Cancer represents a healer's greatest challenge. It operates like an alien inside your body. Its biochemical laws are different from yours. It's able to completely disarm your immune system - in effect, creating an immunological shield to protect itself - all the while it fires out substances that weaken the integrity of your cells and reproduces out of all control.
Although many of the most promising alternative cancer therapies have been around for most of this century, there is a peculiar lack of scientific study assessing them.
This situation is more a comment on the orthodox camp's paranoia about employing any new treatment against cancer (and thus admitting defeat or letting go of a multibillion-dollar industry) than a statement about the efficacy of the treatments in question. Despite this climate of suppression, a number of alternative treatments have been the subject of some properly designed laboratory and clinical research. Although all would benefit from further study, they certainly appear more promising than most of the tools of orthodox medicine.
Although many treatments have wide anecdotal reports of success (such as the Essiac herbs), we have concentrated on those therapies with the greatest scientific evidence. Some - like Govallo's vaccine, derived from human placenta, or Coley's toxins, from bacteria - stretch our definition of alternative medicine to the limit. Nevertheless, we include them because they offer very good results and expand our understanding of this complex condition.
Thirty years ago, Scottish surgeon Dr Ewan Cameron postulated that any substance which strengthened the intercellular cement binding cells together would probably help to resist invasion by malignant tumour cells. Vitamin C prompts cells to produce higher levels of hyaluronidase inhibitor, which prevents the hyaluronidase produced by cancer cells from breaking down this cement between cells. Vitamin C also helps strengthen the cement itself by helping to synthesise collagen (Pelton R, Overholder L, Alternatives in Cancer Therapy, Fireside, 1994). We also know that vitamin C stimulates natural-killer (NK) cell activity.
After teaming up with twice Nobel Prize-winner Linus Pauling, Dr Cameron gave vitamin C to 100 Scottish cancer patients, who'd been considered beyond treatment. The vitamin C patients survived four times as long (210 days) as 1000 similar patients not given the vitamin (Proc Natl Acad Sci, 1976; 73: 3685-9). Another study also showed that the vitamin C group lived nearly a year more than those not receiving it, and many lived on for years, while all of those not receiving the supplement eventually died (Proc Natl Acad Sci, 1978; 75: 4538-42). A later study with lung cancer patients had similar results (J Int Acad Prev Med, 1979; 6: 21-7).
Then, in 1990, Pauling and Canadian biochemist and psychiatrist Dr Abram Hoffer published a study examining the survival of cancer patients on a nutritional programme. Those who did not use vitamins survived for an average of only 5.7 months. Of those taking daily supplements, which included beta-carotene and 10 grams of vitamin C, 80 per cent lived 16 times as long as the control patients, and many were still alive at the time the paper was written. The best responders were women with breast, ovarian and fallopian-tube cancers (J Ortho Med, 1990; 5: 143-54).
German-born Dr Max Gerson's programme is a low-fat, salt-free, meat-free diet including organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables, and 13 glasses of freshly squeezed juices daily, at hourly intervals. Gerson famously realised more than 50 years ago that the high sodium-potassium ratio of the modern Western diet was riotously out of kilter. He also introduced detoxifying with coffee enemas, which stimulate the liver and large intestine into excreting toxic elements from the body.
A 1990 Lancet evaluation of seven Gerson patients with extensive metastasised cancer at Maudsley and Hammersmith Hospitals revealed that three patients (or 43 per cent) were in complete remission. Patients also reported a high degree of control over the treatment, low pain scores and little requirement for drugs (Lancet, 1990; 336: 667-8).
Other evidence about the success of Gerson therapy is decidedly mixed. In one 1995 study of patients with melanoma, every one of the stage I and II, and 82 per cent of stage III, patients survived for five years. Among those undergoing conventional treatment, only 39 per cent with stage III disease survived for the same length of time (Altern Ther, 1995; 1 (4): 29-37).
However, in a 1994 study of 22 patients, most with advanced disease unsuccessfully treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, all died within an average of seven months; and in another study of 18 patients, all but one died within nine months, even though less than half had had advanced cancer when they arrived at the clinic and six hadn't undergone any conventional treatment (J Nat Med, 1994; 5 (1): 745-6).
The notion that human urine has anticancer properties has been around at least since the Second World War. However, the idea has undergone a revival since the late 1950s, with the work of Dr Evangelos D. Danopoulos, professor of Medicine at the Medical School of Athens University, a specialist in optic oncology. The active ingredient is urea, which appears to disrupt the water system on the surface of cancer cells, which treat water differently from normal cells, thus interfering with some of the metabolism necessary for uncontained metastasis or cancer spread..
In one of his many studies, Dr Danopoulos discovered that, of 46 patients with cancer in or around the eye who were treated with surgery and local urea injections, the treatment was successful in 100 per cent of cases. Ordinarily, conventional medicine almost never achieves a cure or remission (Ophthalmology, 1979; 179: 52-61). In another study of nine people with cancer of the mucous membrane inside the eyelid, eight out of the nine given local applications of urea were cured (Ophthalmology, 1979; 178:198-203).
Eighteen patients with liver cancer given urea survived 26.5 months, five times longer than expected (Clin Oncol, 1981; 7: 281-9), as did 28 liver-cancer patients, 17 with cancer that had spread (Clin Oncol, 1975; 11: 341-50).
Most recently, Dr Danopoulos has replaced his injected urea with a powdered variety, covered by an airtight dressing and applied after scraping the cancerous tumour. He has achieved a cure rate as high as 96 per cent (Lancet, 1974; i: 132).
