Three Herbs That Work on mTOR Protein

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“Dear Pharmacist,

Two of my relatives have pancreatic cancer, and I’m worried sick for myself. No symptoms yet, but is there anything I can share with them, or take myself
?” –D.T., Sacramento, California

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your relatives. Pancreatic cancer is on the rise, certain medications and foods and beverages increase its risk. I wrote a book on the topic to help people.

Squashing free radicals is helpful, as well as pancreatic enzymes. Anything that slows growth or spreading is important. Detoxifying the body (particularly lymph) is probably number one on my list. As a natural minded pharmacist I love finding research about natural plant extracts that work like pharmaceuticals.

There’s a protein in your body called “mTOR” which plays a vital role in how each cell thrives, divides, or dies. When this protein and associated metabolic pathway is turned on too high, it promotes cancer spreading.

If we interfere with the mTOR pathway, it helps stop the formation of new blood vessels which feed the tumor. These mTOR “inhibitors” help people with pancreatic cancer and possibly induce remission, at least for awhile. This was shown in February 2011, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, entitled, “mTOR Inhibitor Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer in a Patient with PJS.” The scientists used a drug called everolimus (Afinitor). Other mTOR inhibitors available today include Certican and Torisel, and others in the pipeline.

There are natural compounds which are known to interfere with mTOR but to a lesser extent compared to these cancer drugs. Resveratrol (you know, from grapes!) is one of them as reported in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (November 19, 2010). The scientists knew going into the study that resveratrol was a powerful herbal with strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and nerve-protecting effects on the body.

Guess what else reduces mTOR activity? Curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric spice, popular in Indian cuisine.  You can sprinkle it on your food to your heart’s content.Many studies prove curcumin slows down the growth of aberrant cells and protects DNA.* Curcumin may be helpful for an inflamed pancreas gland because it manages inflammation by regulating the production of cytokines.* Wonderful, but you may need special IVs or supplements to get it to work.

Saffron (Crocus sativus)is amazing. This gorgeous flower is available as a spice, and a supplement (by Exir). Saffron supplements seem to help reduce chemotherapy-induced cell damage (damage to the DNA).  Crocetin, a carotenoid derived from saffron appears to compete with the drug gemcitabine which is one of the standard therapy used for pancreatic problems.* Remarkably, both the herb and the chemo drug compete for the same receptor site, and as you know a receptor is the doorway into your cell. Are they trying to do the same good thing in there? We can only hope.

The discussion of taking resveratrol, or using turmeric (curcumin) or saffron spice is between you and your doctor. Even though these are natural herbs, with excellent safety profiles, I have no idea what’s right for you and your safety is my first concern. Ask a licensed practitioner about customizing your personal health regimen.