LEF Magazine August 1998
From The Editor
How to Live Longer Now
Through information, products and political action
The recent excitement (and controversy) over the dramatic cancer findings of scientist Judah Folkman underscores perfectly, I think, what the Life Extension Foundation offers to its members.
The Foundation searches the world for cutting-edge therapies to help its members lead heathier, longer lives. That means if little-known studies show evidence that certain drugs or herbs effectively prevent or treat disease, the Foundation wants to bring that information, as well as the products themselves, to its members as soon as possible. Even if new breakthrough therapies have been well publicized, the Foundation fights for people's right to have access to these therapies as quickly as possible, rather than waiting years for the wheels of governmental approval to grind away.
The last two decades have seen the increasing influence and importance of "alternative" medicine (not yet approved by the FDA), and also by the government's militancy against their availability. The Foundation was first to introduce into the U.S. such therapies as DHEA, coenzyme Q10 and melatonin, and also bore the brunt of FDA's raids and legal attacks. The Foundation has been in the forefront of the fight for the right of access to these and other therapies, now readily available not only from the Foundation but also in health food stores and drug stores.
Now, about Dr. Folkman. A front page story in The New York Times in May detailed what Folkman, who works at Boston's Children's Hospital, had been studying for decades: that a combination of two new drugs-angiostatin and endostatin, synthesized from mouse urine-can eradicate any type of cancer in mice by starving tumors of their blood supply, with no side effects or drug resistance. The Times story, in turn, sparked cover-story exposure in national news magazines, radio and TV, with talk of Folkman having found the long-awaited magic bullet that would cure cancer.
Folkman himself makes no claims for his therapy in treating cancer in humans. With the reticence typical of scientists, he said, "I'm flattered [by the attention], but it's only mice. If you have cancer and you're a mouse, we can take good care of you." This comment is somewhat disingenuous, of course. Folkman didn't spend 30 years of his life working to cure mice. Human ills are the ultimate target of any study involving lab animals.
But whether Folkman's therapy will help humans, or even be readily available to cancer patients within their lifetimes, is another matter. There is talk of $400 million worth of more research and 10 years of further study before that happens...if the therapy pans out. (Using somewhat similar techniques in humans, other scientists have found continued safety but also less effectiveness against tumors).
In addition, even if the drugs were approved tomorrow, it would likely be impossible to produce enough, quickly enough, to help all the people who are clamoring for it. It took nearly 3 million gallons of mouse urine to purify enough angiostatin to treat a dozen mice in Folkman's lab.
What can we make of all the hoopla over Folkman's work? And further, how does it tie into the work of the Life Extension Foundation? For one thing, as urged by William Faloon, the Foundation's vice president, in last month's Life Extension magazine, cancer patients can become more politically active, as AIDS patients have been since the middle 1980s. "Compassionate use" exemptions demanded by AIDS activists have made experimental therapies more readily available to AIDS patients, considered to be under an death sentence.
Both the FDA and the two companies producing angiostatin and endostatin for Folkman's studies-EntreMed and Bristol-Myers Squibb-can and should be lobbied to make this possibly promising therapy available for humans, in particular for those patients considered most at risk. When that happens, increased money and effort will help find techniques to produce adequate amounts of the drugs, and get them into the hands of patients.
Attention also can be directed at other centers involved in angiogenesis-blocking therapy-the blood vessel-blocking mechanism that starves tumors. They include the National Cancer Institute, UCLA, Aeterna Laboratories, Oxigene, the University of Texas Southwestern University, and more.
Angiogenesis-blocking therapy isn't the only focus of cancer research, of course. This spring, the National Cancer Institute said it was so impressed with the ability of tamoxifen to halt breast cancer that it was making it immediately available to all its human test patients. And raloxifene, already approved for osteoporosis, also has shown effectiveness against breast cancer, but without the elevated risk of uterine cancer shown by tamoxifen.
And there's lots more information out there. Web sites devoted to current cancer research include the National Cancer Institute (cancernet.nci.nih.gov), the University of Pennsylvania's Cancer Center (oncolink.upenn.edu), the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org), Cancer News on the Net (www.cancernews.com), and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (www.cansearch.org). The National Cancer Institute is reachable by phone at 1-800-4-CANCER.
You should also continue to read Life Extension magazine for groundbreaking studies you won't find in the sources above. For example, in the arena of angiogenesis blocking-the same field that has made Judah Folkman a national figure-the Foundation has covered findings that genistein and forms of vitamin A and vitamin D, when properly used, have similar effects. Genistein itself has shown impressive results against prostate cancer and certain types of breast cancer.
The Foundation also has analyzed studies on such natural substances as soy, whey protein and green tea in the fight against cancer, and has detailed how melatonin can enhance the properties of interleukin-2. The Foundation has publicized research demonstrating that melatonin taken during traditional chemotherapy can prevent some chemo-induced side effects, and that glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to reduce chemo-induced vomiting.
An outstanding source is the Foundation's annually published Disease Prevention and Treatment Protocols, that feature therapies and preventive techniques for cancer and other illnesses.
The bottom line? One, let the Foundation help you in designing a program to prevent illness. Two, become politically active to convince the government and drug companies to make promising new therapies currently in trial available to humans quickly. And three, take note of the Foundation's findings on how other little-known therapies, many of them natural substances, can work, either by themselves or by enhancing the effects of already approved treatments.
While the media flurry on angiostatin-endostatin caught everyone's attention and raised many people's hopes, there is much going on in many areas in the fight against cancer and other diseases. This isn't a one-shot, one-hope game. Stay tuned to the Foundation as a prime clearing house.
WE HAVE WRITTEN about another cancer research, Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, of Houston, who has received attention of a much different sort than that accorded to Folkman. Burzynski had endured 14 years of governmental lawsuits, often on points of legal minutiae, intended to drive him out of the research business. Why? Because he was experimenting on humans with a substance unrecognized by the government as a potentially valid anti-cancer treatment. Burzynski's treatment, called "antineoplastons," are made up of peptides and amino-acid derivatives Burzynski synthesizes from human urine.
Now, the interim results of Burzynski's phase II clinical trials treating brain cancer are in. His treatment produced responses in 43 (24.1 percent) of 178 evaluable patients of complete tumor elimination, or greater than 50 percent reduction in tumor size. In 72 more patients (40.5 percent), their tumors neither shrank nor grew. The two largest groups of patients had glioblastoma multiforme and astrocytoma-type tumors. About 10 percent of patients had difficult-to-treat brain stem tumor locations, often considered a fatal illness.
According to Burzynski, the drugs function as chemical micro-switches, turning off the signal that makes cancer cells multiply endlessly, at the same time turning on the signal that tells the cells to undergo programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Adverse reactions to Burzynski's antineoplastons included elevated serum sodium, nausea, vomiting, allergic skin reactions, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue.
I don't know whether Burzynski's efforts will bear fruit, or whether other scientists will be able to duplicate his results with antineoplaston. But he is moving forward with his work, and is subjecting his drugs to official testing procedures. It's that kind of freedom that will ultimately result in breakthroughs.
Back to the Magazine Forum