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Exhausted Immune Cells Predictive of Cancer Death

Published on September 6, 2023

This microscopy image shows a cytotoxic T cell (blue) attacking a cancer cell (green) by releasing toxic chemicals (red). Alex Ritter, Jennifer Lippincott Schwartz, and Gillian Griffiths/National Institutes of Health.

An essential function of our immune system is to detect and eliminate foreign pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Immune cells like T cells do this by distinguishing between different types of proteins within cells, which allows them to detect the presence of infection or disease.

A type of T cell called cytotoxic T cell can recognize the mutated proteins in cancer cells and should, therefore, be able to kill them. However, in most patients, cancer cells grow unchecked despite the presence of T cells.

The current pathetic explanation scientists have is why T cells fail to eliminate cancer cells because they become “exhausted.” The idea is that T cells initially function well when they first face off against cancer cells but gradually lose their ability to kill the cancer cells after repeated encounters.

By the time most patients are diagnosed with cancer, their immune system has been interacting with developing cancer cells for months to years. However, modern research shows the surprising hallmark of T cell dysfunction is that it happens within six to 12 hours after they encounter cancer cells. This means T cells run into a brick wall that is simple to explain but beyond the inadequate minds of today’s medical scientists. 

Scientists have seen that very early DNA changes were stabilized and reinforced with continued exposure to cancer cells, effectively “imprinting” dysfunctional gene expression patterns in the T cells. Research suggests that T cells in tumors are not working hard and getting exhausted. Instead, they are blocked right from the start.

What Is The Brick Wall that Paralyzes T Cells?

Lactic acid paralyzes the T cells, and that helps leukemia cells to escape from the control by the immune system,” says Dr. Robert Zeiser, a transplant physician at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Bicarbonate can play a significant role in cancer treatments because cancer cells and tumors produce excessive amounts of lactic acid. One of the reasons bicarbonate is such a miracle medicine is that it neutralizes lactic acid.

Hatfield et al. tell us that T cells avoid going into the hypoxic areas of tumors. The authors overcome this problem in mice with lung tumors by having the animals breathe supplementary oxygen. They had a higher oxygen concentration throughout the body, improving the oxygenation inside the tumors, allowing immune cells to enter and attack them, and extending the animals’ survival.

Hypoxia incapacitates several different types of immune effector cells, enhances the activity of immunosuppressive cells, and provides new avenues that help “blind” immune cells to the presence of tumor cells.[i] Oxygenation would reduce tumors’ escape from immune surveillance and response.

Oxygen has a Toxic Effect on Cancer Cells.
Cancers low in oxygen are three
times more resistant to radiotherapy.

Image of Dr. Michail Sitkovsky at laboratory

Dr. Michail Sitkovsky, an immune physiology researcher at Northeastern, found that supplemental oxygenation inhibits the hypoxia-driven accumulation of adenosine in the tumor microenvironment and weakens immunosuppression. This, in turn, could improve cancer immunotherapy and shrink tumors by unleashing anti-tumor T lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

“Breathing supplemental oxygen opens up the gates of the tumor fortress and wakes up ‘sleepy’ anti-tumor cells, enabling these soldiers to enter the fortress and destroy it,” explained Sitkovsky, Professor of Immunophysiology and Pharmaceutical Biotech­nology at the Bouvé College of Health Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Sitkovsky and colleagues looked at one particular property of tumors. They can live without much oxygen in what are known as hypoxic environments. “Since the root of all problems is the lack of oxygen in tumors, a simple solution is to give tumors more oxygen,” said  Sitkovsky.

Sitkovsky found that a receptor on the surface of immune cells—the A2A adenosine receptor—is responsible for preventing T cells from invading tumors and for “putting to sleep” those killer cells that do manage to enter the tumors. His latest work shows that supplemental oxygen weakens tumor-protecting signaling through the A2A adenosine receptor and wakes up the T cells that can invade lung tumors.

Lactic Acid

Acidity turns oxygen-starved cancer
cells dormant and drug resistant.
Ludwig Cancer Research

In general, lactic acid in the blood can be taken as a sign of defective respiration since the breakdown of glucose to lactic acid increases to make up for deficient oxidative energy production. Dr. Ray Peat says, “Breathing too much oxygen displaces too much carbon dioxide, provoking an increase in lactic acid; too much lactate displaces oxygen and carbon dioxide. Lactate itself tends to suppress respiration. Oxygen toxicity and hyperventilation create a systemic deficiency of carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide deficiency makes breathing more difficult in pure oxygen, impairs the heart’s ability to work, and increases the resistance of blood vessels, impairing circulation and oxygen delivery to tissues. Circulation is improved in conditions that permit greater carbon dioxide retention, and the heart works more effectively. Carbon dioxide inhibits the production of lactic acid, and lactic acid lowers carbon dioxide’s concentration in various ways.”

