The Use Of Oncolytic Viruses For Cancer Treatment

In the first place, preliminary experiments indicate that the use of oncolytic viruses for cancer treatment may become a reality. There are several lines of research that point to the fact that oncolytic viruses can make a difference in treating incurable cancer patients.

Notably, Canadian researchers had reported in 2011 that oncolytic viruses created by genetically modifying smallpox vaccine viruses would enter tumor cells of patients, but not damage normal cells. Specifically, a high percentage of the end stage patients responded with tumor regression.

Shortly after Mayo Clinic physicians were desperate when two patients with end stage multiple myeloma, a vicious bone tumor, did not respond to chemotherapy. Significantly, they tried something unconventional: high doses of the measles vaccine in an attempt to stimulate the immune system. Here is an overview from 2014 that shows that many different cancers respond to various immunological approaches.

Study from Holland regarding end stage melanoma patients

Here is a small human study involving end-stage melanoma patients treated with the oncolytic virus T-VEC combined with pembrolizumab (Keytruda). It is important to realize that Keytruda helps to reactivate a T-cell response to the cancer cells. In this case the cancer cells absorb the oncolytic virus (T-VEC), but it leaves normal cells alone. Inside the cancer cells the oncolytic virus multiplies and destroys the cancer cells. In this 2017 study 21 patients with terminal, nonresectable melanoma received treatment with T-VEC and Keytruda. Specifically, 62% of the patients showed an objective response to the treatment. Moreover, 33% fulfilled the criteria of an immune-related response. In the past terminal patients like these had a 0% response to radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

History of research about oncolytic viruses

To begin with, in 1912 rabies virus treatment against cervical carcinoma was a first attempt to treat cancer. Researchers conducted many experiments between 1950 and 1970 with wild type or naturally attenuated viruses. This included, for example, hepatitis A and B viruses. In 1991 cancer researchers developed the concept of genetically engineered oncolytic viruses. Today cancer researchers know that the protection mechanisms in most cancer cells have deficiencies. This involves the interferon‐beta signal pathway. Having said this, there is an opportunity to let oncolytic viruses destroy cancer cells, while normal cells stay unaffected. An oncolytic virus that cancer experts use in human cancers is the genetically engineered herpes simplex virus type I (HSV‐1). Others that cancer researchers developed have strange names like T‐Vec, G47∆, JX594, CG0070 and Reolysin.

Various cancers that researchers treated with oncolytic viruses

Here are a few examples of cancers where researchers used oncolytic viruses to exert a significant therapeutic effect.


Glioblastoma is a deadly form of a brain tumor, which has a high rate of mortality. Researchers have investigated new avenues to treat this cancer. Researchers tested the genetically engineered dendritic vaccine. Initial clinical trials showed significant effectiveness compared to non-treated controls. In a large phase 3 clinical trial 331 patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma received treatment at the time of neurosurgery with dendritic cell vaccine. 30.2% of the patients were still alive and doing well after 3 1/3 years. Without the added vaccination procedure all of these patients would have died in the past because of the aggressiveness of the glioblastoma.

Multiple myeloma

Researchers could cure multiple myeloma and other cancers by using the measles vaccine. Here is a report by the popular press about two women who had multiple myeloma. One woman got cured by high doses of a measles vaccine. The other women experienced some relief, but did not survive.

This publication explains that oncolytic viral therapy of cancer is a lot more complicated than originally thought.

Prostate cancer

Researchers found that vaccines against prostate cancer were effective with the combination of oncolytic virus therapy with regular anti-cancer treatments. But oncolytic virus therapy alone has a poorer prognosis than a combination of chemotherapy or radiotherapy with oncolytic virus therapy.

Cervical cancer

The high-risk HPV16 strain most often causes cervical cancer. The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine targets patients with previous exposure to HPV16. However, researchers have noticed that in some cases a phenomenon called the “HPV immune escape” has allowed in some vaccinated women to still develop cervical cancer. Now a group of researchers are investigating how the vaccine could be improved by finding out how the immune system is being tricked in these cases by the HPV virus to bypass the antibodies of the vaccine.

Pancreatic cancer

This cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages, and as a result the outlook for chemotherapy or radiotherapy is extremely poor. Researchers have used several approaches as an alternative to conventional therapy. Immunotherapy is an option. Mayo clinic researchers have already announced that the measles vaccine approach will likely be applicable to pancreatic cancer treatment as well in the near future. However, other clinical trials are on the way to use alternative vaccination procedures.

