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Cancer And Your Immune System

I have maintained for years that cancer is fundamentally a disease of the immune system. It takes root when your exposure to contaminants gets too high, or the strength of your immune system drops too low. And after years of crying in the wilderness (there were actually a few of us), it's finally nice to get a little confirmation from the medical establishment. In May 2006, the concept of the immune system as the body's primary natural defense system against cancer reverberated around the world with the release of a story about a mouse -- ultimately, surprising researchers and reinforcing my theory.

Three Blind Mice: Cancer study

Part III of an ongoing study titled Transferable anticancer innate immunity in spontaneous regression/complete resistance mice was published in the May 8, 2006, issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This report highlighted the latest in the remarkable ongoing study that started with the discovery of a strain of cancer resistant mouse. These latest results from a Cancer Research Institute (CRI) funded study at Wake Forest University School of Medicine show that this genetic resistance to highly aggressive cancers can be transferred from a strain of cancer-resistant mice into ordinary mice, causing complete destruction of large tumors and life-long protection against future tumor growth. What surprised researchers was the fact that this resistance is based on innate immunity to cancer rather than adaptive immunity (based on T and B cells).

Innate immunity is what we are born with and it is nonspecific; all antigens are attacked pretty much equally. It is genetically based, and we pass it on to our offspring. Adaptive immunity (also referred to as learned or acquired immunity) is, on the other hand, characterized by specific immune responses to an antigen. In other words, with adaptive immunity, you have no defense for a virus or bacteria until you've been exposed to that particular virus or bacteria -- or one very much like it and learned how to defend against it. What's exciting about these results is that the mice outside of the unique cancer resistant gene pool were cured. In fact these studies show that specific types of innate immune cells, such as macrophages, can migrate to the site of cancer in a normal mouse and selectively kill all of the cancer cells without harming normal cells. Not only were the white blood cells able to find the cancer (indicating a signaling relationship) the cancer immunity appeared to last for the lifetime of the injected mice.

What is Transferred Immunity?

Specifically, what was done was that white blood cells from a family of established spontaneous/cancer resistant strain of mice that possessed the unique gene referenced above were injected into normal mice that did not possess this gene in an attempt to transfer this unique immunity to normal mice.

Challenging the Initial Results

Even when the researchers' own in vitro (test tube) experiments clearly suggested that the innate immune cells themselves were responsible for tumor killing, these stunned scientists searched for another explanation by performing "challenge experiments".

Challenge 1: Testing Immunity

Researchers placed cancer cells and immune cells from spontaneous remission/cancer resistant (SR/CR) mice together in a normal mouse to determine whether the cancer cells could survive. Without the SR/CR immune cells, such cancers grow rapidly in normal mice and the mice die in 3-4 weeks.

Results -- the tumors were selectively killed! While these results strongly suggested that no other cell type or soluble factor in the mice was required to allow the immune cells to function and kill cancer, researchers continued to challenge this unexpected result.

Challenge 2: Testing Cancer Cells

Researchers injected a normal mouse with cancer cells and allowed the tumor to implant and grow, then injected the SR/CR immune cells at a later time.

Results -- the tumors were selectively killed! Still not convinced, the researchers devised a third challenge.

Challenge 3: Testing Cancer and Immunity

Researchers injected the normal mice with cancer cells at one site (e.g., below the skin on the back), and then later injected the SR/CR immune cells at another site (e.g., into the abdomen). This meant that the injected immune cells would have to migrate to the tumor and kill it at a distant site, all the while being in a normal mouse tissue environment. Researchers injected other mice with similar immune cells from a normal non-resistant strain of mouse to serve as controls.

Results -- The SR/CR injected mice showed an initial swelling at the tumor site, a response that researchers felt indicated an influx of active white blood cells into the tumor. Two weeks later, the cancers had completely disappeared. As you might now expect, the control mice showed no tumor shrinkage and eventually died. What was unexpected was that in the SR/CR injected mice tumors never came back even after a period equal to half the mouse life span.

According to researchers, "Activation requires no prior exposure, but rather depends on a pre-determined mechanism to recognize specific patterns on the cancer cell surface."

What is the Importance of the Study?

  • Establishes the "potential" of transferring cancer immunity into all human beings
  • Establishes the potential for life long protection against cancer
  • Reinforces the theory I proposed a number of years ago about cancer being a disease of the immune system
  • Establishes the Potential of Transferring Cancer Immunity

While these experiments serve as an example of immunity transfer potential in live human beings, you should know that the donor and recipient mice were both in the same in-bred laboratory strains of mice. Put simply, except for the SR/CR mutation, the mice are genetically identical. This means that the results may be due in part from a suspected inclusion of stem cells in the white blood cell injection. In other words, duplication of these results in biologically unrelated humans might be tricky at best.

Establishes Possibility of Long Term Protection

By performing these challenge experiments using immune cells from a male SR/CR mouse and transferring them into a female recipient normal mouse, the injected immune cells could be identified later because the injected immune cells contained a "y" chromosome. "In this way, we were able to show that some of the injected immune cells survived for a very long time and were probably involved directly in killing the distant cancer".

