(NaturalNews) Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City have made an interesting discovery they say could hold the key to targeting a rare form of deadly breast cancer. One major problem, however, is that the potential treatment, which involves deliberately depleting women's natural reserves of the mineral copper, contradicts earlier research revealing that copper can actually help fight cancer tumors.
Dr. Linda Vahdat, Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Weill Cornell, and her colleagues reportedly tested the effects of the copper-depleting drug tetrathiomolybdate, or TM, on a group of women with high-risk breast cancers. Such cancers include Stage 3 or Stage 4 "no evidence of disease" (NED) breast cancers, as well as metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer that typically kills patients who develop it in less than a year.
All 40 of the patients involved in the small investigative study had been diagnosed with high-risk breast cancer. But the study itself was focused primarily on those participants with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, which accounts for up to 20 percent of all breast cancers. Metastatic triple-negative breast cancer is particularly difficult to treat, at least when using conventional methods, as it tends to develop and spread differently than other, more common breast cancers.
"[Triple-negative] tends to grow very differently than 'regular' breast cancer, and we don't have the same tools to treat it," says Dr. Vahdat, as quoted by Cleveland.com. "There are far fewer options, and there's no triple-negative directed therapy, so far," she adds.
But among those women with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer who took the TM treatment for the study, 81 percent were found to not relapse in the 10 months following treatment. According to Dr. Vahdat and others, such results are promising, as between 50 and 70 percent of Stage 3 breast cancer patients, whose cancers have already spread to their lymph nodes, end up relapsing within five years of undergoing conventional treatment.
Copper deficiency linked to serious diseases, including cancer
Though the results of the study, which were published online in the journal Annals of Oncology, may appear promising on the surface, however, they also provoke some very serious questions. One major problem with the research, for instance, is the fact that depleting copper from the body through forced chelation can be dangerous, as copper helps regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and the absorption of other vital nutrients such as zinc.
Similarly, copper is also believed to help prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, which completely contradicts the hypothesis of Dr. Vahdat's research. Even the American Cancer Society (ACS), which is no friend of nutrient-based assessments on cancer risk, admits that both laboratory and animal studies have found that copper has both antioxidant and anti-cancer effects.
"While the role of copper in the cancer process is still unclear, copper complexes have been shown to have anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies," explains ACS on its website. At the same time, the group also purports that other studies have linked high copper levels to several types of cancer, including liver and brain cancer.
Still, it is an indisputable fact that copper is indispensable when it comes to aiding the body in the healthy production of new blood vessels. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) also outlines how copper is needed by the body to produce energy; develop connective tissues; metabolize iron; maintain a healthy central nervous system; synthesize and metabolize neurotransmitters; form protection for nerves; and scavenge damaging free radicals, among many other important functions.