Dr Aryan Tavakkoli of the Quantum Clinic shares top tips drawn from her clinical experience supporting those with cancer.
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Robin Daly: Happy new year and a big welcome to the first Yes to Life Show of the year on UK Health Radio. I’m Robin Daly, host of the show for more than five years and founder of the UK charity that the show is named after: Yes to Life. The charity supports people in the UK in responding to a cancer diagnosis in a holistic way using integrative medicine.
My first guest on the show this year is a doctor who is a resource for support with integrative cancer care in the UK, one who has definitely hit the ground running, becoming a driving force for change. Also one of the most popular speakers at recent events, Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli was keen to join me today to share some top tips from her practice in Sussex—important pointers that she observes firsthand from her clinical support of people.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Thank you Robin. Lovely to be here and to speak with you again.
Robin Daly: It’s a pleasure to talk to you, and for today’s show, the 31st of January 2021, I’ve been guided by you. As in our emails leading up to today, you indicated you’re keen to share some insights you gained around issues that you find crop up regularly among the people you’re supporting through cancer. Things to avoid, areas to focus on, that kind of thing.
The first topic on your list for today is engaging, by which I’m assume you are referring to the move away from passive recipient of treatment to active participant when it comes to both decision-making and practical activity.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, that was a good summary actually. That’s exactly what I meant.
Just to step back a bit, as you know, I focused on only seeing people with cancer in the past year and a half now. That’s what my clinic is dedicated to. I’ve seen a lot of people and I’ve just been picking up some patterns, some reoccurring themes.
There’s the radical remission book where Dr. Kelly Turner picked up her nine or 10 different areas of commonality between people who did very well. I’ve also been picking up my own observations as time goes on; both in the people who I have done quite well and those who may be not doing as well as they could be. So I thought I’d just share some of those clinical observations.
Engagement was the first thing, it might sound a bit odd to say that because you’d think that anyone who consults with a doctor or a healthcare practitioner would be willing to engage with that person, and that is the case for the majority, but I have seen a number of people who really taking a back seat. Of course, if someone is not mentally or physically fit, that’s entirely understandable.
I’m not talking about that group of people, but there are some people who are mentally and physically capable of doing research but I’m still finding that they rely on their husband, or wife, or son, or daughter to do all the research and communication and read all the information after appointments. I found that this doesn’t really place them in the best position because when you’re receiving treatments, whatever that might be, it’s always best if you fully understand what you’re receiving, because then you can also have faith in it. It’s important to believe in what you’re doing as well.
That’s more difficult to do when that information is being filtered through someone else, even if it’s through a loved one. The people who I am referring to will not be listening to this recording. It will be their relatives listening to this recording. So, if that’s the case, and you know who you are out there, I just want to encourage you to perhaps handover at least one rein to your loved one and encourage them to take the front seat.
Even if it’s sometimes, because it really is better for them to be fully engrossed in what they’re doing and what they’re receiving, because it will also give them more faith and belief in what they’re receiving in terms of treatment. That’s really important. So that was the first thing I wanted to share.
Robin Daly: Well, that’s a very interesting point and it’s kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from people not getting enough support, I think you’re talking about somebody getting too much support. Funnily enough.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I guess, but you can understand that obviously relatives want the best, but sometimes it’s not always the best thing for someone to have everything done for them. You know, that proactive stance really does make a difference.
Robin Daly: That’s particularly true when we’re talking about something which is potentially a survival issue, you really need people to engage as fully as possible.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes.
Robin Daly: So, you mentioned another closely related topic, which is understanding the integrative approach.
I’m guessing that you want to talk about this apart from the empowerment that it brings. If you actually understand it yourself, it’s key to getting the best results. Many people do actually appreciate what they can add to help in areas that conventional treatment doesn’t address. It’s really treatment synergies.
I think this is not just the public, this is the professionals as well, that lift integrated medicine to another level quite beyond simply adding in a few complimentary therapies to your conventional treatment. Am I heading in the direction that you’re thinking?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, absolutely. There were several things in this area that I picked up and I completely agree with. A truly integrative approach is about bringing together the best of what conventional medicine can offer with the best of what is currently considered not conventional, but still evidence-based.
I don’t want to call it alternative medicine because a lot of things that we use in an integrative approach have a big evidence base, but may not have reached national protocols and guidelines yet for various reasons. These are the things that I wanted to particularly point out as I have seen a number of people who really want to do things naturally, to the point of avoiding all medications if possible. Whilst I can understand wanting to keep things as holistic as possible, the thing is that some diseases or illnesses are really serious obviously, and they need serious or drastic measures, including drugs or medications.
One particular scenario comes to mind: when I was treating someone with pneumonia many years ago, this is going back to when I was a registrar, I think it was in Guy’s hospital. I was seeing a woman when I was on call at accident and emergency, and she came in with raging pneumonia. There was a community acquired pneumonia and she had all the signs. She had a high fever, all the clinical signs, and her chest x-ray confirmed that.
She was a very holistic thinking person and really didn’t want to receive intravenous antibiotics. I remember talking to her and saying, “look, out of all the doctors in this hospital, you’re probably sticking to the one who is most open-minded and most in favor of holistic approaches, but I’m still telling you that I really feel you need intravenous antibiotics because there is a mortality rate associated with pneumonia.” You know, people still die of pneumonia. Eventually she agreed, she had the intravenous antibiotics, she improved and she was discharged.
I’ve seen people dying of pneumonia, fit people with strong immune systems, but the thing is some of the organisms and bacteria or conditions we’re dealing with are very blunt. Even if you have a very strong immune system, even if you’re doing everything right in terms of diet and supplements, sometimes it’s just not enough. Sometimes you really need that strong medicine to just get in there. If you’re worried about the microbiome or whatever, of course it’s going to disrupt that for a while, but you can deal with that later. You can replenish your gut microbiome or whatever else you need to do. I guess what I’m saying is sometimes it’s necessary to go in there with the big guns, so please remain open and don’t just close off all possibilities, by wanting to stay completely holistic.
Robin Daly: Exactly. I’ve come across people who think in that way they are not open-minded, unfortunately. I think if you want to stay alive, you have got to be open-minded. If you fail to do that, you really are taking a massive risk and that’s in both directions, you know, you failed to be open-minded when you’re just going for conventional medicine, you could be taking a similarly high risk, I feel.
I think it’s incredibly important to be broad-minded about it, and to listen to everybody that comes along with an expert view and take it all on board before making decisions.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yeah, absolutely. I also see people who, talking about metabolic pathways of cancer, I talk about supplements and repurpose drugs, and some people really prefer to take the supplements and natural botanicals like curcumin and berberine, all of which are wonderful.
Of course, they don’t want to take the repurpose drugs like Metformin for which there is a huge amount of evidence actually in some types of cancer. One thing that I think a lot of people forget, I find myself repeating this often, is that a lot of the studies done on the metabolic pathway blockers on the botanicals are laboratory studies. So there’s a petri dish and that petri dish has some cancer cell lines, they might be prostate cancer or breast cancer or whatever. The scientist comes along with that high dose botanical, like resveratrol, or curcumin, and then observes the reactions and then might observe the biochemical pathways that have been blocked.
Now it’s very different—talking about a petri dish with a single layer of cancer cells—and a solid tumor in a human being. I think it would be very optimistic to think that if we take curcumin, as wonderful as it is, and as much as I support it, but I think it’d be optimistic to think that that will entirely block the pathway that we’re looking at. It will certainly inhibit to a certain extent, but that’s the reason we take a synergistic combination, in order to inhibit the pathways as much as possible and the repurposed drugs on top. So again, I encourage people not to completely rule out the medications. They can be really effective in that regard.
Robin Daly: I think it’s prudent to be aware of the fact that no one’s got all the answers, whether they’d be a natural therapist or a conventional one. In a very few cases, can anybody say this is going to do the job? Hence we need to be open-minded. I think the natural approaches have their shortcomings just as the drug approaches do, but we have to work with what we have.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Absolutely. That actually leads me to the other observation I made under the importance of an integrative approach, and that is that sometimes you hear stories of people doing really well with one thing, like fenbendazole, for example, and the stage four cancer disappears, or CBD oil, and everything goes away.
These are very vocal people who say, well, this worked for me, but how many people is that relevant to? How many people will achieve that degree of resolution with just using one thing? Very few, in fact. So it’s about not putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s about, as you say, remaining open to different things. That’s the whole thing about integrative medicine. It’s about approaching cancer at all angles. Don’t just look at one thing. That, in fact, in my opinion, is a dangerous thing to do.
Robin Daly: Another important thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that what is a good solution at one time, isn’t necessarily a good solution at another time for the same person.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, absolutely. Cancer is very metabolically flexible. This is another thing I talk about often with the people I see. If we just, for example, block a few metabolic pathways, with time, whether that’s three months, or six months, or later, cancer cells do reroute and they can even activate pathways that they have never used before.
That’s what cancer does. It’s very flexible. So you’re quite right, things can change. Actually just achieving stability is also a good thing. Again, this is something I repeat quite a lot, all of these integrative approaches can take time. Even if it’s achieving stability, that can be a very positive thing.
I liken cancer to a speeding truck sometimes. I find it’s helpful to think along those lines because with a speeding truck, a lot of energy is put into just slowing it down and stopping it. In fact, most of the energy is put into just slowing it down and to begin with it can take time to slow it down, then gradually you start slowing down and eventually you stop it and then it’s even more energy to then to get it to go into reverse.
So we must not expect things to happen overnight. This isn’t like giving intravenous chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which can have fairly immediate results, an integrative approach can take time. I do encourage people not to get too disappointed if things don’t happen immediately, it can take time to achieve results.
Robin Daly: All right. Another topic on your list for today, something that I know for many people is hugely unfamiliar territory, a real struggle to come to terms with, even in the face of a situation as critical as a diagnosis of cancer, and that is prioritising themselves. What can you tell us about this?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes. Again, you think it’s strange not prioritise yourself in such a serious condition, but I have seen quite a few people delay things because holidays are coming up, or Christmas is coming up, or they’re just too busy. Busy with children, busy with life, and then something happens, you know, and that something might be that cancer can progress hard and fast and create real problems. For example, a bony metastasis that creates a collapse of the vertebra can be incredibly painful, resulting in harm. I’ve seen this actually resulting in hospital admission, surgery. From being completely physically able one day, to huge pain and difficultly doing anything the next.
I don’t want to cause depression or anything, but this is not a condition where you can afford to delay anything. I’ve just said the integrative approach can take time. You know, it can take several months for repurposed drugs or supplements or all of these things to start really fully taking action. So I would really encourage everyone, if you’re really busy, which I know you’re not, if you’ve got young children, whatever, arrange to give your children away to your grandparents. Spend a couple of days really brainstorming with your partner, with friends, and researching, and really coming up with a concrete plan for yourself because this delaying can cause issues. There may come a time when actually you could have done something, but it’s now a bit late. So please do prioritise yourself. Don’t delay things.
Robin Daly: That’s interesting, about dreaming that you have time. I can share that experience. People think that they have a bit of time on their hands because it’s early days or whatever it is, but they are actually in a way squandering the best time they have to find out what to do to make arrangements and all the rest of it.
I find particularly the time that people want to do that, funnily enough is often when they have finished a treatment and they’re actually feeling quite well. In between treatments, and they’re feeling well, and there’s a part of them that just wants to get back their normal life. That three months of normal life, whatever that is, it may be quite mundane. Then at the other end, they’re suddenly in a crisis situation again, and they’ve got no time to do anything about it and they haven’t really capitalised on the ground that was gained in the last round of treatment either. It’s a very sad thing when that happens.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: That’s right. Often I find myself saying to someone in that position where they just finished a course of treatment and there’s no evidence of disease and I say to them “look, you’re in a very strong position right now. You’re in a strong position because I see people who aren’t even physically fit enough to take all the supplements that we integrate. Doctors often advise they can’t even physically take them. It’s just too much for some.”
So I say to them, to people who are fit, “you’re able to do this. You can do it now, [but] physically, that may not be the case in six months’ time. So before that happens, this is the time you really need to hit it because you know, some cells often linger around and you can’t pick them up from the scans. You don’t know if a course of chemotherapy has really killed everything, often it doesn’t. Now is the time when you’re well, when you’ve just finished your course of treatment to really hit it with all the integrative approaches.”
Robin Daly: Okay. Is your experience that there are any particular groups of people who are likely to not really get moving at the beginning? Or likely to delay things?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Honestly, I find those who are just really busy with life, young children, work, different things going on. It comes back to this thing about prioritising yourself. I know it can be difficult with family and young children, but at the end of the day, that’s what needs to happen. You have to prioritise yourself.
Robin Daly: It’s just difficult. I like your advice of actually clearing a weekend. Removing those kinds of responsibilities, so you can focus, makes a lot of sense other than trying to fit it in around all the usual stuff.
Another thing you mentioned was getting professionals to help you. What were you thinking particularly when you said you’d like to speak about that today?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I’ve come across a number of people who kind of self-treat at home with intravenous vitamin C. I’ve seen that quite often. I’ve come across complications with that. I think something that isn’t appreciated fully is that intravenous vitamin C isn’t safe for everyone. There are definite contraindications. It is a therapy that requires intravenous access with all of those potential complications.
It needs to be monitored. There needs to be a blood test beforehand to check for safety. So, it is something that’s best delivered where you’re being monitored. I’ve seen a couple of people who’ve been delivering not even high dose intravenous vitamin C, like 15 grams, 20 grams a day, which is kind of moderate. That’s not a particularly high dose, but regularly, for months, and they’ve ended up with kidney stones, which are hugely painful, and ended up in hospital.
That’s another thing, it’s always best to check that it’s safe. It’s not safe and it shouldn’t be given to people with a history of kidney disease and people with a history of kidney stones.
If there’s anyone who has excess fluid anywhere like fluid gathering in the abdomen, or a period of fusion, which is fluid just outside the lungs and the lining of the lung, or even cerebral edema, fluid in the brain. All of that can get worse with high dose intravenous vitamin C.
It’s a bit like infusing salt, where there’s a lot of sodium, it will attract more water. So those areas where there’s already fluid will expand, and if there’s no room for expansion that can cause serious issues as well. Rather than do a DIY job, really get professionals, because there can be dangers associated with integrative therapies. Another one is repurposed drugs. Of course, they are drugs, they are medications, and all medications can come with a list of potential adverse effects.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the person to make an informed choice if they wish to take that medication or not knowing the information about that, but they need monitoring. They may need blood tests such as regular liver function tests. They need some sort of follow up.
Although I can understand people wanting to access certain repurposed drugs, that can be difficult. I would always advise to get them through a professional—talk to them, get them prescribed and have the appropriate follow-up and monitoring.
Robin Daly: That makes sense across the board.
With cancer, that’s what we always advise at Yes To Life, to consult professionals, particularly at the beginning when people do become remarkable experts on themselves and the treatments they’re using. But that takes time.
If you just look at somebody who’s been doing it for five years and say to yourself, I’ll go off and do that, you’re actually taking a lot of risks. Maybe only on the level of doing things that are a waste of time, doing them badly, wasting money, wasting precious opportunities to actually help yourself. There are so many reasons to get the best advice.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, absolutely. That’s also where organizations like Yes To Life become really valuable because you have a long list of medical professionals on the site. So that information is available for people to find whatever therapy they’re interested in and to find someone to guide them expertly.
Robin Daly: It seems like a large investment to do that, and it is for most people to be fair, but it’s one of those things that could cost you a lot more either financially or in terms of your health.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I agree. That’s why I’m bringing up this point because I have seen people develop serious complications because they didn’t seek that professional advice to begin with.
Robin Daly: So that next thing for attention today is what you call core territory for people with cancer—that’s dealing with emotional baggage. Even for those rare people who don’t arrive at a diagnosis of cancer with a mountain of unresolved issues, unmet needs, unfulfilled desires, there is still all the emotional baggage of the people around them to contend with. So a diagnosis of cancer simply has this effect of bringing all these things up to the surface. What can you tell us that could help people deal with this?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, it’s such a massive area, isn’t it? In a way it’s relatively easy to deal with the physical things. To take the supplement or repurposed drugs. To do the therapies. But when it comes to dealing with our emotions, well, that’s challenging for all of us.