Reinforces the Cancer/Immune System Link The bottom line is that this study strongly supports, right now today, the theory I proposed some years ago that cancer is fundamentally a disease of the immune system -- and, by extension, effectively supports the recommendations I made at the same time for preventing and dealing with cancer, if you get it. What do I mean by that?

Why Most People Don't Get Cancer

Quite simply, in your body, as part of the normal metabolic process, you produce anywhere from a few hundred to as many as 10,000 cancerous cells each and every day of your life. If your immune system is functioning properly, it has the ability to recognize each and every one of those aberrant cells and remove them from your body. The reason that everybody doesn't get cancer is because their immune systems are designed to prevent it. That's just what a healthy immune system does. In effect, every one of us starts with a hint of that innate cancer immunity that the special strain of mice demonstrates.

According to the National Cancer Institute's (NCI)'s description of cancer and immunity, when normal cells turn into cancer cells, some of the antigens on their surface change. These cells, like many body cells, constantly shed bits of protein from their surface into the circulatory system. Often, tumor antigens are among the shed proteins. These shed antigens prompt action from immune defenders, including cytotoxic T cells, natural killer cells, and macrophages.

NCI explains one theory. Patrolling cells of the immune system provide continuous body wide surveillance, catching and eliminating cells that undergo malignant transformation. Tumors develop when this immune surveillance breaks down or is overwhelmed.

Your Cancer Surveillance System

In Part II of the mouse study cited above, researchers said that this unique mouse (and subsequent offspring) have provided another bit of evidence that immune surveillance is probably a normal process that protects us from developing cancer. In fact, immune surveillance suggests that as cancer cells develop, they are detected by the immune system at a very early stage (perhaps at the stage of a single cell or a few cells) and are then killed and cleared from the body. But again, this happens only if your immune system is functioning properly.

The researchers effectively then restate my premise when they say, "This concept [immune surveillance] implies that we are constantly getting cancer (one cell at a time) but the cancer cells do not survive because our immune systems detect and kill them. But only the cancer cells die; normal cells are unharmed."

To clearly illustrate that immune cells attack cancer cells, I offer the following picture from the above referenced study in which you can see first hand the immune system at work on cancer cells just hours after the SR/CR injection.

Through their experiences with this unique family of mice, researchers pose the question, "Could it be that we constantly reject cancer cells by immune surveillance throughout our lives and, as we age, that mechanism becomes weaker and weaker, until finally one cancer cell overcomes those controls?" Well, it's nice to see that even if they are 10 years behind, they're at least starting to come around to the obvious. But as it turns out, only so far. They still want to turn their understanding of the relationship of the immune system and cancer into a possible future magic bullet -- not an immediate means to prevent 90% of all cancers. So let me fill in where the researchers left off.

Why People Get Cancer

People get cancer because one of three things happens (and more often than not all three together):

  1. You expose yourself to toxins and outside influences (such as heavy metals, radiation, rancid fats, viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.) that dramatically increase the number of cancerous cells your body produces so that not even a healthy immune system can handle the load.
  2. You compromise your immune system (or age takes a toll) to the point that it can no longer handle all of the cancerous cells your body produces, thus allowing some of them to take root and establish themselves.
  3. Your circulation (blood, lymph, energy) is impeded --thus leading to both 1 and 2 above. Conclusion

Again, to repeat the core concept here. Every single day of your life your body produces anywhere from a few hundred to as many as 10,000 cancerous cells as part of it's normal metabolic processes. That means no one, by definition, is ever cancer free, ever. The difference is whether that cancer takes root and grows, or is destroyed by your immune system. While the option of a mouse inspired miracle immune cell injection may be a future option for humans, it is not an option today. That leaves you only one option available right now: to optimize the immunity you already have.

One lesson we can learn from the mouse study that we can implement today is that it is crucial for you to support the functioning of your body's ever-aging natural immune surveillance system. That is:

  • Remove immunosuppressant contaminants
  • As much as possible, avoid subjecting your body to contaminants such as chlorine, cigarette smoke, smog, radon gas, xenoestrogens, tap water, rancid fats, etc.
  • Regularly clean out those contaminants that do make it in by doing periodic detoxes and cleansings. Specifically a rotating program of Intestinal Cleanses, Heavy Metal Detoxes, Liver Cleanses, Blood Cleanses, and Kidney Flushes.
  • Regularly use natural pathogen destroyers such as garlic, olive leaf extract, and oil of oregano to reduce the bacterial, viral, and fungal load on your immune system.
  • Use proteolytic enzymes to support your enzyme based complementary immune system.
  • Boost your existing immune function
  • Use herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalus and nutraceuticals such as AHCC and alkyglycerol to strengthen your immune system.
  • Optimize circulation.
  • Use a high quality proteolytic enzyme formula to optimize blood flow.
  • Exercise to improve lymph flow.
  • Body work and energy enhancement to improve energy flow and cellular energy levels energy.
  • Reduce stress through mediation, prayer, soaking in a hot tub, or biofeedback.

For the curious: Listen to my talk, Cancer,The Big Lie, to get a better understanding of this issue. Highly recommended. Read Doing the Baseline of Health Program Intensively. Read the Cancer Addendum. To learn more about the beginning of the ongoing mouse study, you can read lead researcher, Zheng Cui's personal account of the discovery of the SR/CR mice.