With Diet Like This, Who Needs Chemo?

My colleague, Dr Edmund with his dental students earlier today

Oh Dear! I thought I've missed it. Was rather late at updating tonight. Just returned from listening to my Boss talking about a not-so-new concept in cancer. It is termed 'epigenetics'. Not so new because it was talked about for the last 20 years or so, but only in the last few years it has gained mainstream medical acceptance.

Contrary to what my MO was trying to make everyone else believe, it is not the 'epidemiology of genetics'. That would be too easy wouldn't it. It is more to do about genes, and how when we were born we carry both genes from our mothers and fathers, but not all of them were expressed in us. Such as my uncles were mostly 6 footers, but yours truly is ... well, not quite that tall!

There is an in-built mechanism that tell our cells which gene to be switched on, and the pattern of the switch is epigenetics. Each turn of the switch bring different consequence, some good, some bad. We are trying to find out which switch were turned on in cancer, so that hopefully we have a way to switching it off, and cure the cancer. Sometimes without even using chemo!

What is curious is, the fact that our diet can play havoc with this switch. Certain food are bad. High fat stuff maybe. Certain chemicals added in food, colourings etc. Others may protect from the 'bad' switch being switched on or off, hence protecting us from some cancers. This is a simplification. Don't go around tomorrow drinking fruit juices or ginseng as they may protect from cancer. I am not saying that they don't but the dose that is needed may be thousand times our normal diet if we want to turn the switch. We are still not certain of the specifics. Diet that has been mooted to be protective were the ones containing ginseng, garlic, the list is endless. So far there are no scientific data to support their use in hospital settings. Don't come around to see me yet for prescriptions. You might get some chemo instead!

To be honest, when it comes to cancer care, there are no EXACT science. I cannot pretend that all my chemo will 100% work. They may in fact kill. It is all about balance. The science behind the use of drugs as chemotherapy are pretty solid. The checklist needed to go through in development including animal testing is complicated and thorough. They are still a lot to explore and each day, the armamentarium is expanding. We are now entering the era of targeted therapy, when the prescription of chemotherapy will be specific to the individuals cancer depending of which gene it expresses. Much like if you have a chest infection, the kind of antibiotics to be taken depends on the bug you carry.

The long and short of it ..... the 'penjual ubat' at your local pasar malam and the annoying salesperson trying to sell you supplements may have a point after all!