Cancer patients who take high doses of antioxidants, such as vitamins A, B-carotene C, D, E, K and melatonin, experience a marked reduction in some of the more toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy, according to an academic review.
The review, conducted by researchers from D.Y. Patil University, analysed 138 peer-reviewed articles, including clinical trials, and found that 88% reported antioxidant supplementation reduced toxicities induced by chemotherapeutic agents.
According to the authors of the review, in the past cancer doctors had been reluctant to recommend antioxidant supplementation to their patients for fear it might work to protect not just healthy cells, but also the tumorous cells. This would counteract what the chemotherapy treatment was trying to achieve.
“The lack of enthusiasm among clinical oncologists for using high doses of antioxidant vitamins in combination with chemotherapy is primarily based on fear that antioxidant vitamins may protect both normal and cancer cells against free radicals which are generated by most of the chemotherapeutic agents,” the authors said.
However 70% of the 130 peer-reviewed papers studied in the review found that the therapeutic efficiency of chemotherapy actually increased – not decreased – with antioxidant supplementation. The authors suggest this may be due to the way antioxidants bolster and support the body’s natural defences and resilience.
“…our comprehensive data therefore suggests that antioxidants do not interfere with chemotherapy and can be prescribed during clinical setting to increase the standard of life.”
The authors admit it’s not clear why antioxidants protect healthy cells and not malignant ones and recommend more study needs to be done in this area so that patients can safely take high dose vitamin supplements within prescribed guidelines.
“The clinical cancer research community should cooperate and focus new studies on the use of a specific combination of antioxidant in chemotherapy, and determine optimal doses of antioxidant for a specific cancer setting.”
Nausea and vomiting are the two most common side effects of chemotherapy treatment along with diarrhea and constipation. Chemotherapy can also damage the cardiovascular system and can lead to liver and kidney toxicity.