By Marika Sboros
For decades, many doctors dismissed the idea that diet can treat or prevent cancer. Also for decades, US internal medicine specialist Dr William Li actively embraced the idea that it can.
His compelling research has borne fruit – and vegetables. He shows that there really is such a thing as an anti-cancer diet.
Li is on a stellar list of international speakers at the groundbreaking Rethinking Cancer conference in Paris on September 21, 2017. The conference is the vision of Air France captain and cancer survivor Jean-Jacques Trochon. It’s about a real revolution in cancer treatment: angiogenesis, the natural process by which the body grows new blood vessels.
But perhaps most exciting about the Paris summit is that cancer is not the revolution’s only target. And right diet is only one weapon in its armoury. Speakers say that a variety of methods to harness blood vessel power could beat heart disease, diabetes, vision loss, declining cognitive function and much more.
‘Intelligently postponing chemo, radiation’
In an interview with Foodmed.net, Trochon explains how and why his extensive research led him to a brave decision: to “intelligently postpone” having chemotherapy and radiation”.
It also led him to arrange the Paris summit. Trochon wanted to gather together the world’s top researchers in new frontiers against cancer for the first time on the same stage. Click here for the conference programme.
Harvard-trained Li is a natural leader in this field since he has actively engaged in angiogenesis research and clinical development for over 30 years. His mentor was the late Dr Judah Folkman, the pioneer of the angiogenesis field.
The two co-founded the Angiogenesis Foundation in 1994. The Foundation is a nonprofit organisation and the only one globally dedicated exclusively to disrupting disease through angiogenesis.
Li is its chief executive officer, president and medical director. There, he contributes to ongoing global efforts to advance the applications of angiogenesis-based therapeutics across diverse medical fields. These include oncology, haematology, cardiology, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, dermatology, wound care, and regenerative medicine.
Click here to read: Fung on why cancer is not just genetic!
Working with conventional medicine
The Foundation’s research involves a wide-ranging approach to restoring the body’s natural control of angiogenesis. Treatment methods aim, therefore, either at inhibiting or stimulating angiogenesis.
In this way, the Foundation shows that angiogenesis works well as an adjunct to conventional treatment. However, there may be cases where it can work well alone. Effectively, when chosen correctly, food could be a form of chemotherapy.
Angiogenesis also means that doctors can prolong lives of cancer patients, prevent limb amputations in diabetics, reverse vision loss, and improve general health. On its website, the Foundation estimates that, so far, its work has impacted 50 million lives.
It clearly isn’t about to rest on any laurels. Currently, the Angiogenesis Foundation also hosts a community of 45,000 people passionate about using foods to fight cancer at its Eat to Beat website.
In 2010, Li gave a TED Talk on Can You Eat To Starve Cancer that has been downloaded a whopping 11 million times. It remains one of TED Talks’ 10 most popular videos, with transcript available in 38 languages.
The TED website describes Li’s 2010 talk as “a piece of science history” but not the last word on this topic.
Foods to beat cancer at its own game
In it, Li covers a crucial first and possibly best step in fighting cancer: eating foods that cut off the blood supply lines to tumours and beat cancer at its own game.
The obvious approach was to look at what we should strip from our diets, Li said. (Sugar and other processed carbs are chief among the usual suspects. That’s part of the metabolic model of cancer, on which US biochemist and geneticist Dr Thomas Seyfried, will speak in Paris. Seyfried is scathing about the conventional medical view that doctors are winning the “War on Cancer”.)
Click here to read: Seyfried on real cause, right diet to beat cancer
Li took the opposite approach from the obvious. Thus, instead of looking at what we should not eat, he looked at what we should add to our diets to treat or prevent cancer. Li said that Mother Nature has “laced a large number of foods, beverages and herbs with anti-angiogenic properties”.
It’s also true that the focus on food as medicine in the angiogenesis revolution is still controversial. However, Li’s research regularly undermines resistance. For example, his laboratory was the first to show the cancer-fighting properties of broccoli.
That study, which the Journal of Oncology published in 2012, is revelatory – an angiogenesis 101, even for the relatively well-informed lay reader. In it, Li and co-authors give the history and rationale behind angiogenesis in cancer prevention and treatment.
History of anti-cancer agents
They also give the growing body of preclinical, clinical and epidemiological data demonstrating effects of blocking blood vessel growth to prevent cancer. And they point to availability of anti-angiogenic drugs for many advanced malignancies and more than 120 novel antiangiogenic agents are in clinical trials.
The authors also point to why anti-angiogenesis drugs have not lived up to their promise. That’s in part because cost and toxicity considerations “preclude their broad use for cancer prevention”.
Another boost for blood vessel power is research identifying dietary sources of “potent antiangiogenic molecules”. As a result, the researchers conclude that a “rationally designed antiangiogenic diet” can be a safe, widely available and novel strategy for preventing cancer.
In April 2017, Li spoke at a TED Talk deep-dive workshop on Rethinking Health, in Vancouver, Canada. He presented new perspectives on optimising health based on the body’s innate defence systems. Chief among these are circulation, immunity, stem cells, DNA repair mechanisms and the microbiome.
Blazing a new path
Li told the meeting that lifestyle choices we make daily, including what we eat and drink, affect each of the systems. The Foundation is, therefore, ” blazing a new path towards understanding how the body’s defence systems orchestrate our health”.
It will, however, take bold ideas to transform global thinking on health, he said. It’s also time to “rethink health itself, not just health care”.
And a last word on ingredients of the speakers’ menu: other weapons to fight cancer include intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets.
- Air France and the ACCOR hotel chain are sponsors of Rethinking Cancer.
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