Neuroblastoma, glioma and melanoma

This link shows that the FDA has accepted engineered oncolytic herpes virus (engineered to secrete GM-CSF) as a treatment against melanoma. Other approaches with engineered bacteria can affect neuroblastoma and glioma.

Survival data using oncolytic viruses for cancer treatment

Cancer researchers have completed a number of smaller clinical trials at this point. One of them describes end stage melanoma (stage III and IV) where the only treatment was with the oncolytic virus T‐Vec. The overall response rate compared to the control, which was only 5.7%, the experimental group with T-Vec was 26.4%. This is considered a good response rate given that we are dealing with end stage melanoma patients.

Mechanism of how oncolytic viruses stimulate the immune system to overcome various cancers

As mentioned above oncolytic viruses multiply in the cancer, once they have been incorporated. This leads to cancer cell death. It exposes the dead cancer tissue to the immune system. What helps in the process is that inhibitory proteins from the cancer cells that used to inhibit the immune system are no longer provided by the dead cancer cells. The end result is that the immune system mounts a formidable response against the cancer cells through killer T cells. This immune response also affects remote metastases of the same histological cancer type. This review article summarizes how oncolytic viruses work for cancer cell destruction and how this method can be combined with other treatment modalities.

The Use Of Oncolytic Viruses For Cancer Treatment

The Use Of Oncolytic Viruses For Cancer Treatment


Currently various cancer centers are involved with clinical trials in humans to test the power of oncolytic viruses. What cancer researchers have learnt is that oncolytic viruses are a useful tool to kill cancer cells. But the immune system of cancer patients is in a suppressed state. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a medication that will stimulate the immune system by stimulating killer T cells to destroy cancer cells. The combined effect of killing cancer cells with oncolytic viruses and stimulating the immune system is the big news. This has been the breakthrough that cancer researchers have been waiting for. Now several clinical trials are on the way where survival rates for cancer patients given the new combination therapy are assessed.

Oncolytic virus therapy here to stay

It is a treatment which is no longer a thought model with animal experiments. Well known medical centers are using it in patients, and as the results become more obvious, it will very likely become a new treatment modality for cancer.


Frequent Flying Can Increase Cancer Rates

A review article from June 25, 2018 discusses that frequent flying can increase cancer rates. A study showed that cancer of the breast, cervix, skin, thyroid and uterus are about twice as common in female stewardesses than in women at large. Also, gastrointestinal system cancers including cancer of the colon, stomach, esophagus, liver and pancreatic cancers are more common. This observation was true in both male and female flying personnel who engage in frequent flying. This publication comes from a scientific paper published on June 26, 2018.

Study of flight attendants

Patients from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) served as a control for flight attendants. This control group consisted of 2729 patients; they were of a similar socioeconomic status as the flight attendants. In contrast there were 5366 flight attendants with much higher cancer rates than normally expected. Specifically breast cancer had a 1.51-fold higher frequency than the control group. Melanoma had a frequency of 2.27-fold in comparison to controls, and non-melanoma cancers had a cancer rate of 4.09-fold when compared to controls. Non-melanoma cancer cases include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Cancer rates in pilots

In a meta-analysis of various studies it became obvious that pilots had 20% more prostate cancer than a non-pilot control group. However their mortality was not higher than controls.

In an interesting study spanning over 60 years Icelandic airline pilots underwent an analysis for cancer development.

83 cancers were registered. The general population (non-pilots) served as controls.  There was an increase of 2.42-fold for all cancers compared to controls. Prostate cancer was higher in these pilots by 2.57-fold. Malignant melanoma had a 9.88-fold increase in pilots in comparison to controls. The basal cell carcinomas in these pilots were 3.61-fold more common than the rates in the controls. With regard to basal cell carcinomas of the trunk there were 6.65-fold more of them in comparison to controls.

The difference between the pilots and the general population was likely due to the higher exposure to cosmic radiation. This is what the authors concluded.

How does cancer develop?

There are several ways cancer can develop. One of the known cancer causations is ionizing radiation. We know a lot about this from the atom bombs of WWII in Japan. There were many more thyroid cancers in children than were normal following the dropping of the atom bombs.

