Insulin Potentiation Therapy and Cancer

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on November 14, 2017Written by Alex Snyder on November 14, 2017

What is insulin potentiation therapy?

Insulin potentiation therapy (IPT) is an experimental treatment for chemotherapy symptoms. There’s no scientific proof that IPT is an effective treatment for cancer. People who receive IPT do so at their own risk.

Chemotherapy is a proven treatment for cancer, but causes many side effects. Researchers are always looking for ways to minimize the negative side effects of repeated rounds of chemo. These side effects often include:

Donato Perez Garcia, a medical doctor from Mexico, developed IPT in the early 1930s. In 1939, he registered the treatment with the U.S. Patent Office as a treatment for syphilis and neurosyphilis. Some argue it reduces or removes negative side effects of chemo without reducing overall effectiveness of the treatment.

How does IPT work?

Garcia’s son and grandson continued working with IPT. In a 1986 paper, they argued IPT can be used as an “adjunct” when managing chronic diseases. They said insulin naturally makes cell membranes more permeable. This is because cancer cells have more insulin receptors than normal cells. When insulin is released into the bloodstream in response to a change in blood sugar levels, the insulin attaches to these cells and allow nutrients to enter the cell.

When the excess insulin receptors on cancer cells are activated, it’s theoretically easier to specifically target them for treatment. The theory is that when using it with chemotherapy, insulin makes the medication more effective.

As a result, it’s argued that IPT targets cancer cells and requires less chemotherapy to get the same results. Less chemo drugs, then, mean fewer or less severe side effects.

Dangers of IPT

Apart from the lack of scientific or clinical evidence endorsing IPT, this treatment does carry a known set of risks.

IPT carries a risk of developing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This is potentially deadly. The body releases insulin naturally after a rise in blood sugar. Artificially introducing insulin, such as with IPT, can produce a rapid decrease in blood sugar. If your blood sugar falls low enough, you can experience:

  • shock
  • coma
  • stroke
  • seizures
  • death

After the insulin is administered and blood sugar falls, IPT practitioners rapidly inject a cocktail of glucose and chemotherapy drugs in doses that are below the proven, effective amounts.

Research shows low-dose chemotherapy can keep the disease dormant. But this doesn’t treat cancer. Chemotherapeutic doses that are too low can also promote the development of stronger, more resistant cancer cell strains. This will reduce the effectiveness of later cancer treatments.

Additionally, there’s virtually no guarantee that you won’t experience the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy.

Should you try IPT?

There’s no proof that IPT is an effective cancer treatment. If you have cancer, you should prioritize traditional treatments such as chemotherapy over experimental treatments such as IPT.

When it comes to price, IPT is just as expensive as chemo. Some practices even charge as much as $50,000 for eight weeks of treatment.

IPT is even required to include a disclaimer that “there is no collection of scientific data validating IPT as a treatment for malignant neoplastic diseases, or cancer.”

Outlook

IPT isn’t the most effective, proven, or reliable course of treatment available. The main reason people pursue IPT is because they want to reduce the painful symptoms of chemotherapy. However, IPT is an unproven form of treatment. It should be avoided until further research is published.

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