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small cell - chemo is not working!

Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 2007

My dad is 71 and was diagnosed with extensive small cell lung cancer 3 months ago. He underwent 4 cycles of chemo - first 2 were cisplatin and etoposide, the last 2 were carboplatin and etoposide. He did not tolerate the cisplatin well. The CT scan of his lungs today showed hardly any improvement and one tumor has actually grown. Are there any options for him??!! Everything I've read basically sounds like he will not live much more than a month or two!! I thought treatment was intended to WORK and not make tumors worse...

Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

Hello nancyrn,

I have to preface that my suggestions of medical treatments relate more to non-small cell lung cancer, but maybe you can look further into them after hearing about them here. Some may be considered still experimental.

Talk to your dad's oncologist about targeted drug therapies that work on the metabolic functions of the cancer cells such as the growth of new blood vessels, which cancer cells are dependent on. I know for NSC, Avastin has been approved by the FDA. Avastin works on shutting down the formation of new blood vessels.

Tarceva is another targeted drug treatment that works on another of cancer cells' growing patterns. It is most effective on people with the EGFR mutation. This mutation can be tested on a cancer sample. Insurance should cover the cost as it is part of the diagnostic tests.

With that said, I was assured by my mom's thoracic surgeon that even people not having that EGFR mutation can fully recover [with Tarceva]. At this point when conventional chemo may not be effective, you have to expand your trials, right?

Though those targeted drugs have side effects, many people tolerate them much better than chemo. But Avastin does have a considerable fatal effect for a few people of lung hemorrhage and serious effects of stomach perforation and high blood pressure (which that is controlled with counter drugs).

I have heard about thermal radiation that uses either heat or freezing temperatures to kill the cancer cells. There's also photodynamic treatment where the patient is injected with a photo-sensitive chemical and then, lasers are applied to "blind" the cancer cells to death. I've yet to actually read anyone receiving that type of treatment.

A better source of these innovative options can be read from the National Cancer Institute site. You should check that site out for possible treatments for your father. It seems time is of the essence for him, too.

Beyond the conventional treatments, I have come across interesting studies on maitake mushrooms. Keep in mind, I discount any article that tries to sell anything or is posted on a site promoting a commercial product. It's too biased and it reads too much as from a snake oil salesman.

In the articles extolling maitake mushrooms (specifically in the form of D-fraction), studies have been cited where tumor regression was obtained in the range of 90% to 95%. In addition, this extract minimizes the side effects from chemo and radiation, even the low white blood cells count.

I am intrigued by the D-fraction and have it as a possibility. If my situation was dire, I might resort to it. I looked into the purchase on various sites and it wasn't too bad. It is more expensive than regular vitamins (but not too much as COQ-10).

I've put my mom on a dietary regiment that includes a raw, minced garlic clove; cruciferous veggies (with emphasis on broccoli, radish and daikon); raspberry jam (for its ellagic acid that has apoptosis properties); soy milk or tofu (for the genistein, which prevents angiogenesis - formation of new blood vessels); chili peppers (for apoptosis) and tomatoes. A cup of V8 juice has a lot of the vegetables with anti-cancer benefits. It may be easier to consume that regularly. She also takes vitamin D3+calcium and selenium supplements (I eliminated the multivitamin because of my concern of the antioxidant effects and I wanted her nutrients to be more from foods instead).

To be sure, I can't guarantee you that any of those supplements are effective but my mother has been responding well in her therapy. Is it the chemo of Taxol and Carboplatin and/or the supplements? I can't tell you, but I wouldn't depart from either.

I would urge you to research further on your own and discuss everything with your dad's oncologist. It certainly doesn't hurt to modify his foods though.

Much luck and good prospects for your dad. If you have any questions, you're always welcomed to ask here or by private message.

Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 2007

thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. you're right. since my dad has SCLC the treatment options vary a bit compared to your mom's. knowing about the side effects is very helpful, particularly the ones related to Avastin.

i have read some interesting and favorable things about Maitake-D fraction. I've also read good things about astralagus and mangosteen juice's xanthones. both have been cited in lit searches i've done in PubMed. i'd be curious to hear if other readers have come across real life experiences with any of these.

for now, my dad is going to start hycamtin. usually used as second line treatment for relapsed SCLC and ovarian cancer. the response is low (around 20%) and survival time is around 26 weeks. he'll do hycamtin for 2 cycles and then another scan. the puzzling thing about my dad's case is that his SCLC tumors just stopped shrinking after the 4th cycle making all of us wonder, including his oncologist, if we're really dealing with small cell. even the pathologist had a hard time making a definite conclusion. he had to send out the slides to a pathologist at harvard for a second opinion.

in the meantime, my dad will do astralagus supplements. i'm trying to get him to take mangosteen juice and maitake D mushroom too. we're at a point where modern medicine has failed us.

best of luck with your mom. let me know if you come across other interesting findings in the literature.

Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

Hi nancyrn,

Sorry for the delay in my reply. I've been busy and I think I might have missed your response the first time around.

It's disappointing the low rates of response to chemo, but I didn't let my mother's oncologist warning that only 1 in 4 responds to Taxol/Carbo discourage my hopes. It just made me put more effort in learning how to enhance chemo with complementary dietary aids and staying on top of other treatment options.

The oncologist also warned that cancer cells can develop resistance from any set chemo. Still after 4 cycles, it does seem resistance came on quickly, but I've read that the cells in SCLC are aggressive, which on the upside should make them most responsive to chemo. The oncologist told us that the cells in my mom's NSCLC was immature and aggressive but those conditions made them more vulnerable, as well.

I decided to add maitake D-fraction to the mix of my mom's complementary treatment because I want to help boost her immune system while undergoing the addition of Avastin to her chemo regiment. She's been having weekly chemo infusions for 7 months now, so her blood counts have taken a hit in the red and white blood cells. She's been given booster shots. I'd like to see if the D-fraction will have an impact. Since I have her history, I can compare directly with any improvement in the blood count. The D-fraction is reported to have a protective effect on the white blood cells in one study.

I'll keep you posted on our experiences with D-fraction.

I think if you combine the astralagus and D-fraction for your dad, you may cut through the chase of the supplements. Let us know how your dad is doing and his progress.

Again, best of luck to him.

Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2007

I thought Hycamtin wasn't avail until 08'???
I am interested because my stepfather has ext. sclc and his chemo did not work either after 2 cycles of etoposide and carboplatin scans showed no improvement plus had spread more! any info would be helpful. i'm short on time, but would be interested on how your Dad is doing.....Such a rotten, terrible disease!

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