But diagnostic CT scans and X-rays are not without risk of cancer development either. There is a lag period of 10 to 20 years and even longer. But after this time the higher cancer rate becomes measurable. A person who had a CT scan done as a diagnostic test in childhood will still have a 25% higher cancer rate 15 years later. This is how powerful radiation of the DNA of our cells is despite inherent repair mechanisms that fight back to keep things normal.

Single cancers versus multiple cancers

It is interesting that female stewardesses and male pilots came down with a mix of various cancers. There were skin cancers, breast cancers, cancers of the prostate and many gastrointestinal cancers. The numbers were not big enough to show statistical significance for leukemia also being a likely cause of cancer from cosmic radiation.

If cosmic radiation was going through the body randomly hitting various DNA strands in all cell types, which could explain why a random number of cancers develop in those cells that got the highest exposure. The ones who got above average cancer were stewardesses and pilots who were longest on their jobs. A variety of cancers would develop from various tissues. This is exactly what the studies have shown. Radiation exposure following the Fukushima disaster led to thousands of thyroid cancers.

There are frequent flyers like business travelers and vacation seeking retirees who will also be at a higher risk of developing cancer. The more they fly, the higher the risk.

Other causes of cancer

Cosmic radiation is only one cause of cancer. There are many other causes of cancer. If you smoke heavily or abuse alcohol this can cause genetic mutations of cells that can develop into cancer. There is a pathway to cancer, which consists of initiation, promotion and progression. After those initial hurdles the cancer cell will multiply and start metastasizing into other areas of the body.

Carcinogens can damage the DNA of cells. In the case of pollution carcinogens enter the body through the air. But consuming processed meat and red meat has a proven link to cancer development as well, namely colon cancer.

Diverse factors all can cause cancer

Chronic inflammation from chronic infections is also carcinogenic. Chronic gastritis is caused by H. pylori. After years of infection with this pathogen stomach cancer can develop. Hepatitis viruses that are chronically present in liver cells can be the cause of liver cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the cause for the development of cancer of the cervix. The majority of cancer is caused from the environment or by poor life styles. Only 5 to 10% of cancers are inherited.

Tumor suppressor genes are important in terms of resisting the development of cancer. The TP53 gene produces a protein that interferes with the multiplication of cancer cells. Cancer cells in turn can produce a protein that interferes with TP53 function. The end result is that it will interfere with the body’s immune system to produce killer T cells. This way the cancer has the upper hand. There are some herbs that have shown anti-cancer effects, such as curcumin. As I explain in this blog, there are absorption problems with curcumin presently. It is not yet primetime for curcumin, but it could be once the absorption problems are overcome. Nevertheless the research surrounding curcumin is interesting.

Frequent Flying Can Increase Cancer Rates

Frequent Flying Can Increase Cancer Rates


Several interesting studies have shown that stewardesses, pilots and frequent airplane travellers have a higher risk of developing cancer. Research groups have been careful to control these studies for lifestyle factors and other causes of cancer. Exposure to cosmic radiation is the common culprit that is behind this cancer causation. There was a multitude of cancers rather than one single type of cancer in pilots and stewardesses. This makes it more plausible that it is indeed cosmic radiation that caused the cancer increase. But cancer development is complex, and I have summarized this briefly here. It is important to be aware of all the possible causes of cancer. This allows you to minimize your exposure to carcinogens. We all get exposure to carcinogens from pollution. In addition we get exposure to cosmic radiation according to how much time we spend flying to holiday destinations or on business trips. Be safe and be informed!


Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms

For the past few years it has become evident that sun exposure helps many symptoms. Patients with psoriasis have skin plaques on their skin. With sun exposure some of them disappear and the skin appearance improves. Patients with seasonal affective disorder have worsening of their depression over winter. Depression lifts with more sun exposure in the spring. Even a complicated disease like MS, which is more common in the northern latitudes, improves with sun exposure or a move to the southern states.

Osteoporosis: sun exposure has a positive effect

Osteoporosis was the subject of an April 2016 study from Argentina.

The researchers counted the amount of actinic keratosis lesions on the skin of subjects. This correlated well with lifetime sun exposure. Next they measured the  occurrence of hip fractures from osteoporosis. There was a correlation of the two. This case control study had 51 patients with hip fractures. Controls were 59 patients from the same hospital without hip fractures. The mean age was 80 years of age. 23.5% of patients with a history of hip fractures were observed to have actinic keratoses. In contrast 40.7 % of actinic keratoses were found in controls.

