Copper promotes the formation of blood vessels, including those that supply tumors. Depleting copper can deprive the tumor of its suppliers.

How can copper chelation help me? What the research says

We summarize the clinical evidence for each medical benefit here. We begin with our assessment of the strength of evidence within each category, followed by a brief summary of individual studies or reviews of several studies. In assessing the strength of evidence, we consider the study design, number of participants, and the size of the treatment effect (how much outcomes changed with treatment).

Learn more about how we research and rate therapies.

Preclinical evidence is in Are you a health professional?

Treating cancer

Is copper chelation linked to improved survival? Is it linked to less cancer growth or metastasis? Does it enhance the anticancer action of other treatments or therapies? We present the evidence.

Both serum and tumor copper levels are elevated in a variety of malignancies, including both solid tumor and blood cancer. Elevated copper levels have been shown to be directly associated with cancer progression: copper levels rise as cancer progresses.1Gupte A, Mumper RJ. Elevated copper and oxidative stress in cancer cells as a target for cancer treatment. Cancer Treatment Reviews. 2009 Feb;35(1):32-46.

Researchers have studied how and whether removing copper from the body through a process called chelation affects tumor angiogenesis in advanced and refractory cancers, including metastatic chondrosarcoma, mesothelioma, and kidney and liver cancers, with the following findings.2Brewer GJ. Anticopper therapy against cancer and diseases of inflammation and fibrosis. Drug Discovery Today. 2005;10(16):1103–1109.

Advanced cancer

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of a higher-than-expected stable disease rate among people with advanced cancer achieving copper deficiency

Breast cancer

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better progression-free survival compared to historical controls and markers of decreased microenvironment support for tumors among women with breast cancer, mostly triple-negative breast cancer, using TM

Colorectal cancer

Weak evidence of clinical response among people with advanced metastatic colorectal cancer treated with irinotecan, 5-fluorouracil, and leucovorin (IFL) plus TM to reduce copper

Gastrointestinal cancer

Preliminary evidence of better overall survival among people with advanced esophageal cancer treated with conventional therapies and TM to reduce copper

Mesothelioma

Preliminary evidence of a doubling of average time to disease progression among people with mesothelioma using TM following surgery

Prostate cancer

Insufficient (conflicting) evidencepreclinical evidence only OR clinical studies with such poor or unclear methodology that no conclusion can be drawn OR conflicting findings across clinical studies with no preponderance of evidence in one direction; conflicting evidence occurs when studies find conflicting effects (positive effect vs no effect or negative effect) with the same treatment and the same general study population (same cancer type, for example) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of slower PSA progression in one study but not another, and no improvement in survival or disease progression

CancerChoices advisor Brian Bouch, MD, discusses copper chelation for cancer care.

Optimizing your body terrain

Does copper chelation promote an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread? We present the evidence.

Tumor microenvironment

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of reduced ceruloplasmin levels, fewer bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells—critical for metastatic progression—and other components of the tumor microenvironment among people treated with agents to deplete copper

Reducing cancer risk

Is copper chelation linked to lower risks of developing cancer or of recurrence? We present the evidence.

Breast cancer

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of a lower rate of relapse than expected among people with triple-negative breast cancer treated with TM

Gastrointestinal cancer

Preliminary evidence of lower risk of recurrence than expected with TM in addition to chemo/radiotherapy followed by surgery

Resources related to evidence

Keep reading about copper chelation

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Jen Green, ND, FABNO

Naturopathic oncologist and CancerChoices advisor
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Dr. Green is a naturopathic physician who is board-certified in naturopathic oncology (FABNO). Dr. Green is also a cofounder/research director for Knowledge in Integrative Oncology Website, a nonprofit website that harvests up-to-date research in integrative oncology to support evidence-informed decision making. Dr. Green has published scientific articles in journals such as the American Urology Association Update SeriesJournal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine and Natural Medicine Journal.

Jen Green, ND, FABNO Naturopathic oncologist and CancerChoices advisor

Last update: May 16, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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