One thing that I’ve found that is a major block is anxiety. Anxiety just really messes everything up. It makes it difficult to take information on board, to retain information, you’re in a constant state of fear, really with anxiety. Fear of what could happen.
That’s the big block. The first thing is really just acknowledging that it’s an issue. Again, not everyone does acknowledge it, [they] push it under the carpet, it really does need to be dealt with. What I often say to people I see is “we can throw lots of supplements and medicine and of all these different therapies, but at the end of the day, what’s most powerful is what’s going on in your mind.”
That’s the most powerful thing. We know that because, for example, through functional MRI scanning, we know if we’re doing something or even if we’re just thinking we’re doing it, the same areas of the brain light up, so your brain doesn’t really differentiate between reality and what you’re imagining, your imagination and will believe what you’re saying.
So if you’re saying something repeatedly to yourself or believing something, that has an impact on the immune system as well. It will have a physiological impact. Again, we know this because there have been lots of studies on this. One of them was a randomized control trial of 80 women with breast cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy. Half of them had only the chemotherapy and the other half were shown how to use their imagination or visualization and imagery. They were using their imagination to think of their immune system, dealing with the cancer, and eradicating the cancer cells.
After the study, blood tests were taken from the two groups and the groups that were using their visualisation skills or imagination had improved immune markers—so it had had a physiological impact on them. Their natural killer cell activity went up, their T cell activity, cytotoxic T-cell activity went up. So we know that how we think creates an impact.
So having something like anxiety can be a major issue, and I really encourage people to focus on finding any therapy that they feel an affinity with, and that can be different for everyone. Some people respond more to talking therapies like counseling or psychotherapy. Other people respond more to energetic therapies, or to emotional freedom technique, or tapping, or heart mass, or neuro-linguistic programming. There are just so many things out there, just find a therapist who can help you—even hypnotherapy can be beneficial for anxiety. It is really important to acknowledge that it’s there and then to find someone that you feel comfortable with, that you feel you can trust and deal with it, a professional to help you to deal with it. The other thing we know is when our emotions are high and there are all these stress hormones rushing around in our body, which is natural after a diagnosis of cancer, cells have receptors for these things.
Cancer cells have receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline, energetic receptors. These are some of those that we want to block with supplements and repurposed drugs, but the cancer cells can up regulate them when they sense that there is a lot of adrenaline floating around in the system, they will create more adrenaline receptors on their surface to bring in the adrenaline and use that to proliferate.
So there are physiological reasons why we need to address the emotional area, that’s really important. I point [patients] to certain practitioners or certain therapies if I feel they’ll help, but, at the end of the day, it’s a personal thing. Everyone responds differently to therapies so do some research and find something that you feel an affinity with and find a professional in that area that you feel you can work with and then just do it.
You must address the emotional area because it has a very significant physical impact.
Robin Daly: Really good to underline that. This is also where mindfulness and a relationship with nature and all of that stuff can also play.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes, absolutely. Mindfulness, meditation, going out for a walk, deep breathing, all of these natural things that we are probably not doing enough of.
Robin Daly: Right. Remembering to laugh is another topic you wanted to talk about. On the face of it, it sounds like something in a similar territory to being positive how you view cancer, short on reality, and unlikely to generate an angry response. I’m confident you’re not going there, so what exactly do you want to say by “remember to laugh?”
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: What I’m really getting at there is that as we all know cancer is a very serious situation. Things can just feel really heavy and serious and everything gets very heavy. It’s something that can really weigh us down and that can impact on the immune system again, so when I say “remember to laugh,” I mean it’s really important to bring in some aspect of your life that you really love, and things that make you laugh.
I often say to the people I see “at the end of the day, instead of watching the news or reading a newspaper and reading bad news, don’t do that, instead put on a funny comedy clip, even if it’s a five minute video on YouTube or watch a comedian and really laugh.”