Sun exposure prevents hip fractures

The authors conclude that higher sun exposure is protective of hip fractures, but led to more actinic keratoses. They also stated that higher actinic keratoses rates, which are precancerous skin lesions are a risk for developing skin cancer. It is important to balance risk of osteoporosis from a lack of sun exposure with the risk of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun.

We know that higher doses of vitamin D3 in combination with vitamin K2 and calcium supplementation prevent osteoporosis. Reasonable daily doses are 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 per day and 500mg of calcium daily.

Psoriasis: sun exposure helps many symptoms

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition of the skin with plaques and a characteristic skin rash. This February 2016 study from Turkey showed significant differences between women with psoriasis versus controls. Bone density studies showed lower levels in psoriatic females than in female controls. Female psoriasis patients had lower vitamin D levels than female controls. Male psoriatic patients showed no difference from controls. Low levels of vitamin D3 may be triggers for osteoporosis to develop in female psoriasis patients. Inflammation may also be a contributory factor. There was an elevation of the C-reactive protein (CRP) in female psoriasis patients.

Clinical observations have shown for years that the rash of psoriasis patients tends to improve during the summer.

Seasonal affective disorder: sun exposure lifts the mood

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been known to respond to light therapy. Typically it peaks in the winter months and presents in mostly females who live far away from the equator. They improve when they travel to a sunny spot such as the subtropics or the southern states of North America during the winter months. But light therapy, vitamin D3, antidepressant therapy and counseling the mood swings of seasonal affective disorder will lessen.

In this 2014 study it was shown that depression in older people was not related to the darker months (between October and March). The summer depression rates in older people were identical to the winter depression rates.

Clinical trials with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) patients

In a group of 38 patients with SAD 14 patients were treated with white light visors, 15 with infrared visors and 9 served as a control (visors, no light). Both white light and infrared treated groups showed prevention of SAD while the control group developed SAD.

A 6-week trial was published March 2015. It involved 78 patients (51 Afro-Americans and 27 Caucasians). They all had SAD and received a treatment with 10,000-lux bright light for 60 min daily in the morning. Caucasians had a response rate of 75%. African-Americans had a response rate of only 46.3%. The investigators found that the symptomatic improvement and the rate of treatment response were the same in both groups. The researchers found that the Afro-American subgroup of patients required more education resources. This can overcome the inconsistent application with the bright light.

Vitamin D trials regarding SAD patients

In a study involving 185 female undergraduates of the Pacific Northwest, vitamin D blood levels were measured and a correlation of low vitamin D with depressive symptoms was found in SAD patients.

In a small study the hypothesis was tested that vitamin D3 in higher doses would be beneficial for SAD patients. Eight subjects received a treatment with 100,000 I.U. of vitamin D3, while seven subjects received phototherapy. All subjects had their vitamin D blood levels checked. Interestingly the vitamin D3 group improved on all depression scales. The phototherapy did not show improvement on the depression scale. The vitamin D level increased 74% in the vitamin D3 group and 36% in the phototherapy group.

Light exposure and vitamin D supplementation for SAD

All of these studies seem to indicate that SAD is more common in a younger population while in older people depression seems to be year-round. SAD does respond very well to 1-hour exposure of 10,000 lux of light in the morning. On a sunny day a walk in the sun for 1 hour is equivalent to an exposure at home with a SAD light. High dose vitamin D3 supplementation makes sense as low vitamin D levels were a persistent finding among SAD depression patients.

Multiple sclerosis: sun exposure makes a difference

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more common in northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere. It is thought that sun exposure leads to higher vitamin D3 production in the skin, which prevents MS. On the other hand, once the diagnosis of MS is certain sun exposure or high doses of vitamin D3 can make it better.

This 2015 Australian study showed the same findings with a large group of MS patients.

This 2015 study from Sweden indicates that there is a compelling connection of prevention of MS through sun exposure or the taking of supplements of vitamin D3. In view of this evidence the authors suggest that you should take vitamin D3 supplements for prevention of MS before trials confirm this further.

Sun protection needed to prevent skin cancer

We have been hearing the slogan “slip, slop and slap” for skin cancer prevention. Slip, slop and slap stands for: slip on a shirt; slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat. This publication dated March 2016 questions whether the precautions have been too zealous.

