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Antioxidant Supps to Enhance Myeloma Chemo- Reduce Side Effects

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“The authors concluded that there was no evidence of a detriment to chemotherapy efficacy. Indications of improved outcomes (reduced side effects) were found with antioxidant supplementation”

Chemotherapy causes short, long-term and late-stage side effects. Oncologists don’t dispute this. What is disputed is antioxidant supplementation DURING chemotherapy. Some oncologists believe that antioxidant supplementation interferes with chemotherapy and other oncologists recommend antioxidant supplementation to their patients. According to the study below, antioxidants enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy while they reduce the toxicity and side-effects of that chemotherapy.

Full transparency-I am a long-term multiple myeloma (MM) survivor. I live with severe long-term side effects including chemo-induced cardiomyopathy, chemobrain, peripheral neuropathy, risk of treatment-related secondary cancer and hemorrhagic cystitis. Based on many studies I have read, I believe that these side effects could have been minimized or prevented had I supplemented with specific antioxidants.

Over the years living with incurable cancer, and working with MM patients, I’ve read dozens of studies that support antioxidation before, during and after traditional cancer therapies.

One of the first questions MM patients and survivors should ask their oncologists is whether the recommended surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation the oncologist is prescribing is “curative.” Meaning if you undergo the chemo what are your chances of being alive in five years? If your oncologist tells you that the chemotherapy he/she is recommending won’t cure you and may even harm you, you may wonder how to enhance the efficacy of your chemotherapy while you reduce its toxicity and risk of side effects.

I am both a multiple myeloma survivor and MM cancer coach. I supplement with many of those antioxidants mentioned below. I have remained in complete remission from my “incurable” cancer since early 1999. 

To learn more about your MM treatment and what antioxidant supplements may enhance YOUR chemotherapy regimen scroll down the page, post a question or a comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • Long-term MM Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:


Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic toxicity: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials.

“This well-conducted review assessed concurrent antioxidant supplementation in chemotherapy for cancer patients. The authors concluded that there was no evidence of a detriment to chemotherapy efficacy. Indications of improved outcomes were found with supplementation, but further adequately powered trials were required. These cautious conclusions are likely to be reliable…

Included studies assessed the antioxidants: glutathione, melatonin, vitamin A, vitamin C, N-Acetylcysteine, vitamin E, ellagic acid and mixed interventions. All studies used placebo comparators. A wide range of chemotherapeutic regimes was used. Principal agents included oxaliplatin, cisplatin combined with etoposide and fluorouracil, mitomycin, gemcitabine, doxorubicin, paclitaxel, mitoxantrone, vinorelbine, busulfan, cyclophosphamide combined with methotrexate and fluorouracil, and CPT-11. A number of types of cancer were represented, most commonly including breast, lung and gastric cancers. Most patients had relapsed or advanced cancer. Neurotoxicity and chemotherapy completion were assessed as secondary outcomes…

Glutathione (seven RCTs): two of six RCTs found statistically significantly lower levels of neurotoxicity in the interventions groups (p = 0.0001 and p = 0.01). The direction of effect was the same in the studies showing non-significant results. One RCT found significantly higher chemotherapy completion rates in the intervention group (58 percent versus 39 percent, p = 0.04), with a significantly lower rate of non-completion due to nephrotoxicity (p = 0.012). There were no significant differences in survival or response rate, although one subgroup analysis in one RCT showed an increased complete response rate (p = 0.014).

Melatonin (four RCTs): three RCTs reported statistically significant improved survival either at one year (two RCTs, p < 0.05 and p < 0.001) or five years (one RCT, p< 0.001) in the intervention groups. The final study reported a significantly higher rate of disease stabilization in the melatonin group (p< 0.05).

Mixed interventions (two RCTs): one RCT evaluated vitamins C and E with beta-carotene and the other assessed vitamins C and E with selenium. No significant differences between the groups were observed.

Vitamin E (one RCT): there was a significantly lower rate of neurotoxicity in the supplement group (31 percent versus 86 percent, p< 0.01). There was no significant difference in tumor response between the groups.

Ellagic acid (one RCT): there was a significantly lower rate of neutropenia in the supplement group (33 percent versus 75 percent, p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in complete response rate or two-year survival rate between the groups.

Vitamin A (two RCTs): one RCT found a higher rate of complete response in the supplement group (38 per cent versus 15 per cent, P < 0.02) and a higher projected 43-month survival rate (93 per cent versus 30 per cent, p < 0.02) and these outcomes also showed significant differences for a postmenopausal subgroup; the second RCT found no significant differences in efficacy outcomes, but a lower rate of grade 2 or higher toxicities in the supplement group (4 per cent versus 23 per cent, p = 0.002).

No significant differences between the groups were observed for N-acetylcysteine (one RCT) or vitamin C (one RCT).

Authors’ conclusions

There was no evidence of significant decreases in the efficacy of chemotherapy with antioxidant supplementation. There were some indications of improvements in survival, tumor response and incidence of toxicity, but studies were underpowered. Large well-designed studies of concurrent antioxidant supplementation in chemotherapy are required.”

Antioxidants: The Good Health Helpers

“Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that block the activity of other chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals are formed naturally in the body and actually play an important role in many everyday processes, such as exercise and metabolism. But at high concentrations, they can be hazardous to your health, with the potential to cause cell damage that could lead to cancer

Well-known dietary antioxidants and their sources include:

  • Beta-carotene: carrots, squashes, sweet potatoes.
  • Lycopene: pink grapefruit, tomatoes (cooked), watermelon.
  • Lutein: most leafy green vegetables.
  • Selenium: grains, protein sources, nuts, legumes.
  • Vitamin A: butter, eggs, milk, liver.
  • Vitamin C: berries, oranges and other citrus, cantaloupe, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, papaya, tomatoes.
  • Vitamin E: almonds, hazelnuts, other nuts and seeds and their oils.

There are actually hundreds of antioxidants. Many are categorized as phenols, polyphenols and flavonoids. And unlike vitamins, it’s not possible to capture them all in a supplement, so boosting the quality of your diet is a must…”

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