Last week a multiple myeloma listserv member posted a ScienceDaily article that initially puzzled me. The article (http://tinyurl.com/2k3acf) begins: Scientists report that a protein best known as a common marker of inflammation plays a key role in the progression of human cancer. The research, published by Cell Press in the September issue of the journal Cancer Cell, implicates C-reactive protein (CRP) as a potential target for cancer treatment. Well, that didn’t seem like breaking news to me. One of my regular blood tests measures my serum levels of CRP, and I know that it’s a myeloma marker. But then I read the showstopper: These results provide strong evidence that CRP is not just a marker for MM but is a critical regulator of myeloma cell survival.
Reading on, this protein protects myeloma cells from the effects of chemotherapy and also enhances their production of IL-6 (an evil cytokine that protects myeloma cells from dying). So CRP and IL-6 work together to keep myeloma cells alive, in a sort of vicious circle. Also not good.
As I was reading this article and then the study abstract (http://tinyurl.com/2xop56), a question popped into my mind: are there any natural ways to decrease our CRP levels? The answer is YES. However, since this is a complex topic, both to understand and to investigate, and since my research has led me a bit astray (all over the place, actually!) given the overwhelming amount of information, I chose to post some of what I found out by degrees.
Let’s start with the C-Reactive Protein. What is it? In essence, it’s a protein produced by the liver and released into the bloodstream when there is an ongoing inflammatory process in the body. It is a non-specific marker for inflammation: an elevated CRP level indicates inflammation but won’t tell us where exactly it is located. So we might have high CRP levels due to a simple cold, arthritis or some type of infection. The above-mentioned abstract reports that Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are present in many disease situations including malignancies and may contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders. I didn’t know that an elevated CRP is a indicator also of cardiovascular problems, hypertension and other types of cancer (prostate, hepatocellular, e.g.) until I did research for this blog piece. Indeed, one interesting item that I came across is that people at risk of developing heart trouble or a stroke may, strangely enough, have normal LDL cholesterol levels but a high CRP. Quite an important recent discovery! Anyway, I double-checked my own CRP levels, which have never been above 9 mg/L (that is the normal range). The problem with this test, at least in Italy, is that it doesn’t quantify CRP. It simply reports that I have less than 9 mg of this protein in my blood. I prefer to have precise figures, so this test does not satisfy me at all. Besides, I noticed that in 2005 I had.5 mg, so at one point it WAS an actual number. Puzzling.
So we go back to the question of how to reduce CRP levels by natural means. I will give one example before stopping for the day (I have to get ready for my classes tomorrow). I found a couple of recent studies showing that one way to reduce CRP levels may be to increase our daily fiber intake. See: http://tinyurl.com/23hd2p and http://tinyurl.com/3xldst. That’s it for today!