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The best alternative treatments for cancer

Reading time: 11 minutes

As naturopathic medical doctors, we have unique training in both conventional and holistic medicine. Between us, we have more than 40 years of clinical experience, and we consider it critically important to offer the best that integrative oncology has to offer, particularly since only bits and pieces of credible information are available.

The past 25 years have been a great age of discovery in intravenous (IV) and injection therapies for cancer. The major benefit of an injected agent is that it bypasses the digestive system and goes directly to the blood, which enables you to deliver more of that agent to the cells that need it.

In IV form, a treatment can often be given at a much higher dose than would be tolerated orally, which adds to its benefit to cancer-fighting cells. For example, in one study, urinary concentrations of vitamin C after IV injection were 140 times higher than the highest tolerated oral doses.1

Avoiding the digestive system is particularly important when a person is sick, as their natural digestive function may already be impaired by medications, chronic illness, cancer therapies and other factors. In these cases, an IV dose can get the necessary agents into the person without having to navigate an inefficient digestive system.

Plus, many drugs have higher potency in the blood and tissues when administered via injection. For instance, curcumin has poor absorption from the digestive tract, but infusion with pharmaceutical grade, pharmacy-prepared IV curcumin makes 100 percent of it available for use by cells, at levels that can’t be achieved via oral dosing.

Here is a sampling of the best IV treatments with the most evidence of success.


WHAT IS IT? High-dose IV vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is metabolized to produce chemicals including hydrogen peroxide that have a drug-like effect against cancer, while also providing many positive effects to strengthen normal noncancerous cells.2

HOW IT’S USED: Research at the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, Kansas, found that a series of IV vitamin C sessions can lower the blood inflammation marker CRP by approximately 75 percent. Other preliminary evidence shows that IV vitamin C suppresses a gene, NF-kB, that is thought to promote tumor formation. In addition, high-dose IV vitamin C can stop new blood vessels from growing in cancer by creating an inhospitable, highly oxygenated environment.3

KEY STUDIES: In properly screened patients, it’s extremely safe. A 2010 review of over 50,000 high-dose IV vitamin C infusions found only five reported serious adverse events.4 Another review concluded that, while high-quality evidence from randomized clinical trials was still limited, the existing evidence suggests “potentially important antitumor activity.”5

USING IT SAFELY: Get pre-screened for multiple conditions prior to taking IV vitamin C, paying particular attention to G6PD status (an enzyme that, in the case of a genetic deficiency, impairs the body’s normal processing of hydrogen peroxide). Kidney function and blood mineral status should also be monitored.

IV vitamin C also works well with conventional cancer agents, and may even have a synergistic effect.6


WHAT IS IT? Artesunate is an IV medication derived from parts of the herb Artemisia, which is used worldwide to treat malaria.

HOW IT’S USED: Our own clinical research with more than 4,000 IV doses of artesunate has shown it to be safe in patients with advanced cancers. Since IV artesunate is the preferred treatment for severe malaria, its safety has been well established in clinical trials.7

KEY STUDIES: Research has shown that artesunate has a similar effect to gemcitabine (a potent chemotherapy drug), causing significant tumor regression in human pancreatic cancer cells.8 In other studies, artesunate could trigger tumor cell death and slow the growth of tumor-sustaining blood vessels.9

It also has potent anti-inflammatory and immune-calming properties, which may block triggers of cancer metastasis.10

USING IT SAFELY: In adults, IV artesunate has few side-effects when used in typical IV doses.11 Toxicity in animals and humans has sometimes been attributed to oil-based forms of injectable Artemisia – products that are not recommended for use in humans.12 It’s also been shown to be safe for children.13

Besides being trained in the use of IV artesunate, your doctors should watch for iron and copper depletion during therapy. With either oral or IV artesunate use, iron and blood counts need to be monitored.


WHAT IS IT? Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical compound with two molecules of hydrogen to every two molecules of oxygen. It’s generally used as a bleaching agent or antiseptic, but a very specific diluted version of H2O2 can be used for infusion under highly controlled conditions.

