Is Stopping Angiogenesis The Key To Stopping Cancer?
Posted Jun 21 2010 4:00am
Angiogenesis And Cancer
A friend recently sent me several articles and a Ted Talk video about how inhibiting angiogenesis might make it possible to stop the growth of cancer. So I figured it was worth taking a look at to figure out what it’s all about and if there’s any credence to the idea.
What Is Angiogenesis?
For starters, let’s talk about just what angiogenesis is. We’ll just take the concise Wikipedia definition:
Angiogenesis is a physiological process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels.
Angiogenesis is a normal and vital process in growth and development, as well as in wound healing. However, it is also a fundamental step in the transition of tumors from a dormant state to a malignant one.
So on the one hand, we have “normal and vital” and on the other hand, we have cancer. Basically, tumors secrete several growth factors that promote angiogenesis, allowing capillaries to grow into the tumor and supply the essential nutrients the tumor needs to keep growing. Further, this blood vessel growth is essential to a tumor metastasizing.
Basically, it begs the question, “what if we could stop angiogenesis? Could we stop cancer?” Okay, that’s two questions.
Anti-Angiogenesis For Cancer Therapy
So if angiogenesis is the creation of new blood vessels, anti-angiogenesis is anything that stops the creation of new blood vessels. It could be food or drugs. There are already drugs out there that inhibit angiogenesis to starve cancer cells, some of which are FDA approved. It seems that the proof is there that inhibiting angiogenesis works to stop the unrestricted growth of cancer’s food supply. ( One study even showed that it could stop fat tissue growth in mice.)
Can food do the same thing without the negative side effects of drugs?
Can We Eat To Stop Cancer?
Here is a video of Dr. William Li presenting at Ted Talks about using various foods to prevent angiogenesis. It’s a good 20 minute watch, but if you prefer, I’ll summarize after the video.
So if certain foods can promote cancer, it makes sense to me that certain foods can help fight it. Of course, as Dr. Li points out, food alone might not be enough once you’re actually diagnosed with cancer, but it certainly can’t hurt. The goal, though, is to do things that hopefully keep us from getting cancer in the first place. Luckily, it’s not the inevitability that so many think it is.
For those of us that are seemingly healthy, I don’t really think it’s something to obsess about though. Just eat a normal diet loaded with real foods . It’s really that simple. I think people don’t like to consider that lifestyle is a major component of cancer, but for most, it is. The reality is that people have been using food as medicine for a long, long time…long before there were anti-angiogenic drugs and chemotherapy.
Here’s a graph from the video showing the contribution of various lifestyle factors and genes into cancer.
A little back of the envelope math says that between 1/4 and 1/3 of the cause of cancer is diet-related. That’s big and that’s one that’s much easier to change than your genes. Stop smoking and lose weight and you knock off another huge chunk.
Take a look at this table from Dr. Li’s Ted Talks page . It shows a long list of foods that have been found to have anti-angiogenic properties.
What was interesting in the video was when he talked about how combining the foods made for an even stronger anti-angiogenic response. It looks like these foods have a symbiotic relationship in the body. Red, red wine and dark chocolate, anyone (while listening to UB40 perhaps)? I’m guessing that plenty of other natural foods also help the body combat cancer. No telling what’s in that “Others” category.
One thing is for sure…the fruit cocktail at your next family picnic sure looks a whole lot better.
Don’t We Need Angiogenesis?
So this question was on my mind while I was looking at all of this, but it seems that what Dr. Li proposes is that eating the right foods doesn’t stop normal angiogenesis completely. They keep angiogenesis at a normal level while stopping the unrestricted growth of blood vessels present in cancer and other diseases. They basically keep the body operating properly. At least, that’s my take from it.
Real Foods To The Rescue
In the past couple years that I’ve been running this blog (and my prior blog, The Modern Forager), I’ve kind of made it my mission to get people to stop obsessing about nutrition and just focus on eating real food. I mean, obviously I enjoy the science of it all as much as the next guy and gal, but I think some of us get a little too twisted up in it. There’s really no need to wear your diet like a “Hi My Name Is…” tag or a badge of honor.
The past couple years, I’ve realized that it’s not about low-carb and low-fat. It’s just about eating real foods. I doubt that someone with a normal, healthy metabolism is going to see any issues from eating all the fruit, sweet potatoes and other tubers, and rice (yes, even rice), they want as long as enough protein and fat is included for health. I am pretty sure that the healthiest, longest-lived people in the world eat all manner of real food (and none of them Zone). So really, stop freaking out about it and just learn to enjoy cooking and eating.
What do you think? Can food alone prevent or reverse cancer or are there other factors at work? Where do we take it from here?