Cancer drugs vs. natural remedies for cancer

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

There are approximately 183 types of cancers listed on the National Cancer Institutes (NCI) website. If you think about it for a second, it is a lot of cancer to deal with. But not all cancers are equally frequent. For example, approximately 13% of all cancer cases are lung cancer in the USA but 25% of all cancer deaths are from lung cancer. In contrast, more than 15% of all new cancer cases are breast cancers but 7% of all cancer related deaths are from breast cancer. There are many reasons for such an outcome, but mainly the higher death rate with lung cancer can be attributed to late diagnosis of the disease. Most of the time it is stage 4 before it is diagnosed and at that point the disease prognosis is poor.

Nonetheless, cancer is not a death sentence anymore. In the past 25 years the mortality rate from cancer has dropped by 25%. This is solely due to increased cancer research and new cancer drug discovery as well as better cancer management capabilities. Definitely more cancer research is required and more new cancer drugs need to be discovered. I am confident we are on the right track. To learn more about latest cancer drugs and treatment outcomes, check out the Priority Reports that we have prepared mainly for patients to understand their cancer treatment options.

FDA approved cancer drugs work and we know it

There are numerous FDA-approved cancer drugs to treat different types of cancer and different stages of cancer. For example, there are 36 FDA approved drugs to treat lung cancer and 39 FDA approved drugs to treat breast cancer at different stages. There are drugs for first line treatment in addition to surgical removal of the tumor and radiation therapy. Then there are drugs to treat recurrent and refractory cancers.

Cancer drugs used in chemotherapy is cytotoxic. It damages the DNA in the cells. Fast dividing cells, such as cancer cells, cannot divide anymore unless they repair the DNA damages. But usually their DNA repair system is defective, so they end up dying via programmed cell death (apoptosis). The most used chemotherapy drug for cancer treatment is platinum drugs, such as cisplatin, oxaliplatin and carboplatin.

Cancer immunotherapy uses the immune system to target and kill cancer cells. Keytruda is a good example of an immunotherapy drug, The immunotherapy cancer drugs stop the cancer cells from hiding from the immune system.

The future combination therapy with chemotherapy and immunotherapy seems very promising in targeting and treating cancer.

There is another type of cancer drugs, called the kinase inhibitors, also often called the targeted therapy. Kinases are enzymes that stimulate cell growth and are mutated in many cancers. These mutations in these kinases allow the cancer cells to grow rapidly. By blocking the signal with a drug, the growth of the cancer cells can be stopped.

Cancer drugs do not work forever. Although there are a lot of maintenance therapy drugs approved and shows great efficacy in keeping patients cancer free, but eventually all cancers come back. Statistically cancers come back within 5 - 20 years. The same cancer drug cannot be used anymore when the cancer relapses. Because the cancer cells are resistant to that drug previously used. Once the cancer cells become chemoresistant, the prognosis is poor. But will all the cancer drugs between the first line therapy, second line therapy and third line therapy, it has been possible to increase the lifespan and quality of life of cancer patients.

What are natural remedies for cancer treatment? Do they really exist?

Natural remedies for cancer is an extremely sought after thing. Natural remedies does not present the harsh side effects seen from chemotherapy or other therapies. But there is hardly any natural remedy for cancer that is as effective as cancer drugs. There are many natural products that show promise in cancer management. But the amount of natural product one needs to consume is enormous to see any clinical benefit.

There are natural compounds and plant-based compounds which inhibit tumor growth. For example, ursolic acid, curcumin and resveratrol were shown to have an anti-tumor effects on prostate cancer growth in mice (see publication). It seems that increasing the consumption of natural compounds and phyto-chemicals may help prevent a certain percentage of cancers. But may be, as of today, the use of natural compounds to treat cancer is not as effective as FDA approved cancer drugs.

Maybe in the future there will be more evidence of clinical benefit from using natural compounds for cancer treatment. The therapeutic use of natural compounds to treat cancer is intriguing because of the significantly low toxicity compared to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Perhaps the most popular natural compound for cancer treatment is cannabis and cannabis derived product. Cannabis products are natural products that are being used to treat disease for thousands of years. Studies suggest that natural product cannabis is effective in pain management. More information on pain management can be found on However, there are peer-reviewed publications (see publication) suggesting that cannabis use during immunotherapy reduces the overall survival significantly.

While you may find a lot of personal stories about successful cancer battles in social media such as Facebook and Instagram or Twitter vouching for protocols using natural remedies, there may not be any peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that those protocols work better compared to FDA-approved drug regimens. Detailed information research may be the only way to determine what works best for you. If you need help researching cancer treatments please do not hesitate to visit and contact us.

In summary, I am advocating the use of evidence based approach when it comes to cancer therapy. As unfortunate and psychologically distressing cancer is, we can never lose hope. We need to to keep fighting. Every single day in this beautiful world matters. It matters to your family and loved ones.


Author: Anirban Mukherjee, PhD

The author is a research scientist at University of Texas at Austin researching novel drugs to to treat and manage chemoresistant forms of cancer.

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#Cancer #Chemotherapy #NaturalRemedies #cancerdrugs #immunotherapy

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