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Anti-Angiogenesis: Cutting Off Tumor Supply Lines

Cancer cells are commonly present in the body, but cannot grow into tumors without hooking up a blood supply. Angiogenesis inhibitors in plant foods may help prevent this from happening.

July 12, 2013 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Jeff Kubina via Flickr, Sun417, Evan-Amos, Amagill, and Igno2 via Wikimedia Commons and niusheng11.

Transcript

Probably about a third of common cancers can be prevented by eating a healthy, plant-based diet, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight. One of the ways plants may help is by cutting off the supply lines to cancerous tumors.

A tumor cannot grow without a blood supply. Currently, it is believed that a tumor mass cannot exist in a volume greater than about size of the ball at the tip of a ballpoint pen without a proper blood supply, which indicates that angiogenesis—angio means vessel, so the genesis—the creation of new blood vessels is critical to tumor growth. Each one of us has cancer cells in us right now. By age 70, microscopic cancers are detected in the thyroid glands of virtually everyone, for example. Most of these tumors never cause problems, never become clinically significant, leading to the concept of “cancer without disease” as a normal state during aging. Cancer cells are commonly present in the body, but they can't grow into tumors any bigger than that tiny dot size, no more than 10 million cancer cells before needing to get hooked up to a blood supply. So tumors diabolically release angiogenic factors, chemicals that cause new blood vessels to sprout into the tumor. The most important one is called VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor. But we can suppress VEGF with Ve-ggies.

Many of the phytonutrients we know and love in tea and spices and fruit and berries and broccoli and beans can block cancer's stimulation of new blood vessels. They're ideal for prophylactic long-term use against breast cancer because of their reliability, availability, safety, and affordable price. Dietary agents used to suppress angiogenesis may be an important step in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, and in fact all types of tumors. The review concludes that we now have convincing evidence that dietary plant constituents possess the unique ability to affect tumor angiogenesis, which may be deemed advantageous in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer.

Most of these studies have only been done in a petri dish, though. You stimulate human blood vessel cells and they start forming these tubular structures trying to make new capillaries to feed the tumor, but if you add plant flavones like apigen or luteolin, found thoughout the plant kigdom—like in citrus, celery, and peppers, you can see they help block the tube formation.  Here’s the effect of fisitin, a phytonutrient found in strawberries and other fruits and veggies. It just shrinks the beginnings of new blood vessel formation right down.

Where do researchers get their hands on human blood vessels?  Human umbilical vein endothelial cells. They get them from discarded umbilical cords, or, more controversially, from the eyes of aborted fetuses.  But either way you can stimulate blood vessel formation with the tumor compound VEGF and then abolish that effect with plant compounds, in this case from purple rice. Therefore, the daily consumption of natural foods containing adequate flavonoids could be beneficial for the prevention of cancer metastasis or could improve cancer prognosis.

Given the power of plants, one might speculate that the foundation of an anti-angiogenic approach to cancer might be a whole food vegan diet.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 is another angiogenic factor, helping tumors turn on the gravy train. This may be another reason plant-based diets protect against cancer, since as few as two weeks on a healthy diet can lower IGF-1 levels. See my series on the elegant experiments that discovered this:

One way cancer turns on the tap is silencing certain tumor suppressor genes. How do you turn them back on? See, for example, Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer.

How else can strawberries smack on the cancer kibosh? See Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer and Cancer Fighting Berries.

Because we all likely have cancer cells inside us, Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing. To die with cancer rather than from cancer, we need to slow down cancer doubling time. Check out one of my oldie-but-goodie video Slowing the Growth of Cancer.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Flax and Breast Cancer Survival and Starving Tumors of Their Blood Supply.

 If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • greyjaybee

    Just wow !

  • Barton van Buskirk

    best web site i have ever read or seen only hear about things that are happening at the moment

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      You are so sweet to leave a comment. hank you so much for your kind words. So glad I can help!

      In health,
      Michael

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Great series in the month of Astrological Cancer!

  • Merio

    Great post… this info are really interesting…

  • John Cini

    More amazing info, with numerous 2012 sources! Thanks Dr. Greger! Why isn’t this headline news everywhere? :( The silence of the press is deafening. This 4-min. video is further confirmation of William Li’s fantastic 2010 TED Talk, “Can We Eat To Starve Cancer?,” http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html.

  • Paddycakes

    I can’t believe that being a vegan only reduces one’s chances of getting cancer by 1/3–or did I miss something?

  • B

    Wow…the eyes of aborted fetuses. Who knew.

    • DvoraChesed

      Awful, isn’t it?

  • Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac.

