How to make cancer treatment more effective

It’s great to be able to share some good news about breast cancer: the headlines today report that improvements in surgery and radiotherapy techniques are helping to keep more women alive. But did you know you can further increase the effectiveness of treatment with simple diet and lifestyle changes? 

Today’s article in The Times reports that survival rates are increasing due to improvements in the way surgical and radiotherapy procedures are carried out. It’s always good to hear that standard techniques are being made more efficient, rather than adding more treatments to an already arduous regime.

Recent studies have indicated that making simple diet and lifestyle changes during treatment can also help to increase the power of both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. By targeting well-known cancer pathways and weaknesses in cancer cell metabolism it’s possible to make rogue cells more sensitive to toxic treatments than healthy cells.

The report referred to in The Times states that pancreatic cancer is the only cancer where survival rates are not improving – at least for conventional treatments – but a report of 2 unique pancreatic cancer case studies showed that, when conventional medicine was combined with natural remedies, extracts and hyperthermia, patients showed remission of both primary and metastatic cells with complete resolution in both cases; even this most intractable form of cancer can be helped with nutritional intervention.

For breast cancer,  a 2010 Phase 1 clinical trial showed that high dose turmeric extract, (curcumin) improved efficacy of treatment in breast cancer patients with advanced and metastatic disease; another case study showed complete remission in a woman with advanced metastatic cancer using ketogenic diet alongside conventional treatment; high dose intravenous vitamin C is being recognised (all over again) as an effective cytotoxic agent in a similar way to chemotherapy; and fasting is increasingly accepted both as way to reduce side effects and to weaken cancer cells for cytotoxic treatments to zoom in for the kill.

Having been through conventional treatment myself I know how tough it can be, and I have a keen interest in helping women gain the maximum possible benefit out of their treatment regime to reduce side effects, increase effectiveness and emerge at the end as healthy as possible. After all, why put yourself through all that pain if you’re not going to make the most of it?

Does that mean that filling your fridge with rainbow vegetables, making litres of juice, and stocking up with bottles and bottles of turmeric and Vitamin C is the best way to sail through treatment? Not quite. You may have noticed that the studies above all use ‘high-dose’ nutrients to increase the effectiveness of treatment. That’s because, paradoxically, many natural substances can work in opposite ways when you change the dose from low to high. So low dose vitamin C may help cancer cells survive during treatment whereas high dose can increase their chances of cell death, or apoptosis. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is help them survive, so it makes sense to get expert help with any diet and lifestyle changes you plan to make, and always keep your oncology team informed of what you’re doing.

If you’d like to know more about how diet and lifestyle changes can help you make the most of treatment, please feel free to book an exploratory chat with me.


Bayet-Robert, M., et al., 2010. Phase 1 dose escalation trial of docetaxel plus curcumin in patients with advanced and metastatic breast cancer. Cancer Biology and Therapy, Jan;9(1):8-14. Pub 2010 Jan 21

Bonucci, M. Pastore, C. Ferrara V. et al (2018) Integrated Cancer Treatment in the Course of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer – Complete Resolution in 2 cases. Integrative Cancer Therapies, Volume: 17 issue: 3, page(s): 994-999

İyikesici, M.S. et al., 2017. Efficacy of Metabolically Supported Chemotherapy Combined with Ketogenic Diet, Hyperthermia, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Stage IV Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Cureus. 

Lettieri-Barbato D and Aquilano K (2018) Pushing the Limits of Cancer Therapy: The Nutrient Game. Front. Oncol. 8:148. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2018.00148

Lee, C. & Longo, V.D., 2011. Fasting vs dietary restriction in cellular protection and cancer treatment: from model organisms to patients. Oncogene, 30(30), pp.3305–3316.

Published by

Dawn Waldron

Highly experienced nutritional and nutrigenomic therapist helping people optimise diet, lifestyle and gene expression for health and happiness after breast cancer.