Chemotherapy & radiotherapy. Breast cancer

Chemotherapy is notorious for causing adverse effects in many patients undergoing this type of treatment for cancer and can at times be life-threatening. One of the more serious consequences is myelotoxicity or damage to the bone marrow. This can cause significant falls in the level of red blood cells (anemia), white blood cells (reduced resistance to infection) and platelets (increased risk of bleeding). These effects can be reduced or prevented by using strong medications such as erythropoietin (EPO), but they can also cause serious, at times life-threatening side effects and are costly.

A study published last year compared 60 (two groups of 30) chemotherapy patients being treated for breast cancer – one group taking 60mls of wheatgrass (WGJ) juice daily  and the other group receiving regular supportive therapy, but no wheatgrass.

Researchers found 15 patients (50%) of the non-WGJ group required termination of treatment or other intervention in order to continue chemotherapy compared with only 15% of the WGJ group.

Over the years, I have known many patients sail through chemotherapy while taking wheatgrass with acceleration of post-treatment recovery. None of them required hospitalisation for management of side effects.

It has been known for many years that wheatgrass has a positive effect on red and white cell production. This may well be due to stimulation of growth factors which could explain some of the results of this study.

Wheatgrass Cream Reduces Skin Toxicity in X-Ray Treatment of Breast Cancer Patients

Deep X-ray therapy for the treatment of breast cancer can be fraught with complications and adverse reactions called “skin toxicity”. Essentially, this means that after treatment, the skin becomes inflamed, tends to blister and break down leading to pain, difficulty in management and wound infection. Because of skin toxicity, the patient has to wait much longer between treatments for the skin to recover sufficiently to allow the next treatment. This in turn tends to reduce the patient’s chances of recovery.

For over 100 years the inability to succesfully manage skin toxicity has been a major management issue, and to date, nothing has been found that can significantly reduce it. Many topical substances have been trialled and tested over the years, but to no avail.

In this controlled, double-blind study, 29 breast cancer patients applied either sorbolene (current best practice) or a commercially produced wheatgrass-based cream (Dr Wheatgrass Antioxidant Skin Recovery Cream) to the irradiated area three times a day from commencement of radiotherapy.

The researchers determined that “the wheatgrass extract delays the severity of acute radiation skin toxicity” and, on the basis of their results, recommended “a larger multicentre randomised trial.”

These findings do not surprise me. Wheatgrass has extraordinary healing and pain reducing effects for burns. The burn surface is covered with a layer of new cells within 48 hours thus preventing bacterial infection and loss of body fluids. As already mentioned above, this appears to be due to hyperstimulation of growth factors responsible for cell division and increased production of proteins essential to the healing process.

References:

  1. Bar-Sela G. et al. Wheat grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study. Nutr Cancer.  2007; 58(1):43-8 (ISSN: 0163-5581)
  2. Coulter, K. et al. Wheatgrass extract as a topical skin agent for acute radiation skin toxicity in breast radiation therapy: a randomised controlled trial.(Clinical report)
    J. Aust. Trad. Med. Soc. 2006.