Sathvika Gopalasetty is currently a junior in Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California with an immense interest in research and biology. Millions across the world, including several of her own family members, are suffering due to the widespread diseases of diabetes and cancer. Sathvika believes that there is a dire need for research in these fields, and is inspired to conduct and publish research to fulfill this need. Some topics she wants to delve deeper into within biology include cancer, stem cells, genetics, diabetes, and antibiotics.
Besides biology, Sathvika also enjoys computer programming and business. In the future, Sathvika is considering studying medicine, biotechnology, or computer science. Through extracurricular activities, including tutoring, debating, and extensive involvement in the Future Business Leaders of America club at her school, Sathvika has gained important life skills while making tons of friends. Sathvika's hobbies include playing soccer and art. She is also deeply connected to her Indian culture, routinely performing a classical Indian dance called Bharatanatyam and helping teach her native language, Telugu, through the Silicon Andhra Manabadi school. Sathvika is a well-rounded, dependable person who is always curious and enthusiastic to learn.
What is Cancer?
Normal cells divide methodically and die once they are worn out and damaged. Cancer occurs when genetic defects cause cells to become immortalized and grow out of control. These abnormal cancer cells rapidly multiply and spread, crowding out normal cells and disrupting their function. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the Western World. Almost 1.4 million people of all ages are diagnosed with cancer every year. There are over 100 different types of cancer, originating almost anywhere in the body and then spreading to other parts.All cancers respond to the environment in different ways and are best treated in different ways.The most common cancers include prostate cancer for men, breast cancer for women, and lung and colon cancer for both genders. Leukemia is common in children. The risk of developing this fatal disease during one’s lifetime is 50% for men and 33% for women, and a cure is yet to be found, representing an immense need for cancer research.
Most types of cancer form lumps called tumors, but not all tumors are cancer. There are two main kinds of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors are lumps that are not cancer. Benign tumors do not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic systems like cancer can. Most benign tumors grow slowly. Although benign tumors can be serious if they press on other structures, they can easily be treated and removed, most commonly through surgery.
|Seong, Joshua. Photo of Benign and Malignant Tumors. “Differences Between a
Malignant and Benign Tumor” by Seong, 2017.
Very Well Health, verywellhealth.com/what-does-malignant-and-benign-mean-514240.
|Seong, Joshua. Photo of Normal and Cancerous Cells. “Cancer Cells vs. Normal Cells:
How Are They Different?” by Seong, 2017.
Very Well Health, verywellhealth.com/cancer-cells-vs-normal-cells-2248794
Malignant tumors, contrary to benign tumors, are made up of cancer cells and have five main pathological criteria (also known as the hallmarks of cancer):
Malignant tumors generally experience rapid and uncontrollable growth. This is largely because malignant cell proliferation is deregulated. This results in uncontrollable cell division and rapid expansion of the tumor.
The continual proliferation of the malignant tumor cells and the progressive increase in tumor size eventually results in the tumor extending into neighboring tissues. Invasion refers to this process of direct extension of cancer cells into neighboring tissues, causing secondary tumors.
Metastasis describes the ability of cancer cells to rupture the extracellular matrix, enter the bloodstream or lymph nodes, and develop secondary tumors elsewhere in the body. The extracellular matrix is a large portion of extracellular space which is composed of a mixture of carbohydrate and protein molecules. Cells bind themselves to the extracellular matrix and to each other to form tissues, but metastasis requires these bonds to be broken.
Cancer cells have the ability to rupture these bonds due to the mutation of certain genes which normally bind cells to their neighboring cells and the abnormal synthesis of enzymes which degrade these bonds. Once the cancer cells are able to rupture the extracellular matrix and enter the bloodstream or lymph nodes, the cancer is able to spread to other organs. Generally, cancer spreads in a predictable route, sometimes called the “metastatic cascade”.For example, cancer induced in the spleen usually metastasizes to the liver. After cancer has metastasized, it becomes extremely difficult to control.
Even though cancer cells are abnormal, they still require a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. When the area of a tumor enlarges, some cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients as a result of being too far from a blood vessel. At this point, the tumor cells produce – or cause other cells to produce – growth factors which stimulate the formation of new blood vessels. This growth of new blood vessels within the tumor is known as angiogenesis. These new blood vessels absorb nutrients from normal host cells and thus, the tumor grows at the host’s expense.
Normal cells die by a process of programmed celldeath called apoptosis. When signs of abnormalities arise, in general, cells “self-destruct” through apoptosis. However, cancer cells are able to evade apoptosis and continue dividing,giving them immortality and enabling the tumor to grow. During apoptosis a cell’s chromatin is fragmented, its cytoplasm shrinks, and its membrane loses its asymmetry.
