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Radiation and the Brain for pediatric cancer- late stage side effects

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If your child undergoes aggressive therapies for pediatric cancer including chemo or radiation, he/she may experience a lifetime of late stage side effects.

The good news is that there are therapies to take during or after toxic therapies that have shown the ability to either reduce or eliminate these side effects. The bad news is that some of these therapies are based on research, non-conventional but not FDA approved.

I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma at the age of 34. Technically I fell into the Adolescent and Young Adult cancer age group. Not the pediatric cancer age group. However I have lived with several long-term and late stage side effects from the conventional therapies I underwent from my diagnosis until late 1996. I live with brain damage, heart damage, nerve damage and I am at much higher risk of several secondary cancers.

I am also a cancer coach. I have spent years researching and working with my fellow cancer patients to reduce or eliminate the collateral damage that can accompany chemotherapy and radiation.

A great example of an evidence-based, non-toxic therapy that reduces the toxicity of chemo and radiation is curcumin. I began supplementing with curcumin in ’06.  LEF SuperBio Curcumin is more absorbable than plan curcumin and has been evaluated and approved by consumerlab.com.

To learn more about non-conventional cancer therapies or therapies to reduce or eliminate toxic side effects from conventional treatments scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Toxic therapies carry the risk of harmful side effects. The challenge is to 1) understand all side effect risks and then 2) choose therapies with what you consider the best potential risk vs reward outcome. The article/studies linked below compares two different types of radiation therapy in addition to the areas radiated and the risk of cognitive decline in children and adult cancer survivors. In addition, please consider the option of forgoing radiation altogether as discussed in the article at the bottom.

Radiation-induced cognitive decline

Radiation-induced cognitive decline describes the possible correlation between radiation therapy and mild cognitive impairment. Radiation therapy is used mainly in the treatment of cancer. Radiation therapy can be used to cure care or shrink tumors that are interfering with quality of life. Sometimes radiation therapy is used alone; other times it is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and surgery. For people with brain tumors, radiation can be an effective treatment because chemotherapy is often less effective due to the blood–brain barrier.[citation needed] Unfortunately for some patients, as time passes, people who received radiation therapy may begin experiencing deficits in their learning, memory, and spatial information processing abilities. The learning, memory, and spatial information processing abilities are dependent on proper hippocampus functionality. Therefore, any hippocampus dysfunction will result in deficits in learning, memory, and spatial information processing ability…”

Proton RT Less Harmful to Kids’ Brains

“Children with brain tumors had stable cognitive function with proton irradiation, whereas photon radiotherapy was associated with significant decline in IQ, a retrospective study showed…

“IQ remained generally stable for the proton group in the first 3 years’ post-radiation therapy,” Kahalley said. “In contrast, photon is associated with significant cognitive risk, with IQ scores declining by more than half a standard deviation with each additional year post photon…

Although an essential treatment modality for many pediatric brain tumors, radiation therapy carries a risk of neurocognitive decline as a late adverse effect. A child’s IQ declines by 2 to 4 points per year after radiation therapy, and the risk increases with younger age at treatment, higher radiation therapy doses, and larger irradiated brain volumes

Protecting Specific Area of the Brain During Radiation Therapy Substantially Reduces Memory Loss

“Protecting the stem cells that reside in and around the hippocampus — a C-shaped area in the temporal lobe on both sides of the brain associated with the ability to form and store memories — substantially reduces the rate of cancer patients’ memory loss during whole-brain radiotherapy without a significant risk of recurrence in that area of the brain, a new study shows…”Memory loss, especially short-term recall, is an important consideration for patients receiving whole-brain radiotherapy,”  “We found that reducing the radiation dose to the stem-cell niches surrounding the hippocampus during treatment was clearly associated with memory preservation without an inordinate risk of relapse in that portion of the brain.

Patients in the study, the majority of them with lung cancer that had spread to the brain, were treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which enabled doctors to shape the radiation beams to avoid the hippocampus. Researchers used a standardized cognitive function assessment — the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (HVLT) — to measure patients’ baseline memory, such as their ability to recall information immediately or after a delay, with follow-up at two, four and six months.”

