What is Breast Cancer Metabolism?
Breast cancer metabolism refers to how breast cancer cells process nutrients to sustain their growth and division. Metabolic optimization involves stressing the cancer cells while supporting the normal cell function and recovery. This enables the body to fuel many functions that liberate the body to improve the odds of successful therapies, a better quality of life, and quicker recoveries. Targeting cancer metabolism has shown promise as a way to develop new breast cancer treatments and improve patient outcomes.
In breast cancer, hormones like estrogen affect how cells use energy. Hormone-related therapies and chemotherapy may help, but sometimes the cancer becomes resistant to these treatments. To overcome these challenges, researchers are exploring new approaches that target cancer cell metabolism.
Top Researched Repurposed Medications for Treating Breast Cancer
Mebendazole (MBZ) is a medicine usually used to treat infections caused by parasites. However, recent studies have found that it might also be helpful in treating breast cancer. In laboratory experiments, MBZ has been shown to reduce the growth of solid tumors and prevent or treat the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. One study found that MBZ can effectively stop breast cancer cells from adapting to an environment with low oxygen levels. It not only kills cancer cells directly but also prevents them from becoming resistant to chemotherapy, which is a common problem. This dual effect makes MBZ a potentially valuable treatment option that can both kill cancer cells and overcome their resistance to standard chemotherapy.
In another study involving cancer patients, an early-stage clinical trial showed that Mebendazole is generally well-tolerated and thus doesn’t cause significant side effects.
Statins are a type of medication that are commonly used to lower cholesterol levels.
They are now being studied in relation to breast cancer, both in laboratory studies and in studies involving animals. These studies have shown that statins can be effective in killing breast cancer cells and reducing their growth. They do this by interfering with different signals that are involved in the growth, survival, and spread of cancer cells.
Additionally, some research suggests that statins can make breast cancer cells more sensitive to standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This means that combining statins with these conventional therapies might improve their effectiveness and help overcome resistance that can develop over time.
Statins also have properties that can reduce inflammation, which is linked to the development and progression of cancer. By reducing inflammation, statins create an environment that is less favorable for the growth and spread of cancer cells.
A recent study conducted at MD Anderson Hospital examined the medical records of more than 20,000 breast cancer patients, with over 2,000 of them initiating statin treatment around the time of their diagnosis. The findings from this study, published in a peer-reviewed article, revealed significant benefits associated with statin use. The researchers observed a 58% relative improvement in breast cancer-specific survival and a 30% relative improvement in overall survival. Notably, the positive impact of statins was most pronounced in the aggressive Triple Negative subtype of breast cancer (Nowakowska, M.K., et al., (2021).
Metformin is a medicine often used to help people with type 2 diabetes. It works by improving how the body responds to insulin and lowering insulin levels. High insulin levels have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. So, indirectly, metformin may help slow down the growth of breast cancer cells.
In laboratory studies and experiments on animals, metformin has been shown to stop breast cancer cells from growing and multiplying. It does this by interfering with different signals that cancer cells need to grow. This can reduce the size of tumors.
Metformin also activates a special enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in cells. AMPK helps regulate how cells use energy and how they work. When metformin activates AMPK, it can affect various processes in cells, including slowing down the growth of cancer cells, promoting cancer cell death, and reducing the production of certain proteins that contribute to cancer development.
Doxycycline is a type of antibiotic that is commonly used to treat bacterial infections and many atyptical infections such as lymes, malairia and rickettsial infections. However, researchers are also studying it as a potential treatment for breast cancer.
Researchers have found that it can block an enzyme called MMPs, which helps cancer cells invade and spread to other parts of the body.
Doxycycline has also been shown to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis, which is important for tumor growth. By targeting the pathways involved in blood vessel formation, doxycycline may limit the blood supply to the tumor, which can slow down its growth.
