Cancer begone – Cisplatin and Taxol

Hello friend!

It’s the beautiful fall season already …… nature is amazing, isn’t it? The vibrant green colors of the powerful summer foliage mellow down into the magnificently muted colors of autumn. And before you know it, the leaves are falling, giving way to the skeletal trees of winter. Come spring, the green blossoms again and the whole cycle presents itself yet again. How does nature do it? What is that amazing universal clock that tells flora and fauna exactly what to do at different times? When do plant cells know how to grow? How to give way to new cells? The moisture? The pigmentation? The seasons ……

It’s the same with life, isn’t it? Seasons of life. Spring, summer, fall and winter leading back to spring again. At times, we are in the pink of health. At other times, we are a bit under the weather. And at other times, we get hit hard and we’re really down and out. But you know what? Winter is followed by spring. The world is now waking up to the golden age of nutrition, medicine, lifestyle, positive energy, and health. Even the most dreaded diseases and conditions of the past are being challenged effectively. It’s up to us as individuals to understand that the mindset of the last century is the distant, distant past. We are now in the age of health.

Cancer has been a scary monster …. in the past. Am I saying we should underestimate cancer? Absolutely not. We most certainly have to take the responsibility of submitting ourselves to preventative and diagnostic measures. But, let’s consider we have come head to head with the fact that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. What next? There are options – surgery to remove cancerous tumors and localized growths, as well as radiation and chemotherapy to destroy abnormal cancer cells, both localized and diffuse.

Let’s look at chemotherapy, specifically two chemotherapeutic agents: Cisplatin and Taxol – the combination is used for gynecological cancers.

Before we get into that, back to basics. What is cancer? Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of a group of cells. During this growth, the abnormal cells compete for nutrition with normal cells, with the result that they invade and destroy adjacent normal tissue. As the abnormal cells continue to grow, they spread to other tissues of the body through blood and lymph.

Why does cancer occur? It could be due to genetic reasons or exposure to cancer-producing agents or carcinogens like tobacco smoke, chemicals, radiation and viral or bacterial infection. A genetic predisposition to cancer is fed by carcinogens resulting in abnormality in the genetic material or DNA of the cell – that’s the reason for cancer.

How do we stop cancer? How do we decelerate the abnormal cell growth? Cell growth happens in several steps. The cell skeleton or cytoskeleton is formed of microtubules, and there is DNA replication with DNA precursor nucleic acids and DNA crosslinking. The steps are catalyzed by enzymes of different kinds acting on different kinds of receptors. So, there are drugs that interfere with microtubule formation and drugs that prevent microtubule breakdown so that the cytoskeleton is made rigid essentially freezing the cell into uselessness. Taxol is a drug of the latter kind – it prevents microtubule disassembly. Then there are drugs that inhibit DNA replication either by messing with the precursors, enzymes or crosslinking. Cisplatin works by inhibiting crosslinking of DNA. There are also enzyme antagonists, as well as other anti-cancer drugs with miscellaneous mechanisms of action.

Taxol is known by its generic name paclitaxel. It was first extracted in 1967 by scientists Monroe Wall and Mansukh Wani from the bark of a plant Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew). Satisfying the world demand that developed required a large number of trees. Later, the same compound was chemically synthesized from petrochemicals – the chemical synthesis did not yield a large enough quantity of the drug to be viable. Today, the drug is primarily made by a biotechnological process called plant cell fermentation. A line of cells from the Taxus plant is grown and fermented in large tanks to produce the drug.

Taxol forms a complex with tubulin, the building block of microtubules and prevents the breakdown of microtubules. In rapidly dividing and growing cells, microtubule formation and breakdown are essential steps of the mechanism. Another mechanism that has been seen with taxol is that it induces programmed cell death or apoptosis, by binding to a protein that would otherwise inhibit this process. Thirdly, taxol forms complexes with free-floating tubulin and prevents the formation of microtubules, the skeleton of the cells. It is used to treat cancers of the ovary, bladder, cervix, breast, head, prostate, neck and lung cancers, as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma (a cancer affecting the skin, mouth, and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts). It is usually administered by the intravenous route.

