Kill Cancer Cells The life and death of cancer cells


Prepared for educational use by David W. Gregg, PhD.
Used with permission.

These web pages are for information only. They represent the observations, views and opinions of the author, and are not a recommendation for treatment. Anyone reading it should consult his/her physician before considering treatment.

Summaries (Section 1)

Summary as of February 2004
Summary as of July 2001
My original progression of discovery and analysis starting March 1999

Summary as of February 2004
A Defense in Depth
This web page presents what could be classified as an alternative-medicine, "Defense in Depth" against the progression of cancer. Two fundamentally different approaches are described, the combination of which should provide a profound defense. One invokes a nutritional approach and the other invokes the use of toxins. Each has numerous sub-options. I am not a medical doctor and am not qualified to comment on prescription drugs. Thus, they are not considered.

1) The Nutritional Approach
The nutritional approach stimulates cancer cells to revert from anaerobic back to aerobic metabolism, causing them to revert from cancer cells back to normal cells. This process allows the cells to activate the p53 gene, which produces proteins that induce apotosis (normal programmed cell death). It involves nutrients that stimulate all three stages of aerobic metabolism, a) oxygen (oxidation potential) transport from the lungs to the cells, b) enhancing the steps of the Kreb's cycle, and c) enhancing the Respiratory Chain. These all require a multitude of vitamins, minerals, etc. that are discussed. In most cases, enhancing oxygen transport from the lungs to the cells is probably the limiting and thus most important step and thus it will be addressed in more detail.

Oxygen Transport: Hemoglobin (red blood cells) is the component in blood that serves as the primary transporter of oxygen from the lungs to cells. However, cancer cells cannot obtain oxygen from hemoglobin. Their anaerobic metabolism does not produce carbon dioxide, which is required to displace oxygen out of the hemoglobin. Thus, once a cancer is started it stabilizes itself in that state by obstructing the delivery of oxygen. In order to overcome this, certain nutrients (many options) can be consumed that increase oxygen carrying capacity of the blood in a way that is independent of hemoglobin and does not depend on the production of carbon dioxide to deliver oxygen (oxidative potential). The delivery of oxygen allows the cancer cells to start turning on aerobic metabolism. Once this starts, it initiates an avalanche effect. The cells start to produce carbon dioxide, which then causes the red blood cells to start to release oxygen, which stimulates more aerobic metabolism and carbon dioxide release, etc. The end result is the cancer cells receive adequate oxygen to initiate a quasi-normal, aerobic metabolism state. In this state they have enough energy to activate the p53 gene to produce the proteins that can cause apotosis. The reason cancer cells can live forever is that they can (and must) rigorously avoid apotosis. The converted cells gradually die off.

This theory makes sense to me for many reasons. It invokes sound biochemistry, is consistent with the observations I present on this web page, and clearly explains why cancer cells are destroyed why normal cells are not. In fact, normal cell health would be enhanced in the process. I suspect that most of the reported observations of various nutritional/herbal treatments resulting in recovery from cancer fall in this category even though the precise chemistry of how they work has not been identified.

When would this approach fail? I can think of one possibility. If the p53 gene has mutated (been seriously damaged) then turning on aerobic metabolism, supplying needed energy will not be sufficient to activate the p53 gene and apotosis will not take place. Unless another programmed cell death mechanism takes over, the cells will eventually return to being cancer cells. There is also a possibility that the enhanced nutrition may make the cancer cells healthier while it makes the normal cells healthier. In this situation, the toxin approach, discussed below, will have to be relied on. Thus enters the "Defense in Depth" concept.

2) The Toxin Approach
The second approach employs the use of toxins that do kill the cancer cells by a toxic effect. There are many examples of this. However, in my analysis of the mechanism of ionic cesium (cesium chloride), combined with increased potassium (potassium chloride) intake, I was extremely surprised to discover the real mechanism by which it operates and identify how truly profound it is. I concluded the mechanism presented to date on the Internet was totally wrong and seriously obscured the true potential of this approach. My present conclusion is that it stands out from all other such toxin approaches as being almost the perfect solution.

