Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has antioxidant properties and is synthesized as a cofactor necessary during mitochondrial energy metabolism within the mitochondria. It is also a potent antioxidant that is used as a health supplement and is being investigated as a treatment for diabetes, vascular disease, hypertension, inflammation, and potentially in cancer treatment for a few types of cancer.
Good sources of alpha-lipoic acid are:
It’s also commonly made for therapeutic use in the laboratory.
What is it used for and how?
Most commonly, alpha-lipoic acid is orally consumed for diabetes and diabetes-related nerve symptoms, including swelling, discomfort, and numbness in the legs and arms. It is also used for the same purposes as an injection into the vein (Intravenous). For the treatment of these nerve-related symptoms, high doses of alpha-lipoic acid have been approved in Germany. Alpha-lipoic acid appears to help prevent other forms of cell damage in the body, and also restores levels of the vitamin, including vitamin E and vitamin C. There is also evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can improve neuronal function and conduction in diabetes.
In the body, alpha-lipoic acid breaks down carbohydrates and creates energy for the other organs within the body. Alpha-lipoic acid works as an antioxidant, suggesting it can provide brain defense under damage or injury conditions. In certain liver disorders, the antioxidant effects may be beneficial. A few studies have found it to be effective in cancer treatment when used alongside regular chemotherapy.
Analysis of cancer treatment studies involving ALA.
There have been few prospective in-human trials of cancer patients, although several studies have shown encouraging in-vitro cytotoxic results. Vivo animal models and Vitro Cells have shown that ALA inhibits carcinogenesis initiation and promotion stages, indicating that ALA is considerably involved as a chemopreventive agent. Many case studies have reported that ALA may have anti-cancer efficacy in patients with advanced metastatic cancers, usually in conjunction with other agents.
- ALA alone has been shown to decrease the viability and proliferation of cells in the cell lines of breast, ovarian, colorectal, and lung cancer and to be synergistic with chemotherapy. Potentially helpful in reducing breast cancer symptoms.
- ALA has reduced the migration and penetration of cells into thyroid cancer cell lines.
- In models of mice xenograft, ALA suppressed tumor growth alone and against multiple types of cancer tumors in combination with hydroxycitrate.
- One case series recorded that 4 patients with pancreatic cancer received a full response after receiving intravenous ALA medication (300 to 600 mg twice a week) plus low-dose oral naltrexone (4.5 mg once daily). The efficacy of this protocol was also documented in a non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient who had declined conventional treatment.
- Another study reported promising results in a patient with metastatic pancreatic cancer, with a combination of ALA and gemcitabine hydroxycitrate.
- A case series of 10 advanced cancer patients with a life expectancy of 2 to 6 months indicated that there was reduced toxicity in the body due to the combination of ALA with hydroxycitrate and low-dose naltrexone, and 7 patients reported a response, potentially useful in palliative care.
- A combination of ALA with Boswellia Serrata, methylsulfonylmethane, and bromelain decreased pain on the visual analog scale and sensory and motor dysfunction for peripheral neuropathy associated with cancer treatment.
- An open-label single-arm phase 2 trial found that a combination of a diet high in polyphenols with antioxidant supplementation with ALA, carbocysteine lysine phosphate, and vitamins A, E, and C plus omega-3 fatty acids, medroxyprogesterone acetate, and celecoxib for 4 months resulted in better quality of life measurements, tiredness, body weight, lean body mass, and appetite relative to baseline. Of the 39 patients assessable, 10 experienced a partial or complete reaction, 6 experienced stable disease, and 16 experienced progressions among disease, showing promise for ALA use in rehabilitative care.
ALA is currently in clinical use for diabetic neuropathy treatment, although limited clinical trials were conducted using combinations of ALA with recognized bioactive agents. Nevertheless, the use of the ALA is limited by its volatility and rapid metabolism, indicating that formulations containing ALA have critical applications such as medications, nutritional supplements, or cosmeceuticals in a way that ensures its stability and enhances its bioavailability. In limited studies, ALA was stated helpful in preventive care, palliative treatment, and chemotherapy.
As ALA is still not approved for medical use by the FDA, more research is needed to demonstrate both ALA’s short-and long-term effects in clinical trials and to examine its efficacy for further cancer treatment applications. Given these drawbacks, ALA could still be a useful agent in treating different types of cancer, when used alongside standard cancer treatment, based on scientific evidence so far.