The Beneficial Effects of Coenzyme Q10
More recent studies have not only documented clinical improvements, but also have identified probable mechanisms by which CoQ10 may help slow tumour growth.
Some of these mechanisms include immune augmentation, suppression of vascular endothelial growth factor (that facilitates tumor angiogenesis), and reduction of inflammatory markers that may facilitate cancer cell propagation.
Melanoma and breast cancer are two types of malignancies for which CoQ10 has demonstrated substantial clinical benefit.
For example, a recent melanoma study compared the effects of administering alpha interferon with or without daily CoQ10 (400 mg). There was an astounding 10-fold lower risk of metastasis in the CoQ10-supplemented group! This effect was even more pronounced for those with more advanced melanoma, where CoQ10-supplemented patients were 13 times less likely to develop metastasis. Alpha interferon is an immune boosting drug that can induce side effects so severe that patients have to discontinue it. In this study, only 22% of CoQ10-supplemented patients developed side effects compared to 82% not taking supplemental CoQ10.
It is our pleasure to reprint an update from the National Cancer Institute that presents their views on the role that CoQ10 may play in cancer treatment.
What is Coenzyme Q10?
Coenzyme Q 10 is a compound that is made naturally in the body. The Q and the 10 in Coenzyme Q10 refer to the groups of chemicals that make up the coenzyme. Coenzyme Q10 is also known by these other names:
A coenzyme helps an enzyme do its job. An enzyme is a protein that speeds up the rate at which natural chemical reactions take place in cells of the body.
The body's cells use Coenzyme Q10 to make energy needed for the cells to grow and stay healthy. The body also uses Coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a substance that protects cells from chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals can damage DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Genes, which are pieces of DNA, tell the cells how to work in the body and when to grow and divide. Damage to DNA has been linked to some kinds of cancer. By protecting cells against free radicals, antioxidants help protect the body against cancer.
Coenzyme Q10 is found in most body tissues. The highest amounts are found in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The lowest amounts are found in the lungs. The amount of Coenzyme Q10 in tissues decreases as people get older.
How is Coenzyme Q10 administered?
Coenzyme Q10 is usually taken by mouth as a pill (tablet or capsule). It may also be given by injection into a vein (IV). In animal studies, Coenzyme Q10 is given by injection.
Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Coenzyme Q10?
A number of preclinical studies have been done with Coenzyme Q10. Research in a laboratory or using animals is done to find out if a drug, procedure, or treatment is likely to be useful in humans. These preclinical studies are done before any testing in humans is begun. Most laboratory studies of Coenzyme Q10 have looked at its chemical structure and how it works in the body. The following has been reported from preclinical studies of Coenzyme Q10 and cancer:
Animal studies found that Coenzyme Q10 boosts the immune system and helps the body fight certain infections and types of cancer.
Coenzyme Q10 helped to protect the hearts of study animals that were given the anticancer drug doxorubicin, an anthracycline that can cause damage to the heart muscle.
Laboratory and animal studies have shown that analogs of Coenzyme Q10 may stop cancer cells from growing.
Randomized trial of Coenzyme Q10 and doxorubicin
A randomized trial of 20 patients looked at whether Coenzyme Q10 would protect the heart from the damage caused by the anthracycline drug doxorubicin. The results of this trial and others have shown that Coenzyme Q10 decreases the harmful effects of doxorubicin on the heart.
Studies of Coenzyme Q10 as an adjuvant therapy for breast cancer
Small studies have been done on the use of Coenzyme Q10 after standard treatment in patients with breast cancer:
In a study of Coenzyme Q10 in 32 breast cancer patients, it was reported that some signs and symptoms of cancer went away in 6 patients. Details were given for only 3 of the 6 patients. The researchers also reported that all the patients in the study used less pain medicine, had improved quality of life, and did not lose weight during treatment.
In a follow-up study, two patients who had breast cancer remaining after surgery were treated with high doses of Coenzyme Q10 for 3 to 4 months. It was reported that after treatment with high-dose Coenzyme Q10, the cancer was completely gone in both patients.
In a third study led by the same researchers, 3 breast cancer patients were given high-dose Coenzyme Q10 and followed for 3 to 5 years. The study reported that one patient had complete remission of cancer that had spread to the liver, another had remission of cancer that had spread to the chest wall, and the third had no breast cancer found after surgery.
As noted in Question 1, the body uses Coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals. Some conventional cancer therapies, such as anticancer drugs and radiation treatments, kill cancer cells in part by causing free radicals to form. Researchers are studying whether using Coenzyme Q10 taken at the same time as conventional therapies has any effect, good or bad, on the way these conventional therapies work in the body.
1. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007 Jun;100(6):387-91.
2. Melanoma Res. 2007 Jun 17(3):177-83.