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CAM & Life Style or Side Effects > Chemo-protection?

Last update: 12/20/2012  

Biologics | Chemo-protective drugs | Chemo-enhancing drugs? | 
| Fish oil? | Glutamine/Whey?

The abstracts within do not demonstrate proof of benefit or absence of risk.  
See Evaluating Medical Claims & Data for details.

Chemotherapy - systemic treatment with a variety of chemical agents - is commonly used to treat patients with lymphomas and other cancers.  For lymphomas, chemotherapies are often particularly effective. 

Chemo-protective: a quality of some drugs, foods, or lifestyles that may protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer drugs, or carcinogens in the environment.

                                 Topic Search: PubMed | Web  and see Diet & Exercise

Chemo-enhancement: a property of some drugs, foods, or lifestyles that may increase the effectiveness of anticancer drugs by increasing uptake of the drugs into cancer cells, or making the cells more sensitive to the effects. 

it is always possible that interventions with chemo-protective & -enhancing properties may have unintended adverse consequences when used when receiving treatments. Only well- designed clinical trials can provide the data for informed use. 

IMPORTANT: Discussion of the use of supplements with your physicians is particularly important when undergoing treatment.

The purpose of this page is to provide links to reputable sources of information on practices that may protect them from side effects and/or enhance the effects of chemotherapy. We hope the summary and sources will assist patients in consultations with their doctors to make better-informed decisions. 


Biologics, with trade names such as Neumega, Neupogen, and Procrit can help to restore blood counts, and protect you from many side effects associated with chemotherapy. Importantly, these new therapies can help to keep you on treatment schedule, which could be important to how effective your treatment will be.  
See Biologics for details.


Safer drugs formulations and chemoprotectives: 

Amifostine - protect the kidneys against the harmful effects of the cancer-fighting drug cisplatin - MedlinePlus
Liposome versions of chemotherapy agents *may* reduce side effects without compromising efficacy.

Chemo-enhancing drugs:


Xcytrin - (motexafin gadolinium) (investigational)

Antioxidants use with chemotherapy is a controversial subject. Please consult with your physician before self-administering antioxidants or any supplement, especially during treatment.  
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Some recent studies suggest that antioxidants may enhance chemotherapy; and that oxidative stress can interfere with chemotherapy induced apoptosis.  Importantly, high doses of one antioxidant, Vitamin C, results in oxidative effects  (opposite of antioxidant).  This adds to the complexity and confusion for both patients and physicians.  

Related Studies:
Chamomile to help prevent or heal mucositis?- See Chamomile
Detailed Study of Anti-Oxidants - Lamson, MS, ND and Brignall, ND
Induction of apoptosis by chemotherapeutic drugs without generation of reactive oxygen species. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2002 Jan 15;397(2):262-72. PMID: 11795881 - PubMed
Vitamin E [topical]  in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced mucositis. Am J Med 1992;92:4814.  abstract
Also see Silymarin
Worrisome supplements - Fred Hutchinson CRC
This link describes concerns with antioxidant use.
Fish Oil?
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There is some scientific data suggesting that supplementing with fish oil (docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids) might enhance the efficacy of some chemotherapy agents and that it might protect against some side effects..

CAUTION: Fish oil consumption may increase the risk of bleeding in susceptible individuals, and interactions with other chemotherapy agents is not well known.

See Fish oil & Lymphoma - abstracts
Whey Protein?
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Glutamine may compliment chemotherapy and lessen side effects.

CAUTION: Glutamine might stimulate the growth of some types of malignant cells, therefore it may not be wise to supplement with this amino acid during watch & wait status.

Related studies:
Oral supplementation with whey proteins increases plasma glutathione levels of HIV-infected patients. Eur J Clin Invest. 2001 Feb;31(2):171-8. abstract
Total parenteral nutrition with glutamine in bone marrow transplantation and other clinical applications (a randomized, double-blind study) JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1993 Sep-Oct;17 abstract
Oral and parenteral glutamine in bone marrow transplantation: a randomized, double-blind study -  JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 1999
Disclaimer:  The information on is not intended to be a substitute for 
professional medical advice or to replace your relationship with a physician.
For all medical concerns, you should always consult your doctor. 
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