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Using Alternative Therapies to Fight Cancer

Sick dogCancer shortens the lives of fully half of all dogs and cats in the U.S.

The disease is pervasive, it’s often diagnosed too late, and there is a disturbing trend toward cancer in ever younger companion animals. These factors, coupled with the risks and expense associated with aggressive traditional veterinary cancer treatments, have vets and pet owners alike searching for less toxic, effective therapies to prevent and treat the disease in dogs and cats.

Two supplements are currently under investigation for their potential affects on osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that accounts for an estimated 85 percent of all canine bone tumors. Traditional treatment for osteosarcoma hasn’t improved in the past 15 years and is radical in nature -- amputation of the limb, followed by chemotherapy.

Even with amputation, dogs treated for the disease only survive an average of two years because the cancer metastasizes to the lungs.

Curcumin, a derivative of the Indian spice turmeric is one of the cancer-fighting supplements under study. The herb artemisinin, also known as sweet wormwood, is the other.

STAT3, a protein that helps tumors metastasize and defend against chemotherapy, is inhibited by curcumin. Studies suggest the spice is not well-absorbed after ingestion, so researchers are investigating the potential of curcumin-derived compounds to kill tumor cells.

The artemisinin herb has been shown to kill both human and canine cancer cells in laboratory studies. The herb hasn’t proved effective in studies with canine cancer patients – it seems the doses given weren’t enough to achieve the blood levels required to make an impact on the disease.

Similar to the situation with curcumin, researchers suspect absorption and metabolism affect how well artemisinin works in live animals vs. how it impacts cell lines in test tubes in the laboratory. Additional studies are planned.

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