Artesunate is a drug that was initially designed for combating malaria, however, recently it has shown great promise as a cancer therapy [1,2,3]. It has been used in combination with some chemotherapies to improve outcomes in advanced cancer patients . When fighting cancer it is important to use every tool at your disposal to weaken the cancer and strengthen your own cells. Artesunate is another weapon in the arsenal of natural remedies that can make a significant difference in the fight against cancer.
The mechanism of action for artesunate in the context of cancer therapy is very well defined. Cancer cells have a tendency to absorb iron at high levels and this is thought to accelerate the mutation rate within these cells. Iron reacts with oxygen to form free radicals, which are reactive molecules that damage DNA. In normal cells this reaction is a problem; in cancer cells it allows them to mutate and develop resistance to therapies. Artesunate activates mitochondrial apoptosis by iron catalyzed lysosomal reactive oxygen species production . In other words, this drug will use the iron within the cancer cells against them.
Preliminary data from Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center indicates that IV Vitamin C (IVC) in conjunction with IV Artesunate makes a substantial difference in advanced cancers. IV Artesunate is often administered right before high dose IV vitamin C and there is evidence that these therapies work synergistically together. In patients with Stage 4 Breast cancer, after 1 year the group that received no IV Vitamin C and IV Artesunate had a 74% survival rate. Compared to the IV Vitamin C and IV Artesunate group which had a 90% survival rate after 1 year. By year 2 the results were even more significant as the group that did not receive treatment had a 68% survival rate compared to 90% in the treatment group. It is also important to note that no adverse events were associated with this treatment.
These preliminary results strongly suggest that high dose IV Vitamin C and IV artesunate improves survival in stage 4 breast cancer patients. Evidence is growing that the use of this therapy is effective for a wide range of cancers. Research has shown that Artesunate can increase quality of life in addition to improving survival rates. Just like any other cancer therapy, it is important that it is used under the supervision of an experienced Naturopathic Physician who focuses in oncology. At my clinic I regularly see patients improve significantly when they use this therapy as part of a comprehensive integrative cancer therapy.
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1) Efferth, T., Dunstan, H., Sauerbrey, A., Miyanchi, H., Chitambar, CR. “The anti-malarial artesunate is also active against cancer.” International Journal of Oncology 18 (2001): 767-773.
2) Michaelis, Martin, et al. “Anti-cancer effects of artesunate in a panel of chemoresistant neuroblastoma cell lines.” Biochemical Pharmacology 79.2 (2010): 130-136.
3) Du, Ji-Hui, et al. “Artesunate induces oncosis-like cell death in vitro and has antitumor activity against pancreatic cancer xenografts in vivo.” Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology 65.5 (2010): 895-902.
4) Efferth, Thomas, et al. “Enhancement of cytotoxicity of artemisinins toward cancer cells by ferrous iron.” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 37.7 (2004): 998-1009.
5) Zhang, Z. Y., et al. “Artesunate combined with vinorelbine plus cisplatin in treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer: a randomized controlled trial.” Zhong xi yi jie he xue bao= Journal of Chinese integrative medicine 6.2 (2008): 134-138.