L-Arginine & Cancer

Researchers around the world are serious about the use of amino acids in cancer treatment. L-arginine is the common substrate for two enzymes, arginase and nitric oxide synthase (NOS). As a precursor to nitric oxide, it is a key component of endothelial-derived relaxing factor. The endothelium is the lining inside blood vessels and arginine supplements help make more nitric oxide, which helps to relax and dilate blood vessels.

The body needs higher levels of arginine when it is under conditions of stress, illness, malnutrition or injury. When these conditions are present, arginine becomes essential for healing to occur.

Arginine is used to treat conditions that improve with increased blood flow, such as chest pains, erectile dysfunction, clogged arteries, vascular disease and headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Arginine is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids.

What we can do with what we know right now about L-arginine:

In 2011 in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research, scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Centre showed that treatment with the over-the-counter amino acid arginine reactivates cancer-fighting T-cells in patients with glioblastoma, thus potentially allowing the immune system to help cleanse the body of cancer.

It is likely that every one of us has some cancer cells in our body all the time but our immune system is usually successful in destroying them. It just makes sense to have a strong immune system when fighting cancer.

Cancer develops when the cancer cells overwhelm our immune system and grow into a noticeable tumour, so anything that strengthens the immune system is going to help us.

Nitric oxide (NO) can also have a multitude of effects on other aspects of tumour biology, including angiogenesis and metastasis.

In the past decade, the use of Nitric Oxide in the treatment of cancer has become a new field that has rapidly gained credibility and understanding at the biochemical and molecular levels.

Nitric oxide production goes down as we age, which is important to note regarding middle aged and elderly people with Cancer.

Nitric oxide is an important signalling molecule that plays a significant role in the regulation of cancer biological functions.

The paradoxical action of Nitric Oxide in cancer biology depends on concentration and other factors. In a 2006 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicinea Johns Hopkins team said that boosting levels of nitric oxide appear to dampen the effects of a specialized cell that diverts the immune system away from tumours, allowing swarms of cancer-attacking T-cells to migrate to tumour sites.

Dr. Ivan Borrello, professor at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre concluded that arginine that raises Nitric Oxide levels won’t cure cancer “but could be used in addition to standard chemotherapy or immunotherapy treatments.” He is probably correct, but as he is saying, it could be and should be used in addition to other safe and effective medicine

Oxygen, Arginine & Cancer

One of the basic reasons arginine could be helpful for cancer patients is its ability to safely deliver more oxygen to oxygen-deprived tissues in the body. The entire world of alternative medicine agrees that getting more oxygen to the tissues is going to be bad news for any and all cancer cells because they have given up normal respiration for fermentation and live in an acidic aerobic environment. When acid levels are high and oxygen levels are low we find cancer flourishing—a situation that orthodox oncology ignores.

Arginine opens up the veins and arteries to increase blood flow and volume, thus increasing oxygen to the cells. In some cancer protocols, there is also magnesium increasing oxygen-carrying capacity as it relaxes blood vessels and brings down blood pressure, coupled with sodium bicarbonate that, as every athlete knows, also makes it easier to circulate oxygen, thus immediately increasing endurance.

Results of a study at Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Duke University Medical Center in 2005 showed that adding nitric oxide to the blood’s haemoglobin can make it deliver more oxygen to tissues—without boosting heart rate or constricting blood vessels. Haemoglobin is the blood’s oxygen-carrying component. The study was led by Dr. Mark Dewhirst, professor of radiation oncology who said, “Haemoglobin needs its natural partner in the blood, nitric oxide, to do its job of delivering oxygen to tissues, but current treatments deliver haemoglobin without nitric oxide.

If we could raise the level of tumour oxygenation before radiation, we would have a better chance of killing more of the cancer cells.”

As it turns out, breathing in pure oxygen naturally raises the level of circulating oxygen, but not oxygen levels in the arteries feeding tumours. But haemoglobin plus nitric oxide, by contrast, raises oxygen levels in the tumours. The team’s finding in the study above is the strongest evidence to date supporting a theory, first developed in 1996, that nitric oxide is an innate part of the body’s oxygen delivery system. In previous studies scientists demonstrated that nitric oxide in blood cells is an active regulatory molecule that senses the oxygen level in tissue and causes haemoglobin to undergo subtle shape changes to release its oxygen in tissues when levels are low.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded in 1998 to Drs. Furchgott, Ignarro, and Murad for their discoveries concerning “Nitric oxide (NO) as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system.”  They conclude, in summary:

Arginine’s many benefits:

  • Aids in liver detoxification
  • Detoxifies ammonia
  • Increases sperm count in males
  • Aids in kidney disorders and trauma
  • Maximizes protein synthesis
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Stimulates blood flow
  • Stimulates cerebral circulation
  • Promotes optimum growth
  • Helps to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass
  • Assists the body in collagen production
  • Assists in the release of growth hormones
  • Assists sexual satisfaction and potency

Actions related to its use in cancer treatment are:

  • Increases oxygen-carrying capacity and delivery to cells
  • Inhibits cellular replication of tumours
  • Enhances immune system function
  • Causes retardation of tumour growth
  • Assists in the release of growth hormones
  • Enhances immune response
  • Improves rate of wound healing (in cases of surgical intervention)

Side Effects

L-arginine supplements should not be taken by

  • pregnant and lactating women unless under the care of a health professional and even then a broadband superfood like spirulina would be safer and better.
  • those with viral infections such as herpes,
  • those with liver diseases that cause an excess of ammonia in the system (some liver disorders are benefited from arginine),
  • those who have kidney failure.
  • Diabetics should be careful with arginine due to its insulin-blocking effects but that could be counteracted when embedded in a full protocol of other concentrated nutrients.
  • Schizophrenics should not take more that 30 milligrams per day.
  • Children who have not completed bone growth should avoid arginine supplementation but should eat arginine-rich foods.

In general, like all nutritional medicine, arginine has been shown to be remarkably free of side effects for the vast majority of people who have taken it, even in large therapeutic doses and with greater frequency of doses. Some have experienced diarrhoea and/or nausea when taking high therapeutic doses and one study found that several weeks of large doses might result in thickening and coarsening of the skin in some people.


Nitric oxide opens the microscopic blood vessels surrounding the cancer cells, and some might fear that this would allow the cancerous tumour greater nourishment and an avenue to spread into other parts of the body. But for these people the idea of using arginine as a Trojan horse—allowing cancer killer substances like sodium bicarbonate to overwhelm the cancer cells with blasts of alkalinity and oxygen that are flowing in with the new blood flow—would be reassuring.

It is not a good idea for people with pancreatic or any kind of cancer to take supplemental arginine outside the context of a well-thought-out protocol.

Research by Dr. Louis Ignarro has shown that you need to consume 4,000-6,000 mg of L-arginine in each serving to boost production of nitric oxide and receive meaningful benefits.

It is critical to read and compare labels when choosing any cardio-health supplement.

Unfortunately, many companies have reduced the amount of ingredients they use up to 90% in order to save money. L-arginine Plus contains 5000 mg of L-arginine and 1000 mg of L-citrulline.(critical in the production of nitric oxide. which extends the body’s production of nitric oxide to over 20 hours!).

The amino acid citrulline is metabolized to yield more L-arginine, which in turn provides the additional nitric oxide.

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