The role of your cancer health professional is to create an environment of openness and trust, and to help in making informed decisions about alternative/complementary therapies. Collaboration will improve the safe integration of all therapies during your experience with cancer. The "Summary" and "Professional Evaluation / Critique" sections of this Unconventional manual are cited directly from the medical literature, and are intended to help in the objective evaluation of alternative/complementary therapies.
There is insufficient evidence demonstrating that coenzyme Q (CoQ) is an effective treatment for cancer. There is some evidence of coenzyme Q (CoQ) being effective in treating some side effects of cancer treatment, e.g. heart (cardiac) toxicity from chemotherapy, yet may be harmful for patients receiving radiation therapy due to its anti-oxidant properties. (O'Brien)
Description / Source / Components
Coenzyme Q is also known as Ubiquinone.
"Co-Q10 (2,3 dimethyl-5 methyl-6-decaprenyl benzoquinone) is an endogenous antioxidant found in small amounts in meats and seafood. Although Co-Q10 is found in all human cells, its highest concentrations occur in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is found naturally in the organs of many mammalian species." (Fetrow)
"CoQ10 can be synthesized in vivo [in a living body]. Situations may arise, however, when the need for CoQ10 surpasses the body's ability to synthesize it. CoQ10 is well-absorbed by oral supplementation as evidenced by significant increases in serum CoQ10 levels after supplementation." (Anonymous)
"CoQ10, due to the involvement in ATP [cellular energy] synthesis, affects the function of all cells in the body, making it essential for the health of all human tissues and organs. CoQ10 particularly effects the cells that are the most metabolically active: heart, immune system, gingiva, and gastric mucosa." (Anonymous)
"A good source for Co-Q-10 supplements is the Vitaline Corporation." (Weil)
"Coenzyme Q10 was discovered in 1957 by Fred Crane, M.D., from the University of Wisconsin, who isolated it from beef hearts." The research was carried out by Dr. Karl Folkers. (Whitaker)
Dr. Folkers became interested when his next-door neighbour with terminal metastatic lung cancer started taking CoQ10 and had a complete remission. (Whitaker)
Proponent / Advocate Claims
It is believed by proponents that cancer patients lack CoQ10 in their blood. (Lockwood 1994)
Folkers reported several case histories of cancer patients with prolonged survival on therapy with CoQ10. (Folkers)
It is claimed by some that "the action of CoQ on the immune system is profound. It promotes bioenergetic processes in the human immune cells." (Bliznakov)
"More recent findings substantiate the view that supplementation with CoQ10 can cause complete regression of tumors in advanced breast cancer, including one patient with numerous metastases to the liver." (Diamond)
"Mechanisms in cancer include immune system enhancement and antioxidant activity." (Anonymous)
Cardiac toxicity of the anthracyclines may be ameliorated by using low doses or concomitant treatment with coenzyme Q 10. (Berkarda)
"Coenzyme Q-10 is a nontoxic natural substance that reduces the damage done to the heart by the chemotherapy agent Adriamycin and may increase its antitumor activity. Co-Q-10 also protects the liver from the toxic effects of various chemotherapy drugs. I recommend that people undergoing chemotherapy take 300mg [milligrams] of CO-Q-10 daily." (Weil)
"Treatment with ubiquinone (coenzyme Q 10) reversed lovastatin-induced myopathy [disease of a muscle] in one patient in whom tumor response was maintained. In 22 additional patients, prophylactic administration of ubiquinone prevented the development of rhabdomyolysis [disintegration or dissolution of muscle] without adversely affecting tumor growth.... Drug-associated rhabdomyolysis is treatable and preventable with oral ubiquinone supplements which do not appear to nullify the antitumor activity of lovastatin." (Thibault)
Professional Evaluation / Critique
There has been some evidence that Coenzyme Q has efficacy when used in combination with other cancer treatments to ameliorate harmful side effects of those treatments (refer to proponent claims/beliefs section). However, it should be noted that it has not been proven that CoQ is effective as a cancer treatment in itself.
"Groups of tumors that received Q10 and radiotherapy had a significantly lower specific growth delay (SGD) than the radiotherapy-only groups... We conclude that systemic Q10 reduces the response to single dose tumor irradiation in xenotransplanted human SCLS (small-cell lung cancer) tumors. The magnitude of this potentially adverse effect is dose-dependent. We feel that the present experimental data justify a warning against concurrent use of Q10 during radiotherapy." (Lund)
"It was found that coenzyme Q... significantly delayed growth arrest" (did not stop cancer cells from growing) in human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC), and two human breast cancer cell lines Hs578T and MDA231. (Larsson)
"It was found that addition of either coenzyme Q or dolichol induces a partial but significant stimulation of DNA synthesis in breast cancer cells" (actually stimulated cancer cell growth). (Larsson)
Lockwood et al. (1995) report the remission of breast cancer in three patients who were being treated with doses of Coenzyme Q10. I t should be noted that in all three cases the Q10 treatment was provided during the same time that the patients were undergoing conventional treatments (mastectomy, X-ray treatment, appropriate anti-cancer drugs). The remission of breast cancer in these patients cannot be attributed with any certainty to the Q10 treatment that was provided.
Toxicity / Risks
"CoQ produces no toxic effect in animal models." (Bliznakov)
Fetrow's list of adverse reactions to Co-Q10 includes anorexia, diarrhea, epigastric discomfort, ischemic tissue damage [tissue damage due to a deficiency in blood in a specific part of the body] (during intense exercise), and mild nausea. (Fetrow)
Anonymous. Coenzyme Q10. Alternative Medicine Review 1998;3:58-61.
O'Brien R. BC Cancer Agency verbal communication, 2000.
Berkarda B. The problems of chemotherapy in the treatment of malignant tumors. Clinical chemotherapy. Volume III: Antineoplastic chemotherapy. New York: Thieme-Stratton, 1984:555-557.
Bliznakov EG, Hunt GL. The miracle nutrient: coenzyme Q10. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987.
Diamond WJ, et al. An alternative medicine definitive guide to cancer. Tiburon: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc., 1997:767.
Fetrow CW, Avila JR. Professional's handbook of complementary and alternative medicines. Springhouse, Pennsylvania: Springhouse Corporation 1999:178-80.
Folkers K, et al. Survival of cancer patients on therapy with coenzyme Q10. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 1993 Apr 15;192(1):241-245.
Larsson O. Effects of isoprenoids on growth of normal human mammary epithelial cells and breast cancer cells in vitro. Anticancer Research 1994;14:123-128.
Lockwood K, et al. Partial and complete regression of breast cancer in patients in relation to dosage of coenzyme Q10. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 1994 Mar 30;199(3):1504-1508.
Lockwood K, et al. Progress on therapy of breast cancer with vitamin Q10 and the regression of metastases. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 1995;212:172-177.
Lund EL, et al. Effect of radiation therapy on small-cell lung cancer is reduced by ubiquinone intake. Folia Microbiologica 1998;43:505-506.
Thibault A, et al. Lovastatin, an inhibitor of the mevalonate pathway, has activity against high-grade gliomas. Proc Annu Meet Am Soc Clin Oncol 1994;13:A490.
Weil A. Dr. Andrew Weil's self healing: creating natural health for your body and mind. (Newsletter) Jan 1998:6-7.
Whitaker J. Coenzyme Q10: new hope for cancer. Health & Healing 1994 July;4(7):1-2.
Revised February 2000