Aloe for the Treatment of Advanced Metastatic Cancer

Aloe for the Treatment of Advanced Metastatic Cancer
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What are the effects of aloe on radiation burns caused by cancer treatment and on the cancer itself?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Worldwide attention was drawn to the possible value of [aloe] after the Second World War, when skin burns of victims of the atomic bombs on Japan were [evidently] successfully treated with [aloe vera] gel.” But you don’t really know for sure, until you put it to the test.

Today, most radiation burns are caused by doctors giving radiation treatments for cancer. These can cause severe, painful, scarring skin reactions that can interfere with the therapy. Yet, sadly, we have yet to come up with good “prophylactic skin treatment measures to prevent [this] radiation[-induced] skin toxicity.” Enter aloe vera gel, used on skin burns “for centuries.” So, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was performed: aloe vera gel versus a placebo gel, and no benefit was found.

“After the completion of [the study, though,] many clinicians involved felt that the patients participating in [the] trial had less” skin inflammation than normal across the board, suggesting that maybe the placebo gel was helping too. So, to their credit, they actually ran a second experiment to see if aloe was better than nothing. And, once again, aloe appeared to have no effect at all. “[I]n both trials the…severity scores were virtually identical”—meaning aloe vera gel simply didn’t work.

What about an even larger trial? Hundreds of patients randomized to aloe vera gel or just like plain skin lotion, not only during the radiation treatments, but extending for two weeks afterwards. And, the skin lotion placebo worked even better, in terms of reducing skin peeling and pain. And so, yet again, aloe failed. And, indeed, if you do a systematic review of all such studies, there is simply “no evidence” suggesting aloe is helpful.

Head and neck cancer patients suffer the additional burden of radiation damage to the lining of their mouth and throat, and aloe didn’t seem to help with that either.

Okay. So, aloe may not help with cancer treatment, but how about helping with the cancer itself? In a petri dish, aloe inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells, and lung cancer cells. So, is aloe vera a natural cancer soother? Unfortunately, “in vitro potency [meaning like petri dish studies] often fails to translate to the clinic,” because the compounds aren’t bioavailable enough to build up to test-tube-levels within the tumor in the body. So, while “[s]ome studies suggest an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells in vitro…evidence from clinical trials [was] lacking.” Until…1998.

Fifty patients with advanced untreatable cancer treated with melatonin, which they thought might boost anticancer immunity, or melatonin with about 20 drops of an aloe extract twice a day, which they made by soaking one part aloe leaves to nine parts 40 proof alcohol. And, the aloe group appeared to do better—nearly twice as likely to either have “a partial response,” or at least some stabilization. And, the most important outcome: improved survival.

Here are the survival curves. So, for example, six months out, 80% of the aloe group were still alive, whereas more than half of the non-aloe group were dead. The researchers conclude that melatonin and aloe “may be recommended…[to] patients with very advanced untreatable [cancers] since it didn’t seem to cause any bad side effects, and seemed to help.

We don’t know if the aloe helps on its own, though, and a subsequent study by the same group muddied the waters further by adding a third component, a tincture of myrrh. But, the main problem with these studies is that they weren’t randomized. So, if sicker patients were intentionally—or unintentionally—placed in the non-aloe control group, that could explain the apparent aloe benefit. The problem is that there had never been any randomized studies of aloe for advanced cancers, until…now (or at least 2009), which we’ll cover, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: WildVeganGarden via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Worldwide attention was drawn to the possible value of [aloe] after the Second World War, when skin burns of victims of the atomic bombs on Japan were [evidently] successfully treated with [aloe vera] gel.” But you don’t really know for sure, until you put it to the test.

Today, most radiation burns are caused by doctors giving radiation treatments for cancer. These can cause severe, painful, scarring skin reactions that can interfere with the therapy. Yet, sadly, we have yet to come up with good “prophylactic skin treatment measures to prevent [this] radiation[-induced] skin toxicity.” Enter aloe vera gel, used on skin burns “for centuries.” So, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was performed: aloe vera gel versus a placebo gel, and no benefit was found.

“After the completion of [the study, though,] many clinicians involved felt that the patients participating in [the] trial had less” skin inflammation than normal across the board, suggesting that maybe the placebo gel was helping too. So, to their credit, they actually ran a second experiment to see if aloe was better than nothing. And, once again, aloe appeared to have no effect at all. “[I]n both trials the…severity scores were virtually identical”—meaning aloe vera gel simply didn’t work.

What about an even larger trial? Hundreds of patients randomized to aloe vera gel or just like plain skin lotion, not only during the radiation treatments, but extending for two weeks afterwards. And, the skin lotion placebo worked even better, in terms of reducing skin peeling and pain. And so, yet again, aloe failed. And, indeed, if you do a systematic review of all such studies, there is simply “no evidence” suggesting aloe is helpful.

Head and neck cancer patients suffer the additional burden of radiation damage to the lining of their mouth and throat, and aloe didn’t seem to help with that either.

Okay. So, aloe may not help with cancer treatment, but how about helping with the cancer itself? In a petri dish, aloe inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells, and lung cancer cells. So, is aloe vera a natural cancer soother? Unfortunately, “in vitro potency [meaning like petri dish studies] often fails to translate to the clinic,” because the compounds aren’t bioavailable enough to build up to test-tube-levels within the tumor in the body. So, while “[s]ome studies suggest an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells in vitro…evidence from clinical trials [was] lacking.” Until…1998.

Fifty patients with advanced untreatable cancer treated with melatonin, which they thought might boost anticancer immunity, or melatonin with about 20 drops of an aloe extract twice a day, which they made by soaking one part aloe leaves to nine parts 40 proof alcohol. And, the aloe group appeared to do better—nearly twice as likely to either have “a partial response,” or at least some stabilization. And, the most important outcome: improved survival.

Here are the survival curves. So, for example, six months out, 80% of the aloe group were still alive, whereas more than half of the non-aloe group were dead. The researchers conclude that melatonin and aloe “may be recommended…[to] patients with very advanced untreatable [cancers] since it didn’t seem to cause any bad side effects, and seemed to help.

We don’t know if the aloe helps on its own, though, and a subsequent study by the same group muddied the waters further by adding a third component, a tincture of myrrh. But, the main problem with these studies is that they weren’t randomized. So, if sicker patients were intentionally—or unintentionally—placed in the non-aloe control group, that could explain the apparent aloe benefit. The problem is that there had never been any randomized studies of aloe for advanced cancers, until…now (or at least 2009), which we’ll cover, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: WildVeganGarden via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

Here are the links to the videos I mentioned: Is Aloe Vera Gel the Best Treatment for Lichen Planus? and Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?.

 

Can Aloe Cure Cancer? Watch the video to find out.

 

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

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