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Women, tell your friends: If you’re past menopause and diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are that chemotherapy will have little or no effect on the cancer. That’s because the great majority of breast cancer tumors in postmenopausal women are estrogen driven – also known as estrogen receptor-positive tumors.

In previous e-Alerts I’ve told you about tamoxifen, a synthetic hormone-like drug that prevents estrogen from binding to breast cancer cells. In estrogen driven breast tumors, tamoxifen (also known by the brand name Nolvadex) has been shown to be far more effective than chemo, even in cases where the cancer has spread to lymph nodes.

Now there’s even better news: A natural agent may improve the effectiveness of tamoxifen, and just might out-perform tamoxifen when used on its own.

Good coverage

Earlier this month, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers from the Hungarian National Institute of Oncology presented a new study that tested the effects of Avemar (a fermented wheat germ extract) on breast cancer. Previous research has shown that Avemar helps the immune system identify cancer cells, cuts off the energy supply to cancer cells, speeds cancer cell death, and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence.

STUDY PROFILE

  • Researchers implanted estrogen receptor-negative and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer tumors (from both human and mouse cell lines) in female mice
  • Mice were treated with either Avemar, tamoxifen, or two other cancer drugs: aromasin, or arimidex
  • Some mice were treated with Avemar in addition to one of the individual drugs
  • Avemar was found to be significantly more effective in inhibiting human and mouse cancer cell growth compared to any of the three drugs
  • When Avemar was combined with any of the three drugs, the effectiveness of each drug was increased by five to 10 percent

Unlike the three drugs, Avemar was also effective in inhibiting the growth of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells, suggesting that the wheat germ extract may prove to be a better overall breast cancer fighter than anti-estrogen drugs.

How to starve a cancer cell

The Avemar story isn’t new to HSI members.

In a December 2005 HSI Members Alert article titled “The Cancer Miracle that Leaves Healthy Cells Healthy,” we first told you about several trials in which Avemar has been shown to successfully treat different types of cancer.

For instance, in a yearlong study that followed more than 40 patients with oral cancer, about half received surgery and standard care, while the other half received the same along with Avemar. Results showed that Avemar helped reduce the risk of cancer progression by 85 percent. Less than five percent of the Avemar subjects experienced local cancer recurrences compared to nearly 60 percent in the standard care group.

One of the keys to Avemar’s effectiveness is glucose control. Cancer cells utilize glucose at a rate that’s as much as 50 times higher than normal cells. And cancer cells that have a higher rate of glucose utilization have a much greater chance of spreading. But researchers have found that Avemar selectively inhibits the glucose metabolism that cancer cells thrive on.

And finally, Avemar dramatically cuts back on side effects. In the study described above, Avemar reduced the frequency and severity of standard care side effects, which included nausea, fatigue, weight loss, and immune suppression. This is all the more significant in the treatment of breast cancer when you consider that tamoxifen has been linked to a host of adverse side effects: hot flashes, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, mood swings, depression, loss of energy, deep-vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.

In the U.S., Avemar is marketed under the name Ave, and is available through many online sources. But any woman diagnosed with breast cancer should first talk with her doctor before using Ave or Avemar.

HSI members can access the December 2005 article “The Cancer Miracle that Leaves Healthy Cells Healthy” in the HSI Members Alert archives on our web site at www.hsionline.com