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12 Nutrients that Target & Destroy Cancer Stem Cells

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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the May 2016 edition of TTAC’s Heroes Against Cancer member newsletter.

Lack of adequate nutrition can lead to cancer growth – on the other hand, the right nutrients can inhibit cancerous cells from multiplying.

Scientists have known for decades that cancer cells have the ability to repair themselves, multiply, differentiate, and escape normal cellular processes such as apoptosis or “cell suicide.” Only recently researchers have learned that cancer cells originate from stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells in our body that can, given the right “signal,” be transformed into any “specialized” cell.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that, when given the right signal, can become any type of specialized cell

Stem cells found in adults are known as adult stem cells, which normally act as a repair system for the body, constantly replenishing our body’s tissues.

Researchers are also beginning to understand that our diet is perhaps the greatest tool in preventing and treating cancer. Specifically, regular consumption of freshly available, non-irradiated fruits and vegetables is associated with lowered risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that,

when given the right signal, can become

any type of specialized cell

Cancer Cells Originate from Stem Cells

What is known as a pro-survival technique enables cancer cells to develop into the invasive and relentless disease that can wreak havoc on any tissue in our bodies. Unlike typical stem cells, cancer stem cells are self-sufficient, resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs and treatments, have the ability to self-renew, increase inflammation, and are not influenced by contact with other stem cells or anti-growth signals.

Cancer stem cells are also sustained by angiogenesis (the physiological process by which new blood vessels are formed, which cancer tumors use to feed themselves nutrients and grow), flawed cellular energy mechanisms, and their ability to evade normal cellular functions such as apoptosis or cell suicide.

Phytochemicals that Fight Cancer

Nutrient-rich plant foods typically contain phytochemicals, which have anti-cancer properties. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. Some are responsible for color such as the deep purple of blueberries, while others are responsible for smell. For example, the pungent fragrance of freshly squeezed garlic.

Phytochemicals can have specific actions on our body when we consume the plants containing them. It is estimated that there may be as many as 4,000 different phytochemicals in the plant world. Some of these phytochemicals not only target and kill cancer stem cells, but they also reverse the mechanical flaws in our body which cancer cells thrive on.

12 Nutrients to Consume Daily

Consume the following 12 nutrients daily to equip your body with the cancer-fighting tools it requires to prevent and treat cancerous growth.

#1 – Ursolic Acid

Holy basil is a good source of ursolic

acid, along with other common herbs

such as lavender, peppermint, oregano,

and thyme

A dietary compound found in herbal medicines such as holy basil, as well as in the natural waxy coating of fruits like apples, ursolic acid has extraordinary anti-cancer potential. Ursolic acid has been shown to treat cancers of the skin, colon, breast, lung, cervix, prostate, esophagus, and pancreas.

Specifically, ursolic acid reduced tumor size and distant organ metastasis of colorectal cancer cells, likely by blocking the expression of proteins needed for their survival, proliferation, and metastasis


Researchers are aware of ursolic acid’s ability to reduce inflammation-promoting enzymes despite not having a full understanding of all biological functions which ursolic acid affects. Reducing the levels of these enzymes is critical to blocking abnormal cell cycles and preventing the expression of genes which turn off cellular apoptosis. In other words, ursolic acid increases cancer cell apoptosis and prevents DNA replication, a typical characteristic of cancerous growth that would otherwise lead to metastasis.

Increasing the ursolic acid content of your daily nutrient intake can inhibit tumors from forming in your body. Many health practitioners supplement with a dose of 150-300 mg ursolic acid 3 times daily for optimal benefits. This is much more than you could get from using apple peels and holy basil which have between 5-10 mg of ursolic acid per serving. Waxy apple peels and holy basil do have other phytonutrients that are beneficial for the body’s immune system, however, and shouldn’t be discarded.

#2 – Piperine

Piperine is found in black pepper and is responsible for its pungent flavor

Every year colorectal cancer kills more than 639,000 individuals worldwide. One of the major causes likely to blame for such a high statistic is a bacterium known as H. pylori, which invades the gastrointestinal lining of more than half of the world’s population and is carcinogenic. Known as the “King of Spices,” piperine – a compound found in black pepper – helps reduce the incidence of cancers relating to the stomach and breast.Piperine has traditionally been used to treat symptoms of cold and fever. Most recently it has gained attention for its cancer fighting properties.

Direct research suggests that piperine has anti-inflammatory effects on H. pylori-induced gastritis and may potentially be useful in prevention of H. pylori-associated gastric carcinogenesis. Piperine appears to prevent H. pylori growth by preventing it from adhering to the gastrointestinal surface.

Piperine has also been shown to target cancer stem cells of breast tumors in testing. As a result of piperine’s actions, the H. pylori bacterium cannot release toxins, cause stress, raise inflammation levels, and promote cancer growth. The antimutagenic factors which piperine induces may be due to its ability to prevent proteins from binding which would normally stimulate cancer formation. Add piperine to your daily diet by including freshly ground high quality black pepper in marinades, salad dressings, sauces, dips, and soups.