MSM’s remarkable ‘hidden’ cancer-fighting talent

You’ve likely heard of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), the remarkable natural product originally derived from trees. In my opinion, DMSO should be a staple in every home, since regular applications to any sprain, strain or minor injury significantly speeds healing while relieving some of the pain.

DMSO is quite safe to use, but despite its safety record, the medical authorities chased it around for decades, so for quite a while it was available only through underground sources.

DMSO is a marvellous solvent and will carry anything found on the skin surface into your body, so before using it the area of application should always be cleaned first. In addition, it can produce ‘sulphur breath’ for some while it’s being used.

MSM morphs cancer cells into normal cells

Methylsufonlymethane (MSM, sometimes called methylsulfone) is a close relative of DMSO. In fact, some DMSO turns into MSM after it soaks into our bodies. Unlike DMSO, MSM doesn’t cause ‘sulphur breath’, and we don’t need to go to underground sources to get our hands on it. In other words, it makes a good substitute for DMSO. But MSM has one remarkable trick up its sleeve, uncovered by researchers only recently. MSM could play an important role in fighting cancer!

A report from the University of Connecticut Medical School in 2013 found that MSM morphed cancer tissue into normal breast tissue. This change to normal was maintained during long-term culture of the tissue.1

As astonishing as it seems, this isn’t even the first report of MSM turning cancer cells to normal cells. In 2010, the same research team wrote: “Surprisingly, we found that malignant melanoma cells exposed to methyl sulfone demonstrated the loss of phenotypes characteristic of malignant cells, and the reemergence of phenotypes characteristic of healthy melanocytes.”2 In other words, the cancer cells lost their cancer characteristics and regained normal cell characteristics.

Incredibly, that’s two types of cancer cells – melanoma cells from skin, and breast cancer cells – becoming normal when exposed to MSM. There’s one more research report of interest from the University of Connecticut team.3 They wrote: “The spread of cancer (metastasis) is usually associated with death. We have identified a new approach that may be useful for treating metastatic cancer. Here we studied the murine breast cancer cell line 66cl-4, because these cells are highly aggressive, potent inducers of metastasis and oestrogen receptor negative.

What did they observe? As was the case in the other two research projects, the MSM morphed metastatic mouse breast cancer cells into normal cells without killing them.

Beat back breast cancer with MSM?

The University of Connecticut team isn’t the only one on the trail of MSM’s ability to fight cancer. In 2012, researchers from the Konkuk University Global Campus in Soeul, Korea reported, that MSM “substantially decreased the viability of human breast cancer cells.” They strongly recommended MSM be used as a trial drug for all types of breast cancers.

Researchers from Iran also reported some positive results using MSM on cancer in 2012: “Human gastric carcinoma (AGS), human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2), and human oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (KYSE-30) cancer cell lines were treated by MSM… MSM had cytotoxic effect on cancer cell lines but HepG2 cell line was more susceptible. This study suggests that MSM may induce cytotoxic effect on gastrointestinal cancer cell lines by apoptosis and cell cycle arrest.”5 English: MSM killed stomach, liver and oesophageal cancer cells to varying degrees.

But the first indicator that MSM might be a useful tool in the fight against cancer goes back much further than that, to 1988 at Ohio State University. Researchers injected rats with the carcinogen di-methylhydrazine (DMH) and the length of time before actual tumour formation was measured: “The average time to tumour onset was significantly delayed in rats receiving… MSM (p = 0.0398). In addition, fewer poorly differentiated tumours were noted in treatment groups. These findings… indicate the need to further investigate such compounds as chemopreventive agents.”6 The scientists had confirmed that MSM wasn’t just a potential treatment for cancer, but a potential prevention tool, too!

MSM holds the potential to both prevent and treat cancer

More evidence for MSM’s abilities as a cancer preventive emerged in 1986, again at Ohio State. This time the focus was on breast cancer prevention in rats deliberately given a carcinogen eight days after starting either retinoic acid (‘RA’, a natural form of vitamin A), DMSO, 1% MSM, 4% MSM, or nothing (control group). The researchers wrote: “… Time to appearance (latency period) of… cancers were prolonged by… DMSO and 4% MSM. Doubling times of all cancers… were prolonged by DMSO and RA… DMSO and 4% MSM were effective in the chemoprevention of dimethylbenzanthracene-induced mammary cancers.”7

Obviously, no one is claiming that MSM will cure or prevent all cancers. But this exciting research suggests that MSM can morph some cancer cells (specifically breast and melanoma) back to normal, inhibit cancer metastasis, and prevent or slow the onset of other types of cancers, including oesophageal, stomach and liver.

Is there anything practical we can do with this information? If you have cancer, or if there’s cancer in your family, consider taking this article to a doctor skilled and knowledgeable in natural medicine. Talk to him or her about whether MSM might be useful for you.

MSM is available in natural health food stores and from online sources.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing

Vol. 8, Issue 8 – August 2014

Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.

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