Cancer and Fungus

The mycotoxin aflatoxin is recognized by the World Health Organization as a known carcinogen. Aflatoxins are produced by numerous species of the mold aspergillus. This reality propels my determination to proactively and aggressively respond to our high toxic mold exposure. Cancer looms as a possibility for everyone, but since our family tested positive for aflatoxins, the reality hits even closer to home.

This week the Reuters news agency reported a link between a common antifungal drug and reduced growth of tumors in mice. The following press release was issued on Monday, April 12:

A common antifungal drug can slow tumors growing in mice and should be investigated as a potentially cheap and easy way to fight cancer in people, researchers reported on Monday.

Although it did not completely wipe out the tumors, the drug called itraconazole may boost the effects of other drugs, the researchers reported in the journal Cancer Cell.

Itraconazole is marketed under the brand name Sporanox by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica, mostly for treating a fungal infection called aspergillus.

The drug affects a so-called cascade of effects through a molecular pathway called Hedgehog, the researchers reported.

The researchers at Stanford University in California were looking for potential cancer drugs. They know that the Hedgehog pathway is involved in the development of cancer, so they looked for drugs that interfere with it.

"There is a fairly broad range of tumors in which this molecular cascade, called the Hedgehog pathway, plays an important role," Stanford's Philip Beachy, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

"The virtue of screening existing drugs is that you already have all the information about dosage and toxicity, and you can move into clinical trials fairly readily."

The researchers looked at 2,400 different drugs in a so-called library of drugs that had either been tested in people or already approved by the Food and Drug Administration, looking at the mechanism of action. The least toxic one they found was itraconazole.

"Itraconazole has been studied for nearly 25 years, and we therefore have a good understanding of its safety and potential side effects," the researchers wrote.

They tested mice and found an oral solution of itraconazole significantly slowed the growth of tumors injected under the skin. Untreated mice grew giant tumors during the same time and were euthanized.

Testing mice this way is far different from the natural development of cancer in people, but the drug should be tested in cancer patients, the researchers said.

"It might be possible with two compounds to achieve a more potent block at even lower drug concentrations," said Beachy. "If so, it's possible that there is a population of patients that can be treated relatively soon."

A more controversial theory suggests an even stronger link between cancer and fungus. Italian oncologist Dr. Tullio Simoncini believes cancer is a fungus and has treated patients with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). A documentary by Massimo Mazzucco examines Simoncini's hypothesis in detail. Excerpts of this documentary can be viewed here.

Studies also link cancer prevention with the antifungal hero chlorophyll. Chlorophyll and its derivative chlorophyllin have been found to be effective in limiting the absorption of aflatoxins in humans. One such study was released in December of last year. Another was released in 2001 by Johns Hopkins University. Those who took chlorophyllin showed a 55 percent reduction in aflatoxin-DNA damage.

Research and studies abound on the subject of cancer. Treatment is more often the focus than identifying the cause. The fact that fungus has been implicated as a possible link is a valuable reminder that indoor air quality and diet are important issues, worthy of our attention.