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  • jennygoss

Cancer and Covid

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

First, a disclosure.

Don't worry. This post isn't on whether I think you should get vaccinated, or how and when I think you should wear a mask, or even about how any of this should be handled. That's between you, your doctor, and God. I have learned to stay in my little lane, even when my muffler rivals that of a Harley Easy Rider and my AC vent is knocking.

(That's only a bit of a joke. My AC really does knock and my muffler is loud. The real joke is that I had to Google "types of Harley-Davidsons just to make the joke. And now it's ruined. ...Why must I overshare??)

Anyway, knowing whether to get the vaccine is confusing even healthy people. God knows us cancer survivors have all sorts of weird health things pop up. I can't even begin to give advice.

No, this post isn't written to cause any (more) divides or ramp up emotions. I'm only writing this to share what I have learned about the virus itself. I've been mocked by people from all political parties about my research habits. Some people believe that only medical school could ever prepare someone to learn about their own condition. That's their prerogative. That's just not how I function.

Anyone reading this is welcome to share what I'm writing here with their doctors and ask their opinions. Everything is either first-hand experience, peer reviewed journal articles, or quotes from books. I'll also freely admit that I do not understand this thing completely, so no hard feelings if you doubt what I'm writing. I'm simply putting my experience out there for others to read in case it is helpful to them.

Okay, so I've written before about how this whole cancer thing started. I have certainly had issues with my ovaries for years. However, there was a considerable downturn in my health at one particular time, which I can pinpoint almost to the day.

In March 2020, my youngest daughter got sick. She had been attending a club at a local church. I'd been watching the news about the coronavirus in China and then other countries since nearly the beginning. I was hesitant to send her to her club meeting, but I told myself I was being a paranoid mom and couldn't hold her back from everything fun just because I am irrational.

She developed a very high fever and a bit of a sore throat. She tested negative for strep and flu, so we were sent home to wait it out.

Not long after, I got sick. Unlike my daughter, I got very, very sick. I also just happened to get sick the same day that news broke that multiple people at the same church where my daughter had been attending club meetings learned they had covid. My illness was weird. I just kept getting worse and worse. My husband eventually called 911 when my temperature dipped to 95 and I woke up confused and feeling really weird. They sent a guy in a hazmat suit.

No joke; he had the whole get-up.

If I hadn't been barfing and coughing, I would have laughed.

At that point in time, they had no covid tests and GI issues were not a known symptom. He told me I could only be tested if I was admitted to the hospital. I declined because I figured if I didn't have covid already, I didn't want to be in an ER right then.

I developed chest pain. I had body aches. I ended up getting shingles about 3 weeks into my illness. I had to get an antiviral prescription via telemed because I was still in quarantine. A few weeks after my bout of shingles, my daughter who had originally had the fever also developed a strange, blistery rash across one side of her neck and had chest pain. (She is healthy and doing well now, thank God!)

It also took me months to completely recover. In fact, during my recovery from surgery sometime in July, I was still coughing and unable to get deep breaths. That's five months. Yikes!

When I had my hysterectomy, my husband asked how long the cancer had been growing and the doctor said probably about 4 months. Now, I know that is a guess. I also know that I would have had cells with damaged mitochondria and DNA in my ovaries long before getting sick. Like I said, my ovaries had been giving me fits for years prior to this. I had often commented that I felt they were just ticking time bombs.

However, I had a suspicion that the two were linked. Any time your immune system is taxed, you have less resources to keep cancer cells in check. Whether I got covid, was injured in a car accident, or wound up with a major bacterial infection, my body would have needed to pull those resources from my bunk ovaries to deal with the issue at hand. So, as much as I have been researching cancer, I've also kept an eye on information about covid, too, which is why I decided to write this post today. I wanted to share information that might be useful to others.

Here's what I have learned so far:

1. The Renin-angiotensin System (RAS) is affected by covid infections through ACE2.

Say what?

Let's see if I can unravel this. I know. I'm like the blind leading the blind here, but let's give it a try. You've probably heard about the whole controversy with spike proteins and the ACE2 linkages, right? Well, this involves that. ...kind of.

The covid virus binds to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2, obviously) receptors early in an infection. Again, all coronaviruses do this. This is important, though, so try to hang.

I first began researching this because I knew that RAS is a pathway that plays a role in angiogenesis, tumor growth, and metastases. (2,3) The fact that RAS is affected by ACE2 was interesting to me. I have never studied medicine, but I think that all viruses have some impact on these, because that's just kind of how the body works. So, my interest was in whether the same things that help cancer from progressing can help covid infections. What I found was surprising.

ACE2 is the active peptide in RAS and it does a lot of things. One is that it converts angiotensin II, which is a vasoconstrictor (restricts blood vessels), "to a less potent form," according to Buhner in Herbal Antivirals. It has a huge role in cardiovascular diseases (1), thirst (4), sodium, calcium, and potassium channel regulation, the CNS, and more (5).

Buhner goes on to say on pg. 53 that "...the RAS is crucial to the functioning of most organs, including the lungs, spleen, and lymph nodes," and that "once the virus begins attaching to ACE2, ACE2 function begins to be destroyed."

The relationship between ACE and ACE 2 receptors is something I am not yet completely clear on, however, I have noted some things from research. First, inhibiting ACE seems to increase the amount of ACE 2 receptors, as they are counterbalances to each other (15). ACE levels were found to be high in ovarian cancer patients in 2015, prior to the pandemic (16). A very recent study (as in, August of 2021!) stated "Previous studies have suggested that SARS-CoV-2 can infect human ovary," as well as, "DEG analysis showed that a series of viral infection-related pathways were more enriched in ACE2-positive ovarian cells than in ACE2-negative ovarian cells, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 may potentially target specific ovarian cells and affect ovarian function." (17) Though the study specifically states that they did not conclude the long-term effects on the ovaries of recovered women, the study suggests that the virus does have an effect specifically on ovarian cells.

2. Covid jacks with inflammatory cytokines which play a role in cancer.

Let's tackle three specific inflammatory cytokines, one at a time.

TGFβ- I have talked very briefly about transforming growth factor beta, TGFβ, in the past. I was interested in this one because my levels on this were very high right after diagnosis. It could have been from the cancer itself, it could have been from the covid infection, or it could have been a combination of both. I don't know enough about either to be able to say. What's important to know and understand is what covid does with TGFβ and how that impacts cancer.

It's tricky because TGFβ actually can play two roles in cancer, pro-disease or anti-disease, depending on the specific context (6). It is supposed to act as a tumor suppressor. However, in HGSC, it can be very, very problematic. One study I read stated that it only works as a suppressor in early disease and promotes disease progression in late stage disease (7). Add to this that ovarian cancer cells have less

TGFβ receptors, and you can see that in this context, extra isn't a good thing. Specifically for HGSC, an increase of TGFβ causes increased motility and invasiveness, which is important because HGSC is already a cancer which metastasizes quickly in the disease progression process (8). In fact, another study stated, "TGF-β significantly increased invasion in five of seven ovarian cancer cell lines in amounts ranging from 2- to 20-fold." (9) Yikes!

Ok, now let's look at interleukin-6, or IL-6.

First, know that covid affects epithelial cells quite a bit. Buhner notes that "the virus very powerfully upregulates IL-6 and IL-8 in epithelial cells." This is because covid's primary target for replication is those ciliated lung cells. However, upregulated IL-6 and IL-8 are important for us ovarian cancer patients, too. You guessed it, HGSC cells also started life as epithelial cells.

A process called Epithelial-mesenchymal Plasticity (EMP) plays a critical role in cancer development and none other than our IL-6 regulates that system. One study states, "During cancer progression, EMP results in heterogeneous and dynamic populations of cells with mixed epithelial and mesenchymal characteristics, which are required for local invasion and metastatic dissemination."(10) In case you don't know what mesenchymal means, it means that it represents the mesenchyme, which is made up of undifferentiated cells which are loosely organized and retain their mobility. That sounds awesome if you need to repair some damaged muscles. It's not so awesome when referring to a typically immobile, differentiated cell like an epithelial ovarian cell.

Remember, we want our ovarian cells to look and act like ovarian cells. Anything other than this is one step towards disaster.

In fact, IL-6 sets into motion the entire cascade of tumor progression including angiogenesis via increased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), apoptosis resistance, tumor cell growth, proliferation, invasion, and even chemoresistance. (11) Despite some researchers who say all cytokines can at times work as pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, IL-6 has historically been classified as a pro-inflammatory. Dr. Neil McKinney states in Naturopathic Oncology that, "the fatigue, depressive mood and cognitive function characteristic of advanced cancer is largely due to... IL-6."

Let's move on to IL-8.

This is very similar to what is mentioned for IL-6, but I found even more research on its impact on metastases. High levels of IL-8 has been linked to poor prognosis and OS. This is because it encourages metastasis by the EMP process even more so. (12)

What is interesting with both IL-6 and IL-8 is that it does more than just affect the cancer cells directly. They also inhibit dendritic cells from maturing. When one has both cancer and covid, this is especially troublesome because covid also infects mature dendritic cells, prohibiting them from activating T cells in an immune response. As you can imagine, both dendritic and T cells are needed for a covid infection and a cancer diagnosis. A healthy immune system is critical for fighting both.

To be clear, covid is not the only virus which has an effect on these inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines play an important role in the immune response to viral infections. The issue is whether they are over expressed to the point of causing a problem with the carcinogenesis.

3. Covid causes hypoxia.

I'm talking, alllll kinds of hypoxia.

Let's define hypoxia, just in case anyone isn't on the same page. Hypoxia just means low levels of oxygen.

Clearly, it could cause low oxygen levels if you are struggling to breathe with a severe case of covid. Hypoxia also occurs in the infected cells, too. This is important for two reasons. First, as Buhner points out, hypoxia at a cellular level causes a cascade of events which causes free radicals to be released which damage tissues. If you collect enough damage from free radicals, that's essentially what leads to cancer in the first place.

Perhaps the more important thing to note, though, is the role hypoxia plays in cancer progression. See, cancer cells lose all of their little feelies that tell them they're getting too close and invading each other's personal space. (Sorry, I'd been too serious in this one. I had to say 'little feelies.' It made me happy, okay?) They pile up on each other like a bunch of teenagers in a mosh pit. The weight of the tissues and fluids from leaky vessels causes a signal to be sent out to blood vessels to grow into the dense tissue, feeding the tumor more nutrients.

Does the general hypoxic state of the body during covid cause angiogenesis to occur in the body? I have no idea, but I'd be interested to learn.

You can see why I am curious as to whether future research shows that covid can cause ovarian cancer. I'm also hoping to help others by spreading this information so that they can take appropriate actions to protect themselves from the same outcome.

As of now, I don't know whether the vaccines keep these spikes from occurring. I have not really researched that because I'm not eligible to get the vaccine anyway for a couple of reasons, the least of which is anaphylaxis to one of the preservatives. So, my focus is on what things can be done to combat these issues and hopefully keep cancer from developing. Stay tuned next week for various supportives I have learned about which can help with this.


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