Could Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) Beat Cancer and Auto-Immune Diseases?

In this interview with Dr. Burton Berkson, he explains how low dose Naltrexone can have amazing effects on arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Naltrexone (generic name) has been an FDA approved drug for over 20 years. It’s a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist that is conventionally used to treat drug- and alcohol addiction, normally at doses of 50mg to 300mg.




However, more recently, researchers have discovered that at very low dosages (3 to 4.5 mg), naltrexone has immunomodulating properties that may be able to successfully treat cancer malignancies, and a wide range of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s disease, just to name a few.



Added benefits include its low-cost, and few, if any, of the detrimental side effects you normally experience with pharmaceutical drugs.

Treating Autoimmune Diseases With Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Burton M. Berkson for my Inner Circle,expert interview series, in which he discussed the many uses for LDN, and the phenomenal results he’s been able to achieve in both cancer patients and those with autoimmune diseases.




As is often the case with treatments that work but are inexpensive, very few physicians are aware of LDN.



One major reason is just because there’s very little money in it, so none of the pharmaceutical giants back it. Therefore, there are no friendly sales reps visiting your doctor talking about the potential benefits of Naltrexone in very low doses.



In addition to the conditions already mentioned, LDN is most commonly used for diseases such as:

  • Hepatitis C
  • Diabetic neuropathies
  • Lupus
  • Dermatomyositis (an inflammatory muscle disease)
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Other autoimmune diseases

Additionally, at least one physician, Dr. Jacquelyn McCandless, has even found LDN to have a positive effect on children with autism.



According to Dr. Berkson, LDN seems to work the best for autoimmune diseases. But he has also published two studies on LDN for the treatment of cancer.


The first, on the reversal of pancreatic cancer was published in 2006, and the other, on the reversal of B cell lymphomas, came out in 2007.


Says Dr. Berkson,

"It is difficult for many to believe that one drug can accomplish so many tasks. But LDN does not treat symptoms as most drugs do. It actually works way "upstream" to modulate the basic mechanisms that result in the disease state."
Even with cancer patients, the survival rate is about 50 percent -- and they are the sickest; oftentimes coming to him for this treatment as a very last resort after everything else failed.

How Does LDN Work?

A growing body of research over the past 20 years indicates that your body’s secretion of endorphins (your internal, natural opioids) play an important, if not central, role in the workings of your immune system.


A review article entitled Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain, published in a 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, states:


"Opioid-Induced Immune Modulation: .... Preclinical evidence indicates overwhelmingly that opioids alter the development, differentiation, and function of immune cells, and that both innate and adaptive systems are affected.

Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved.

The relatively recent identification of opioid-related receptors on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on your immune system."

Typically, LDN is taken at bedtime, which blocks your opioid receptors for a few hours in the middle of the night. It is believed to up-regulate vital elements of your immune system by increasing your body’s production of metenkephalin and endorphins (your natural opioids), hence improving your immune function.



And, as for LDNs anti-cancer mechanism, Dr. Bernard Bihari – who discovered LDN as a therapeutic agent for AIDS in 1985 -- believes it is likely due to an increase in:

  • the number and density of opiate receptors on the tumor cell membranes, making them more responsive to the growth-inhibiting effects of the already present levels of endorphins, which in turn induces apoptosis (cell death) in the cancer cells
  • the absolute numbers of circulating cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells, as well as killer cell activity

Recent Clinical Studies on Safety and Benefits of LDN for Autoimmune Diseases

In addition to Dr. Berkson’s own research, several other studies have been conducted on the benefits of LDN, and others are in the pipeline.



For a more complete list of past and current research, please see the website, but here are a couple of highlights.

LDN for Multiple Sclerosis
– Dr. Maira Gironi, an Italian neurological researcher, treated 40 patients affected with Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) with LDN for six months, concluding that LDN was not only safe and well-tolerated, but halted the progression of the disease in all but one patient. The results from this pilot study were published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis in September 2008.

LDN for Crohn’s Disease
– The first clinical study of LDN published by a U.S. medical journal was Dr. Jill Smith’s article, Low-Dose Naltrexone Therapy Improves Active Crohn’s Disease, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2007.



An impressive two-thirds of the patients in her pilot study went into remission, and 89 percent responded to LDN treatment to some degree. She concluded that “LDN therapy appears effective and safe in subjects with active Crohn’s disease.”



Other studies currently underway in various parts of the world, include:

  • A Phase II placebo-controlled clinical trial on the efficacy of LDN for children and adolescents with Crohn’s disease at Penn State.
  • A clinical trial of LDN in HIV-infected citizens of Mali—the first scientific study of LDN for HIV/AIDS in Africa—implemented in October 2007.
  • A study of LDN in the treatment of MS at the University of California, San Francisco, implemented in early 2007.
  • A clinical trial of LDN in the treatment of fibromyalgia at Stanford Medical Center implemented in October 2007.
  • A study by the MindBrain Consortium in Akron, Ohio of, especially, the affective changes in MS treated with LDN, begun late 2007.
  • An animal research study at Penn State of naltrexone in a model of a disease that mimics MS.

For more information about low-dose naltrexone, I recommend you check out the website. is another good resource.