For background on this subject, read my previous post (below).
Thanks in large part to Jane McLelland (author of the How to Starve Cancer book and online video course), Care Oncology (COC) and Facebook groups, the lay public and cancer community has learned much more about the use of off-label drugs and supplements as potential cancer therapeutics. The interest and research in these off-label compounds has empowered many of our cancer patients to ‘Google’ and search Pubmed for possible metabolic, growth signaling and immune system pathways to target in the treatment of their cancer.
As a practicing radiation oncologist and integrative oncologist, I see many patients in the clinic (Northwest Cancer Clinic/GenesisCare, Kennewick, WA and Hermiston, Oregon) and remotely (U.S. and internationally via Zoom) who are self-prescribing numerous off-label drugs and supplements for their cancer care. The vast majority of whom base their choice of compounds on their own research or word of mouth recommendations.
Unfortunately, due to tumor heterogeneity and a paucity of clinical research, without testing these compounds on your tumor, there is no way to prognosticate whether these drugs or supplements will have any meaningful effect on cancer outcomes.
In 2021, the best, evidence-based prognostic assay available is called a “functional tumor assay.” The challenges for patients in getting a functional tumor assay, are many: 1) they require a fresh sample of tumor tissue or tumor cells, 2) they are not widely available, 3) most oncologists don’t believe in their validity, 4) they are costly and often not covered by insurance, 5) they are mainly focused on testing efficacy of conventional cancer drugs, not generic off-labels and supplements, 6) the off-label drugs recommended by these assays may not be covered by insurance, and 7) they don’t assess the body’s innate anticancer immune response. (FYI- my favorite functional tumor assay, in 2021, is still the EVA PCD assay).
Safety, efficacy and insurance coverage caveats aside, I have no doubt that the off-label drug and supplement movement is only going to get more commonplace in the self-management of cancer. I, therefore, encourage my oncology colleagues to become familiar with this topic. Instead of shutting our patients down at the mere suggestion of using other than the conventional drugs, it’s important to learn more about these compounds so you can better help guide them based on the data. I have spent the last decade rigorously following this subject and counseling hundreds of patients on the use of evidence-informed, off-label therapies, and have anecdotally seen some remarkable and unexpected positive outcomes in individuals whose cancers had progressed on multiple prior conventional treatments. While this certainly does not prove or guarantee that taking certain generic drugs or supplements will be effective (cancer is incredibly complex, ever-changing, heterogeneous and so is the host), it gives hope to those who are looking for it and willing to take the risks of the unknown.
Until we have functional tumor assays that can address the previously noted challenges, our patients will continue to rely on the results of preclinical studies and low quality clinical data to draw conclusions on the potential anticancer efficacy of these, often, inexpensive, generic or unpatentable/off-patent compounds.
Just my 2 cents…
Contact me if you are interested in a consultation or in my integrative oncology online course (The “IOE Online Program” contains a 2021 update of Dr. Lawenda’s list of off-label metabolic and signaling pathway anticancer drugs and supplements).