Harry Rubin’s experiments demonstrated that cells become cancerous before genetic changes appear. The mere presence of lactic acid can make cells more susceptible to the transformation into cancer cells. (Mothersill, et al., 1983.)

“Otto Warburg established that lactic acid production is a fundamental property of cancer. It is, to a great degree, the lactic acid that triggers the defensive reactions of the organism, leading to tissue wasting from excessive glucocorticoid hormone,” says Dr. Ray Peat. Tumors tend to be efficient at exporting lactate, which drops the pH in the milieu of the tumor. The breakdown of glucose or glycogen produces lactate and hydrogen ions – one hydrogen ion is formed for each lactate molecule.

Lactic acidosis causes a decrease in serum bicarbonate concentration that is similar in magnitude to the increase in the lactate concentration. Lactate is a metabolizable organic anion that, when oxidized, will generate bicarbonate. So, if you have not figured it out yet, our treatment plan is to smash cancer cells and increase the staying power of T cells with bicarbonates, oxygen, and carbon dioxide delivered in the most powerful ways possible.

Modern medicine does not have the humility to acknowledge bicarbonate as a primary cancer treatment nor the intelligence to understand that the best way to release massive amounts of oxygen as guided missiles aimed at cancer cells is by flooding the body with carbon dioxide.

Lactate and inflammation promote each other
in a vicious cycle (Kawauchi, et al., 2008).

The best way to produce carbon dioxide is from physical activity, but most people with chronic illnesses and cancer unfortunately do not exercise. Understanding how vital sodium bicarbonate can be to the chronically ill person involves understanding the basic physiology of carbon dioxide. EWOT (Exercise with Oxygen) is a powerful treatment that raises CO2 production and oxygen delivery at the same time. The most powerful way to increase CO2 and oxygen delivery is with a CO2 dry body suit.

“Increasing carbon dioxide lowers the intracellular pH, inhibiting lactic acid formation, and restoring glucose oxidation increases CO2. When there is enough carbon dioxide in the tissues, the cell is kept in an oxidative state, and the formation of toxic free radicals is suppressed. Carbon dioxide therapy is extremely safe.”

The presence of carbon dioxide is an indicator of
proper mitochondrial respiratory functioning.

“The presence of lactic acid, which indicates stress or defective respiration, interferes with energy metabolism in ways that tend to be self-promoting. Harry Rubin’s experiments demonstrated that cells become cancerous before genetic changes appear. The mere presence of lactic acid can make cells more susceptible to the transformation into cancer cells. (Mothersill, et al., 1983.)”

Sports People Understand Bicarbonate, More Than Oncologists

During high-intensity workouts, your body releases chemicals into the muscle tissue—metabolic byproducts like lactic acid and hydrogen form in the muscle cells. While most byproducts are buffered, some remain in the muscle cells, creating an acidic environment. According to research, baking soda supplementation may reduce lactic acid during interval training and improve short-term endurance performance.[ii]

Acidity is directly related to pH levels in your body. Increased acidity alters pH levels, causing your muscles to burn and feel fatigued.[iii] Research shows that high-intensity endurance athletes who take sodium bicarbonate may experience less exhaustion, allowing them to push harder for longer during training.

When acid levels are maintained at neutral levels, muscles operate more efficiently. Energy metabolism increases, and studies indicate our muscles can sustain longer workouts. A survey of CrossFit athletes showed that progressive sodium bicarbonate dosing boosted performance and delayed ventilatory threshold occurrence.[iv]


Modern oncology is hopeless and lost. Forget about its inability to think outside the box; it cannot even think inside the box. In its never-ending attempt to block natural approaches to cancer treatment, it ignores what cancer is, how it starts, and the best scientific ways to treat cancer. As we will see in my following essay on cancer, it is why cancer rates keep climbing higher and higher, exposing modern oncology as a tragic and regrettable failure. So, as I always say, patients need to know more about cancer than their oncologists, which is easy because they know so little.

[i] Int J Hyperthermia. 2010; 26(3): 232–246. Hypoxia-Driven Immunosuppression: A new reason to use thermal therapy in the treatment of cancer?

[ii] Egger F, Meyer T, Such U, Hecksteden A. Effects of sodium bicarbonate on high-intensity endurance performance in cyclists: a double-blind, randomized cross-over trial. Earnest CP, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(12):e114729. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114729

[iii] Wan JJ, Qin Z, Wang PY, Sun Y, Liu X. Muscle fatigue: general understanding and treatmentExp Mol Med. 2017;49(10):e384. doi:10.1038/emm.2017.194

[iv] Durkalec-Michalski K, Zawieja EE, Podgórski T, et al. The effect of chronic progressive-dose sodium bicarbonate ingestion on CrossFit-like performance: A double-blind, randomized cross-over trial. Vassalle C, ed. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(5):e0197480. doi:10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0197480

Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Professor of Natural Oncology, Da Vinci Institute of Holistic Medicine
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine
Founder of Natural Allopathic Medicine

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