Coenzyme Q10 and breast cancer care: a new review

Individuals with breast cancer are much more likely to have low plasma Coenzyme Q10 concentrations than healthy individuals. Cell line studies, animal studies, and a few human studies suggest that Coenzyme Q10 supplementation may be beneficial as an adjunctive treatment together with conventional therapy for breast cancer.The published bio-medical journal literature about the efficacy of Coenzyme Q10 adjunct treatment in breast cancer care is sparse but promising.  

The published bio-medical journal literature about the efficacy of Coenzyme Q10 adjunct treatment in breast cancer care is sparse but promising. So concludes the author of a 2017 systematic review of the journal articles indexed in PubMed. PubMed is the free public index to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline database [Tafazoli].

More well-designed clinical studies are needed to provide answers to questions about the adjuvant use of Coenzyme Q10 in breast cancer treatment and care:

  • Is Coenzyme Q10 effective as a single intervention agent?
  • Is Coenzyme Q10 more effective in combination with other nutritional supplements such as essential fatty acids and selenium?
  • What formulations and what daily dosages of Coenzyme Q10 are most effective?

Documentation about Coenzyme Q10 and breast cancer care

Coenzyme Q10 concentrations and breast cancer

  • Evidence from human breast tissue samples shows that Coenzyme Q10 concentrations are much lower in cancerous tissue than in normal tissue [Tafazoli].
  • Data from a case-control study has shown an inverse relationship between plasma Coenzyme Q10 concentrations and the incidence of breast cancer, independent of menopausal status [Tafazoli].
  • Cell line studies have shown that the addition of Coenzyme Q10 does not inhibit the apoptotic, anti-growth, and anti-colonization effects of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin – trade name Adriamycin while it does protect the heart muscle [Tafazoli].
  • Coenzyme Q10 supplementation added to chemotherapy with doxorubicin (Adriamycin) prevents the mitochondrial damage and subsequent cardio-toxicity caused by reactive oxygen species produced during the treatment with doxorubicin [Tafazoli].

Coenzyme Q10 and mammary carcinomas

An animal study has shown that oral administration of Coenzyme Q10 had the following effects on rats with induced mammary carcinomas [Tafazoli]:

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End-of-the-year Coenzyme Q10 report card

Coenzyme Q10 as a nutritional supplement – if properly formulated – gets an A grade for performance.  Coenzyme Q10 goes right to the head of the class on our list of daily nutritional supplements, right up there with vitamin D capsules, organic high-selenium yeast tablets, and fish oil capsules (if we don’t eat as much fish as we should).

As the fall semester 2017 drew to a close, I reviewed the published bio-medical documentation and assigned some performance grades to the nutritional supplement Coenzyme Q10. As might be expected of an “essential bio-nutrient,” Coenzyme Q10 maintained an exemplary grade point average.

Properly formulated Coenzyme Q10 supplements

Right.  We want to get a supplement made with pharmaceutical-grade Coenzyme Q10 and manufactured under conditions of pharmaceutical control. We want a Coenzyme Q10 supplement that meets the following criteria:

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More about Coenzyme Q10 and breast cancer

Pink awareness. Very important. Awareness of the risk of breast cancer. We want to be aware, also, of the need for daily Coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Our bodies produce less Coenzyme Q10 as we get older. Breast cancer patients need Coenzyme Q10’s energy producing function and its antioxidant role.

Breast cancer is doubly frightening.  First, there is the fear that the tumor will metastasize, leading to more deadly cancers.  Secondly, there is the dread of the chemotherapy and its adverse effects: the hair loss, the sores in the mouth, the nausea and vomiting, the diarrhea.  But Coenzyme Q10 supplements may help.

