There is a recent TED talk discussing how eating certain foods can prevent tumours from attracting a blood supply and growing. As with many things in science, the reality is not that simple, thousands of labs all over the world are working on treatments that aim to stop tumours attracting their own blood supply so called anti-angiogenics (anti means against, angio means blood vessel and genesis means built from scratch (as in Adam and Eve)) You can hear anti-angiogenic pronounced on howoujsay.
Before you watch this talk, I want you to know that anti-angiogenics are not as straightforward as they sound. In some cases using drugs to block blood supply actually MAKES tumours grow, there is more information on the Cancer Research UK website, in a press release called the paradox of cancer drugs gives clue to why some treatments fail and they also have a short article on changing your diet after cancer treatment. There is more recent research published in April this year in Cancer Cell that argues anti-angiogenics alone should not be prescribed as they can cause some tumours to grow faster, even after you stop taking the drug.
I watched the TED talk and while interesting, I didn’t feel it was that ground breaking. Nothing in it alters the advice to eat a balanced diet and include as many different fruits and vegetables in your diet as you can. Diet can influence cancers that affect epithelial cells, as these are the sort of cells that line your stomach and come in to contact with food. There is not good evidence to suggest that diet affects other types of cancers, in fact in recent years the role of diet has been downgraded. If you are at all interested in this subject read this article called “Diet, nutrition and cancer: Public, media and scientific confusion” in the Annals of Oncology, it clearly sets out the limits of what we know and argues that we are far better off targeting resources at anti-smoking campaigns as tobacco is still responsible for a third of cancer deaths in high income countries. If you want to read the WCRF recommendations on different food types and their role in cancer click here.
Can we eat to starve cancer?
The TED talk by William Li has a long list of anti-angiogenic food. You can read the list here. It includes things like apples, oranges, strawberries, garlic, olive oil and dark chocolate. As I’ve said before, I try and eat healthily but I don’t believe that diet alone will prevent me from getting (or cure me of) cancer. Just as a wearing a seat belt won’t prevent all injuries if you are unlucky enoug to be involved in a car accident. What do you think?