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I saw something that gave me hope.


shirleyb

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I copied this from a posting John had put in the general section.

John, first, thank you for your reseach.

I think for those who are thinking there is no hope, you might want to check this out with your doctors. At this point in the game, it can not hurt to ask the question and see what they say. Print this out so they have the same data that John has found. What do you have to lose? Ask the question.

Just a thought. I can only pray and hope that maybe this will help.

Good luck,

Shirley

The following is what John had posted.

The Anticoagulant Heparin: A Possible New Cancer Treatment?

Leo Zacharski, M.D., and Robert G. Lerner, M.D.

Dr. Zacharski is Professor of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, and Associate Chief of Staff, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vermont.

The Case of Mrs. B.

A 79-year-old woman -- we will call her Mrs. Benchley -- came to her local hospital with pain and swelling in her right leg. She also complained of shortness of breath and pain on the left side of her chest when she did breathe. Over the previous two months, she had felt increasingly tired and had developed a dry cough. Mrs. Benchley had always been healthy, suffered from no serious illnesses, never smoked and was physically active.

After running a few tests, doctors found a small cancerous tumor in her lung. They also found enlargement of the lymph nodes, which indicated that the cancer had probably spread to other parts of the body. A biopsy, or examination of a sample of tissue removed from the lung tumor, confirmed that Mrs. Benchley had metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung. Adenocarcinoma is one of the many types of cancer.

As for the pain and swelling in Mrs. Benchley's leg, tests revealed that she had deep vein thrombosis of a vein in her right leg. Also called DVT, deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which a blood clot blocks or reduces the flow of blood through one of the body's main veins. It can cause pain and swelling and can sometimes be life-threatening. For reasons that are not completely understood, it often occurs together with cancer.

For her DVT, Mrs. Benchley was given the usual treatment, which is IV heparin in the hospital, followed by warfarin, an oral anticoagulant (blood thinner) at home. Sold under a variety of brand names, heparin is a prescription anticoagulant that slows the rate of blood clot formation. It can both prevent formation of blood clots after surgery and, as in the case of Mrs. Benchley, help dissolve blood clots that have already formed. Warfarin, (usually sold under the brand name Coumadin®), is an oral anticoagulant.

As for the lung cancer, Mrs. Benchley's doctors did not recommend radiation or surgery and she decided against chemotherapy. Soon her DVT symptoms improved and she was sent home with a prescription for warfarin.

Unfortunately, however, the warfarin did not prevent another blood clot problem. Mrs. Benchley was readmitted to the hospital a month later with DVT, now in her left leg. She was again treated with IV heparin, did well and returned home. This time, instead of warfarin, she was prescribed a form of heparin called enoxaparin, which she could inject herself.

One year later, Mrs. Benchley returned to the hospital for a checkup. She had continued to lead an active life and had been surprisingly well, except for some shortness of breath with exertion. She had had no further problems with DVT. A chest X-ray showed that the spread of her lung cancer had slowed considerably. She was told to continue on a low dose of a form of heparin called low molecular weight heparin (sometimes abbreviated as LMWH).

Two Interesting Points

Mrs. Benchley is not unique, and her story illustrates two points. One is that the anticoagulant warfarin sometimes seems to lose its normal effectiveness against DVT in cases where the DVT occurs along with cancer. For some reason, heparin, a different kind of anticoagulant, seems to remain effective against DVT even with the presence of cancer.

A potentially more significant issue, however, is whether taking heparin to treat blood clotting problems may have somehow slowed down the growth of Mrs. Benchley's lung cancer. Based on cases like hers, doctors have begun to wonder if the human body's blood clotting mechanism may somehow play a role in the growth of cancerous tumors. If that is so, then it would explain why a drug like heparin that fights blood clotting might actually stop or slow down tumor growth.

Can Heparin Fight Cancer?

Recent research results have backed up the theory that the body's coagulation mechanism may play a part in the development of some cancers, as well as offering some explanation of why heparin might interfere with cancer.1,2,3,4,5,6 Heparin has been shown to fight the growth of tumors in animals in various ways.7,8,9,10,11 Some of these studies have also shed light on why heparin, and not warfarin, might have this effect.12 There is also preliminary evidence that LMWH treatment prolongs survival in patients with both DVT and cancer.13

The possible reasons for this are not completely understood. To put them as simply as possible, cancerous tumors are usually surrounded by a substance called fibrin. Fibrin promotes the growth of the tumor and the growth of new blood vessels that supply the tumor with necessary nutrients. Heparin interferes with fibrin formation and perhaps directly inhibits the formation of new blood vessels. Both heparin and LMWH may also inhibit tumor growth in other ways.14,15,16

Summary

Whatever the exact mechanisms involved, there is mounting evidence that the anticoagulant drug heparin may fight the growth of at least some kinds of cancerous tumors.17 In experiments using rats, treatment with heparin has decreased the likelihood that cancer will metastasize, or spread throughout the body. Similar studies on humans have been promising, though not conclusive.18

The interaction of the body's coagulation mechanisms, heparin and cancer is an extremely complex issue. Cancer, itself, comes in many forms and acts in many different ways. While we await the results of further research, a person facing a decision about cancer treatment -- especially someone with lung cancer or DVT -- may wish to discuss heparin treatment with their doctor.

