Cancer patients can be divided into 3 groups: those receiving standard or experimental therapy, those who have become unresponsive to these therapies, and those in remission at risk for recurrence or a second new cancer. While impressive progress in standard cancer therapy has been made, the value of this therapy in the management of solid tumors may have reached a plateau.
At present, there is no strategy to reduce the risk of recurrence of the primary tumors or of a second cancer among survivors. Patients unresponsive to standard or experimental therapies have little option except for poor quality of life for the remainder of life.
Therefore, additional approaches should be developed to improve the efficacy of current management of cancer. In this review, the author proposes that an active nutritional protocol that includes high doses of multiple dietary antioxidants and their derivatives (vitamin C, -tocopheryl succinate, and natural ß-carotene), but not endogenously made antioxidants (glutathione- and antioxidant enzyme-elevating agents), when administered as an adjunct to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or experimental therapy, may improve its efficacy by increasing tumor response and decreasing toxicity.
This nutritional protocol can also be used when patients become unresponsive to standard therapy or experimental therapy to improve quality of life and possibly increase the survival time. The authors also propose that after completion of standard therapy and/or experimental therapy, a maintenance nutritional protocol that contains lower doses of antioxidants and their derivatives, together with modification in diet and lifestyle, may reduce the risk of recurrence of the original tumor and development of a second cancer among survivors.
Experimental data and limited human studies suggest that use of these nutritional approaches may improve oncologic outcomes and decrease toxicity. This review also discusses the reasons for the current debates regarding the use of antioxidants during radiation or chemotherapy.