On the other hand the statistics regarding higher precancerous actinic keratoses in patients without osteoporosis are alarming too. It seems better to use high doses of vitamin D3, which will prevent osteoporosis, depression (SAD), MS and also improve psoriasis. Sun protection has decreased skin cancer, but did not curtail melanoma rates because sunscreen lotion can be penetrated by infrared radiation.

Use common sense for skin cancer prevention

This means that you should listen to the advice to stay out of the intense sun between 11AM and 3PM. Use vitamin D3 supplements in higher doses as this protects your skin. Research from England indicates that melanoma patients are usually the ones that are susceptible to melanoma genetically. They also have low vitamin D levels in the blood to a certain degree from skin cancer formation. The researchers recommend strongly that those at risk for melanoma need to be on higher vitamin D3 supplementations. A patient with a diagnosis of melanoma should receive high doses of vitamin D3.

Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms

Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms


It is not a myth: sun exposure helps many symptoms as explained above. Diverse body systems like osteoporotic bones, psoriatic skin and seasonal affective disorder respond to sun exposure. Sun exposure also prevents MS, a degenerative central nervous system disorder. The effects of vitamin D3 can explain some of this effect. It likely stems from sun exposure to the skin. But sunlight has hormonal effects. This occurs through the optic pathways and connections to the hypothalamus. We know that the sun helps combat many symptoms, but more research will be necessary, till we know exactly how it works.


Sunburn Prevention

Much has been written about sunburn prevention. The thinking behind this is that perhaps we could prevent skin cancer and melanoma development, if we would block ultraviolet rays from the sun or from tanning booths irritate our skin.

So far the theory. Now the truth.

1. Increase of skin cancer despite sunscreen applications

It is sobering that statistics of skin cancer frequency  show that despite more awareness of the importance of skin protection with sunscreen lotions and creams, skin cancer rates have steadily increased. Behind this paradox is the fact that vitamin D3 production in the skin is blocked from sun exposure and the person is not getting the cancer protecting effect of vitamin D3.

Low vitamin D3 levels (measured as 25-hydroxy vitamin D3) are not only associated with skin cancer, but also with breast cancer, and breast cancer will be reduced to 50% of control groups, if patients are treated with high vitamin D3 supplements. There are many other cancers that respond to exposure to sunlight or to supplementation with vitamin D3.

2. We need to know about infrared rays and the ultraviolet exposure

The ultraviolet radiation of sunlight has been extensively studied. There are UVA rays that range from 315 to 400 nanometers. They make up about 95% of the sunlight and penetrate deeper into the skin (the dermis level) leading to more severe skin damage, producing aged looking skin.  UVB rays (5% of sunlight) contain wavelength measuring between 280 and 325 nanometers affecting the most superficial layer of the skin, the epidermis. These rays cause sunburns. Both UVA and UVB are strongest around midday. The sun also produces UVC rays (wave length 180 to 280 nanometers), which are completely absorbed by the ozone layer and are not of importance unless you live under an ozone hole.

Next there is IR (infrared radiation), which has only recently been detected to be of health concern. IR rays range from 760 nanometers to 1 million nanometers (=1 millimeter). It causes skin photoaging and damage. Most of IR is in the lower range (between 760 and 1,440 nanometers); the total amount of IR rays that reach the skin is massive compared to the UV light and 50% of these rays reach deep into the skin to the level of the dermis.

Sunburn Prevention

Sunburn Prevention

3. Filtering out the damaging rays

Armed with the above knowledge we can now talk about sunscreen lotions and sunscreen creams. Traditional sunscreen lotions and creams have been directed against both shortwave (UVB) and longwave (UVA) rays of the sun. UVB blockers prevent damage to the surface of the skin (epidermis level), UVA blockers prevent damage to the deeper dermis. It is in your interest to buy a sun blocking agent that blocks both of these rays. (You have to read labels.)

However, both of these blockers, which means all of the traditional sunscreen agents, will not block IR waves (infrared radiation), which causes most of the wrinkles, age-related skin changes and skin DNA damage, which eventually results in skin cancer.