You know that again does affect our immune system in a very powerful way and I often advise people I see “when you wake up in the morning, I try to get into the habit of maybe a prayer of gratitude or just some positive affirmations. Just think of what you’re grateful for, what you love in your life.” Just other things like stroking pets, or cuddling your partner, or watching a comedy together or doing anything that you love. These are powerful things. They really do affect our immune system. It’s been shown that just receiving a massage or a stroke increases our natural killer cell function.
It’s not just about improving our immune system, even though these things do, they’re very powerful at doing that, but it’s bringing back a sense of likeness, removing that heavy burden from our shoulders. The best time to do that, I think, is the last thing at night.
Well, all the time, really, but particularly last thing at night before sleeping.
Robin Daly: It’s interesting that thing about something that you find funny, isn’t it? You can feel, even when you’re in a condition when you’re upset, or a bit down, if something makes you laugh, you can sort of feel the tussle between being pulled down and the laughter actually pulling you out of that situation. Becoming much more sort of extrovert. It’s a funny feeling when something’s making you want to laugh, even when you think you shouldn’t be in that state.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I really like how you put that Robin. Yes. That’s a really good way of putting it. Totally agree.
Robin Daly: That’s a great thing from that point of view, just simply lifts you out of the doom and gloom, which you might be ruminating over, much of which is made up because it’s us predicting an uncertain future.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes. So those were the areas that I thought I’d just share. Things that I’ve just kind of picked up that might be helpful.
Robin Daly: That’s really great. So, one of the important aspects of the practitioner view is the opportunity to notice patterns amongst clients. For each of the people who have cancer, it’s a unique situation that they’re dealing with and they’re probably unaware, but they share many responses or concerns or symptoms or needs or challenges with others who are facing similar circumstances.
That’s where the accumulated wisdom that can hugely impact finding much needed solutions comes in. Can you tell us a bit about some of the patterns that you’ve been noticing in your clients, with particular conditions and how this can help in anticipating and resolving issues for them?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I have indeed picked up some kind of recurring themes with the different types of cancer. The first thing to say is, of course, I don’t want to be compartmentalizing anyone, so what I’m saying may not refer to everyone with that cancer. I don’t want to offend anyone, I want to make it clear that these aren’t things have been medically proven or anything, literally just my observations of what’s recurring themes.
In people I see with breast cancer, or people with urological cancers, I’ve noticed with almost a hundred percent of the people I see with breast cancer, and this is women and men with breast cancer, is that the emotional area is really strong. I’m talking about stress, history of anxiety or ongoing anxiety, a history of significant depression or recent significant trauma. I don’t mean the kind of emotional trauma that all of us experience, you know, from time to time, I mean really severe trauma, um, life-changing trauma. I see this kind of stress and it comes out, particularly in people with breast cancer. I’m not seeing the same degree in people I see with let’s say colon cancer, or ovarian cancer, or lung cancer. The people I see with breast cancer, either there’s a history of significant depression or a history of anxiety or significant stress.
So young women who are juggling a high profile job, maybe a managing director of the company, juggling that with family responsibilities, with sick relatives, with running themselves into the ground with all of this high amount of stress. I see that a lot in people with the breast cancer.
I think in future we will somehow be able to identify the mechanism for this and why the sorts of highly stressful situations can lead to a higher risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer.
I don’t know how that will kind of help in terms of going forward, but it just something that I’ve noticed is particularly prevalent in people with breast cancer.
Robin Daly: Well, that would be useful information to people to know that ahead of time in a way that, there’s likely to be an issue to look at. We’re short on science but it certainly comes up, as a subject matter.
Our experience at our recent conference, two weekends worth, was that almost every speaker spoke about stress as being an important factor.
It seems that from observation of professionals like yourself, this is certainly the case.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes. I don’t know if the listeners would have heard of this approach to medicine, it’s called German new medicine or dramatic new medicine. There are some very interesting theories in that it’s very much possible mechanisms for how trauma can actually lead on to malignancy. They often talk about loss. A recent bereavement or loss in some way, and how that can often be linked with a diagnosis of cancer later on. So that’s interesting to look up, the German new medicine.