WHY IT WORKS: H2O2 has similar activity to high-dose IV vitamin C.14 But while vitamin C generates H2O2 at the tissue level (which weakens many cancer cells), its production of immune messenger chemicals is tiny. H2O2 stimulates the immune messenger chemicals directly in the bloodstream,15 where they travel all over the body – one reason that integrative physicians will often rotate the two therapies.

USING IT SAFELY: The doctor must use only pharmaceutical-grade, sterile, low-concentration H2O2, free of preservatives and stabilizers (such as those found in the topical forms). This H2O2 is then diluted to an even lower concentration when added to an IV bag of saline, which is slowly infused.


WHAT IS IT? Ozone (O3), a close cousin to the oxygen (O2) we breathe in the air, is relatively unstable, with the ability to easily ‘donate’ (or lose) a single oxygen atom to become O2.

WHY IT WORKS: The propensity of O3 to give away one of its oxygen atoms to another molecule to form the much more stable O2 gives rise to many of its benefits. One study lists over 10 critical biochemical changes O3 can make that may shift the immune system toward a more robust, balanced, output.16

KEY STUDIES: Giving O3 to cancer patients receiving radiation or chemotherapy enhanced the effects of treatment, lowered many common side-effects and improved quality of life.17

USING IT SAFELY: O3 works best as part of a well-rounded treatment approach, and one promising combination is with ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy (UVBI) – a procedure where blood is drawn from a vein and briefly exposed to high-frequency light before being injected back into the body.18 UVBI shows promise to improve the tissue delivery of oxygen by the blood cells, which can reduce a tumor’s ability to maintain its own ‘local biology’ and weaken its resistance to other therapies.


WHAT IS IT? Glycyrrhizin, or glycyrrhizic acid/glycyrrhizinic acid is derived from the roots of the licorice plant.

HOW IT’S USED: We have used IV glycyrrhizin for many years in combination therapy, and it has helped to lower infections, improve quality of life and reduce fatigue.

KEY STUDIES: In more than a decade of clinical use, we’ve encountered no adverse effects when glycyrrhizin is used under standard dose and administration guidelines. In one study, glycyrrhizin inhibited prostate cancer cell proliferation and lowered the potency of the remaining cancer cells. The researchers from the University of Illinois concluded that glycyrrhizin “has therapeutic potential against prostate cancer.”19

USING IT SAFELY: The most commonly reported side-effect in higher IV doses is a rise in blood pressure.20 In our experience, at lower doses, this is unlikely, but as with any IV therapy, patients should have their blood pressure monitored before, during and after administration.


WHAT IS IT? Glutathione, or GSH, is one of the body’s chief antioxidants, the molecules that normally take a free electron or ‘radical’ away from a substance and stop it from becoming a damaging ‘free radical.’

WHY IT WORKS: Levels of GSH are lower in cancer patients, especially in those using conventional therapies like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,21 which can lead to cell damage and many potential negative health effects.

KEY STUDIES: IV GSH has been used in studies and in tens of thousands of doses in our patient populations.22

USING IT SAFELY: Although we first believed that GSH would be antagonistic to oxidant chemotherapies, such as platinum-based drugs, in two studies and in many of our patients, we have seen only synergy when given on the same day as chemotherapy.23 Nevertheless, we generally separate the GSH from any oxidative therapy by 12 to 24 hours.


WHAT IS IT: This well-known ‘alternative’ therapy has the unusual ability to help other small molecules pass through cell membranes and also relieves pain. Many people have used it for joint pain and other similar issues.

HOW IT’S USED: For decades, we have used IV DMSO clinically to help in pain and inflammatory conditions and to help deliver other IV therapies into the nervous system (including brain). It’s also used to help control pain and improve quality of life.24

KEY STUDIES: Research has shown immune system modulation,25 improved healing, and improved drug delivery to the brain and into tissues with DMSO usage.

USING IT SAFELY: For years, DMSO has been safely used with magnesium and sodium bicarbonate for palliative care to help control pain and improve quality of life.