Types of Cancers
Histologically, there are over one hundred different types of cancers which are categorized in fivemajor groups: carcinomas, sarcomas, lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. Each of these categories of malignant tumors originate in different regions of the body and are differently shaped, as shown in the figure to the left.
Carcinomas are malignant tumors that are characterized by their polygonal-shaped cells. During embryogenesis, as the embryo develops, the original fertilized egg splits into three different tissues: the endoderm, the mesoderm, and the ectoderm. The ectoderm gives rise to the epithelial cells in the body. These are the cells which line the surfaces of the organs. Cancer that originates in epithelial surfaces, such as the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, biliary tract, and skin, or organs with epithelial-line ducts, such as the breast, pancreas, salivary gland, liver, etc., is called carcinoma. Endocrine glands may also give rise to carcinomas. There are two primary types of carcinomas: adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Adenocarcinomas form glandular configurations and squamous cell carcinomas form nests of cells with distinct borders, intercellular bridges, and pink keratinized cells.
Sarcomas are less common malignant tumors which arise from the mesoderm. The mesoderm is mainly composed of soft, connective tissue including bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. Sarcomas are generally composed of pleomorphic spindle-shaped cells. Sarcomas tend to be big and aggressive.
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system which affects the lymph nodes and lymphocytes, white blood cells which are important in fighting off infections. Since the cancer is already in the lymph nodes it can easily and quickly metastasize to various parts of the body. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the latter being more common. In Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer spreads in a predictable order, from one lymph node to the next. In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer spreads unpredictably and secondary tumors may arise in unconnected lymph nodes.
Similar to lymphoma, leukemia is cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues such as the bone marrow and lymphatic system. In patients with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells which do not function properly and crowd out the red blood cells and platelets your body needs to be healthy. Leukemia generally progresses slowly and is common in children.
Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are usually found in the bone marrow and bloodstream, and are an important part of the immune system. In multiple myeloma, rapidly growing plasma cells crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. Cancerous plasma cells tend to produce an abnormal protein known as the monoclonal immunoglobulin, which does not fight infection and has no real use, instead of polyclonal immunoglobulins, which are critical components of the immune response towards infectious agents. Symptoms of multiple myeloma include fatigue, sensitivity to infections, and pain.
The main cancer-causing agents arechemicals, radiation, and infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria. In rare cases, cancer may be caused by inherited genetic mutations.
Cancer is commonly caused by chemicals called carcinogens. The term "genotoxic carcinogen" refers to a chemical capable of producing cancer by directly creating a mutation, or altering the genetic material of a cell. On the other hand, a "non-genotoxic carcinogen" indicates a chemical capable of producing cancer indirectly, through a secondary method excluding gene damage. It is possible for carcinogens to enter your body through any component of the environment, including through indigestion, air, water, and occupational exposure.Drinking alcohol and smoking are common ways in which carcinogens enter the body. Lifestyle is extremely important in preventing cancer. People should avoid carcinogens in their diet and should refrain from smoking and drinking.
Certain wavelengths of radiation have enough energy to damage DNA and cause cancer. Ionizing radiation, or high-energy radiation, including radon, x-rays, and gamma rays, and nonionizing radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun may cause cancer.
In order to reproduce certain viruses must insert their own DNA or RNA into a host (normal) cell. In this process, the host cell may become cancer. Cancer-causing viruses include Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis B&C, and Human Papilloma. To reduce their risk of cancer, people should get vaccinated, practice safe sex, and refrain from sharing syringes, needles or other infected equipment that might have traces of blood on them. Bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori and Chlamydia trachomatis may also cause cancer.
Hereditary cancer may be caused by an inherited mutation from a parent. The inherited mutation puts one at higher risk for cancer. Hereditary cancer may not appear immediately after one is born, but rather cancer-causing gene mutations develop over the course of a lifetime and lead to cancer later in life.
Symptoms, Signs, and Diagnosis
Common symptoms of cancer include a hoarse voice, headaches, lumps, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, fever, pain, nausea, skin changes, and a change in appetite. Cancer can be diagnosed through X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. A common process of diagnosing cancer is to use a biopsy. This process involves a pathologist checking the cells in the tumor and determining if they are cancerous based on certain properties, such as the shape of the cell and the cell’s nucleus. Cancer can also be diagnosed by checking for increased levels of cancer markers, which are specific enzymes that cancer cells secrete into the blood. Common cancer markers include PSA, acid phosphatase, HCG, and C125. High levels of these enzymes can indicate the existence of cancer and also the cancer’s location. For example, PSA indicates prostate cancer and C125 indicates ovarian cancer.