How can Coenzyme Q10 help in the fight against breast cancer?  There is research evidence for beneficial effects of Coenzyme Q10 supplements:

  • delay the progression of the tumor [Folkers; Lockwood, Hertz & Lister]
  • reduce levels of oxidative stress and inflammation [Premkumar 2007]
  • reduce the levels of biological markers for breast cancer tumors [Premkumar 2007]
  • increase the number of DNA repair enzymes {Premkumar 2008]

Coenzyme Q10 delays the growth of breast cancer tumors
The Danish ANICA study and the Danish End-Stage Cancer study have shown that daily supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 in combination with other antioxidant nutritional supplements is associated with significant health benefits [Lockwood; Hertz & Lister]:

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Coenzyme Q10 and end-stage cancer

Actually, the best cocktail to reach for may be an antioxidant cocktail made with Coenzyme Q10, selenium, antioxidant vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Clinical studies have shown an anti-cancer effect associated with such a daily adjuvant treatment.

Coenzyme Q10 in combination with selenium and other antioxidant supplements can help to prevent cancer or slow the progression of cancer.  There are several plausible mechanisms that could explain an anti-cancer effect of supplementation with Coenzyme Q10, selenium, and other antioxidants:

  • beneficial effect on cell signaling molecules (cytokines) that are important in immune system response
  • anti-inflammation effect
  • modulating effects on the expression of the tumor suppressor gene p53
  • inhibiting effect on gene mutation
  • inhibiting effect on tumor angiogenesis (angiogenesis = the development of new blood vessels that would feed tumor cells and help them spread)
  • inhibiting effect on oxidative stress [Hertz & Lister]

The results of the ANICA study – the Adjuvant Nutritional Intervention in Cancer study – showed that adjuvant treatment of high-risk breast cancer patients with a cocktail of nutritional supplements including Coenzyme Q10 and selenium can slow the development of the cancer and permit the patients to live longer with the cancer under control [Lockwood].

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Coenzyme Q10 and selenium and breast cancer

Sven Moesgaard, Pharma Nord technical director (left), introduced Dr. Knud Lockwood (right) to Dr. Karl Folkers (center). Dr. Folkers had evidence of low Coenzyme Q10 status in cancer patients. Dr. Lockwood was treating breast cancer patients. The meeting led to the start of the ANICA breast cancer study.

The ANICA study – the Adjuvant Nutritional Intervention in Cancer study – was an open clinical study conducted in Denmark in the 1990s.  It was an interesting study with thought-provoking results.  Its design reflected outside-the-box thinking.

The ANICA study enrolled 32 typical breast cancer patients who were classified high risk because their tumors had spread to the lymph nodes.  The 32 women received the standard breast cancer treatment at the time.  In addition, they were treated with an adjuvant therapy in the form of a combination of various micronutrients.

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Coenzyme Q10 and liver cancer

Recovery from surgery
Studies show that supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 during and after surgery can shorten the length of the stay in the hospital following surgery. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation is also associated with increased energy and less muscle pain and weakness following surgery.

Coenzyme Q10 supplementation as a therapeutic option for chronic disease management and for recovery from surgery?  Yes.  I have just seen interesting reports from two Taiwanese research studies of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation of liver cancer patients.

The study participants were patients with hepatocellular carcinomas: patients whose liver cancer had started in the liver, not migrated to the liver from some other site in the body.  Hepatocellular carcinomas are one of the leading causes of cancer death world-wide [Liu 2016].

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Coenzyme Q10 and Adriamycin

Cancer ribbon
Prolonged use of certain chemotherapy drugs — anthracyclines and taxanes among them — is known to cause damage to the heart muscle. Studies have shown that concurrent supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 mitigates the damage to the heart muscle.

Cancer patients! Has your doctor warned you about the possibility of heart damage caused by certain chemotherapy drugs?  In particular, have you heard about the cardio-toxic effects of a class of cancer drugs called anthracyclines?  About the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin?  It is important to know that randomized controlled studies show that Coenzyme Q10 supplementation has a cardio-protective function.

Chemotherapy with Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
Adriamycin is an apparently effective chemotherapeutic drug for the treatment of solid tumors. Its chemical name is doxorubicin.  It is an anthracycline.  It is administered intravenously.  It has been used to treat several forms of leukemia, breast cancer, Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, liver cancer, kidney cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, and various other forms of cancer.

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