In some studies using animals, doxycycline has shown promise when combined with standard chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer. The combination of doxycycline with chemotherapy may make the chemotherapy more effective and help overcome the resistance that cancer cells can develop against these drugs.
One study in 2018 showed that pre-treatment with Doxycycline for 14 days before breast surgery lead to signigicant reductions in measures of “stemness” or biomarkers of cancer stem cells compared to controls that received no antibiotic. The conclusion from this publication; “.. doxycycline can selectively eradicate CSCs in breast cancer patients in vivo. “ Cancer stem cells are known to be a key driver of metastasis and recurrence.
Other Potential Metabolic Therapies for Breast Cancer
Several metabolic therapies have been studied for their potential to help treat breast cancer. Here are a few that are showing great potential:
- Keto Diet – The ketogenic diet is a special eating plan that focuses on high-fat, low-carbohydrate foods with large amounts of protein. Scientists have found that this diet might help make cancer cells more sensitive to regular cancer treatments. This means it could be a helpful addition to the usual treatments for cancer. Studies with animals and people have shown that when the ketogenic diet is used together with chemotherapy, it can make the treatment more effective. It may also make patients feel better, reduce treatment side effects and improve their overall quality of life. The diet works by lowering the levels of sugar and insulin in the blood, which are important for cancer cell growth. Because of this, the ketogenic diet is being explored as a possible treatment option for different types of cancer, including breast cancer. By following this diet, doctors hope to improve the chances of survival and reduce the progression of the disease for breast cancer patients.
- Caloric Restriction/Fasting – Caloric restriction refers to a reduction in overall calorie intake without causing malnutrition. It has been studied as a potential metabolic intervention for cancer treatment. Caloric restriction can decrease the levels of growth factors and hormones in the body, such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor which are associated with cancer cell growth. Preclinical studies have shown that caloric restriction can inhibit tumor growth and enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.
- Exercise – The potential benefits of exercise when it comes to breast cancer are vast. First and foremost, multiple studies have shown that women who engage in regular exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise has also been linked to improved treatment outcomes and quality of life for breast cancer patients. Research indicates that exercise during and after cancer treatment can help reduce treatment-related side effects, including fatigue, nausea, pain, and depression. It may also improve physical functioning, increase strength and flexibility, and enhance overall quality of life. Exercise has been found to reduce fatigue, improve sleep quality, boost mood and mental well-being, and maintain or improve bone health. It may also help manage weight gain, which is a common side effect of certain breast cancer treatments.
Potential Benefits of Targeting Breast Cancer Metabolism
Here’s a summary of the primary benefits of targeting cancer metabolism
- Selective approach with fewer side effects: Traditional cancer treatments often affect healthy cells, leading to side effects, many of them severe. Targeting cancer metabolism offers a more selective approach that specifically targets cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. This can potentially reduce the side effects associated with treatment and improve the overall quality of life for breast cancer patients.
- Slowing down cancer growth: By disrupting the altered pathways of breast cancer cells, scientists can potentially slow down the growth and division of these cells. This makes it harder for the tumor to expand and spread.
- Increased vulnerability to standard therapies: Targeting cancer metabolism can make breast cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy, hormonal, and radiation therapies. By interfering with the altered metabolic pathways, cancer cells become weaker and less able to defend themselves against the effects of these treatments. This synergy can improve the effectiveness and reduce the development of treatment resistance.
How to Start a Metabolic Optimization
When it comes to targeting breast cancer metabolism, the current research landscape is very promising, with ongoing studies pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Nevertheless, wading through all the information out there can be overwhelming for those trying to get a better sense of the best way to treat their cancer. Often, conventional doctors may not have access to all options that could potentially make a significant difference in their patients’ lives.
Our 3-month metabolic program, led by Dr. Meakin MD, an integrative oncologist, will provide you with an integrative approach to enhance your overall well-being and quality of life. Dr. Meakin would prescribe medications for your specific needs, supplements, and dietary guidelines.