March 2001 Email this article to a friend

References

1. Norrby K: 2.5 kDa and 5.0 kDa heparin fragments specifically inhibit microvessel sprouting and network formation in VEGF165-mediated mammalian angiogenesis. Int J Exp Pathol 2000 Jun;81(3):191-8. return

2. Kato M, Maeta H, Kato S, Shinozawa T, Terada T: Immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization analyses of midkine expression in thyroid papillary carcinoma. Mod Pathol. 2000 Oct;13(10):1060-5. return

3. Arkel YS: Thrombosis and cancer. Semin Oncol 2000 Jun;27(3):362-74 return

4. Tyan ML: Effects of inositol, LiCl, and heparin on the antibody responses to SRBC by normal and immunodeficient XID mice. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000 Jul;224(3):187-90. return

5. Collen A, Smorenburg SM, Peters E, Lupu F, Koolwijk P, Van Noorden C, van Hinsbergh VW: Unfractionated and low molecular weight heparin affect fibrin structure and angiogenesis in vitro. Cancer Res. 2000 Nov 1;60(21):6196-200. return

6. Pascall JC, Ellis PD, Brown KD: Characterisation of the rat heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor gene promoter. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000 Jul 24;1492(2-3):434-40. return

7. Lapierre F, Holme K, Lam L, Tressler RJ, Storm N, Wee J, Stack RJ, Castellot J, Tyrrell DJ: Chemical modifications of heparin that diminish its anticoagulant but preserve its heparanase-inhibitory, angiostatic, anti-tumor and anti-metastatic properties. Glycobiology 1996 Apr;6(3):355-66. return

8. Hejna M, Raderer M, Zielinski CC: Inhibition of metastases by anticoagulants. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999 Jan 6;91(1):22-36. return

9. Prandoni P, Piccioli A, Girolami A: Cancer and venous thromboembolism: an overview. Haematologica 1999 May;84(5):437-45. return

10. Zacharski LR, Wojtukiewicz MZ, Costantini V, Ornstein DL, Memoli VA: Pathways of coagulation/fibrinolysis activation in malignancy. Sem. Thrombos. Hemostas.18:104-116, 1992. return

11. Callander N, Rapaport SI: Trousseau's syndrome West J Med 1993 Apr;158(4):364-71. return

12. Hull RD, Raskob GE, Pineo GF, Green D, Trowbridge AA, Elliott CG, Lerner RG, Hall J, Sparling T, Brettell HR, et al.: Subcutaneous low-molecular-weight heparin compared with continuous intravenous heparin in the treatment of proximal-vein thrombosis. N Engl J Med. 1992 Apr 9;326(15):975-82. return

13. Smorenburg SM, Hutten BA, Prins MH: Should patients with venous thromboembolism and cancer be treated differently? Haemostasis 1999 Dec;29 Suppl S1:91-7. return

14. Zacharski LR, Ornstein DL, Mamourian AC: Low-molecular-weight heparin and cancer. Semin Thromb Hemost. 2000;26 Suppl 1:69-77. return

15. Sylvester DM, Liu SY, Meadows GG: Augmentation of antimetastatic activity of interferon and tumor necrosis factor by heparin. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1990;12(2):161-80. return

16. Syrokou A, Tzanakakis G, Tsegenidis T, Hjerpe A, Karamanos NK: Effects of glycosaminoglycans on proliferation of epithelial and fibroblast human malignant mesothelioma cells: a structure-function relationship. Cell Prolif. 1999 Apr-Jun;32(2-3):85-99. return

17. Ornstein DL, Zacharski LR: The use of heparin for treating human malignancies. Haemostasis. 1999 Dec;29 Suppl S1:48-60. return

18. Smorenburg SM, Hettiarachchi RJ, Vink R, Buller HR: The effects of unfractionated heparin on survival in patients with malignancy--a systematic review. Thromb Haemost. 1999 Dec;82(6):1600-4. return

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Thank you to John and Shirleyb for that interesting post. My mom is currently a nsclc with a stage IIIa-b. She has metatasized cancer in her lymph nodes in the mediastinum area. She is also on blood thinners because she has had numerous problems with blood clots. Heparin has been used during her many hospital stays.

Thank you so much for that story - I read it to her over the phone and I know it brought her hope. Thank you! She is currently taking Lovenex and Coumadine daily - Is Lovenex a form of heperin? hmmm....

:) Kristy

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