Left with a diagnosis of kidney cancer and awaiting a second opinion, the feeling of powerlessness is, at times, overwhelming. My appointment for that second opinion at Sloan Kettering is this coming Tuesday (thank you Cigna).
My research, along with conversations with people who have actually been through the process makes it fairly probable that very soon after my appointment, I’ll be under the knife. Simply put, the treatment of preference is either the full or partial removal of the affected kidney, with further removal of the adrenal glands and lymph nodes if necessary. And waiting doesn’t make much sense. The cancer could spread.
In the meantime, however, I wait. And of course, I research and fret, but not necessarily in that order. My most recent foray into the scholarly has turned up something worth considering: my Italian grandmothers were right. Garlic actually is the answer. And so is spinach– and brussel sprouts.
After being diagnosed, feeling utterly powerless, I began feeling the need to do something. And, having been raised by an Italian family, I instinctively began putting loads of garlic into everything I ate–something, because of early training, I tend to do whenever I am sick. I know researchers over the years have shown garlic to be bio-beneficial, but when I mentioned that I had begun doing so to a lawyer/nun friend of mine, she said “Why?”
The research I found subsequent is actually rather extraordinary. In a petri dish, garlic concentrations and leafy green vegetables actually inhibited the growth of various types of cancer cells. Entitled “Antiproliferative and antioxidant activities of common vegetables: A comparative study,” the paper was authored by researchers from the Laboratoire de Médecine Moléculaire and the Service d’hématologie-oncologie, Centre de Cancérologie Charles-Bruneau, Hôpital Ste-Justine, Université du Québec à Montréal.
The results? Garlic, leeks, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and curly cabbage are all now an integral part of my diet.
evaluated the inhibitory effects of extracts isolated from 34 vegetables on the proliferation of 8 different tumour cell lines. The extracts from cruciferous vegetables as well as those from vegetables of the genus Allium inhibited the proliferation of all tested cancer cell lines whereas extracts from vegetables most commonly consumed in Western countries were much less effective. The antiproliferative effect of vegetables was specific to cells of cancerous origin and was found to be largely independent of their antioxidant properties. These results thus indicate that vegetables have very different inhibitory activities towards cancer cells and that the inclusion of cruciferous and Allium vegetables in the diet is essential for effective dietary-based chemopreventive strategies.
The cancer cell lines tested were PC-3 (prostate), AGS (stomach), U-87 (glioblastoma, brain), DAOY (medulloblastoma, pediatric brain), MCF-7 (breast), A-549 (lung), Panc-1 (pancreas), Caki-2 (kidney).
The vegetables which showed the most antiproliferative effect? The results varied by type of cancer, the researchers write:
Tumour cells derived from prostate and stomach cancer were most sensitive to the extracts while cells from kidney, pancreatic and lung cancers were much less affected by the tested extracts. For example, 23 of the 34 the tested vegetable extracts inhibited the proliferation of prostate tumour cells by more than 50%, while only 7 extracts were active against kidney cancer cells.
There’s a chart for each kind of cancer which shows the impact of each kind of vegetable tested. It’s worth a look and a read or just check out the video linked below and go back to the document for more specific information on the type of cancer you’re most interested in. For kidney cancer, leek, garlic, curley cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale and spinach did well. With leek inhibiting growth completely and the garlic imbued tumor cells growing to only around 5% of the control tumor–which was merely left to its own devices. Iceberg lettuce? Bock Choy? Not so good.
As you might imagine, I now have a refrigerator filled with cruciferous vegetables, garlic pre-sliced in 1lb. jars, and leeks. I also have enough spinach in cans to keep Popeye square for a month.
I should be clear though: the law degree and the tumor I have do not in any way, shape or form entitle me to dispense medical advice. I am not doing so. And I am not saying that vegetables are a substitute for medical care; I fully intend to have this thing (the tumor, not the law degree)–along with whatever part of my kidney has been compromised–cut out of me as soon as my doctor says he wants to do so.
You make up your own mind as it regards your diet–but mine has just seriously changed. Garlic was first in antiproliferation among every kind of cancer except one (mine), in which it was second. Dr. Michael Greger over at NutritionFacts.org called that discovery “one of the most important findings of the year.” My grandmothers would agree.
Oh, why canned spinach? Because it’s fast and amazingly easy. Saute a ton of garlic along with some cut leek in extra virgin olive oil and dump in two cans of spinach–I use a little salt and sometimes paprika. Heat. Maybe add some parmesan cheese. It works for pretty much any of the leafy greens and cancer antiproliferation never tasted so good.
The video below will take you through the research and the charts–showing what vegetables did best for what. Bon appetite.