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Common brand names:Casodex
Summary of Interactions with Vitamins, Herbs, & Foods
Replenish Depleted Nutrients
Reduce Side Effects
Often, people who undergo chemotherapy develop aversions to certain foods, sometimes making it permanently difficult to eat those foods. Exposing people to what researchers have called a “scapegoat stimulus” just before the administration of chemotherapy can direct the food aversion to the “scapegoat” food instead of more important parts of the diet. In one trial, fruit drinks administered just before chemotherapy were most effective in protecting against aversions to other foods.1
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be helpful in alleviating nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.2 , 3 Ginger, as tablets, capsules, or liquid herbal extracts, can be taken in 500 mg amounts every two or three hours, for a total of 1 gram per day.
In preliminary research, large amounts of melatonin were used successfully in combination with tamoxifen in a few people with breast cancer for whom tamoxifen had previously failed.4 The amounts used in this study should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.
A liquid preparation of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been shown to reduce the incidence of mouth sores in people receiving radiation and systemic chemotherapy treatment in an uncontrolled study. 5The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
Russian research has looked at using eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) with chemotherapy. One study of patients with melanoma found that chemotherapy was less toxic when eleuthero was given simultaneously. Similarly, women with inoperable breast cancer given eleuthero were reported to tolerate more chemotherapy.6 Eleuthero treatment was also associated with improved immune function in women with breast cancer treated with chemotherapy and radiation.7The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
Though cancer cells use glutamine as a fuel source, studies in humans have not found that glutamine stimulates growth of cancers in people taking chemotherapy.8 , 9 In fact, animal studies show that glutamine may actually decrease tumor growth while increasing susceptibility of cancer cells to radiation and chemotherapy,10 , 11 though such effects have not yet been studied in humans.
Glutamine has successfully reduced chemotherapy-induced mouth sores. In one trial, people were given 4 grams of glutamine in an oral rinse, which was swished around the mouth and then swallowed twice per day.12 Thirteen of fourteen people in the study had fewer days with mouth sores as a result. These excellent results have been duplicated in some,13 but not all14 double-blind research. In another study, patients receiving high-dose paclitaxel and melphalan had significantly fewer episodes of oral ulcers and bleeding when they took 6 grams of glutamine four times daily along with the chemotherapy.15
One double-blind trial suggested that 6 grams of glutamine taken three times per day can decrease diarrhea caused by chemotherapy.16 However, other studies using higher amounts or intravenous glutamine have not reported this effect.17 , 18
Intravenous use of glutamine in people undergoing bone marrow transplants, a procedure sometimes used to allow very high amounts of chemotherapy to be used, has led to reduced hospital stays, leading to a savings of over $21,000 for each patient given glutamine.19
In a double-blind study, supplementation with 18 grams of glutamine per day for 15 days, starting five days before the beginning of 5-FU therapy, significantly reduced the severity of drug-induced intestinal toxicity.20
Intravenous use of glutamine in people undergoing bone marrow transplants, a procedure sometimes used to allow very high amounts of chemotherapy to be used, has led to reduced hospital stays, leading to a savings of over $21,000 for each patient given glutamine.21The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
NAC, an amino acid-like supplement that possesses antioxidant activity, has been used in four human studies to decrease the kidney and bladder toxicity of the chemotherapy drug ifosfamide.22 , 23 , 24 , 25 These studies used 1–2 grams NAC four times per day. Th+N110ere was no sign that NAC interfered with the efficacy of ifosfamide in any of these studies. Intakes of NAC over 4 grams per day may cause nausea and vomiting.
The newer anti-nausea drugs prescribed for people taking chemotherapy lead to greatly reduced nausea and vomiting for most people. Nonetheless, these drugs often do not totally eliminate all nausea. Natural substances used to reduce nausea should not be used instead of prescription anti-nausea drugs. Rather, under the guidance of a doctor, they should be added to those drugs if needed. At least one trial suggests that NAC at 1,800 mg per day may reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.26
A modified form of vitamin A has been reported to work synergistically with chemotherapy in test tube research. Vitamin C appears to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in animals and with human breast cancer cells in test tube research.27 In a double-blind study, Japanese researchers found that the combination of vitamin E, vitamin C, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)—all antioxidants—protected against chemotherapy-induced heart damage without interfering with the action of the chemotherapy.28
A comprehensive review of antioxidants and chemotherapy leaves open the question of whether supplemental antioxidants definitely help people with chemotherapy side effects, but neither does it show that antioxidants should be avoided for fear that the actions of chemotherapy are interfered with.29 Although research remains incomplete, the idea that people taking chemotherapy should avoid antioxidants is not supported by scientific research.
In preliminary research, large amounts of melatonin were used successfully in combination with tamoxifen in a few people with breast cancer for whom tamoxifen had previously failed.30 The amounts used in this study should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.
