Dear Pharmacist,

Two of my relatives have pancreatic cancer, and I’m worried sick for myself. No symptoms yet, but is there anything I can share with them, or take myself?

—D.T., Sacramento, California

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your relatives. Pancreatic cancer is on the rise, certain medications and foods and beverages increase its risk. I wrote a book on the topic to help people.

Squashing free radicals is helpful, as well as pancreatic enzymes. Anything that slows growth or spreading is important. Detoxifying the body (particularly lymph) is probably number one on my list. As a natural minded pharmacist I love finding research about natural plant extracts that work like pharmaceuticals.

There’s a protein in your body called “mTOR” which plays a vital role in how each cell thrives, divides, or dies. When this protein and associated metabolic pathway is turned on too high, it promotes cancer spreading.

If we interfere with the mTOR pathway, it helps stop the formation of new blood vessels which feed the tumor. These mTOR “inhibitors” help people with pancreatic cancer and possibly induce remission, at least for awhile. This was shown in February 2011, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, entitled, “mTOR Inhibitor Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer in a Patient with PJS.” The scientists used a drug called everolimus (Afinitor). Other mTOR inhibitors available today include Certican and Torisel, and others in the pipeline.

There are natural compounds which are known to interfere with mTOR but to a lesser extent compared to these cancer drugs. Resveratrol (you know, from grapes!) is one of them as reported in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (November 19, 2010). The scientists knew going into the study that resveratrol was a powerful herbal with strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and nerve-protecting effects on the body.

Guess what other herb reduces mTOR activity? Curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric spice, popular in Indian cuisine. Many studies prove curcumin slows down the growth of different types of cancer. Curcumin may be helpful for pancreatitis because it reduces inflammation in the pancreas and reduces inflammatory pain-causing chemicals. Wonderful, but you may need special IVs or supplements to get it to work.

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is amazing. This gorgeous flower is available as a spice, and a supplement (by Exir). Saffron supplements seem to help reduce chemotherapy-induced cell damage (damage to the DNA). Crocetin, a carotenoid derived from saffron appears to compete with the drug gemcitabine which is one of the standard therapies for pancreatic cancer. Remarkably, both the herb and the chemo drug compete for the same receptor site, which is the doorway into your cell. Are they trying to do the same good thing in there?

The discussion of using resveratrol, curcumin or saffron is between you and your doctor. Even though these are natural herbs, with excellent safety profiles, I have no idea what’s right for you and your safety is my first concern. Ask a licensed practitioner about customizing your personal health regimen.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)
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