The article by Drs. Labriola and Livingston is
the first written collaboration of which I am aware between a doctor
of naturopathic medicine and a professor of medicine at a major state
university. The authors present a thorough review of the available
information on interactions between dietary
antioxidants, both natural and supplements, and chemotherapy.
Of necessity, the review relies heavily on interactions observed in
the laboratory and animals, since little, if any, human data appear
to be available. In fact, the only reference cited that seems
to bear directly on this issue in humans, by Erhola et al, was
published in the fairly obscure journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Even this reference contains no clinically useful information,
however. Also, it provides no data to justify the assertion by
Labriola and Livingston that such a reduction in concentration
of free radicals generated by chemotherapeutic agents has the same
effect as a reduction in dose.
Nonetheless, the authors raise grave concerns about the possibility
that cancer patients may jeopardize their ultimate chance of cure and
survival by taking various dietary supplements with antioxidant
activity during chemotherapy programs. If this may be a potentially
major public health issue, however, the authors remedies are
surprisingly low key. One would have expected that, given that there
is proven scientific evidence of the value of chemotherapy and no
evidence for the value of dietary supplements, the authors would have
recommended against dietary supplements entirely!
Drs. Labriola and Livingston are very well known to the medical
community, as well as the press in the Northwest. Their article
received wide coverage in the local media. One would have hoped that
such prominent authors, whose opinion carries great weight with both
their professional peers and laypeople, would have made a stronger
statement against the use of dietary supplements during chemotherapy.
Media coverage of such a recommendation might have saved lives.
Charles M. Bagley, Jr, MD
Northwest Cancer Center