Briefly, the cesium ions are taken into the cell via the sodium-potassium pump, substituting for potassium, and are trapped there. Not only are the cesium ions trapped, but they also block the exit of the potassium ions by blocking the potassium channel proteins in the cell walls. The accumulation of cesium and potassium ions in the cell negates the voltage potential across the cell membrane. This voltage potential is required to energize the sodium-glucose co-transport system that feeds the cell. The cell thus starves. There would also be an accumulation of ions in the cell, which will cause the cells to swell, due to osmotic pressure, and possibly burst.

This is true for all cells. Why are cancer cells impacted far faster/greater than normal cells? The sodium-potassium pump, energized by ATP, pumps two potassium ions into the cell while pumping three sodium ions out. This creates a charge imbalance that would stop the pump unless there was another path by which the sodium ions reenter. That happens via the sodium-glucose co-transport system in the cell membrane. Thus, the rate that the sodium-potassium operates is dictated by the glucose requirement of the cell. Cancer cells, which are anaerobic, require 20 times more glucose than normal cells to obtain the same amount of energy. Therefore, their sodium-potassium pumps operate 20 times faster than normal cells. Thus, they will pump cesium into their cells 20 times faster than normal cells, and will experience starvation (and bursting) 20 times faster.

Since not only are the cesium ions trapped, but also potassium ions, this will result in a serious lowering of potassium in the blood which must be compensated for, which is easy to do. If it isn't, the lowering of the potassium level in the blood could cause death. I should mention that "Salt Substitute" available in every grocery store is potassium chloride and is a good, convenient source of potassium.

The trick is to establish a protocol where the cancer cells enter starvation and stop the treatment before the normal cells follow. Cesium eventually exits the cells, but very slowly. Thus, once the cancer cells have entered starvation, treatment can stop and the cancer cells will continue to starve for an extended period of time.

An additional feature of this approach is that the cancer cells are abruptly deprived of glucose, abruptly arresting their progression, but not necessarily resulting in an abrupt die-off. One might expect this to be more gradual than other cancer treatments. Thus there is a lower risk of experiencing severe toxic effects due to rapid cell die-off of cells common to other treatment approaches.

As broadly reported on the Internet, cesium chloride has been used successfully to treat cancer. My contribution is to discover its correct mechanism, described above. This should not only enhance its scientific credibility, but also help researchers and treatment clinics optimize its use.

Otto Warburg found that all cancer cells are anaerobic, and both of these approaches work on the anaerobic nature of cancer cells. Logically, the combination of the two should be effective for all forms of cancer. Will it be enough? Only time will tell if this dream will come true.

Cesium update as of 2/20/04
I have just had conversations with a clinic in Canada that has had considerable experience with treating cancer with cesium. They told me that they have found it to be successful in about 50% of their patients. Thus, it is not as perfect as the theory might predict. However, the patients seeking cesium therapy are generally those who have already exhausted all that current medicine has to offer and have been told there was nothing else that could be done for them. In this context, a 50% recovery rate could be viewed as quite positive. However, at this stage of experience, it is certainly not a treatment that one would choose before exploring what current medicine has to offer. Hopefully, with further development of the treatment protocol the success rate will improve, approaching the initial expectations.

Cesium update as of 5/16/04
I just received an email pointing out an important technical criticism concerning my cesium theory. It was pointed out that there is more than one glucose transport mechanism into the cells. There is the "active" sodium-glucose co-transport system that I have discussed, and there is also a concentration driven transport system depending on GLUT proteins in the cell wall that does not depend on sodium or the sodium-potassium pump. It is driven solely by the glucose concentration gradient across the cell wall. If this is the dominant transport mechanism, which is dependent on the type of cell and glucose concentrations, then my argument for the lethal mechanism of cesium starving the cancer cells no longer holds. However, the GLUT transport mechanism depends on a relatively high glucose concentration in the blood. At low glucose concentrations the active sodium co transport mechanism becomes more important. This would lead one to conclude that if the cesium treatment is going to be effective, it would be important to combine it with a diet that is low in carbohydrates.

