Do Antioxidants Interfere with Chemo/Radiation? Part II

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Last week in PART I, we looked at what antioxidants are and why they are important to prevent onset of rapid aging, chronic illness, and even cancer. We then looked at why many conventional oncologists request (some demand) that their patients stop all antioxidant use when doing chemo and radiation.  We referenced specifically, how when in residency, oncologist Brian Lawenda, was told by oncology staff and radiation biologists that antioxidants interfere with treatment. He accepted this at the time, but then he decided to carry out his own research to see if this was really true.

(PLEASE see Part I).

Now we will look at the results of Dr. Lawenda’s research as well as that of other inquiring doctors so you can see for yourself whether the withholding of antioxidant use during conventional treatment is an evidence-based sound medical decision. It gives you the ability to engage in a valid discussion with your oncologist and to make decisions supporting your highest good.

With regards to his own research, Dr. Lawenda wrote:

“Here comes the shocker: Did you know that there is NOT A SINGLE STUDY that shows that radiation therapy or chemotherapy is less effective when antioxidants are given during those treatments… In fact, the FDA approved a very potent antioxidant drug for use during radiation therapy and chemotherapy to protect sensitive tissues from the damaging effects of our treatment.”

Charles B. Simone, a renowned oncologist and immunologist, did an extensive literature review and found that antioxidants do not interfere with chemo or radiation. In fact, they become more effective and increase patient survival.

Integrative physician, Keith Block, M.D., has also done an in-depth review of the use of GSH with chemotherapy and came to the same conclusion as Dr.  Simone. He found no evidence for diminished efficacy. On the contrary, patients may have done better with GSH because it reduced the toxicity and side effects of chemo, resulting in fewer missed cycles.

In three human trials of ovarian cancer, Dr. Block found that where high-dose GSH given intravenously was combined with chemotherapy drugs, response rates, survival times and side effects were either the same or better than controls. For instance, rates of complete tumor disappearance in the three studies compared to controls were 46% vs 9%, 22% vs 11% and 46% vs 27%. Those would seem to be a clear win for the use of glutathione. In four other trials of lung, non-small cell lung, colorectal and gastric cancer, similar results were seen.

N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) is a chemical precursor to glutathione and often taken as a supplement to enhance glutathione levels in the body. In a review of the effects on mice of NAC in multiple studies, Italian researchers found that it significantly reduced the ability of several cancer-causing compounds to induce malignancies in many different types of tissue.

In one study, rats were injected with a potent carcinogen that gave them liver tumors. After administration with GSH, the tumors regressed and the animals survived. This result suggests GSH may have a role beyond safeguarding against cancer. The study author believes that GSH “merits further investigation as a potential antitumor drug for humans.”

In another study led by Dr. Richie, blood levels of GSH and other antioxidants were measured in 65 patients suffering from oral cancer and 85 matched controls free of cancer. They found that low GSH levels increased the risk of oral cavity cancer.


If you are working with a naturopathic or integrative doctor, nutritionist or cancer coach, you will probably be encouraged to utilize foods and some supplements that offer high antioxidant value. However, your conventional oncologist may still believe that antioxidants will interfere with your treatment.  He may have your best interest at heart but his recommendation may not be medically sound. Now you have some evidence-based rationale to politely challenge his request. If your oncologist is not open to a discussion and a review of the literature, you might want to consider finding one who is willing to actually work with and empower you, while providing his own brand of expertise and guidance. Remember, you might find yourself butting up against professional pride or even arrogance, but it is your life on the line. Become informed, empowered and pro-active. That is what Evicting Cancer is all about.

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