Robin Daly: Any other patterns that have jumped out at you like that?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: So there were a couple of others there. The second one was urological cancers. Things like bladder cancer or prostate cancer. I’ve found that a lot of people I’m seeing with these malignancies have had a very significant exposure to toxins.
Again, I know toxin exposure can be a general thing, a lot of us are exposed to toxins, but it seems to be kind of a major thing. A lot of people I’m seeing with these cancers, sometimes have significant exposure to lead paint, for example, or significant exposure in some kind of occupation where they’ve either been breathing in a significant amount of toxic chemicals or exposed to it through their skin.
Of course, a lot of chemicals will end up being excreted through the kidneys. They might sit for a long time in the bladder, in the urine, before voiding. Maybe that’s a possible mechanism, but again, it’s just something I’ve noticed that a lot of people I’m seeing with these sorts of urological or urothelial cancers have had. Often it’s been lead, interestingly.
Another one, interestingly, is neuroendocrine cancers. The few of the people that I’ve seen with this, again, I am generalizing, but a few of the people I’ve seen have really had issues with suppressed anger. That’s interesting because a lot of neuroendocrine cancers, of course, release serotonin, our happy hormone. It’s a hormone state, which stabilizes our emotions, which should reduce our level of anger and increase our level of happiness. Again, this is just an observation I have no, you know, I have no scientific studies. It’s just an observation that I would say 80 to 90% of the people I’ve seen with neuroendocrine cancers, have very significantly suppressed anger. I’m talking about almost rage. I wonder if it’s a protective mechanism, you know, maybe it’s maybe we will find one day that some cancers are actually a protective mechanism.
Robin Daly: I’ve heard that. It’s very interesting, observations of the type you’re making are the beginnings of the science on the subject, if enough people observe it, somebody goes out there to find out, then they actually run a trial to see what they can find out.
That’s where it all starts. So just to be clear, do you want to tell me the range of cancers that you’re talking about? The neuroendocrine cancers? Which ones are we talking about?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Mainly I’m talking about liquid carcinoid cancer, which can affect anywhere really. It’s mainly the guts or the pancreas, there’s a wide range. The people I’ve seen have mainly had endocrine cancers of the gastrointestinal.
Robin Daly: Okay, thank you for that. Very interesting stuff. As we’re at the very start of a new year, I’d like to end today by looking forward at the direction cancer treatments are taking: where the most recent developments are leading and what approaches you think are going to turn out to have the most impact when it comes to helping people deal with cancer.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I’m very excited for the new areas that I think we will bring into cancer treatment in the next few years. I’ve seen some studies that currently are pre-clinical, so they are laboratory studies, particularly in the areas of quantum medicine, looking at nanoparticles, metal nanoparticles, magnetic metals, such as iron.
These are experiments using injected nanoparticles, iron nanoparticles, which are injected into the bloodstream. These will preferentially accumulate into tumor tissues. The reason they do that is because often cancer tissues have, as, you know, a blood supply around them. They have a large network of blood vessels, and these blood vessels all also have a disruption in their endothelium. They are not normal blood vessels. The endothelium often has a wide gaps in it, allowing small particles to pass through very easily. So the nanoparticles will accumulate in cancer tissues, and they also have difficulty leaving because cancer tissues are often devoid of lymphatics.
So the accumulation is something called the enhanced permeability and retention effect. What this means is that nanoparticles will actually accumulate preferentially and stay in the tissues. So you wait for a while until that happens, and then when you identify that they are there or they’ve accumulated in the tumor tissue, these nanoparticles can then be activated because they’re magnetic. They can be activated through either an alternating strong magnetic field or they can be activated through different means through radio waves, for example, and that causes them to heat up significantly. That heat then destroys the local tumor tissue in which they’re residing. This has been shown in laboratory studies to deal with widespread metastatic disease, within hours or days.
Now this is obviously huge and exciting to me. It hasn’t come into the clinical realm yet, but I don’t think it will be long. I think it will hopefully be within the next few years. So I think nanoparticles and their application to cancer treatments will be a very strong area to watch out for.