    This is great stuff as is usual from you Dr. Greger!

    It does “beg the question”, What foods PROMOTE angioenesis??? Those would be ones to avoid most likely though not always. Beets for example promote nitric formation which in turn may promote angiogenesis. And really any foods high in arginine may well do the same and that would include nuts/seeds/rice… Would really love some more/deeper clarification on this one!

    • Veganrunner

      Go up to the sourses above and look into Dr. Li’s work. He has a website that lists the foods. Most are the “best of” foods that appear in Dr Greger’s videos.

  • Thinkabouddit

    There is much talk that sugars, including fruit sugars, feed cancers. Where does that fit into a cancer-killing vegan diet?

    • Thea

      Thinkabouddit: I’m not familiar with studies showing that whole fruits, with their sugars, feed cancers. I am familiar with studies on this site showing that whole fruits fight cancers – especially berries. And I *think* there is even a video showing dates fighting colon or rectal cancer. (But I may be making that up.)

      I can imagine that table sugar would be a problem, but I have a hard time imagining that a whole fruit, especially organic, would be a promote cancer. Maybe if you took the sugars out of the fruit – but that is not how we enlightened people eat fruit.

      I wonder if Dr. Greger’s recent blog post could shed some light on things. Here’s my thought: What if those studies trying to say that sugar in fruits feed cancer are really confusing other aspects of the fruit – such as pesticides? Here’s what I’m getting at from Dr. Greger’s blog post:

      “A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may
      get a tiny bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption.”

      From:http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/06/25/apple-peels-turn-on-anticancer-genes/

      Just a thought. I’m just guessing that the studies which say that fruit feeds cancer are probably either a) getting mixed up in what they are measuring or b) are focusing on those 10 extra cancer cases listed above and missing the bigger picture of the 20,000 avoided. Again, just a guess.

      • Thinkabouddit

        It’s just what “they” say. I don’t believe that organic fruit could be anything but healthy.

    • b00mer

      Sugars feed all cells, including cancer cells. So if you eradicated all sugars from your diet, yes you could “starve” cancer cells along with every other cell in your body. However it is true that due to the rate at which cancer cells divide compared to most other cells, they are more sensitive in general to interventions that target growth. This is how traditional chemotherapy works and why other rapidly dividing sites such as hair follicles (hair loss), stomach lining (nausea), and bone marrow (immune system impairment) are inadvertently targeted along with the tumor. Traditional chemotherapy kills cancer cells, sure, but it also kills every other cell in the body, albeit at a slower rate. Administering it is a balance between trying to kill the tumor before you kill the rest of the patient.

      So I guess my point is that context and balance are key. Things that kill cancer cells can kill normal cells, though indeed many plants are capable of targeted cancer cell killing, and this is an exciting area of research. And on the other hand things that cause cancer cell growth can be necessary for the growth of normal cells as well, though there are many things that cancer cells require (like angiogenesis factors for one) that normal cells don’t. However sugar is not one of those things. It is needed by both cancerous and normal cells.

  • Southlander

    Wow, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, I found this video not only “eye opening” and “earth shattering”. As I’ve told so many folks over the years. “you don’t have to believe; but you’ve definitely got to think about it”. In any case, “THANK YOu” so very, very much and “vegan” here I come. Don and I CAN! :-))n

    • Thea

      Southlander: Sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

      Good for you for your positive attitude. While diet is not a magic pill and there are no guarantees, there are many, many stories of cancer patients who are able to reverse their cancers on a whole, plant food based diet. But probably not just any diet. Darryl listed some great ideas to start to figure out which foods to focus on. See Darryl’s post above. It’s great.

      Also, you may want to check out a very inspiring story that Dr. Greger posted on his Facebook page about a 90 year old man who appear to have beaten prostate cancer:
      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=679724962044016&set=a.505323302817517.132300.215513991798451&type=1

      You may also want to check out the many more videos on this site that deal with cancer. You will learn that there are many ways in which a whole plant food (supplemented with B12!) diet fights cancer. I think a good way to start is with the blog posts that have a subject matter of cancer. Then you can watch the videos that Dr. Greger links to in his blog posts.

      If you are not familiar with plant-based eating, there are some great recipe books out there. The food is fantastic. Most people find themselves surprised at how their food horizons expand, when they expected nothing but contraction. You just have to find the recipes that you like.

      Good luck to you!

  • Harvey

    Can”t understand why people would rather hack burn or bomb symptoms with poisons than feed the body good phytonutrients to cure it. Should be taught in schools at an early age ideally ? Probiotics too ?

