Millions of people turn to baking soda for cleaning or cooking, but scientists are now wondering if it has a loftier use: battling breast cancer.
It may sound far-fetched, but Dr. Mark "Marty" Pagel says it's an issue that deserves more study.
Pagel is a researcher at the University of Arizona Cancer Center who recently received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study whether a therapy using baking soda can help treat breast cancer.
Pagel tells Arizona Illustrated that the concept behind the therapy isn't complicated. When people exercise, they sometimes feel a burn in their muscles, he says, which has historically been attributed to the buildup of lactic acid.
"And in a very similar way tumors, cancer, is very metabolically active. It's also producing a lot of acid so the baking soda can neutralize that acid and actually slow down the tumor growth and prevent it from moving to other parts of the body," he explains.
However, Pagel stresses that this will be an intricate clinical trial with scientific oversight, analysis and monitoring. He warns against home remedies with baking soda, since the substance can have detrimental side effects.
"It's a very controversial field because it's very uncontrolled right now--patients can obviously go to the grocery story and buy baking soda and try a big healthy glass in the morning," he says. "I wouldn't recommend that at this point without the monitoring."
The clinical trial will begin in Phoenix with eight patients, but Pagel hopes to expand it to Tucson later this year. He expects to have some initial results in several months.
Experts say there were more then 200,000 new cases of breast cancer among women and men in the U.S. in 2011.