We’re using quantum medicine already in different fields in medicine now, for example, MRI scanning and different diagnostic methods. I think quantum medicine, which I define as the application of quantum physics to the science of medicine, I think that will be more and more the future of cancer treatments. It will involve treatments that will not involve poisoning, that will probably not involve surgery. It will cause very few side effects and it will be very effective, very quickly. I think this will come about within the next 10 years, I think this will come into the clinical realm.
Robin Daly: That is extremely interesting and it’s very like PDT in a way, where you’re exposing people to something which in itself is not going to do any harm. If the actual medium, whatever it is, that’s being used, accumulates in the cancer itself, then the cell activity is already done ahead of time. It’s going to work in the places you want it to work. Extremely interesting, and it doesn’t negate the need for integrated medicine, because it hasn’t changed the environment at all, but in terms of dealing with the cancer, it could be amazing.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Absolutely. You’re quite right.
The areas that we’ve just spoken about with integrative medicine remain hugely important because of course we still want to prevent further malignancy. So all the areas of nutrition and lifestyle and dealing with stress go hand in hand together with treatments of the primary care.
And you mentioned PDT, or photodynamic therapy. Yes, it is similar. Very similar to that, because what we’re doing is we’re using an agent, in this case, nanoparticles, and something that will sensitize it. So in PDT there will be a photosensitizer for example, that will be activated by certain wavelengths of light. That will then destroy the tissue in which that agent has taken up residence. So yes, it’s very similar to that, so we’re already using that technology now to a certain degree.
Robin Daly: You know, it has such a big advantage in terms of the fact that it’s non-toxic and you can have it many times in the same place without accumulating any sort of bad effects. It’s got an awful lot going for it and it’s not even expensive. I don’t know how this treatment is going to be on the, on the cost scale, but certainly PDT is relatively cheap.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: Yes. Well, we will need to watch the space for the nanoparticles.
Robin Daly: Could I just ask where is this sort of world-leading research going on into this topic?
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: There are various groups in Europe and China. I’ve seen a lot of papers in this area. I can’t recall the best, but I know that there are various [teams] in Europe and there are various in the East as well. Lots of groups working on this, it’s a very kind of hot area within that area of research and the nanoparticle area of research and science.
Robin Daly: Yeah, I have heard of it, but I haven’t talked to anybody who knows anything much about it until now. So thank you.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: It’s a pleasure. I think the other thing that we’re heading towards really is precision oncology. It’s about making treatments more individualized.
That technology is available now, but it’s often private and a bit pricey, but it is possible to test tumors, genomic profiling. So looking at genetic markers of different tumors and actually testing different chemotherapy agents and even different immunotherapy agents with that person’s particular tumor to see which treatments will actually work for it, and not just working blindly, which is what’s happening really at the moment. Following national protocols or guidelines, which are the same protocol for every cancer, but is not individualised for the person.
There are companies that offer this now, even one of the miscarriage life sciences, if people want to research that. Some people are able to get some of this on the NHS, but I haven’t heard of that very often, most often it has to be a private kind of testing, and it is costly. I think you’re talking about a few thousand pounds there that at the end of the day, it does provide a personal view of which treatments will actually work for your cancer. Then that’s something that you can then share with your oncologist. I think precision oncology is something that will, hopefully, become much more commonly used in the near future.
Robin Daly: That would be good. Okay, time’s up. It’s always very interesting to talk to you, Aryan. Thank you very much for sharing all of that, and I hope our listeners will find some of that useful and interesting.
Dr. Aryan Tavakkoli: I hope so. It’s a pleasure speaking with you, Robin. Thank you.
Robin Daly: I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Dr. Tavakkoli. She is a powerful combination of expertise and understanding, and has a deep care for the people she works with. Exactly the qualities anyone would want in their doctor, thanks so much for joining me at the start of the new year.
It’s hard to see how 2021 is going to pan out, but I should be doing my best to make one thing happen, the Yes To Life show will continue to showcase those at the cutting edge of integrative medicine for cancer throughout the year. So I do hope you’ll make a small, new year’s resolution to make a point of joining me every week here on the Yes To Life show on UK Health Radio.
Kindly written by Literary & Transcript Editor Amy MacLennan