Energy After Chemotherapy
What are some of the side effects from chemotherapy?
Dr. Block: There are a lot of side effects, and they’re really drug-related. Some drugs are associated with a group of side effects. Others have entirely different side effects, and others are shared. The usual ones are nausea and vomiting, skin rashes or hair loss. Some people have funny sensations in their fingers, called neurologic damage. It goes also to diarrhea and vomiting and even some heart and kidney damage. The profession of medical oncology is usually able to anticipate these side affects, prevent them and make them less troublesome or even totally avoidable.
How bad is the fatigue that sometimes accompanies chemo?
Dr. Block: The fatigue can be very bad. It may be related both to the chemotherapy as well as the stress of knowing you have a malignancy. Sometimes it’s the psychosocial fatigue of knowing you’ve got perhaps an advanced cancer or a cancer that the doctors can’t assure that you’re going to be cured of. Fatigue and tiredness can be very complex.
What is it about chemotherapy that causes the loss of energy?
Dr. Block: Chemotherapy is a drug, a chemical, a medicine, and it’s not discriminate. When you put it into the body, it effects many different cells. What you see with the side effects is the toxicity and the affects of the chemotherapy on the normal cells of the body. There’s also a huge psychological overlay with chemotherapy. Actually, with the new drugs and the new medications, nausea and vomiting is a minor problem.
What is nutraceutical?
Dr. Block: Nutraceutical is a new word that’s used to describe nutritional products that have pharmacological or healing or positive effects. It’s supposed to be a combination of a nutritional supplement and an effective classic drug. These are often food extracts or components of food — essentially, constructing a nutritional supplement with the elements of the biologic activity to treat certain diseases. It’s a new description of a very interesting new product line.
What is Propax specifically?
Dr. Block: Propax is the current trade name of a blend of those kinds of vitamins and minerals and various carriers. The blend is believed to deliver nutrients and properties thought to have healing effects on not only fatigue and tiredness but also other aspects of health. The blend is put together in a series of capsules. Some think the blend is worth testing to see if we can demonstrate whether it is beneficial to patients who are receiving chemotherapy for their malignancy with regard to whether they get less tired or less fatigued while on Propax compared to when they’re not taking it.
Is Propax currently FDA approved and available?
Dr. Block: Yes. I think patients can get it through a doctor.
Does it have any side effects that you know of?
Dr. Block: I think that’s one of the reasons for the current study. So far, the patients in the study don’t know what treatment they’re receiving. They may be getting Propax, or they may be getting a placebo. There are side effects, but whether it’s a placebo side effect or Propax side effect, we don’t know yet. That’s why we call this a double blind cross over. When a doctor gives anything to a patient, the patient will always have an effect, whether they’re made worse or better. It’s the whole issue of the doctor giving something to a patient who either wants to get better or who’s worried about what the doctor is giving them.
If Propax works, what will it mean to people undergoing chemotherapy?
Dr. Block: If it does work, it may reduce their tiredness and fatigue. It may give them more energy and may make them feel better than they felt for a long time. It may also, in some way, modulate or change the patient’s response to chemotherapy in other ways — possibly make them less nauseated with fewer side effects. However, that’s the point of studying. Nevertheless, the product is FDA-approved for use, and it’s made up of a series of constituents that seem to be safe and effective.