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Anti-tumor effects of dietary whey protein and its value for head and neck cancer patients  [1998]

Chmiel, J.F. (MD Case Western Reserve Univ., Cleveland, OH (USA))

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Patients with cancers (particularly those involving the head and neck region) often have an associated dysphagia, odynophagia, cancer related cachexia, taste aversion and dysgeusia. When combined with many years of alcohol abuse, head and neck cancer patients are often severely malnourished. The malnourished state is associated with anergy (a decreased ability to mount an immune response), poor wound healing, a prolonged post-operative recovery, and decreased cancer survival. Head and neck surgeons remove these tumors surgically. Patients have a better chance of surviving a long cancer operation, of having fewer wound complications and of eliminating residual microscopic disease if they are well nourished prior to undergoing surgery. However, surgeons fear "feeding the tumor" while preoperatively reversing months or years of malnutrition. Whey protein has arisen as a novel therapy that offers substantial nutritional benefits while allaying some of the concerns of head and neck cancer surgeons. Whey protein has been shown to stimulate cell mediated and humoral immunity, to improve the body's nutritional status in stressed individuals, to have an antioxidant role by increasing tissue glutathione, and perhaps because of these to have an inhibitory effect on the growth of several types of tumors. We at Case Western Reserve University have been conducting research to evaluate dietary whey's anti-tumor effects (both preventive and against established tumors), an
d nutritional benefits. We summarize our previously presented work and outline some of our ongoing research efforts.