This is a continuation post on artemisinin, a compound that is found sweet wormwood. This agent is currently used for malaria treatment. Recently there has been interest in it’s application in dog cancer treatment. It has caught on in bone cancer care for dogs (osteosarcoma).
In the last post we summarized some mechanisms where artemisinin may help with several different cancer types. There are certainly in vitro (test tube) studies that show artemisinin, or closely related agents, can kill cancer cells.
Unfortunately killing a cancer cell in a petri dish may have nothing to do, whatsoever, with killing cancer in a living body. Hundreds upon hundreds of compounds show promise in the test tube and when used in a lab animal, dog or human do very little to nothing.
Is there evidence that arteminisin, or analogs (an analog is a related compound), work in living bodies?
Well, there is a case report in print out of India where the artemisinin analog artesunate was used to treat a human patient with laryngeal cancer with good results. However, injections were given, in addition to tablets. Dog lovers would need to go to their veterinarians regularly to accomplish this. Click here for the link.
The journal Clinical Cancer Research recently published an article (here is is) that showed that artemisinin was capable of slowing the growth of hepatoma (liver) cancer cells in mice.
There was another article (here you go) that showed some semi-synthetic derivatives of artemisinin helped a mouse model of prostate cancer too.
Finally, kidney cancer cells put in mice showed slowed growth and angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation to feed the cancers) when the mice were treated with the artemisinin analog artesunate. Here is the abstract.
So there’s some evidence that something or other is indeed going on here.
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A new drug is being made by Dr. Lai, one of the original artemisinin guys in cancer treatment at the University of Washinton. The drug improves it’s cancer killing effects by boosting its movement into cancer cells with iron. (See the last artemisinin post for more on the iron topic).
My overall impression here is that we are pretty early in the game to say we have a real contender. Not that we do not have a real contender, just that it seems the hype may not be in proportion to the documented effects. Investigation and consideration is strongly advised!
If you want to investigate and consider artemisinin with your vet or oncologist, the possible dose spread is huge, vaguely around 2 to 15 mg per pound one time a day. There is much variation on recommended doses.
Here is some other info on artemisinin:
Give with some oily material (omega 3 fatty acids would be one option).
Give 1 week on, 1 week off, since the absorption if artemisinin decreases after about 1 week.
Do not use if your dog is on seizure control medication.
Do not use when your dog is getting radiation.
Possibly can be used with most chemo agents, but all interactions have not been assessed.
Antixodant effects may interfere with artmesinin’s activity.
Upset stomach may be seen with artemisinin. Rare liver marker elevation and suppression of blood cells has been seen in humans. Here is a safety review in humans.
Do not give artemisinin with iron in the food or it can react with this iron and be consumed before it enters cancer cells. Meat, fortified foods, and supplements are some common iron sources in the diet.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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