Summary as of July 2001
Otto Warburg discovered that most if not all cancer cells are anaerobic in their metabolism. That discovery provided me with the essential lead for the theory/approach presented here, which extends this discovery in a particular way. I started with a premise, which, with extensive work, eventually evolved into a solid and useful theory. I have observed in the history of science that any particular area can wander randomly with little progress until the correct theory is identified. When it is, then, and only then, there is an explosion of progress in the field because a coordinated effort with many contributors becomes feasible. The discovery by Crick and Watson is one familiar example, but there are many more. It does not have to be complex. A double helix is not a complex concept. It just has to be the single correct theory identified in a sea of less correct ones. I can only hope that this is such a theory and will result in a dramatic improvement in the treatment of cancer. Specifically, I hope it will encourage large supplement producing/marketing companies to formulate products that will help to accomplish this goal.

The Governing Theory
Cancer cells require anaerobic metabolism to remain cancer cells. The anaerobic metabolism dictates that they are energy deficient. An anaerobic cell can derive only two ATP's while an aerobic cell can derive 36 ATP's from the metabolism of a glucose molecule. With insufficient energy they can no longer operate all the complex control mechanisms that exist in normal cells. Thus, they operate like primitive cells that divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner. When they are caused to revert back to aerobic metabolism, which is feasible, they then have enough energy to operate the control mechanisms and assume characteristics of normal, non-cancer cells. This not only arrests their progression of uncontrolled division and thus growth, but if held in this state long enough, they undergo programmed cell death, a characteristic of all normal cells. In time, the cancer progression is not only arrested, but is reversed, even to the point of complete elimination.

The anaerobic metabolism is triggered by genetic damage, which is not reversible in any particular cell. However, the anaerobic metabolism is reversible without having to correct the genetic damage. It thus provides a unique focus of attack. It does not correct the genetic damage, but does safely cause the elimination of the genetically damaged cells through programmed cell death. Since it is a characteristic of most if not all cancers, the treatment should apply to most if not all cancers. Since the process of aerobic metabolism is the same for all cell types, the same specific treatment, focused on enhancing aerobic metabolism, should be effective for all types of cancer. It also has the characteristic of being safe and enhancing the health of normal cells in the process.

The basic approach is first identifying the nutrient(s) and their dose that support each step of aerobic metabolism. Then supply them all at the same time. For treatment this can require significantly enhanced doses (megadoses) of some specific nutrients for a period of time. This is not complex in concept, but it can be in practice.

The Evolution of Information Discovery and Analysis in Support of the Theory
The primary impetus that stimulated me to focus on cancer and how it might be mitigated was due to a close friend being diagnosed with colon cancer. I thought I would do my best to help, starting by learning as much as I could about the disease. (2+ years later, after surgery, chemo & nutritional therapy he is presently alive and appears free of cancer.) Upon learning about Otto Warburg's discovery that most, if not all cancer cells were anaerobic in their metabolism, a warning flag went up. My many years of experience in research said that when faced with such a profound commonality, this is where you should look for both the primary cause and the solution. After considerable thought I started with a major part of the governing theory described above, but as a premise, not a solid theory. I decided to make the assumption that it was correct and see where that led. Would it survive careful study and analysis?

Anaerobic Metabolism Stabilized in Cancer Cells: I started by looking for biochemical evidence to convince myself that Otto Warburg's discovery of anaerobic metabolism was consistent with what is now known about the rest of the chemistry of cancer. In the process I found considerable evidence that supported Warburg's discovery, and beyond that discovered anaerobic metabolism might be a stable, self-reinforcing state once it starts. Anaerobic metabolism, because it does not create carbon dioxide, which is required to displace oxygen out of hemoglobin, serves to prevent the delivery of oxygen to the cells. Without oxygen, they cannot revert back to aerobic metabolism. Thus, the only way they can revert back is to supply the oxygen by a mechanism that is independent of hemoglobin.

Cancer State Reversible: The next step was completed by the discovery of references in a book, "Cancer & Natural Medicine" by John Boik, reporting as many as sixteen different forms of cancer had been caused to revert back to normal cell behavior (displayed differentiation) when they were immersed in a solution of DMSO. In a previous web page on DMSO (, I had already identified that most likely the primary cause of the health benefits of DMSO was caused by it forming an oxygen transport system when in equilibrium with its oxidized form, MSM. Dr. Stanley Jacob, the foremost DMSO & MSM scientist in the world, was kind enough to phone me after discovering it and congratulated me on the web page and the new insight. I thus realized that the reason the DMSO solution caused the cancer cells to turn into normal cells was because the solution was in contact with air and formed enough MSM to allow the two in equilibrium to transport oxygen to the cells, allowing them to revert to aerobic metabolism. Dr. Jacob is the author of many books on DMSO and MSM. His most recent one that summarizes his work on both DMSO and MSM is "The miracle of MSM" Jacob, et al; G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1999.

