Cancer Stem Cells
Cancer stem cells are a special type of cell that every tumor produces. At some point after a tumor forms cancer stem cells and tumor cells their way into the lymph nodes and blood. Cancer stem cells can disguise themselves as normal cells, just like tumor cells can, allowing them to evade the body’s immune system. During chemo and radiation both cancer tumor and stem cells mutate into more drug and radiation resistant strains. Both types of cancer cells can become dormant and circulate throughout the body indefinitely, unless something triggers the immune system to target them as pathogens. The stem cells are more dangerous than the tumor cells because they possess the DNA imprint to regenerate a new tumor anywhere in the body. This section will therefore speak directly to the circulating cancer stem cells.
Most patients in remission do not have an inkling of how dangerous cancer stem cells are to their long-term survival. This is because doctors don’t know how to effectively kill them, other than to throw more chemo at the patient. Current treatment protocols typically require the patient to receive additional chemo, usually a different type than they first received, knowing that their remaining cancer cells have developed some level of resistance to the drugs that were used. This of course is one of the reasons why some of the cancer cells survived the chemo or radiation in the first place. A lack of understanding in how to expel circulating cancer stem cells explains why there is such a high rate of death among recurrent cancer patients.
The process on how a stem cell reactivates a new tumor, and why it picks one place in the body to regenerate versus another place, is not well understood. Aside from this, circulating cancer stem cells are extremely difficult for the body’s immune system to identify, let alone destroy. They disguise themselves as normal cells. Even more alarming, some tumors are able to disable the kill switches on pathogen killing white blood cells. The combination of all of these factors, as well as others, explains why most people who get recurrent cancer will die.
A person in remission needs to have some sense of what they need to do to keep their cancer in remission. Understanding cancer stem cells and options on how to treat them is important, but equally important is getting a grasp on what caused the cancer in the first place. To complicate matters, the patient in remission most likely received the standard of care maximum dose treatment protocol, and now has a body ecology that is in worse shape than it was before the tumor presented. The answer, according to many in alternative medicine, is the whole body needs to be treated and repaired before it will be able to defend itself from a recurrence. They type of treatment they recommend involves detoxification, nutritional therapy, exercise, low stress environment, good sleep, targeted natural substances and therapies––and least not, a therapeutic approach to target circulating cancer stem cells.
In sum, two of the biggest roadblocks to preventing recurrence are how to deal with the elusive drug resistant cancer stems cells and how to rebuild a severely damaged immune system.