4. Vitamin D3 deficiency because of sunscreen applications

As we know that sunscreen agents lead to blocking of vitamin D synthesis in the skin, it is prudent to take vitamin D3 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day and have your health care provider order 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 blood levels from time to time (aim for a level of 100 ng/m or more). There is no danger of overdosing vitamin D3. That story about overdosing of vitamins is coming from vitamin A overdosing. There is a ceiling not to be exceeded due to liver toxicity over vitamin A overdosing, but not so for vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 protects not only from skin cancer, but also from other cancers. For more on vitamin D3 read my recent blog on this.

5. Whole body protection from the inside

There are two approaches to using systemic natural extracts. One component is from a tropical fern (Polypodium leucotomos) and another one from blood oranges that can both repair sun damaged skin and prevent sunburn. The effective substances are administered orally.

This fern extract has been tested in smaller clinical trials and was found to have a 70% to 75% efficacy in blocking all sun rays from the inside out.

In a small trial patients were exposed to UVB light after preparation with red orange extract and a 35% reduction of sun burn was found within 15 days when compared to controls.

There is a possibility now to take one capsule with tropical fern extract mixed with red orange extract and combine this with traditional sunscreen agents and have optimal sun protection.

One trial that is mentioned in these last two links is a group of polymorphous light eruption patients who are born with extreme sun sensitivity, but reported an 80% improvement with this oral fern extract treatment.

6. Final recommendations for sunburn prevention

Although the advice given in this WebMD link is useful, it neglects to recommend to supplement with vitamin D3 because of the sunscreen action. It also does not mention the IR waves of the sun that do most of the damage and that only get prevented by staying out of the sun or by taking the oral sunscreen pill (tropical fern extract and red orange extract mixed).

My recommendation, if you were not allergic to ferns, is to consider taking the oral pill (as far as I know currently only available from LifeExtension as “enhanced fern block with red orange complex”) to block the entire wavelength of the sun rays. This will repair some of the skin damage that has already been done. Follow the above WebMD link as well with regard to the sun screen lotions/creams. Also stay out of the noon sun between 11 AM and 2 PM. Take your vitamin D3 in the high dose range as discussed above to preserve optimal resistance against all kinds of cancers including skin cancer.


In reviewing the facts prior to writing this blog I was quite bewildered how misleading a lot of the literature is regarding prevention of sunburns, particularly by assuming that all you had to do was to block UVB and UVA rays. I attempted to explain why this is an oversimplification, and the skin cancer statistics clearly show that sunscreen blockers alone are not stopping skin cancer. So, we do need a combination of
1. Staying out of the noon sun.

2. Using clothing and wide sun hats to keep the sun out of our faces.

3. Use the traditional sunscreen agents. Reapply, if necessary.

4. Using an oral sunscreen agent that blocks infrared rays as discussed under point 5 and 6.

5. Using vitamin D3 in high doses as discussed under point 4 above for cancer prevention.

With this in mind, enjoy the rest of your summer!

More information on:

1. Sunburns:

2. Different skin types and skin cancer causes:

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014


Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

In early 1900 lung cancer was unheard of. This was before the cigarette industry started to mass-produce and market cigarettes.

However, ever since the arrival of the industrial revolution air quality has suffered. In China poor air quality has now reached such enormous values that the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled poor air quality as one of the causes of lung cancer.

When you rank countries by average air pollution measurements, one sees that Europe, the US and South America overall have good ratings, whereas the Middle Eastern countries, China and India have poorer ratings.

However, when the pollution index of cities where the population is much denser than in the countries at large, are tabulated a much different picture emerges: Cities in Iran, India and Pakistan stand out as particularly bad followed by cities in China, Eastern Europe, Paris, London, Berlin, cities in California (the populous State), Chicago and New York.

Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US.

In certain cities such as Beijing the lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. As this article shows lung cancer in never smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants can also cause such cancers. But the outdoor air quality has been a problem ever since the industrial revolution, which started around Europe in the 1800’s and first part of the1900’s. In the latter half of the 1900’s much of the industrial wave has migrated to the Middle East, to India and China. But the air quality of the whole world has suffered as the jet stream and other air currents carry pollution in the stratosphere all around the globe.