  • peter

    Dr Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation gave a TED talk on this in 2010. Part of the talk discussed results of experiments which showed the inhibiting effects of diet (plant substances) on cancer cell growth. One reason I drink green tea and eat berries…

    http://www.angio.org/understanding/diet.php
    From what I am coming to understand, much of the positive and negative effects of substances in foods is due to impact on cell signaling, not the quenching or generation of free radicals. This would include influencing gene expression.

  • DvoraChesed

    Take note of the statement at the very end of the video (which no one seems to have picked up on), that low fat plays an anti-cancer role.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Just wanted to share a patient that came to the office yesterday.

    Young female started a Vegan diet after visiting our office about 2 months ago. A couple weeks later was having such severe pain while breathing in she went to the ER for evaluation.

    CT scan showed 3 cm tumor growing in right lung.

    Cardiothoracic surgeon and second opinion both agreed needed at least a biopsy because it looked like Cancer. Because of the severe pain, regardless of whether or not it was benign or malignant, patient opted to have it removed rather than biopsied and then removed.

    5 days ago the patient went in for surgery, was prepped and sent for repeat CT to zero in on where tumor was. The radiologist and first surgeon couldn’t find the tumor anymore. They called the original Cardiothoracic surgeon to take a look and he could barely see where it was. They were dumbfounded!! The tumor was so small they didn’t need to operate. They sent her home!

    Patient called me and asked my opinion about what happened to the tumor. I stated there is no way to actually prove (that I know of) that changing her diet was the actual cause of the shrinkage of the tumor but as the days Video shows the evidence is quite compelling that changing her diet was probably what caused the tumors demise.

    Patient has no more pain and is able to exercise and live life normally thanks to what looks like a simple change in lifestyle. No other conventional treatment has ever been so successful!

    In fact the patient shared that all the nurses were asking her what she did because they have never seen something like this before. And she told them the only thing she did was change her diet–she couldn’t even exercise because the pain was so severe. She said they were all amazed.

    Interestingly she said the doctors didn’t seen to be so impressed with her tumor disappearance which I personally find disappointing.

    We are going to write this case study up with the CT images and hopefully get it published.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks to Dr. Greger for disseminating the peer reviewed research on the benefits of lifestyle changes. You really are a lifesaver!

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      Very interesting story! Thanks for sharing.

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Yes, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I thought it was great! I’ve had a couple of other like this as well but not a dramatic nor in such a short time.

    • Veganrunner

      Wow. She came to you 2 months ago and you were able to convince her to become a vegan? You’re good. What did you say to convince her?

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        One key is I always try to meet the patient where they are. If they aren’t ready to change I won’t even go there. But she was already willing and so the change was easy, she just needed the support and that is what we are experts at where I work.

        During an office visit the patients get 90 minutes with a health coach and me. The health coach brings them in for the first 30 minutes, then all of us together for the next 30 min. where I teach the pertinent points in the benefits of lifestyle change (much of what you see on this website. Here’s a lecture that I did a while ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh6XL3JoIto –not as good as Dr. Greger’s but you will get the idea of what I teach by watching.), then the last 30 is reinforcement time to review what we went over and to provide a food plan. And then phone or email follow-up about every week. Makes it much easier to keep the patients on track.

        • Veganrunner

          You must be so satisfied. The move was worth it right?

        • Veganrunner

          That video is great!

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the info.

        • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

          Dr Dynamic,
          Great video!

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            You are too kind. Thanks for watching!

    • Veganrunner

      I have this patient I am just trying to get to decrease from 10 servings of fish per week! “But they live longer in Japan.” He is cutting back on all animal but it is like pulling teeth!

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        I always tell my patients about how fish are the biotoxic accumulators of our environment because every single drug that People take and every single environmental toxin ends up in our oceans and hence, our fish. And then there is PHiP in all cooked meats that is very pro-inflammatory and all animal protein regardless of source turns on the genes that promote cancer, etc.

        But as the Buddhist proverb states, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

        And Confucius, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

        Remember life is wonderful in that we have free-will so as long as you provide the information you should feel great and not worry about the other person changing. You have planted a seed and some take longer to sprout than others.

        • Veganrunner

          Agreed.

    • Thea

      HemoDynamic: Awesome story!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share that. I love stories like that.

    • http://jolkapolkaskitchen.blogspot.com/ WholeFoodChomper

      What a fantastic anecdote! Reading this story made be feel good all over. What an amazing outcome for this patient. The power of healthy plant-based eating does not cease to amaze me. Keep sharing the positive anecdotes please!

