According to Cancer Research there has been a 57% increase in cases of the skin cancer malignant melanoma in the UK over the past ten years. This has been attributed to greater use of sunbeds and holidaying in hotter climates.
Copper is vital to the human body for many metabolic processes and a deficiency of copper is linked to blood disorders and more recently neurological disorders. Excess copper (toxicity) is rare.
New research has shown that copper has to bind to an enzyme involved in the metabolism of BRAF cancers. The most common BRAF cancer is the skin cancer melanoma, however mutations of the BRAF gene are also found in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colorectal cancer, papillary thyroid carcinoma, non-small-cell lung carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma of the lung.
The new research suggests that reducing the available copper in the body could be a new way of fighting BRAF cancers. A preliminary study using an animal model showed that treatment with copper chelating agents slowed down the growth of cancer cells that had become resistant to conventional treatments such as BRAF inhibitors.
Copper chelating agents are used in conventional medicine to reduce excess copper in the body and treat copper toxicity. Trials are now under way for the use of copper chelation as a BRAF cancer treatment. In the meantime, supportive nutrition (prescribed by a qualified nutritionist) such as low copper diets and copper chelating supplements may offer hope to patients with treatment resistant cancers and support conventional treatments.
Brady et al. Copper is required for oncogenic BRAF signalling and tumorigenesis. Nature. April 2014.