WHAT IS IT? A compound found in the popular spice turmeric, curcumin is one of the most promising IV therapies on the horizon in cancer care.

WHY IT WORKS: In his initial study, Dr Anderson found stabilization of disease progression or actual (radiologically confirmed) disease regression in five out of six stage-IV cancer patients who were resistant to standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as natural therapies. Since then he has seen it in more patients.

KEY STUDIES: A review of over 40 scientific publications, plus Dr Anderson’s own research using IV curcumin in over 5,000 infusions, demonstrates that IV curcumin is a potentially ground-breaking therapy for people with cancer. Indeed, a patented version of curcumin is in clinical trials for approval as a cancer drug by the Food and Drug Administration.26

USING IT SAFELY: Curcumin is not a water-soluble product, so it requires special preparation to allow it to be infused into humans. Of the four chemically distinct forms of IV curcumin, an emulsion form of curcumin for IV use is currently the most stable and safest form for higher doses. At high doses, curcumin IV may cause short-term stress on the liver and kidneys, but is ultimately protective and restorative.27

Dr Anderson has seen many patients with low kidney function recover some function after IV curcumin therapy.


WHAT IS IT? Silymarin IV compounds (such as silibinin) are a component of the milk thistle plant and a common oral supplement.

< strong>WHY IT WORKS: IV silibinin is another synergistic agent in the treatment of cancer. It is well studied as a protector of liver function, and it can be used in combination with other agents (such as curcumin and glycyrrhizin).

KEY STUDIES: It’s been shown to assist in the process of cancer cell death and immune system modulation.28

USING IT SAFELY: Like curcumin, it is not a simple agent to make safe for IV use, but it is possible.


WHAT IS IT? Trans-resveratrol, a type of resveratrol, the constituent in red wine that’s produced by many plants when they are stressed or under attack, has a range of effects that fight cancer when used intravenously.

WHY IT WORKS: This substance has multiple mechanisms of action for regulating immune function and balancing the oxidant-antioxidant system, with both having potential anticancer effects.29

Plant-based compounds such as curcumin and silibinin show potential synergy with resveratrol. Scientists found that resveratrol and curcumin worked better in combination than alone for decreasing tumor size in an animal model of prostate cancer and that four key tumor promotor areas were “modulated to a greater extent by the combinations compared to the individual compounds.”30

KEY STUDIES: Trans-resveratrol “has been reported to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antiaging, cardioprotective and neuroprotective properties.”31

USING IT SAFELY: Getting enough in a human to have those cancer-fighting effects may be difficult. IV use in humans has been limited by the availability of appropriate products, but in preliminary studies, IV resveratrol was tolerated and safe.32


WHAT IS IT? As a cancer therapy, the mistletoe plant was popularized about 20 years ago but has a history of use dating back many decades.

WHY IT WORKS: Mistletoe is a true immunotherapy, meaning it has multiple actions on many aspects of your immune system. It strongly affects natural killer cells, which help promote tumor cell death and reduce cancer recurrence.33

KEY STUDIES: To date, there are over 2,600 published scientific papers on the ability of mistletoe to improve quality of life and stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. It can also alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and relieve inflammatory triggers of cancer-related fatigue.34

USING IT SAFELY: A concern that’s often raised is mistletoe’s potential for interfering with conventional chemo. But a study looking at the effect of mistletoe on multiple chemotherapy drugs concluded that mistletoe did not interfere. In fact, at higher concentrations it showed an additive effect with the chemotherapy drugs to prevent tumor growth.35

A review of the available research concluded that mistletoe therapies “seem to be beneficial for the majority of cancer patients (85 percent) without serious side-effects.”36 A meta-analysis of 3,324 cancer patients treated with mistletoe also found a positive effect on survival, and a third review concluded that the destructive effects of cancer on the immune system “can be counteracted by treatment with extracts derived from mistletoe.”37


WHAT IS IT? Salicinium, a natural plant-based extract, is a complex sugar molecule that is harmless to normal cells in the body but has unique anticancer properties.

