4) The human non-small cell lung cancer cell line H-520 was treated with a mixture of the antioxidant vitamins c,e, and beta carotene and paclitaxel and carboplatin, both individually and in combination of various doses in different sequences.
The apoptosis achieved was as follows :
Some leaders in the field endorse pulse therapy as the appropriate means of administering nutritional support concurrent with toxic treatments. Re-entering the supplementation 2-3 days after the large chemotherapeutic bolus allows time for a massive cancer kill followed by a period of rebuilding (5). If using conventional treatment, this dosing allows the body the full effects of conventional treatments, plus the benefit of an antioxidant program a few days later.
Another study on advanced colorectal cancer (6) using 12 patients using 750mg vit e 2 weeks prior to chemotherapy and radiation showed that short term supplementation increased cd4:cd8, enhanced T-cell to produce T helper 1 cytokines, interleukin 2 and interferon gamma.Dietary vit e may be used to improve the immune functions in patients with advanced cancer.
Another systematic review (7) evaluated the efficacy of CoQ10 for improved tolerability of cancer treatments. The results suggested that coq10 provides some protection against cardiotoxicity or liver toxicity during cancer treatement.
A landmark paper by block (8) on the use of antioxidants and cancer chemotherapy published in 2007 is summarized as follows :