Gamma Linolenic Acid
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in evening primrose and borage oils, may enhance the therapeutic effects of tamoxifen. A small group of breast cancer patients took 2.8 g of oral GLA per day in addition to tamoxifen, in a preliminary trial.31 Another group of breast cancer patients took tamoxifen alone. Those taking the GLA-tamoxifen combination appeared to have a better clinical response than did those taking tamoxifen alone. However, the results of this preliminary research are far from conclusive and need to be confirmed in a larger, more definitive trial.
Milk thistle’s (Silybum marianum) major flavonoids, known collectively as silymarin, have shown synergistic actions with the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in test tubes.32 Silymarin also offsets the kidney toxicity of cisplatin in animals.33 Silymarin has not yet been studied in humans treated with cisplatin. There is some evidence that silymarin may not interfere with some chemotherapy in humans with cancer.34
The mushroom Coriolus versicolor contains an immune-stimulating substance called polysaccharide krestin, or PSK. PSK has been shown in several studies to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. One study involved women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. PSK combined with chemotherapy significantly prolonged survival time compared with chemotherapy alone.35 Another study followed women with breast cancer who were given chemotherapy with or without PSK. The PSK-plus-chemotherapy group had a 25% better chance of survival after ten years compared with those taking chemotherapy without PSK.36 Another study investigated people who had surgically removed colon cancer. They were given chemotherapy with or without PSK. Those given PSK had a longer disease-free period and longer survival time.37 Three grams of PSK were taken orally each day in these studies.
Although PSK is rarely available in the United States, hot-water extract products made from Coriolus versicolor mushrooms are available. These products may have activity related to that of PSK, but their use with chemotherapy has not been studied.
Tocotrienols are compounds similar to vitamin E that are found in palm oil. Test tube studies have shown that tocotrienols enhance the effects of tamoxifen.38 Controlled studies are needed to determine whether supplementing with tocotrienols might enhance the anticancer effects of tamoxifen.
Preliminary research in animals found that the citrus flavonoid tangeretin (found primarily in the peel of citrus fruits) interferes with the ability of tamoxifen to inhibit tumor growth.39 Although the evidence is far from conclusive, people taking tamoxifen should probably avoid citrus bioflavonoid supplements, as well as beverages and foods to which citrus peel oils have been added.
Potential Negative Interaction
1. Mattes RD. Prevention of food aversions in cancer patients during treatment. Nutr Cancer 1994;21:13-24.
2. Meyer K, Schwartz J, Crater D, Keyes B. Zingiber officinale (ginger) used to prevent 8-Mop associated nausea. Dermatol Nurs 1995;7:242-4.
3. Pace JC. Oral ingestion of encapsulated ginger and reported self care actions for the relief of chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting. Dissertation Abstr Int 1987;8:3297.
4. Lissoni P, Barni S, Meregalli S, et al. Modulation of cancer endocrine therapy by melatonin: A phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic breast cancer patients progression under tamoxifen alone. Br J Cancer 1995;71:854-6.
5. Carl W, Emrich LS. Management of oral mucositis during local radiation and systemic chemotherapy: A study of 98 patients. J Prosthet Dent 1991;66:361-9.
6. Kupin VJ. Eleutherococcus and Other Biologically Active Modifiers in Oncology. Moscow: Medexport, 1984, 21.
7. Kupin VI, Polevaya YB, Sorokin AM. Eleutherococcus extract treatment for immunostimulation in cancer patients. Vopr Onkol 1986;32:21-6 [in Russian].
8. Bozzetti F, Biganzoli L, Gavazzi C, et al. Glutamine supplementation in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: A double-blind randomized study Nutr 1997;13:748-51.
9. van Zaanen HCT, van der Lelie H, Timmer JG, et al. Parenteral glutamine dipeptide supplementation does not ameliorate chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Cancer 1994;74:2879-84.
10. Klimberg VS, McClellan JL. Glutamine, cancer, and its therapy. Am J Surg 1996;172:418-24.
11. Souba WW. Glutamine and cancer. Ann Surg 1993;218:715-28 [review].
12. Skubitz KM, Anderson PM. Oral glutamine to prevent chemotherapy induced stomatitis: a pilot study. J Lab Clin Med 1996;127:223-8.
13. Anderson PM, Schroeder G, Skubitz KM. Oral glutamine reduces the duration and severity of stomatitis after cytotoxic cancer chemotherapy. Cancer 1998;83:1433-9.
14. Okuno SH, Woodhouse CO, Loprinzi CL, et al. Phase III controlled evaluation of glutamine for decreasing stomatitis in patients receiving fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemotherapy. Am J Clin Oncol 1999;22:258-61.
15. Cockerham MB, Weinberger BB, Lerchie SB. Oral glutamine for the prevention of oral mucositis associated with high-dose paclitaxel and melphalan for autologous bone marrow transplantation. Ann Pharmacother 2000;34:300-3.
