Nutritional supplements like Willow have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Willow supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”.
Taking nutritional Willow supplements can benefit Stomach Adenocarcinoma patients on Docetaxel cancer treatment. But avoid Willow supplements if on Ifosfamide treatment for Testicular Germ Cell Tumors. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Willow can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of the gene CDKN1B. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Willow when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene FLCN.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Willow is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context.
Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at molecular level – hence choose the right combination of supplements like Willow based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take the supplement Willow? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene FLCN? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CDKN1B? Should you take it when diagnosed with Testicular Germ Cell Tumors? Should you take Willow supplement when diagnosed with Stomach Adenocarcinoma? Should you take it when on Ifosfamide treatment? Should you continue taking it if you change your treatment from Ifosfamide to Docetaxel? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Willow.
Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Testicular Germ Cell Tumors or Stomach Adenocarcinoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Willow.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Willow? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene FLCN the same as due to mutation of gene CDKN1B? Are the implications of Testicular Germ Cell Tumors same as Stomach Adenocarcinoma? Is it one and the same if you are on treatment with Ifosfamide or on Docetaxel?
Willow – A Nutritional Supplement
Willow is a tree with many of the varieties native to the United Kingdom. The willow bark contains active ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties. It has been traditionally used and recognized for its ability to relieve pain, fever and inflammation. It is available in the form of bark, dietary supplements/capsules, liquid and tea. Following are some of the purported uses/potential health benefits of Willow.
- May be used as an analgesic or painkiller – may help relieve headache, menstrual cramps, joint pain, muscle pain
- May be used to reduce inflammation – arthritis, gout, and spondylitis.
- May aid in weight loss
However, children, pregnant or nursing women or those who have sensitivity to aspirin should avoid taking willow supplements. (Hellen A Oketch-Rabah et al, Planta Med., 2019)
Willow supplements contain many active ingredients including Salicylic Acid and Salicin at different concentration levels. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Willow include Oxidative Stress, Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, FOXO Signaling and Cell Cycle. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Willow individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Willow for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Willow use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Willow Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Willow for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Willow may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Willow should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Willow Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Testicular Germ Cell Tumors undergoing Ifosfamide treatment?
Testicular Germ Cell Tumors is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like KIT and KRAS leading to biochemical pathway changes in Oxidative Stress, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, RAS-RAF Signaling and MAPK Signaling. A cancer treatment like Ifosfamide works through a specific pathway mechanism of action. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach which is effective. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a contrary effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be avoided. As an example, Willow should be avoided for Testicular Germ Cell Tumors along with the treatment Ifosfamide. Willow impacts pathways/processes like Oxidative Stress which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Some of the factors which should be considered when choosing nutrition are type of cancer, treatments and supplements being taken currently (if any), age, gender, BMI, lifestyle and any genetic mutation information (if available).
2. Will Willow Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Stomach Adenocarcinoma undergoing Docetaxel Treatment?
Stomach Adenocarcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like TP53 and MUC16 leading to biochemical pathway changes in Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition, Inflammation, NFKB Signaling, Small Molecule Transport and PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling. A cancer treatment like Docetaxel works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Willow supplement should be considered for Stomach Adenocarcinoma along with treatment Docetaxel. Willow supplement impacts pathways/processes like Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition and Inflammation which either obstruct drivers of Stomach Adenocarcinoma and/or improve the treatment effect.
Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!
No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.
3. Are Willow Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with FLCN Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives. FLCN is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.
FLCN mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Stem Cell Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, Angiogenesis and Growth Factor Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Willow should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of FLCN for Kidney Cancer. Willow impacts pathways/processes like Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Stem Cell Signaling and creates adverse effects with FLCN and related conditions.
4. Are Willow Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CDKN1B Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
CDKN1B is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. CDKN1B mutation causes biochemical pathways FOXO Signaling, Cell Cycle, Stem Cell Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Cell Cycle Checkpoints to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Willow supplements when the genetic panel identifies the mutation in CDKN1B for Neuroendocrine Cancer. Willow impacts pathways/processes like FOXO Signaling and Cell Cycle and creates a supportive effect in those with CDKN1B and related conditions.
The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition, which includes food and nutritional supplements like Willow, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!
Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.