Stages of Cancer
There are three stages of cancer: initiation, promotion, and progression. Initiation, the first stage of cancer, involves the alteration, change, mutation of genes arising spontaneously or induced by exposure to carcinogens. During the second stage of cancer, promotion, the tumor begins to grow. The tumor’s growth is aided by other chemicals in the body which may not necessarily be carcinogenic because on their own they cannot induce cancer.Progression is the final stage of cancer. This is the stage when there is a rapid increase in tumor growth. At this stage, the cells may undergo further mutations which give them invasive and metastatic potential (malignancy). Eventually, the cancer invades nearby tissue and spreads to other sites of the body through the bloodstream or lymph system in the process of metastasis.
Standard Treatment of Cancer
There are three primary ways that cancer is currently being treated: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The optimal treatment is dependent on the type of cancer. Some cancers respond better to surgery, others to chemotherapy, and others to radiation. Often, cancer patients are treated through multiple methods. The optimal treatment also depends on the stage of the cancer (how far it has spread). Despite billions of dollars spent on cancer research, a cure has not been discovered. Each of the primary current treatments solely offers short-term relief, instead of a cure, and death from cancer is continually increasing.
One therapy for cancer is the surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues. Surgical excision of a tumor, however, cannot be used if multiple tumors are present. Moreover, often,this method is not ideal because some cancer cells are left behind and the tumor regrows.
Another common treatment technique is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses powerful toxic chemicals to stop the growth of proliferating cancer cells. Some chemo can be given by intravenously (through the bloodstream), and others are a pill that you swallow. Chemotherapy is useful for cancer that has spread because chemotherapy agents travel to nearly all parts of the body. Chemotherapy agents cannot distinguish normal and malignant cells, resulting insevere unintended consequences such as severe anemia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, intestinal bleeding, hair loss, impaired immunity, infections, weakness, and fatigue. Chemotherapy agents cause liver and kidney damage, trigger new cancers, and facilitate metastasis. Despite the high cost of chemotherapy, cancer commonly reappears and chemotherapy is not effective in all types of cancers.
A final treatment method is radiation in which cancer cells are burned. This treatment is given similar to an x-ray or sometimes a “seed” is put inside the tumor to give off the radiation. The problem with this method is that radiation can be damaging to normal cells, destruct connective tissue, and actually facilitate the spread of cancer, infections, and bleeding. Radiation damages DNA and the immune system, potentially triggering new cancers. Radiation therapy may also leave some cancer cells behind, allowing the tumor to redevelop.
Standard treatments for cancer have far from a cure and in fact, 80% of cancer patients seek alternative therapies. Alternate therapies include:
Hyperthermia therapy is an alternative treatment for cancer, during which the tumor area is exposed to high, fever-like, temperatures. When fever-like symptoms appear, the body knows something is wrong, and if one’s immune system is strong, it becomes hypersensitive and kills cancer cells.
Immunotherapy improves or restores the body’s natural immune function in order to fight cancer. There are several types of immunotherapy including monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic therapies, oncolytic virus therapy, T-cell therapy, and cancer vaccines.
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure which is often used as an alternative to surgery for cancer patients. In this procedure, a thin needle is guided into the tumor. High-frequency energy is passed through the needle, heating up and killing the nearby cells.
Herbal Treatments and Natural Products
Alternate treatments for cancer also include using herbal treatments and non-toxic natural products. These treatments are able to inhibit cancer growth at various stages. Each cancer-treating natural product is only effective when used at a large dosage; however, a mix of several natural products can be effective at a small dosage due to the concept of synergism.
Dr. Rath Research Institute’s Nutrient Mixture
The scientists at the Dr. Rath Research Institute have been searching for an effective solution to cancer based on cellular medicine and nutrient synergy. They have developed a novel, non-toxicnutrient mixture effective in treating different types of cancerand affecting its various mechanisms. The nutrient mixture targets critical stages of cancer, which are invasion and metastasis. Metastasis is responsible for 90% of deaths from cancer. This natural mixture aims to increase the stability and integrity of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and connective tissue, which act as natural barriers to tumor invasion and metastasis. Specifically, the nutrients inhibit ECM digestive enzymes, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) andurokinase plasmin activators (uPA), and optimize collagen synthesis, which is important for healthy integrity of the ECM and connective tissue. The nutrients in the mixture work in synergy, simultaneously attacking multiple cancer mechanisms, increasing the mixture’s effectiveness in inhibiting invasion and metastasis.The nutrient mixture is composed of several vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and polyphenols: Vitamin C, L-Lysine, L-Proline, L-Arginine, N-Acetyl, L-Cysteine (NAC), Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Green Tea Extract (EGCG), and Quercetin.