16. Muscaritoli M, Micozzi A, Conversano L, et al. Oral glutamine in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal toxicity Eur J Cancer 1997;33:319-20.
17. Bozzetti F, Biganzoli L, Gavazzi C, et al. Glutamine supplementation in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: A double-blind randomized study Nutr 1997;13:748-51.
18. van Zaanen HCT, van der Lelie H, Timmer JG, et al. Parenteral glutamine dipeptide supplementation does not ameliorate chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Cancer 1994;74:2879-84.
19. MacBurney M, Young LS, Ziegler TR, Wilmore DW. A cost-evaluation of Glutamine-supplemented parenteral nutrition in adult bone marrow transplant patients. J Am Diet Assoc 1994;94:1263-6.
20. Daniele B, Perrone F, Gallo C, et al. Oral glutamine in the prevention of fluorouracil induced intestinal toxicity: a double blind, placebo controlled, randomised trial. Gut 2001;48:28-33.
21. MacBurney M, Young LS, Ziegler TR, Wilmore DW. A cost-evaluation of Glutamine-supplemented parenteral nutrition in adult bone marrow transplant patients. J Am Diet Assoc 1994;94:1263-6.
22. Holoya PY, Duelge J, Hansen RM, et al. Prophylaxis of ifosfamide toxicity with oral acetylcysteine. Sem Oncol 1983;10(suppl 1):66-71.
23. Slavik M, Saiers JH. Phase I clinical study of acetylcysteine's preventing ifosfamide-induced hematuria. Sem Oncol 1983;10(suppl 1):62-5.
24. Loehrer PJ, Williams SD, Einhorn LH. N-Acetylcysteine and ifosfamide in the treatment of unresectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma and refractory testicular cancer. Sem Oncol 1983;10(suppl 1):72-5.
25. Morgan LR, Donley PJ, Harrison EF. The control of ifosfamide induced hematuria with N-acetylcysteine. Proc Am Assoc Cancer Res 1981;22:190.
26. De Blasio F, et al. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) in preventing nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy in patients suffering from inoperable non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Chest 1996;110(4, Suppl):103S.
27. Kurbacher CM, Wagner U, Kolster B, et al. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) improves the antineoplastic activity of doxorubicin, cisplatin, and paclitaxel in human breast carcinoma cells in vitro. Cancer Letters 1996:103-19.
28. Wagdi P, Fluri M, Aeschbacher B, et al. Cardioprotection in patients undergoing chemo- and/or radiotherapy for neoplastic disease. Jpn Heart J 1996;37:353-9.
29. Weijl NI, Cleton FJ, Osanto S. Free radicals and antioxidants in chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Cancer Treatment Rev 1997;23:209-40 [review].
30. Lissoni P, Barni S, Meregalli S, et al. Modulation of cancer endocrine therapy by melatonin: A phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic breast cancer patients progression under tamoxifen alone. Br J Cancer 1995;71:854-6.
31. Kenny FS, Pinder SE, Ellis IO, et al. Gamma linolenic acid with tamoxifen as primary therapy in breast cancer. Int J Cancer 2000;85:643-8.
32. Scambia G, De Vincenzo R, Ranelletti FO, et al. Antiproliferative effect of silybin on gynaecological malignancies: Synergism with cisplatin and doxorubicin. Eur J Cancer 1996;32A:877-82.
33. Gaedeke J, Fels LM, Bokemeyer C, et al. Cisplatin nephrotoxicity and protection by silibinin. Nephrol Dial Transplant 1996;11:55-62.
34. Invernizzi R, Bernuzzi S, Ciani D, Ascari E. Silymarine during maintenance therapy of acute promyelocytic leukemia. Haemotologia 1993;78:340-1.
35. Toi M, Hattori T, Akagi M, et al. Randomized adjuvant trial to evaluate the addition of tamoxifen and PSK to chemotherapy in patients with primary breast cancer. Cancer 1992;70:2475-83.
36. Iino Y, Yokoe T, Maemura M, et al. Immunochemotherapies versus chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment after curative resection of operable breast cancer. Anticancer Res 1995;15:2907-12.
37. Mitomi T, Tsuchiya S, Iijima N, et al. Randomized, controlled study on adjuvant immunochemotherapy with PSK in curatively resected colorectal cancer. The Cooperative Study Group of Surgical Adjuvant Immunochemotherapy for Cancer of Colon and Rectum (Kanagawa). Dis Colon Rectum 1992;35:123-30.
38. Guthrie N, Gapor A, Chambers AF, Carroll KK. Inhibition of proliferation of estrogen receptor-negative MDA-MB-435 and -positive MCF-7 human breast cancer cells by palm oil tocotrienols and tamoxifen, alone and in combination. J Nutr 1997;127:544S-8S.
39. Bracke ME, Depypere HT, Boterberg T, et al. Influence of tangeretin on tamoxifen's therapeutic benefit in mammary cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:354-9.
Last Review: 03-24-2015
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