The search for new cancer treatments is always an ongoing process. While chemotherapy and
radiation remain the cornerstone treatment options for most cancers, they also come with a host
of side effects that are unpleasant and difficult to manage.
That’s why researchers are searching every day to find new options, options that both help treat
cancer more effectively and that help reduce some of the side effects that come with standard
One emerging, perhaps unexpected, option is the use of chelating agents to treat toxicities and
metal imbalances in cancer patients. Keep reading to learn more about chelation therapy and its
potential as a cancer treatment.
What is chelation therapy?
Chelation therapy is a common therapy used for people who have had heavy metal poisoning.
Some of the most common types of heavy metal poisoning cases are caused by lead, mercury,
and arsenic. Unfortunately, heavy metal poisoning is a common health problem people face,particularly those who work in certain sectors of the economy, such as industry or sewage.
How does chelation therapy work?
Through the use of “chelating” agents, the goal is to help remove heavy metals from the body
These chelating agents are administered through the use of IV transfusions. Once in the
bloodstream, the chelating agents attach to these heavy metals to help bring them out of the
body by being excreted through urine.
How does chelation therapy work for cancer?
In recent years, chelation therapy has been explored as a possible treatment option for people
with different kinds of cancer. Here’s how it works:
Metals play a crucial role in our overall health—think, potassium and iron are both vital metals
that help the body perform a number of important functions. Making sure we have the right
amount in our body is important.
But it’s also possible that we have an excess amount of these metals. When this happens we
can start to experience problems. For example, too much of a particular metal can impact a
cell’s ability to function correctly. When too many metals build up in certain areas of the body,
they can even cause a toxic environment that can be just what cancer cells need to grow.
Too many metals, specifically, can impact the immune system’s ability to work effectively. Theycan also act as free radicals, which have been shown to cause damage to cells and lead to thegrowth of cancer cells.
Many types of chemotherapy also use certain kinds of heavy metals, such as platinum. The use
of chemotherapy can create an heavy metal imbalance. As a result, the idea behind using
chelation therapy for treating cancer is to help restore that balance.
While chelators have been explored quite a bit as a cancer treatment, only a few different ones
have made it to clinical testing stages or actual use as a treatment option. This includesdexrazoxane, deferoxamine, and triapine.
Is chelation therapy effective?
Research has shown that chelating agents used for treating cancer have been promising.
Here’s what some existing research says:
- Initiate oxidative stress. A study exploring the use of iron chelating agents in treating
cancer. In a review of research studies, the study found that the use of iron chelating
agents could initiate oxidative stress in tumor cells, which could lead to cancer cell
- Improve overall survival. Some research suggests that the use of certain chelation
agents could help improve overall survival rates. For example, iron chelation therapy
was found to improve survival rates in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes.
- Improved mortality. An older study, which followed 59 patients for 18 years of follow-
up, found that patients treated with a calcium chelation agent found that the risk of
mortality from cancer was reduced by about 90%.
Is chelation therapy safe?
There are some risks to chelation therapy, as chelating agents can have unintended side
effects. For example, they could accidentally bind to other metals, such as potassium and iron,
which are essential metals that support health bodily functions.
With any type of cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure you fully understand the available
treatment options and choose options that work for you. This should include talking to your
doctor before starting any cancer treatment. They can help you decide which treatment options
are right for you.