  • Joel Kahn

    Just got to this but wow……. you keep your heart and pelvic arteries open with plants and you keep your tumor arteries closed with plants. How wonderful the body is

  • Fred Pollack

    From the 1st source cited (“Tumor angiogenesis as a target for dietary cancer prevention”), the lead author, Dr. Li, did a great Ted talk on this subject. It can be watched here: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html

  • Karen Pittenger

    I was wondering if there are any cookbooks you can recommend. Thanks!

    • Thea

      Karen: I appear to be addicted to vegan cookbooks. I have over 70 of them now. (Seriously addicted.) While I am by no means an expert and have had time to try only a small number of the recipes in all those books, here’s my favorite all-around cooking books so far:

      > Vegan on the Cheap
      > Happy Everyday Herbivore
      > Let Them Eat Vegan

      It’s hard to restrict to just three, but those would be my top three as of this moment. They are mostly whole-plant food based, but very do-able and most of the recipes I tried from these books come out to my liking. And best of all, I believe that the majority of the recipes in these books would fit with Dr. Greger’s nutrition recommendations. (Not that I am speaking for Dr. Greger.)

      I think this is a great question and hope that other people will chime in with their favorite books as well.

  • Frank V

    What is your opinion on the Ketogenic diet for the treatment of breast cancer?

  • p sully

    So what do you have to say about someone who is a total vegan and excersises daily in otherwise excellent health and ends up with breast cancer?

    • Thea

      p sully: I’m sorry to hear that you or someone you know has cancer.

      Here is how I explain this situation to people that I work with:

      People who smoke can live long lives without any lung cancer. And yet, people who smoke have dramatically more risk of developing lung cancer. Conversely, those who do not smoke have dramatically less *chances* of getting lung cancer. But even people who don’t smoke can and do get lung cancer.

      Diet is just like that. It is not a magic guarantee of anything. But ohhhh boy can a NutritionFacts diet *dramatically* decrease the risk of developing a range of major diseases, including cancer. Not a guaranteed, but wonderful insurance.

      That’s a perspective for you. I think I would also add that diet is just one factor in affecting diseases. It is a biggie. But not the only factor.

      I hope this reply helps and that whoever we are talking about experiences remission.

  • rick

    You say that diet etc. can prevent one third of cancers. I have been reading and hearing numbers much higher than that. I am more comfortable with what you say here. Would you tell where the number of one third comes from.

  • Kay

    Can a plant diet also inhibit the formation of new blood vessels for non cancer cells or does it just affect cancer growth?

  • http://treegrower.org/ Calvin Leman

    Maybe cancer cells serve a useful function we do not know?

  • punky

    I heard that veggie Diet cure cancer and there are Dr. that do this sore of thing to help people .

  • Tan

    One more for the good guys.

  • GeoffB

    The review you cited about rosemary being anti-angiogenic looks fascinating (Anti-angiogenic properties of carnosol and carnosic acid, two major dietary compounds from rosemary.) Any indication of how much should be consumed to receive the benefit?

  • http://areyoucleansed.awarenesslife.com/index.cfm?action=home&section=store Sandra Hall

    Excellent and short! Love this website!

  • D.A.

    What about benign tumors? Is anti-angiogenesis equally important for non cancerous tumors to grow? Can benign tumors perform apoptosis? A beloved family member is facing surgery for removal of a tumor (likely benign) pressing into the spinal column. This involves sawing off the back half of a vertebra to access it. Any ideas are welcome.

  • Beth

    Oooookay, the end remark promoted a vegan diet. I find that one claim might make your entire video biased. For everyone’s information, hunter-gatherer populations are the healthiest in the world, with incidences of cancer being rare. THOUSANDS of epidemiological studies on hunter-gatherers, their diet, correlation between vegetable intake and cancer, compounds in Brassica vegetables all point in one direction: vegetables (especially brassica vegetables like Broccoli) and fruit help prevent cancer. Because cancer is rare in hunter-gatherer populations who eat a traditional human diet of MEAT (wild meat that is), fruits, vegetables and nuts, you do not need to go vegan to prevent cancer. However, many studies have shown how unhealthy and cancer-promoting western, grain-fed, factory raised meat can be. The nutritional composition of our meat versus wild game, or traditionally raised meats, has dramatic differences, with the wild meats actually being good for you and the western raised meats not so good. No one needs to go vegan in order to prevent cancer. Just stop eating processed foods, cook your own food, try to eat grass-fed beef or pastured chickens, seafood, and eat fruits and vegetables 3 times a day each. Eat your broccoli raw for maximum absorbtion of glucosinolates (precursers to anti-cancer comounds).