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

History of pollution in various regions

1. In Germany’s  Ruhr district (“Ruhrgebiet”) in North Rhine-Westphalia, a highly populated industrial area, pollution reached a peak in the late 1950’s. From 1963 onward many of the coal mines, iron ore mines and other mineral mines closed down. 50 years ago the German Chancellor, Willy Brand was concerned about the environment and promised that blue skies would return to the Ruhr district again.  A special task force was initiated and maximally allowable limits were established for industries’ pollution emissions and enforced by the German government. Government and industry were co-operating in developing anti-pollution measures, which have cleared up a lot of the pollution since. With regard to car emissions lead free gasoline was introduced and carburetors ensured more complete burning of exhaust gases. This is now common and accepted anywhere except for diesel fume exhaust, which nobody wants to address despite proven carcinogenicity.

Now Germany is one of the leaders in green technology, which is also important for tourism.

2. England has its own legacy of pollution in soil and air from the industrial revolution. The soil of moorland, which soaked up acid rain for decades, is more acidy than lemon juice and it will take a long time despite industrial complexes having closed long time ago, before the soil quality will be returned to normal.

3. Hamilton in Ontario/Canada has had a longstanding pollution problem, which I witnessed from 1976 until my departure in 1978. It is well known that Stelco, the local steel plant downtown Hamilton is sending polluting emissions into the air. In 1976 a vising professor from Australia gave an interesting talk about a study that was done at that time regarding the risk of developing bronchogenic carcinoma (a synonym for lung cancer) in the immediate surroundings of the Stelco plant. He said that this was one of the first studies to show that the distance of people’s houses from the source of pollution mattered as that determined how concentrated the air pollution was (the closer the more polluted the air). This  affected cancer rates: they were much higher in the immediate surrounding of Stelco when compared to the average rate in the rest of Hamilton. This difference was very significant within a radius of 1 kilometer (= 0.62 miles) from the Stelco plant.

Just in May of 2013 the local cancer agency of Hamilton announced that the lung cancer rate in Hamilton was higher than elsewhere in Ontario because of a combination of poor air quality and of a higher percentage of people smoking. Then in August 2013 the city of Hamilton announced a new air pollution bylaw for stricter pollution measures to improve the air quality in the downtown area. It is just a pity that Hamiltonians had to wait until 2013 before the city approved an anti-pollution bylaw that could have been passed 50 years earlier like in Germany’s Ruhr district!

4. In 2008 Pittsburg, a former steel manufacturer town like Hamilton, Ont. outdid Los Angeles with regard to small particle air pollution.

Lung cancer prevention by the authorities

As mentioned before up o15% of lung cancer is caused by environmental exposure. So, we ourselves can only prevent 85% of lung cancer by not smoking and not exposing ourselves to industrial emissions or to smoke from incense. However, in many cities around the world you will get exposed to air pollutants that are well above the safe limits, so the risk of getting lung cancer from just breathing the air there can be much higher than in rural areas where there is no industry.

Technologies to control air pollution are widely available. We need to exert pressure on politicians to show leadership around the world. Government regulations to lower emission rates need to be put into place and inspectors need to ensure the rules and regulations are adhered to. Without reducing emissions of cancer producing gases and chemicals right at the source (open burning of cuttings in orchards or burning cut trees), cutting emissions of cars, planes, ships, diesel cars, locomotives, electric generator plants etc. the air quality will not improve. Despite some costs involved industry, governments and individuals have to work together to make clean air happen.

The residents of those countries that have low pollution values will not benefit, if pollution continues to occur in other parts of the world as it just travels in the stratosphere around the globe until it arrives right here at home! We need an international pollution police. Satellites can be used to monitor where pollution occurs and this can be followed up through the local regulatory bodies with penalties and remedial actions.

What can I do personally to prevent lung cancer?

1.The most obvious step is to quit smoking and ask smokers who come to your place to smoke outside (not in your home).

2.Consider moving away from the city, if the air quality is unacceptable to a place where there is low air pollution.

3.Vitamin D3 has been shown to prevent colorectal cancer, but as there are vitamin D receptors found on the surface of various cells in tissue around the body including the lungs, many researchers feel that this vitamin in higher doses (2000 IU to 5000 IU) has probably a wider applicability in preventing cancers, even lung cancer.