This discovery demonstrated two major points. 1) Cancer is reversible. Cancer cells can be caused to revert back to normal cell behavior. And 2) The process by which this takes place is to cause them to change from anaerobic metabolism to aerobic metabolism. What a wonderful support for my developing theory!

Identification of Nutrient Support for Each Step of Aerobic Metabolism: I assumed that DMSO could be only a part of a solution for treating cancer. I thought it would be unrealistic to assume people could be treated with whole body doses of DMSO at levels effective for cancer without exceeding toxic limits. This would also address only one stage of aerobic metabolism. A treatment based on stimulating all stages of aerobic metabolism simultaneously was far more likely to result in a safe and successful treatment. With this premise in mind, I then proceeded to study each step of aerobic metabolism identified in biochemistry books, and identify the nutrient or nutrients that are known to assist that step. When such a nutrient was identified I then performed a literature search on Medline to see if it had been studied in relation to cancer. In every case, I discovered papers that reported the nutrient helped to mitigate cancer. This first sweep through the steps of aerobic metabolism resulted in identifying a set of nutrients that my theory said would help mitigate cancer if used together. It was a start, but certainly was not a complete list.

A First Case: I am not a medical doctor and do not treat people. However, shortly after identifying the list of helpful nutrients a close friend was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer. It was in both lungs and had spread to the bone. Her ribs had fractured, one clavicle was missing, and there was a tumor growing out of her back. She had lost a lot of weight and coughed continuously. When I saw her, while she was visiting her sister and elderly mother the day after the diagnosis, we all thought she was unlikely to live more than one more month. The late diagnosis was due to her doctor misdiagnosing it for several months as a pollen allergy. She knew of my efforts analyzing cancer and decided she wanted to try my proposed nutritive approach along with conventional treatments. This was in 11/99. She started immediately with the nutritive approach which included a fruit and vegetable diet supplemented with a particular comprehensive diversity of vitamins, minerals, etc. including 40 grams of vitamin C/day (neutralized with baking soda). Two weeks later she started her chemotherapy (Taxol), and by then her coughing had already subsided. Her elderly mother and sister had already started trading off staying with her on a 24-hour basis, believing she had little time left. However, much to our surprise, instead of getting worse, she got continuously better, eventually reached a point where she could live on her own. The cancer in her lungs subsided, along with the tumor in her back. She is still alive and alert at this writing, 7/01, and continues with both nutritive (with less vitamin C) and conventional treatments. Did the nutritional support contribute as an addition to the conventional treatment? When I took her in for one of her doctor's appointments a few months ago he told us both that her case was unusual in that more than 90% of the people with her cancer history would be dead by now.

A Thousand Cases: "Vitamin C & Cancer" by Abram Hoffer MD, PhD; Quarry Press Inc.: Dr. Abram Hoffer is commonly credited with founding the alternative health movement and is the author of many books. He is credited with being the person that got Dr. Linus Pauling (double Nobel Prize winner) interested in the area resulting in his widely publicized push on Vitamin C for colds. One of his latest books "Vitamin C & Cancer", was written in collaboration with Dr. Linus Pauling. He learned about my "First Case" from a mutual friend, Dr. Bernie Rimland, director of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego. He called me to learn more about the nutritive approach taken. He has a close family member with lung cancer and wanted to see if my thoughts could help him improve his treatment approach. (It did lead him to modify it.) During the conversation I asked if he would take a look at my web page on cancer. He did and a few days later he sent me an email with a number of comments. They not only included positive comments about the theory, but also references to several of his web pages, one of which addressed cancer. This resulted in an email exchange presented on my web page. I read his web page on cancer and his book "Vitamin C & Cancer". This was my first awareness of his work with cancer in any detail. I knew he was active in the field but was unaware of the magnitude of his studies. I discovered he had treated thousands of cancer patients over 40+ years with remarkably successful results. In addition, his treatment approach was consistent with my theory. This is addressed in more detail in item 29. Now, instead of only one case, I had discovered thousands of cases that support the theory. Is it enough? I believe it is enough to lend it very substantial credibility.

