The Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP) just held their 2nd annual conference, in Phoenix, and it was great!
This was the first Naturopathic conference I have attended, and I was VERY impressed with the quality of the presentations. Aside from making some new friends and learning a lot more about Naturopathic Oncology, I gained a much better understanding on how we (conventional oncologists) can work more closely with our community Naturopathic Doctors (NDs).
If you have never heard of Naturopathic Medicine before, I encourage you to read more about it on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website. If you want to learn more about Naturopathic Oncology, visit the OncANP website.
Over the next few blog posts, I will review conference highlights (i.e. melatonin, metformin, berberine, aspirin, intravenous vitamin C, curcumin)…stay tuned.
Melatonin Update (Dugald Seely, ND, FABNO)
Having listened Dr Seely’s excellent presentations before at Society for Integrative Oncology meetings, I knew his update on the use of melatonin in cancer care would be evidence-based and helpful for my practice. As expected, this was another great talk.
Melatonin has many anti-cancer physiologic effects:
- immune stimulation
- causes cancer cell suicide (apoptosis)
- protects nerve and immune cells
- decreases estrogen receptors and estrogen production in women and men (suppresses breast, endometrial and prostate cancer cell growth)
Dr Seely’s review of the published human clinical trials using melatonin in cancer patients (including different cancer types, stages and treatments) found that those taking melatonin (versus not taking melatonin), had a significant improvements in:
- survival at one year: 40% greater chance of being alive at one year versus those not taking melatonin (this improvement was seen for both patients taking chemotherapy and not taking taking chemotherapy)
- 233% (all patients) and 93% (patients taking chemotherapy and melatonin) greater chance of having a complete response (no tumor identified after treatment)
- 90% (all patients) and 253% (patients taking chemotherapy and melatonin) greater chance of having a partial response (tumor regression, but still present after treatment)
- 51% (all patients) and 15% (patients taking chemotherapy and melatonin) greater chance of having stable disease (no tumor growth or new metastases after treatment)
- reduced weakness, platelet and white blood cell counts, nausea and vomiting and quality of life in patients taking chemotherapy and melatonin
Reassuringly (albeit, based on limited data), it seems that melatonin is able to be safely administered during chemotherapy and radiation therapy without reducing treatment efficacy.
- Since melatonin has antioxidant properties, it theoretically could decrease the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy. To be safe (even though no studies have shown a decrease in efficacy when combined with radiation or chemo), it is recommended that your use of this supplement first be discussed with your oncology team before starting it.
Contraindications (Do not take melatonin in the following circumstances):
- any autoimmune condition
- taking an immunosuppressant
- caution if you are taking a sedative, hypnotic (sleeping medications), blood pressure medications, seizure medications, diabetes medications
- “low dose” 0.3 mg per day (used to help regulate sleep and for jet lag)
- “high dose” 20 mg per day (used in cancer management); some practitioners recommend starting at a low dose (0.3 mg) and increase the dose over 1-4 weeks to 20 mg to minimize side effects (vivid dreams and/or drowsiness)
- Taken before sleep (range: 20 minutes to 3 hours)
Clinical Trials Using Melatonin In Cancer Care:
Additional References on Melatonin and Cancer
- Read about the link between sleep, light exposure at night and cancer in my blog entry: “Get To Bed! How Getting Enough Shut-Eye Fights Cancer“
- American Cancer Society
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (About Herbs)
- “Melatonin, Chronobiology and Cancer” (by Drs
Hrushesky, Blask and Lissoni)
- “Melatonin and Cancer Treatment” (Life Extension, 2004)
As with any supplement, before starting Melatonin (particularly “high dose”: 20 mg per day) always discuss this with your oncology team.