Enhances Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment Leading to Improved Survival in Cancer Patients
Lifestyle Medicine Update (April 20, 2022)
Source: MD Anderson Cancer Center (2022)
JAMES MESCHINO, DC, MS, ND
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A 2022 study from MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that Vitamin E supplementation can improve the therapeutic action of immunotherapy drugs in cancer patients being treated for melanoma (a lethal form of skin cancer). In fact, the patients treated with vitamin E supplements showed much higher survival rates than those treated with immunotherapy drugs alone. This finding was replicated in other patients who were being treated for breast, colon, and kidney cancers. The researchers indicated that dietary supplements are thought to boost immunity, but little is known about the effects of supplements on immunotherapy activity when they are combined to treat cancer patients.
In this study the researchers showed that in the patients who received vitamin E supplementation, their immune cells, called dendritic cells, sprung back into action, enabling them to kill and devour tumor cells much more efficiently than in patients treated with immunotherapy drugs alone. Dendritic cells are very important immune cells not only to fight existing cancers but to help prevent the development of cancer in the first place. Dendritic cells are part of the innate immune system, meaning they can kill invading viruses and other pathogens on contact, and can also kill emerging cancer cells in the body. They also stimulate other immune cells to mount an attack against invading viruses or cancer cells within the body.
As we get older, our immune cells become less efficient, but this study at MD Anderson Cancer Center has shown that dendritic cells can spring back to life in the presence of vitamin E supplementation, even in patients with cancer, such as melanoma. A precautionary note is that vitamin E should not be taken by patients undergoing many conventional cancer treatments (vitamin E succinate may be the exception, but that is a topic for another day). Regular vitamin E supplements may counter the effects of some standard chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatment. But in patients receiving immunotherapy (a different kind of cancer treatment aimed at boosting the body’s immune system to fight cancer) vitamin E supplementation appears to be very desirable I think the take-home message is that taking vitamin E supplements during your adult life makes sense to help keep your immune system strong and working properly to help defend against cancer and virulent infections. Many other nutrients also support your body’s immune system, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, and selenium. As such, I recommend taking a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral each day that includes 400 IU of vitamin E. My preference is for the product to contain vitamin E in the form of vitamin E succinate, which is the most promising form of vitamin E to help defend against cancer. I have included the reference from the MD Anderson Cancer Center study in the text below.
Xiangliang Yuan, Yimin Duan, Yi Xiao, Kai Sun, Yutao Qi, Yuan Zhang, Zamal Ahmed, Davide Moiani, Jun Yao, Hongzhong Li, Lin Zhang, Arseniy E. Yuzhalin, Ping Li, Chenyu Zhang, Akosua Badu-Nkansah, Yohei Saito, Xianghua Liu, Wen-Ling Kuo, Haoqiang Ying, Shao-Cong Sun, Jenny C. Chang, John A. Tainer, Dihua Yu. Vitamin E Enhances Cancer Immunotherapy by Reinvigorating Dendritic Cells via Targeting Checkpoint SHP1. Cancer Discovery, 2022. https://aacrjournals.org/cancerdiscovery/article-abstract/doi/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0900/694258/Vitamin-E-Enhances-Cancer-Immunotherapy-by?redirectedFrom=fulltext