Enhanced Anti-angiogenesis: It appears that the oxygen transport part of the treatment would not only promote aerobic metabolism but could be a powerful anti-angiogenesis treatment (preventing the formation of new blood vessels and thus prevent the growth of tumors.) See Item 35 for details.

Where From Here?
In order for the theory to be successful, it has to be used to guide significant improvements in cancer treatment that carry us even beyond the impressive successes of Dr. Hoffer. As one example, based on the oxygen transport part of the theory, I would predict that megadoses of DMSO and/or MSM can be substituted for the megadoses of vitamin C employed by Dr Hoffer. It could provide an even more intense oxygen transport option with no known toxicity. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and IP6 may also be effective in that capacity. I suspect a combination of all four, vitamin C, MSM (DMSO), ALA and IP6 could end up being the most effective option.

I personally believe that the evidence is extremely convincing that this theory does present the universal cure for all forms of cancer. Could it actually be this "Golden Grail" of medicine? Only time (and use) will tell.

I am also confident the same basic treatment approach will be successful with a significant number of additional diseases, both physical and mental. It has the attractive feature of not being a case where people have to wait years for an effective treatment to finally become available. A safe and effective treatment is available now with impressive results. Continued development will start with that base and perfect it, bringing about a rapid evolution of even more effective treatments.

My Original Progression of Discovery and Analysis Starting March 1999
I would like to propose/present a totally new, unified theory of cancer that identifies the single biochemical cause of all forms of cancer and its mechanism. It explains how various carcinogens, oncogenes. etc. can trigger this mechanism, and how various diets, nutritional supplements suppressor genes, etc. can prevent cancer or even cause existing cancer cells to revert back to normal cells. This understanding points to an organized direction towards curing cancer starting in the very near future. It also identifies a path for cancer research that should be far more fruitful than what has been achieved in the past.

I firmly believe that what I am going to present is fundamentally correct, but if it is found to be in error, I can only hope it will have introduced a debate/investigation that leads to an even better understanding of cancer and its treatment. For the sake of being brief enough to make this presentation readable, I will at times be making a number of assumptions without extensive background support and it will be up to the reader to decide to accept or reject them. I would be delighted to discuss/support them at a later time.

Cancer is a Degenerative Disease
Cancer is a degenerative disease in that it involves a normal cells turning into abnormal cells. I have presented/proposed a new base of understanding for the cause of degenerative diseases in my Health Note Antioxidants.

In summary, I have proposed that degenerative diseases are not caused by the conventionally accepted theory of free radical attack, but rather they are caused by the energy available to the cell dropping below the threshold that is required to maintain the essential organization of its extraordinarily numerous and complex chemical processes. At this point, the chemistry of the cell goes into disorder, and it is the disorder, not free radical attack, that causes degenerative diseases.

Cancer Cells are Anaerobic
Back in the 1920's a cancer researcher, Otto Warburg, discovered that the metabolism of cancer cells was anaerobic, and received a Nobel Prize for this work in metabolism. He believed that all cancer cells were anaerobic, but, of course, this could never be proven absolutely since it is not economically possible to make this measurement on every case of cancer. However, the universal observation of cancer using up all nutrients, wasting the body, is a strong indication of anaerobic metabolism, which is a very inefficient use of glucose. He performed one very interesting experiment where he put human cells in a Petri dish and deprived them of oxygen. They survived, but turned cancerous. what is happening? I propose that the normal cells have a memory/capability of reverting back to a more primitive, biochemically less complex state of survival. Possibly a memory of the time when the earth had no oxygen in its atmosphere. Such primitive, single cell organisms had the property of dividing without limit (no counting mechanism "telemer" as exists in our more advanced cells). The division rate and extent was also controlled simply by the availability of nutrients. They also did not have the property of "differentiating" into specialized cells that would be required for them to participate in a coordinated way with other cells to enable a complex organism to function. Warburg believed that the deprivation of oxygen was the primary cause of cancer, but I will propose it can be more general that that. Any of many processes that can interrupt aerobic metabolism can result in cancer.