4.Cutting out sugar and adopting a Mediterranean type diet is a prudent thing to do; also cutting down your calories to the maintenance you need (mildly ketogenic diet). If you bought body composition scales, it would display what your daily calorie consumption is and you should not exceed this, or else you’ll gain weight. An aging man who is overweight will experience hormone changes as fat is being metabolized and the enzyme aromatase contained in fatty tissue will turn male hormones (testosterone, DHT, androstenedione) into estrogen. Estrogen (particularly estradiol) is a known carcinogen that has been proven to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. However lung cancer is also being promoted in women by estrogen as discussed in this link. In men one needs to remember that lung cells have estrogen receptors and there is concern in aging men with higher estradiol levels that this can promote cell divisions in existing lung cancer. So, it is important to maintain a normal body mass index between 21 and 24 (well below 25.0 and well above 18.5, which are the official accepted limits). This way there is no problem with insulin resistance (too high an insulin level), and other metabolic substances (cytokines, growth hormone like factors and tumor necrosis factor-alpha from body fat) that are cancer promoting.

5. If testosterone deficiency is present, which is common in older men, testosterone will have to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. It is a myth that testosterone would cause prostate cancer. Testosterone in males is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism including the immune system, which then can fight lung cancer and any other cancers.

6. Exercise and reducing beef consumption are also often mentioned in terms of preventing lung cancer.

7. Here are several recommendations from the LifeExtension Foundation that I found very useful in terms of lung cancer prevention. This link shows that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, alpha tocopherol, the minerals selenium and zinc are also helping to reduce the lung cancer rate. Drinking green tea has also been shown to be effective in a dose-response curve manner (more tea protecting more from lung cancer). Vitamin B12 and folate have been shown to reduce abnormal bronchial cell growth in smokers as shown by repeat bronchoscopy studies.

8. Those who have been smokers in the past and those who have been around heavy smokers for more than 10 years in the past should consider having a preventative bronchoscopy done by a lung specialist (also called respirologist or pulmonologists). This way any suspicious areas with precancerous lesions can be biopsied during the procedure and attended to.

Hopeful research for new lung cancer treatments

Lung cancer is a disease that is best prevented. Once a person gets lung cancer, the prognosis is still very poor. However, cancer researchers are getting close to newer treatments involving genetically modified T-cells (killer cells) as was recently achieved for leukemia. Similar research is going on regarding ovarian cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

More information about lung cancer:


It is not acceptable to let pollution take its course , the way politicians around the globe have handled this in the past 6 decades with a few notable exceptions mentioned. We all suffer a higher risk of getting lung cancer, even if we have been life-long non-smokers. Right now up to 15% of lung cancer in most populations are of this type. However, in Beijing this number is already much higher. The technology is available; Germany has led the way in the Ruhr district in the 1960’s and beyond. In my opinion the G8 meetings should have this high on their agendas and send technological aid to all the regions that have higher than the average world pollution index under the mandate of a special UN commission. This should be supported by the major industrial players with the knowledge that they will prevent the death of millions of potential consumers down the road, which will on the long-term pay off the relatively minor investment of installing pollution controls, before lung cancer levels rise even more.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014


Successful Gene Therapy For Melanoma

Scientists at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. have developed a modality of gene therapy to treat patients with melanoma.
The therapy alters the patients’ own lymphocytes to recognize and attack cancer cells. Dr. Steven Rosenberg and his team developed the new technique by drawing a blood sample containing normal lymphocytes from an advanced melanoma patient. Next the cells are infected with a retrovirus, which delivers genes that target specific receptors on T cells. Once the cells are infused back into the patient, these receptors attach themselves to the molecules on tumor cells and activate the lymphocytes to destroy the cancer cells. This method is called “adoptive cell transfer”. In early experiments there seemed to be little or no benefit, but researchers refined the methods and found valuable and promising aspects regarding the treatment of melanoma patients. It is crucial to administer the cells in their most active growth phase. This was shown in a group of 14 patients, where 2 terminal melanoma patients experienced cancer regression. Dr. Jeffrey Medin, head of the clinical research program in gene therapy at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto agrees that this new therapy is a breakthrough as it has virtually brought terminal patients “back from the brink”. It is also exciting to see that the researchers could refine the techniques in order to create a more successful therapy. As a result the method will be more applicable to other cancers and broader populations.

Successful Gene Therapy For Melanoma

Successful Gene Therapy For Melanoma

Although adoptive cell transfer has only been used in melanoma patients so far, the researchers have shown ways to engineer cells of the immune system in a similar way to attack breast, liver cancer or lung cancers.

More information about treatment of melanoma:

Reference: The Medical Post, September 19, 2006, page 1 and 61

Last edited November 1, 2014