Taxol destroys normal cells too by manifesting the above mechanisms, which is why there are side effects. However, cancer cells grow at a more rapid rate than normal cells, so taxol destroys cancer cells much more than normal cells. Side effects include brittle and thinning hair, joint pain, nausea and vomiting.

Cisplatin or cisplatinum is, as the name indicates a platinum compound. It was synthesized in the laboratory initially in the 1960s, and approved by the FDA to treat cancer in 1978. It is used to treat cancers of the connective tissue (cartilage, bone and fat), lymphoid tumors, ovarian cancer and lung cancers among others. It cross-links with DNA and prevents cell division. This activates a mechanism of programmed cell death. Cisplatin is usually administered intravenously.

Side effects of intravenous cisplatin include toxicity to kidneys and nerves, as well as hearing loss. It can cause a high degree of nausea and vomiting – which can be treated prophylactically by a combination of Emend (aprepitant), Zofran (ondansetron) and dexamethasone. Cisplatin does not cause hair loss.

There have been papers published, of localized (in situ) administration, when possible, of both cisplatin and taxol, to target cancer cells and minimize the exposure of other body organs to the drugs. This significantly reduces the side effects, thus treating the disease with minimal discomfort to the patient. The appropriateness of this method is of course determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on how localized the tumor is or the cancer cells are.

If you are reading this article, and you have been diagnosed with cancer, I’d like to say something to you. Every single human being has cancer cells in their body. Natural body mechanisms stop cancer cells from taking over and affecting body health. Sometimes however, by a combination of genetic and carcinogenic factors, cancer cells in your body take on a life of their own and overpower the normal body biochemistry. And you look back and wonder – I’ve done everything right, I haven’t smoked, I haven’t lived a life of unhealthy pleasure, I’ve never wished ill on anyone, I haven’t hurt anyone …. at least, not knowingly ….. why is this happening to me? Stop right there …… what you think and do next is critically important!

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Let’s look at the science behind these words. Every thought we think releases corresponding nerve and body biochemicals. Good, uplifting thoughts release “healing” biochemicals, whereas sad, depressing, complaining thoughts release ….. let’s just say it …… “harmful” biochemicals. Think those awesome, uplifting thoughts and release “healing” biochemicals in your body to produce an environment where cancer cells cannot reside anymore.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I am not going to attempt to take on such a deep philosophical question. Different spiritual traditions can give you that answer. You will find that answer when it’s the right time. The more pertinent question is – when bad things happen, what do we do next?

How about keeping a gratitude journal? Being thankful for all the blessings in your life? For the ones who love you, your family and friends? Now, this might sound strange, but I’ve heard people being thankful for the most difficult times in their life – when they look back, they realize that it’s been the period of maximum growth of character, personality and spirituality.

And when you do have feelings of despair, anger (even if it be righteous indignation at the injustice of it all), frustration, envy or even worse ….. all those negative thoughts, write it on a piece of tissue and flush it down the drain. Replace the thoughts with the corresponding positive thoughts….. the brain can only think one thought at a time – make that a positive one ….. yes, you have the power. Is that a Pollyanna attitude? Brain and body biochemistry respond better to the irrepressibly optimistic Ms. Pollyanna than the lugubriously pessimistic Mr. Misery. Realism? Who defines realism? Realism for the one child that survived a plane crash recently is diametrically opposed to the realism of the hundreds who did not. Who is to say what your realism is?

Believe in your healing. Believe in your good health. In some awe-inspiring way, your thoughts, your neurochemicals, your biochemicals will be commanding the cancer cells from stopping their misbehavior. And ….. at some point, they will listen!

I wish you the best of health. Until next time,

Yours in good health,

Dr. Ajit Damodaran


2 Responses to “Cancer begone – Cisplatin and Taxol”

  1. Terrie Hardy Says:

    Thank you. Excellent input, Dr. Damodaran. Just what I needed to hear.

  2. Terrie Hardy Says:

    Dr. Ajit Damodaran,
    Thank you for such words of wisdom. This continues 2 bless me as I have gone through Chemo. And those who are blessed (me through you) bless others with your profound thoughts.Thank you so much!
    God loves you!

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