Ted talk on William Li: Can we eat to starve cancer?

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Hello my dear Pharmainfo friends, I take the privilege to discuss on the ted topic by William Li


Foundation for research: William Li, presented a medical revolution happening around us which is going to arrest dreadful diseases including cancer. He called the revolution simply as "angiogenesis", a process that is used by our bodies to grow blood vessels, where the human bodies are literally packed with 60,000 miles forming an end to end line that would circle the earth twice. Smallest blood vessels simply called capillaries accounting for 19 billions, which are the vessels of life and also the vessels of death. Blood vessels have the remarkable ability to adopt to environment they grow in. For instance, in Liver, they detoxify the blood, in Lungs, they line air sac for gas exchange, in Muscles, they assist in muscle contraction, in Nerves, they course along power lines to keep up the nerve cells alive.
Our body has the ability to regulate the amount of blood vessels present at any given time by the checks and balances and stimulators and inhibitors. When the process of angiogenesis is out of balance, a myriad of diseases results. Excessive angiogenesis leads to Cancer, Blinding diseases, Psoriasis, Arthritis, Endometriosis, AIDS, Multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Obesity. Insufficient angiogenesis leads to Chronic wounds, Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Hair loss etc. Since angiogenesis is found to be hallmark of every type of cancer, that supply oxygen and nutrients for tumor cells to grow, William Li briefed out the statistics of autopsy studies, who died in car accidents that about 40% of women between 40-50 age group have microscopic cancers in their breasts, 50% of men between 50-60 age group have microscopic cancers in prostrate cancers and virtually all of us by the time we reach 70's will have microscopic cancers in our thyroid, but he emphasized that without a blood supply these cancers will never become dangerous. Body's balance of angiogenesis would help in preventing the blood vessels feeding the cancers. Once the angiogenesis is blocked, cancers remain to be harmless. But once the angiogenesis occurs, the cancers grow exponentially from harmless to deadly.

Practical Applicability: When the angiogenesis is a tipping point between a harmless cancer and harmful cancer, then major part of angiogenesis revolution is the new approach to treating cancer by cutting off the blood supply and it was renamed as Anti-angiogenic therapy, which is totally different from chemotherapy, since it aims the blood vessels feeding the cancers. Apart from existing drugs for treatment, the William Li et al, used a cocktail of drugs in feed and a cream to be applied on the surface for the treatment of Malignant neurofibroma tumor in a boxer dog, and extended the life of dog by six times what the veterinarian doctors predicted and used the same principle in other species including Dolphin, Horse marked a great success with anti angiogenic therapy. Though 12 drugs are currently available for treatment of 11 types of cancers like Avastin, Erbitux, Tarceva, Endostar, Nexavar, Revlimid, Suitent, Thalomid, Torisel, Affinitor, but the author posed a real question of "how do the drugs work in practice? When the statistics are revived from the year the antiangiogenic treatment has started to the present day there was 70-100% survival of people with kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, colorectal and gastrointestinal stromal cancers while there was only a modest improvement in other types of cancers.

William Li, peeped into the problem and thought to make the treatment more and more better and in that context he worked on the causes of cancers and highlighted the most important cause "diet" which accounts for 30-35% of environmentally caused cancers and the team tried an approach where adding something to the diet could prevent angiogenesis feeding the tumors that could help healthy people or the one who had once or twice attacked with cancer. The researchers thought of natural antiangiogenic treatment that could boost body's defense system and the presenter focused the topic into peoples mind saying "Can we eat to starve cancer? and the team discovered that mother nature has laced us with number of foods, beverages and herbs which are natural antiangiogenic inhibitors. Th team developed a tool for studying the angiogenesis, where the dietary factors are tested at concentrations that are obtained by eating and evidenced the research findings with red grape extract (Resveratrol), Strawberries (Ellagic acid), Soy bean (Genistein) and the team focused on finding out a potent inhibitor for effective treatment and the combination of two low potent inhibitors resulted in the most potent action. Reviewing the statistics clearly explained that dietary factors like Soy, parsley, garlic, grapes, berries are more potent than the existing drugs. Currently the studies are being done in natural angiogenic inhibitors like, Green tea, Strawberries, Black berries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Oranges, Grape fruit, Lemons, Apples, Pine apples, Cherries, Red grapes, Red wine, Kale, Soy beans, Ginseng, Maltake mushroom, Licorice, Turmeric, Nutmeg, Artichokes, Lavender, Pumpkin, Sea Cucumber, Tuna, Parsley, Garlic, Tomato, Olive oil, Grape seed oil, Drak chocolate others.

Evidenced data in humans: They studied in about 79,000 men who consumed 2-3 servings of cooked tomatoes per week, and concluded that the risk of prostate cancer is reduced by 40-50% and the same was evidenced in people who consume more serves of tomato sauce, rich in lycopene, which is antiangiogenic. Currently, the team is going to carry out the research on role of healthy diet on markers of angigenesis that could be find in blood stream. Some of the companies have started thinking in such lines, example the ad from Blue cross "Fruits&Veggies", with a notion of "Cancer protection. Now in a convenient package." and this therapy could really help to those people where the diet may be the only practical solution. Even obesity is an angiogenesis dependent and fat grows when blood vessels grow. So, dietary treatment of cancer indirectly helps for obese treatment.

Iam really impressed by Albert Szent -Gyorgi words, "Discovery consists of seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what no one has thought."

"This blog does not include any plagiarized material"


1. TED Ideas worth spreading. William Li: Can we eat to starve cancer? c 2010 [updated 2010 May; uncited].TED Conferences, LLC; Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html (Accessed on 25 May'2010).


About the Author

TK Indira's picture
Author: TK Indira

Indu Roy is post graduate in pharmacy and working as Research Officer, Formulation-IPR Department at Mylan Laboratories Limited (A subsidiary of Mylan Inc) .
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