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Cancer Is Impacted By Its Microenvironment

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 23 July 2021
Cancer Is Impacted By Its Microenvironment

In recent years, we've had to let go of the notion that cancer is just a mass of malignant cells or simply a disease of aberrant genes if so, we would have long ago succeeded in eliminating or curing cancer by removing or destroying cells or targeting genetic mutations.

Rather, cancers are complex 'rogue' organs, to which many other cells are recruited and can be corrupted by the transformed cells.

Malignant and nonmalignant cells interact to create the tumour microenvironment (TME).

The nonmalignant cells of the TME have dynamic and often tumour-promoting functions at all stages of carcinogenesis. More simply put: "Cancer is a complex mixture of cancer cells, normal blood cells, tissue and immune cells. Tumour cells themselves alter the microenvironment to secrete things that help tumours grow."

Terrain as Soil

When it comes to understanding the tumour microenvironment and how to create a body in which cancer can neither thrive nor survive, a few gardening concepts provide a good analogy. Cancer is the seed and the body is the soil that cancer might try to use as a growth medium. Your terrain is the body's/soil's internal environment.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are focused on killing or removing the cancer seed, which we treat like a weed or pest. Gardeners know that a pesticide or weed killer won't work if you've mischaracterized the pest or weed and used the wrong pesticide, or if you used a pesticide that the pest or weed was resistant to. Successful gardeners know that if the soil is healthy, there's less need to use pesticides and chemical fertilizers, because the soil's healthy microorganism and biochemical balance favours the growth of plants and deters pests from taking hold.

Our body's relationship with cancer is not too different. No matter how powerful our treatments are at killing the cancer (the seed), they will not succeed as long as the body provides the food and fodder for cancer to do what it does best: grow, circumvent programmed cell death, and spread.

Tending Your Terrain
Many of our therapies focus on tending the terrain, the seed and soil, the tumour microenvironment and making the terrain inhospitable to cancer. Indeed, many of the healing practices that are part of a healthy lifestyle contribute to making the body inhospitable to cancer, and therein may lie their value in helping delay or reduce risks of cancer recurrence. In addition, these practices may also stave off other conditions or illnesses typically spawned from treatment toxicity, such as cardiotoxicity.

Through evidence-based strategies we train our cells to retain their optimal resistance and effectiveness over cancer while also creating an environment that is inhospitable to cancer growth. 

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsResourcesPrevention & RecoveryCancer


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia