The Anti-cancer Gene

Our built-in super hero

In all humans, there is a special gene which creates a protein called “Tumor protein p53“. This little protein is sometimes referred to as the “guardian gene” because it protects DNA from the mutations which cause cancer. It does this by activating DNA repair proteins and pausing the cell growth cycle for long enough that problems in the DNA can be discovered and corrected. If the DNA is damaged beyond repair, then this protein will ‘push the self-destruct button’ of the cell; a process called apoptosis, thus preventing the damaged DNA from being passed on to the cell’s offspring.

In order for Cancer to develop, there needs to be a bunch of specific changes to the DNA which accumulate over multiple cell divisions as mutations. These changes activate what are referred to as “oncogenes“, which are genes that cause the cancerous behaviour of cells. Now, when the guardian protein is doing its job, these dangerous changes to the DNA are not allowed to continue. Conversely, when cancer does develop, often this gene is one of the first things to be switched off.

So how do we switch it back on?

The “On” Switch

The beauty of natural medicine is that it supports health. Thus, rather than trying to kill cancer cells with harsh radiation, or poisonous chemotherapy, a naturopathic approach assists the body in strengthening the natural defences against cancer. In the case of damage to the DNA resulting in the deactivation of our guardian gene, there are some natural ways to reactivate it, effectively “flipping the on switch”.

Some examples of botanicals which have this ability are:

  • Capsaicin, the active component in chilli peppers [1].
  • Green Tea Polyphenols (EGCG) [2].
  • Curcumin, the active compound in Turmeric [3].

Another problem that should be addressed is the suppression of the guardian gene in the first place. Often, this gene is switched off by the MDM2 protein. Luckily for us, there are also some natural ways to prevent this.

Some examples of botanicals which prevent the MDM2-p53 interaction are:

Closing Remarks

Whilst naturopathic medicine is very useful in both preventing and treating cancer, some important points should be kept in mind. Firstly, you should not rely on Naturopathic medicine to cure cancer alone. It can be very useful in conjunction with conventional treatments or used by itself when conventional medicine has run out of options. Secondly, do not try and self-medicate with natural products. There are naturopaths out there that specialise in oncology. Seek out expert guidance. 

There is a common misconception that natural medicine is safe. This is not at all true. For example, with EGCG in Green Tea, you would need to drink five cups of green tea to get a therapeutic dose of EGCG. However, this would be quite bad for your health due to the high caffeine content and the potential depletion of Vitamin E in the liver and kidneys. A trained naturopath can assist you in using these natural products correctly, and in a safe way.


  1. Reactivation of mutant p53 by capsaicin
  2. Pro-apoptotic and migration-suppressing potential of EGCG, and the involvement of AMPK in the p53-mediated modulation of VEGF and MMP-9 expression
  3. The effects of turmeric (curcumin) on tumour suppressor protein (p53) and estrogen receptor (ERα) in breast cancer cells
  4. Natural products targeting the p53-MDM2 pathway and mutant p53: Recent advances and implications in cancer medicine