Naltrexone is a pharmaceutical drug which has been used at high doses for decades to treat addiction to alcohol and opiate medications. Although it has been approved by the FDA for this purpose, research has shown that it might also be an effective off-label cancer treatment. Low dose naltrexone, referred to as LDN, is given as a capsule in the 3 mg to 4.5 mg range for cancer, as opposed to the 50 mg dose given for addiction.
LDN works by increasing levels of endorphins, which are the “feel good” peptides that are produced during activities such as exercise. Endorphins are responsible for the runner’s high, and in addition to improving well-being, they also improve immune system function. This means that the immune cells involved in fighting cancer, such as natural killer cells, macrophages, B cells, and T cells, are thought to be recruited in higher fashion.
The mechanism of action of low dose naltrexone seems to be its effect on something known as opioid growth factor (OGF), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. OGF seems to be present in high amounts in all cancerous cells – much higher than in normal cells. One study looked at 31 human cancer cell types, representing 90% of all human cancer in the world, and all 31 cell types showed a high level of OGF. Low dose naltrexone’s ability to inhibit OGF should result in a slowing of the growth of tumor cells.
Another promising effect of LDN’s effect on OGF is that it may inhibit the formation of new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis. We know that cancer cells recruit new blood vessels, which is essential for cancer to survive and spread. One study on lab mice found that LDN reduced the number of new blood vessels formed as well as the total length of blood vessels.
Dr. Stegall finds this research to be quite fascinating, since low dose naltrexone provides the potential for significant benefit with virtually no side effects. Low dose naltrexone is only available with a prescription, and is filled by a compounding pharmacy. It is an affordable and potentially powerful prescription which Dr. Stegall frequently makes a part of his cancer protocols.