WHY IT WORKS: Salicinium manipulates beta-glucosidase, a common enzyme that is very active in most cancer cells.38 Like IV vitamin C, salicinium is damaging to cancer cells while safe for normal human cells. And as a complex sugar molecule, it can rapidly enter cancer cells due to their hunger for simple sugars.

USING IT SAFELY: We have used salicinium safely in advanced cancer patients. If used in the context of a metabolic cancer program, in combination with dietary and other therapies, salicinium can be an excellent option.


WHAT IS IT? Amygdalin (also known as Laetrile or vitamin B17) is found in raw nuts and the pips of many fruits, particularly apricot kernels.

WHY IT WORKS: The enzyme beta-glucosidase in cancer cells converts amygdalin into hydrogen cyanide, which is toxic to cancer cells. Normal cells do not contain this enzyme in any great quantity, if at all, so cyanide is not formed in normal cells.39

KEY STUDIES: One study from 1982 was used as the basis to show that amygdalin “is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment,”40 a conclusion widely accepted in the US and Canada. But a more recent review publication41 demonstrated that the toxicity issue is very much overstated, and amygdalin’s mechanisms against cancer are broader than originally thought. Besides being a cancer cell toxin, amygdalin can promote natural programmed cancer cell death (apoptosis) and slow the growth of new blood vessels that ‘feed’ the tumor.

USING IT SAFELY: Dr Anderson never prescribes amygdalin alone, but uses it as part of a multi-treatment protocol. He has administered thousands of doses outside of the US, and in some cases, amygdalin has stopped or slowed an aggressive cancer.


Rose, a charming 84-year-old woman, was diagnosed with metastatic abdominal cancer, which was discovered when she went in for what was supposed to be a routine gall bladder surgery.

Rose’s oncologist soon del
ivered more bad news: there wasn’t any safe chemotherapy for her, and further surgery wasn’t likely to be of any help either. Her primary care doctor advised Rose that it would be best to get her affairs in order because she wouldn’t likely see her 85th birthday.

But Rose was no pushover. She wasn’t at all happy about being told to go home and wait to die. She began to search for alternative therapies and eventually met Dr Anderson and his team in the Seattle area. Rose’s individualized treatment plan began with continuing her already excellent diet and adding gentle exercise to fight fatigue and stimulate her immunity. She was also immediately started on twice-weekly high-dose IV vitamin C therapy for six weeks.

After the first week of treatment, Rose felt an increase in her energy levels. By week three she said, “Maybe I’m making this up, but I can eat without pain now and can eat more than before.” By the fifth week, Rose reported that her digestion problems had gone away. She could eat as much as she wanted, and her energy had improved enough to garden again. By the sixth week, her energy had skyrocketed, and she was entirely free of any abdominal symptoms. Even though imaging at week 10 showed plenty of cancer in her abdomen, Rose continued to feel full of energy, and her digestion issues stayed away.

Dr Anderson slowly decreased the frequency of Rose’s therapy over time, eventually placing her on a maintenance schedule of one high-dose IV vitamin C treatment every four to six weeks

Rose is still symptom-free and recently celebrated her 92nd birthday – healthy, active, happy and free of all abdominal discomfort.


John, a vibrant 70-year-old farmer, was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to his spine and pelvis. John told his oncologists he didn’t want chemotherapy, but he did have a goal. He was determined to see his grandson, then 9, graduate from high school.

Dr Stengler put John on an aggressive holistic program, an anticancer diet and, because of John’s years of pesticide exposure on the farm, a detoxification program and herbal extracts to supercharge his overwhelmed immune system and attack the cancer.

The results were stunning. Scans six months later showed a significant decrease in John’s tumors, and he reported that he felt perfectly healthy again. Two years later, John was still feeling great. Even his doctors were shocked by how well he continued to do despite still having cancer. After continuing to follow Dr Stengler’s recommended protocols, John was able to attend his grandson’s high school graduation nine years later.

Adapted from Outside the Box Cancer Therapies by Dr Mark Stengler and Dr Paul Anderson
(Hay House 2018), $26.99

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