Are Supplements Safe for MPN Patients?

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Are supplements helpful or harmful to myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients? Can they interfere with treatment? A panel of MPN experts from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, including Dr. Brandon McMahon, Oncology Dietician Sommer Gaughan and Licensed Clinical Oncology Social Worker Bryn Dunham, discuss how supplements interact with MPN treatment, ways they may affect a person’s blood and metabolism, and why it’s critical to communicate with your provider. How can MPN patients maintain a healthy immune system? The panel also explains how herbs and supplements compare to whole food and the best way for the body to absorb vital nutrients.

Produced in partnership with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Sponsored by Incyte Corporation.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

You can go through the shopping mall, and there is the supplement store, and they have a big sign, “Boost Your Immune System,” and we understand that our immune system let us down, when we develop any kind of cancer. Right?  

Because a healthy immune system will often be looking for the bad cells and trying to zap them, right? So, we got let down there. So, we think, “Should we take some immune-boosting supplement? Or maybe there’s a supplement for some other condition.” Do you want to comment on that first? Supplements?

Sommer Gaughan:        

Sure. Supplements are a very big topic, and we know that your body absorbs nutrients best in a form of whole food. Often supplements will give you a dosage as much higher than you would ever take from just eating the whole food. But additionally, herbal supplements, all of these can act as medications in the body as well, can interact with other medications. 

The other big thing with herbals, is many of them affect blood coagulation. And so, they can really interact with and go against what your medical provider is doing to manage your blood. And so, I think it’s very important to speak to your medical team about supplements before ever taking any of them.

Please, be open about that. I think that sometimes people are afraid to bring those up because they think they’re gonna kind of get pushed down right away. But, it’s really, really important for all the providers, your pharmacist, your doctors, the dieticians, to know what you’re taking and then work as a team to explain why these may or may not be appropriate.

Andrew Schorr:            

Okay, and Dr. McMahon, that’s right. That some of these medicines can work against what you’re prescribing,  right?

Dr. McMahon:              

Right. There can be interactions for sure. That’s why it’s important to you make sure you give a list to anything new that you’re adding to your regimen, so that we know that’s not going to interfere, or negatively impact, your ability to either take it in, or the medications we’re prescribing, or for that matter, so they don’t metabolize it correctly, and it can build up. 

So, you don’t want to get toxicity there, so definitely let us know if you’re taking anything.

Andrew Schorr:            

Okay, and with ruxolitinib (Jakafi), I understand, maybe with some other medicines, you’re not supposed to have grapefruit. How come?

Dr. McMahon:              

Yeah. Well it can interfere with the metabolism. And I mean, grapefruit’s bad for a number of medications, like warfarin (Coumadin), and some others, too. There are a lot of other things, too, that can interfere with different foods. It can interfere with medications you’re taking. 

Andrew Schorr:            

Bryn, so this kind of open communication is so critical. How am I doing? What’s the right medicine or treatment for me? Are there clinical trials? What are the warnings I need to know about the medicine I’m taking? And I have to be open with anything else I’m doing that could affect medicines. It sounds like there has to be a very active communication dialogue.  

Bryn Dunham:              

Absolutely. I think we’ve talked about the need for patients – Well, Patient Power, just the title of it. All of you as patients and caregivers have the power to advocate for yourselves. And that’s also something that social work can assist with as well. One of my major roles on the treatment team is advocating, making sure that your voice is heard. 

And I always approach every patient and family that I work with from an empowerment approach. Cancer has this way of taking control of your life. Every part of it. And my goal is always to try to find ways that you can take control back from cancer, from your disease.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on August 6, 2018