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Q
An Alternative Treatment for Lymphoma?

I am trying some natural approaches for stage 2, diffuse, large B-cell lymphoma. I found a doctor who does intravenous alpha-lipoic acid treatments to shrink the tumors and was wondering what you thought about that.

A
Answer (Published 2/25/2011)

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a cancer of B-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. In this disease, B-lymphocytes are larger than normal, do not respond to signals that should limit their reproduction, and do not function well to defend the body. Left untreated, DLBCL is fatal, but with timely and appropriate treatment, more than half of all patients can be cured.

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This very serious disease should be managed by an oncologist. I certainly wouldn’t rely on alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) in any form to reduce the size of lymph nodes or address the disease process.  ALA is vital to cellular energy production, and helps to neutralize damage caused by free radicals, and alpha-lipoic acid supplements have been studied for treatment of diabetic neuropathy, HIV, liver ailments such as chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, and glaucoma. ALA may also improve long-term memory via its protective effects on brain and nerve tissue, and it shows promise as a treatment for stroke and other brain disorders, which often involve damage from free radicals.

Although ALA is nontoxic, I have seen no evidence suggesting that it is an appropriate treatment for cancer of any type, although I am aware that it is being promoted for both the prevention and treatment of malignancies. Because they function as antioxidants you should know that ALA supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of both chemotherapy and radiation, therapies which rely on oxidative damage of cancer cells.

When dealing with cancer, first determine what conventional therapies have to offer. Then try to find an oncologist who is open to an integrative approach; see Integrative Oncology edited by Donald Abrams, M.D. and me (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Read more from Dr. Abrams: Treating Cancer With Integrative Medicine and Preventing Cancer With Integrative Medicine.

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