As mentioned in our previous two posts, back in February Dr. Block was one of 6 participants in an extended version of the Yes To Life (yestolife.org) radio show on UK Health Radio. Hosted by Robin Daly, each of the panelists was asked a series of questions. To listen to the show in its entirety, go to: https://yestolife.org.uk/radio_shows/pioneers-of-integrative-oncology/
We’ll be posting a transcript of each of the questions directed to Dr. Block. The first question he was asked was about the use of chemotherapy; specifically, whether we can justify its continued use in light of what we know about its potential toxicity and side effects. You can read Part 1 of his answer here: https://blockmd.com/2023/05/09/can-we-honestly-justify-the-continued-use-of-chemotherapy/ and part 2 of his answer here: https://blockmd.com/2023/05/12/can-we-justify-the-use-of-chemotherapy-part-2/
In today’s post, Dr. Block answers Robin’s next question:
Dr Block, what’s your best advice when a cancer patient comes to you?
Robin, I would actually say simply that emotional support and encouragement, provided in an environment that is life affirming, a communication that deeply acknowledges and provides hope. But you have to really truly believe it. People can see right through it when it’s not authentic. I would say that it means one has to provide real tools, real therapies, substance behind the communication in order to really make a difference. Keeping that in mind, I would say cancer itself is a marathon and it’s far from a wind sprint even though that’s what all of us, if we get a diagnosis of any life-threatening disease but particularly a malignancy, would hope for. This isn’t necessarily going away just because the scan is clear. I often say that cancers, the invisible aspects of the disease are probably worse than the visible aspects of the disease, and I mean that in multiple layers. The most obvious one is that these are microcellular diseases. They’re molecular diseases. They’re diseases of energy and pathways and metabolism, as much as they are of tissue and replication and abnormal cellular biology. Certainly, they’re considerably beyond mutation even though most would agree that mutagenic biology is fundamental to a cancer. But it’s also the idea of damage to DNA on its own is not the whole story. We know that this is modifiable. It’s something that can be adjusted, modulated, changed by how we take care of ourselves.
The way that I would frame this, the one thing that has been relatively ignored throughout medicine, with some exceptions in pockets here and there, is that it’s not only about DNA and the cell. It’s also about the environment that the disease exists within. In that environment, which you might call the microenvironment, back in the 70s as a medical student, I called that environment the “terrain.” The terrain is made up of a variety of biochemical, immune, and metabolic factors and pathways that if disrupted, drives disease, interferes with treatment, drives adverse effects and interferes with quality of life. It has a profound impact and yet we can measure it relatively easily with a whole wide footprint of various laboratory testing and we can modulate it by fixing that environment so it’s cancer inhibiting and not cancer promoting.
Keep in mind that the cells will hijack your biology to support themselves. So we have to get a hold of the soup, the soil that these seeds, these abnormal seeds are growing in and we’ve got to transform that environment. That is not costly to do. It’s time consuming. It requires a commitment because it is impacted by every aspect of how we take care of ourselves, how we live, how we eat, how we sleep or not, what our relationships are and the impact on us in terms of sympathetic nervous system and adrenergic biology, how we attend to our own parasympathetic needs in terms of whether it’s meditation, prayer, music and even optimism or the lack thereof, and what its consequential impact is on us.
”optimising one’s terrain, it can be fixed so that it is cancer fighting, so that you can reduce treatment toxicities, you can boost treatment efficacy, you can reduce resistance from developing and yes, you can boost outcome “
I would say that extracellular environment is a biggie to answer your question for me, that terrain needs to be fixed. Without sounding self-serving, in my book Life Over Cancer, I spent seven chapters discussing the importance of the terrain and substantiating all the science behind it. Keeping in mind that I spent a good part the 70s, 80s, and 90s doing research to demonstrate that the microenvironment is real, is critical to what happens to a patient; just as important as the cell is to the extracellular environment. Optimising one’s terrain, it can be fixed so that it is cancer fighting. It can be fixed so that you can reduce treatment toxicities, you can boost treatment efficacy, you can reduce the risk of resistance from developing and yes, you can boost outcome. So virtually all of the challenges that we face are interwoven with getting that environment optimised.