Cognitive Outcomes Following Contemporary Treatment Without Cranial Irradiation for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

“Treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has included the use of prophylactic cranial irradiation in up to 20% of children with high-risk disease despite known cognitive risks of this treatment modality…

Conclusions Omitting cranial irradiation may help preserve global cognitive abilities, but treatment with chemotherapy alone is not without risks. Caregiver education and development of interventions should address both early attention deficits and cognitive late effects.”

Long-term survival among patients with most common childhood brain tumor is high; lower if treatment included radiation

“The first comprehensive, large-scale cohort study of the long-term survival of children treated for low-grade gliomas, the most common pediatric brain tumor, finds that almost 90 percent are alive 20 years later and that few die from the tumor as adults. However, children who received radiation as part of their treatment had significantly low
er long-term survival rates than children who were not radiated, researchers from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center report. These findings stand regardless of whether surgeons could successfully remove a child’s entire tumor or only part of it, suggesting that the radiation itself may explain the difference…”

The Most BioAvailable Curcumin Formulas

“Based on a review of these studies, it is evident that better bioavailability of formulated curcumin (CU) products is mostly attributed to improved solubility, stability, and possibly low first-pass metabolism”

A search of the Pubmed database for the word curcumin yields 601 studies spaning health topics from multiple myeloma and colorectal cancer, to chemotherapies that synergizes with CU, to Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis and more. Based on years of reading studies and personal accounts, I think it is safe to say that CU supplementation is safe and relatively inexpensive.

I have read about myeloma patients taking daily doses of CU from 400 milligrams to 8 grams (1000 milligrams = 1 gram). By almost any measure, CU is a safe, inexpensive wonder drug.

The only challenge is that CU is famously difficult to absorb in the body. In other words, a person has to mix curcumin with some sort of fat (coconut oil, chocolate, etc.) or take a brand of curcumin capsule that is already formulated to be more “bioavailable” in order to derive the full benefit of CU.

The study linked and exerpted below reviews different formulations of CU. The study itself lists the three most bioavailable formulation/brand of CU and I’ve added an excerpt from a further review from Consumerlab.com that lists four additional bioavailable brands of CU.

Recommended Reading:


CU is a bright yellow chemical produced by some plants. It is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric (Curcuma longa), a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is sold as an herbal supplement, cosmetics ingredient, food flavoring, and food coloring.[1]

Bioavailable curcumin formulations: A review of pharmacokinetic studies in healthy volunteers.

“Curcumin is a widely studied natural compound which has shown tremendous in vitro therapeutic potential. Despite that, the clinical efficacy of the native CU is weak due to its low bioavailability and high metabolism in the gastrointestinal tract. During the last decade, researchers have come up with different formulations with a focus on improving the bioavailability of curcumin. As a result, a significant number of bioavailable curcumin-based formulations were introduced with the varying range of enhanced bioavailability.

The purpose of this review is to collate the published clinical studies of CU products with improved bioavailability over conventional (unformulated) CU. Based on the literature search, 11 curcumin formulations with available human bioavailability and pharmacokinetics data were included in this review. Further, the data on clinical study design, analytical method, pharmacokinetic parameters and other relevant details of each formulation were extracted.

Based on a review of these studies, it is evident that better bioavailability of formulated curcumin products is mostly attributed to improved solubility, stability, and possibly low first-pass metabolism. The review hopes to provide a quick reference guide for anyone looking information on these bioavailable curcumin formulations.

Based on the published reports,

exhibited over 100-fold higher bioavailability relative to reference unformulated CU. Suggested mechanisms accounting for improved bioavailability of the formulations and details on the bioanalysis methods are also discussed.”

According to Consumerlab.com:

“Novasol has the highest bioavailability (185 x compared to unforumulated CU), followed by Curcuwin (136 x), Longvida (100 x), Meriva (48 x), BCM-95 (27 x), Curcumin C3 Complex + Bioperene (20 x), and then Theracumin (16 x).”

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