Efficacy of the Nutrient MixtureAgainst Cancer
The nutrient mixture has been testedin vivo (in animals) and in vitro (in cell culture)for its effectiveness in inhibiting various mechanisms of cancer, thereby preventing/slowing down the spread of cancer. The nutrient mixture was found to be effective in inhibiting tumor proliferation, invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. Some of the experimental results are summarized below.
In Vitro – To test proliferation, 45 different cancer cell lines were treated with different doses of the nutrient mixture. The results showed that the nutrient mixture was able to inhibit cancer proliferation.
In Vivo – Female nude mice were injected subcutaneously with cancer cells through the xenograft method.Some miceserved as constants and were fed regular mouse chow, while the diet of the experimental group was supplemented with the nutrient mixture. Study of the tumor growth showed that the animals who were fed the nutrient mixture experienced less tumor growth than the constants. This result was also obtained when the cancer was chemically induced.
|Scratch||Control||1000 μg/ml NM|
In Vitro – Cancer cells were grown in petri dishes. In each dish, a streak was made, creating a zone without cells. In the petri dishes that which the nutrient mixture was not present in, the cells migrated and closed up the gap. With the nutrient mixture, the gap did not get filled up all the way, showing that the nutrient mixture was able to inhibit the spread of cancer.
Another experiment involved using a Matrigel, an extracellular matrix-coated vial, placed in media. Cancer cells were placed inside the Matrigel. The media in the experimental group contained the nutrient mixture. With the nutrient mixture, fewer cancer cells passed the Matrigel barrier.
In Vivo – Cancer cells were injected in mice through the tail vein of mice. The experimental group’s diet was supplemented with the nutrient mixture.Unlike the mice which were fed the nutrient mixture, the animals which were not fed the nutrient mixture developed cancer in the lung and liver.
In another experiment, cancer was induced in mice and the mice who received nutrient mixture supplementation had a stronger, more fibrous collagen border around the tumor as well as denser connective tissues in comparison with the control group. These attributes are natural barriers to invasion and metastasis.
In Vitro – Cancer cells produce certain enzymes, matrix metalloproteinases(MMPs), to break down the extracellular matrix (ECM). In the figures to the right, the first shows a weak ECM due to digestion by MMPs, and the second shows a strong, fibrous ECM border, which prevents metastasis. Thus, secretion of MMPs has been correlated with the aggressiveness of the tumor metastasis. Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) naturally inhibit MMPs and studies suggest that they can also regulate cell proliferation, apoptosis, pro-MMP-2 activation, and angiogenesis. In the in vitro test of metastasis, cancer cell lines were kept in a capsule and zymography was used to detect the secretion of MMP-2, MMP-9, and TIMP-2. Some cancer cell lines were treated with the nutrient mixture, and others served as controls.The results indicated that the nutrient mixture was capable of inhibiting the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9 and increasing the expression of TIMP-2 in the cancer cell lines, thereby impeding the digestion of the ECM, preventing the cancer cells from escaping into the bloodstream and lymph nodes, and regulating tumor metastasis. In a similar experiment, the nutrient mixture was shown to inhibit the expression of urokinase plasmin activator, which also plays a role in the digestion of the ECM.
In Vitro – The nutrient mixture showed effectiveness in inhibitingangiogenesis in an angiogenic test modelby inhibiting the formation of blood vessel tubules. In other studies, it was also demonstrated that the nutrient mixture was able to decrease the expression of pro-angiogenic factors, including vascular endothelial growth factor, angiopoietin-2, bFGF, platelet-derived growth factor, and transforming growth factor.
In Vivo – Mice were induced with cancer and a xenograft study of the tumors was conducted. Nutrient mixture supplemented mice grew fewer, less mature blood vessels than the control mice. Another study demonstrated that the nutrient mixture inhibited the formation of capillary tubes by human umbilical cord endothelial cells.
|Control||250 μg/ml NM||500 μg/ml NM|
In Vitro – To test the nutrient mixture’s effectiveness in causing cancer cells to conduct apoptosis, cancer cells in petri dishes were treated with different doses of the nutrient mixture and were studied by Live Green Poly Caspases Detection. In the photograph above, green indicates living cells and orange indicates cells that are dead by apoptosis.The results indicated that the nutrient mixture induces apoptosis in cancer cells.
Cancer is a devastating disease and despite years of research, a cure has not been found. Current cancer therapies cause severe side effects and are often ineffective since either the cancer reappears or a new cancer has been induced. For this reason, many have looked to alternative treatments for cancer, one of them being using natural products. The researchers at the Dr. Rath Research Institute have developed a nutrient mixture based on the concepts of cellular medicine and nutrient synergy. This nutrient mixture has proven to be extremely effective in inhibiting the five primary cancer mechanisms: proliferation, invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. The non-toxic nutrient mixture represents a unique opportunity to fight the fatal disease of cancer.