Let us first briefly outline the three major stages of energy producing metabolism. The first stage is called glycolysis. It is the anaerobic stage. It degrades glucose (from the blood) into lactic acid, or alcohol, or pyruvate. When the next two, aerobic stages of metabolism are operating, the anaerobic stage produces pyruvate exclusively which then feeds into the Krebs cycle and the following respiratory chain. The first, anaerobic step, glycolysis, produces two ATP molecules (the currency of energy in the cell) per molecule of glucose. The following two aerobic steps produce an additional 36 molecules of ATP. When the aerobic stages are not operating, the primary product is lactic acid and sometimes alcohol, but not pyruvate. It can be seen that anaerobic metabolism will result in greatly reduced energy available to the cell, and will result in a voracious appetite for glucose just to supply the small amount of energy required for its reduced state of metabolism.

The Single Cause of All Forms of Cancer and the Cure
Cancer does not cause cells to turn anaerobic, but rather it is stabilized anaerobic metabolism that is the single cause (or essential requirement) that turns the normal cells that depend on aerobic metabolism into cancer cells. The proposed cure, as an alternative to protocols that focus on killing the cancer cells, is to restart aerobic metabolism, which allows the cells to revert back to being quasi-normal cells again. Genetic damage is not corrected, but if the cells are held in a normal state of aerobic metabolism, with time they will go through the normal process of programmed cell death and the cancer cells are permanently eliminated. For the proposed cure, the task is to walk through each step of aerobic metabolism, identify the nutrient that stimulates/assists it, and combine them all in a dietary/treatment protocol.

The Role of Carcinogens, Oncogenes, etc. in Causing Cancer
Anaerobic metabolism can be stabilized in a cell by blocking the aerobic metabolic sequence. This can happen anywhere beyond the glycolysis stage. There are numerous opportunities in the Krebs cycle and the respiratory chain. All the needs to occur is to remove essential enzymes essential to any step in the sequence and the entire aerobic sequence will shut down. Different carcinogens could attack any specific enzyme in the process and cancer will result. The same is true for oncogenes. They are probably genes that were essential for the production of different essential enzymes and once damaged, they no longer do their job and cancer results. The numerous opportunities for stopping the process is why there are numerous examples of carcinogens and oncogenes. They don't have to operate everywhere, they only have to block a critical step.

This theory would also predict that the few cells of the body that are naturally anaerobic would not develop cancer. These are the red blood cells and parts of the eye; the cornea, lens and regions of the retina. They do not have mitochondria and thus depend completely on glycolysis for their energy, and that energy source is sufficient for them to remain normal. I don't know of any cases where cancer initiates in these cells.

The Role of Diet, Nutritional Supplements, Suppressor Genes, etc. in Preventing Cancer or Converting Cancer Cells back into Normal Cells
The initial role of diet and nutritional supplements in preventing cancer is to insure the cells have sufficient energy to correct damage. In this way stabilized anaerobic metabolism never occurs. However, after cancer has occurred, there are many reports of cancer being reversed by diet and nutritional supplements. In this case, the role is to provide either an enhanced availability of oxygen or an external source of enzymes that are no longer being produced by the cell. Of course, when this is achieved, the cells are still there with the same potential problems even though they are no longer cancerous. If the external source of enzymes or enhanced oxygen transport is removed, one would expect the cells o become cancerous again, and that is the experience. The only way that a person would eventually be cured and no longer require the special diet is for the affected cells to eventually die via a normal cell death processes such as apotosis (programmed cell death). This probably occurs over time, but there is no method to measure it except for the reoccurrence of cancer after the diet/supplement regime is terminated. A test that most would not like to try.

This presentation is intended to provide only a initial brief, but sufficient presentation of the concept for the present purposes. I have reviewed it with many medical practitioners and researchers who have not only been unable to find fault with it, but have further supported it by quickly reviewing their own experience. They have also found it to be new to them. I plan to expand on it later, but I hope this presentation is sufficient to stimulate the imagination of many others, which could greatly accelerate the process.

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