A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of flaxseeds in breast cancer patients finds flax appears to have the potential to reduce tumor growth in just a matter of weeks.
The population data looked so promising that researchers decided to put lignans to the test by feeding women flaxseeds, the most concentrated source of lignans, to see what would happen. The incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the Western world and there is an urgent need for such studies. One of the ways the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen works is by boosting the levels of angiogenesis inhibitors like endostatin, which is a protein the body makes to try to starve tumors of their blood supply.
Using a technique called microdialysis, you can stick a catheter into a woman's breast and kind of suck out some of the fluid bathing the breast cells. If you give women tamoxifen for 6 weeks, the levels of endostatin within the breast tend to go up, and the same thing happens when you instead add 3 and a half tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to their daily diet. The flaxseed doesn't seem as powerful as the chemo, but further study was definitely warranted, and here it is: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of flaxseeds in breast cancer patients.
Between the time of first biopsy and surgery, patients were randomized into either the treatment or the placebo group; either a flaxseed-containing muffin or a control placebo muffin. Again, why flaxseeds? It's the richest source of lignans, with levels up to 800 times higher than those in 66 other plant foods tested in the vegetarian diet.
They went all out: the muffins were wrapped up, labeled with numerical code, and the coded muffin packages were then dispensed. So what happened? Well, muffin compliance was good, in both groups. Remember they got a biopsy of the tumor before the study started, and then a little over a month later went in for surgery to get the tumor removed. So they had tumor samples before and after five weeks of flax or no flax. Those lucky enough to be randomized into the flax group saw, on average, their tumor cell proliferation go down, cancer cell death go up, and their c-erbB2 score go down, which is a marker of cancer aggressiveness and potential for forming metastases and spreading. They concluded: "Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer. And this was just in five weeks." If the therapeutic index seen in this short-term study can be sustained over a long-term period, flaxseed, which is inexpensive and readily available, may be a potential dietary alternative or adjunct to currently used breast cancer drugs."
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 Jonathan Hodgson.
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The population data I mention at the beginning is from the previous video Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence. And before that, the role lignan phytonutrients may play in prevention: Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Prevention.
I have some more videos coming up on the role diet plays in angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels to enable tumors to grow, but I have touched on it already in Cancer as an Autoimmune Disease and How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies.
The results here are similar to what was found with the other class of phytoestrogens found in soy (Breast Cancer Survival and Soy). A study similar to this was carried out in prostate cancer patients: Flaxseed vs. Prostate Cancer. This is the final video of a series on flax. Also feel free to check out the ones on diabetes and sensitive skin.
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