Dr Danopoulos discovered that creatine monohydrate has similar anticancer properties to urea, but is broken down more slowly into creatinine. By using urea and creatine, Dr Danopoulos found that he could keep blood levels of urea nitrogen (which fights the cancer) more consistent than with urea alone.
Dr Stanislaw Burzynski, on a grant from the National Cancer Institute, discovered a series of peptides (the building blocks of amino acids) occurring naturally in our normal blood and urine which inhibit cancer cells. Specifically, as Harris Coulter remarked, this is tantamount to discovering a 'second immune system', or what Burzynski calls the 'biochemical defence system'. Unlike our ordinary immune system, which protects us against foreign 'invaders', this second internal system appears to guard against defective cells like cancer by 'reprogramming' them to develop normally again. In Burzynski's view, this means that cancer is a disease of incorrect information processing, where the cell reproduction goes haywire. The antineoplastons (anticancer compounds) which correct this bad programming appear to be deficient in cancer patients. Burzynski began to extract these substances from blood, tissue and urine and developed a method of reintroducing them into the blood of people with cancer.
Unlike many cancer pioneers, Burzynski has published many of his findings, which have been confirmed by independent laboratories. He also has a five-foot stack of records and studies which he has submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration to attempt to get a 'new drug' licence, and he's passed the first phase of the FDA's clinical trials. In the supporting study, the antineoplastons showed good results in patients with prostate cancer, bladder cancer and brain tumours; many had complete or partial remissions and one-fifth survived at least five years. Many of his original patients, he claims, are healthy 13 years later (paper presented at the Fifteenth International Congress of Chemotherapy, Turkey, 1988). In another study for the FDA's second phase of trials, Dr Burzynski gave his antineoplastons to 20 patients with advanced astrocytoma (brain cancer). Four patients achieved a complete remission and two others, a partial remission. Since the study began in 1990, two more patients have achieved partial and complete remission (Recent Advances in Chemotherapy, Adam D, ed. Munich: Futuramed Publishers, 1992).
The FDA has licensed Burzynski to administer his treatment at his own clinic in Texas. Nevertheless, Burzynski has been the constant target of the cancer establishment, and presently, he is in the midst of defending himself against a criminal action lawsuit by the American government.
At the end of the last century, Dr William Coley, a young surgeon, discovered that one patient with bone cancer had survived the cancer because he'd contracted an infection by Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes a life-threatening skin disease. Coley spent the next 40 years refining what came to be known as Coley's toxins - using byproducts of S. pyogenes plus Serratia marcescens, which helps to intensify the activity of the other bugs. What appeared to happen was that the patient's temperature and pulse rapidly rose, sometimes by as much as six degrees. In the view of author and journalist Ralph Moss, the toxins work as a kind of heat therapy -'pushing the immune function to the limit of excitability'. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute have discovered that a lipopolysaccharide is contained in these toxins, which appears to stimulate the immune system to produce tumour necrosis factor or TNF - which kills cancer.
Coley's daughter, who has spent many years tabulating and publishing her father's results of nearly 1000 cases, shows that 45 per cent of patients with inoperable tumours, and 50 per cent of those with tumours that were operable, were considered cured (that is, survived for at least five years). The best results were with giant-cell bone tumours and breast cancer; 79 of inoperable bone-cancer patients and 87 per cent of the operable patients were cured, and, among those with breast cancer, 65 per cent of inoperable patients and all of the operable patients were considered cured (Cancer Surv, 1989; 8: 713-23; Prog Clin Biol Res, 1983; 107: 687-96).
Iscador is the proprietary name (by Weleda) of an extract containing European mistletoe, a semiparasitic plant which was favoured as a cancer treatment by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. It's often used to shrink a tumour before and after surgery and radiotherapy, although it has been used on its own, by injection, to treat patients with cervical, ovarian, breast, stomach, lung and colon cancer.
Mistletoe contains several chemicals which seem to effectively fight cancer while boosting the immune system; an enzyme appears to inhibit the reproduction of cells. But unlike chemotherapy, which kills cells wholesale, good and bad, mistletoe stimulates killer white blood cells, which selectively terminate cancer cells alone.
In one trial at the Lucas Clinic Laboratory of Immunology in Arlesheim, Switzerland, a single injection of Iscador given to 20 breast cancer patients were found to produce significant increases in both killer-cell immune responses and cell-inhibiting effects (Oncology, 1986: 43 (suppl 1): 51-6).
Of 25 women with primary cancer of the ovary given Iscador after surgery, all the women with stage I and II disease, and a quarter of those with stage III (none in stage IV), were alive after five years. These were compared with similar ovarian cancer patients treated with Cytoval, another cancer treatment. Even though the Iscador patients had a worse prognosis (20 of the women were in the advanced stages of III and IV), those given mistletoe lived an average of three times as long (16.2 months) as those given Cytoval (Onkologie, 1979; 2 (1): 28-36). It should be noted that Iscador is potentially toxic with serious side-effects when too much is taken. Never attempt to make your own kitchen extract, since both leaves and berries can be poisonous.
Besides Iscador, Echinacea has evidence of indirect cancer-fighting activity because of its long-recognised ability to boost the immune system. (Z)-1,8-pentadecadiene, a fat-soluble component of Echinacea angustifolia and E. pallida, has been shown in the laboratory to have significant cancer-cell killing ability (J Med Chem, 1972; 15: 619-23).
Burdock root has been shown to have antimutation factors and other anticancer effects (Acta Phys Chem, 1964; 10: 91-3; Tumori, 1966; 52: 173). (Burdock is one of the main ingredients in two well-known herbal anticancer remedies: Hoxsey's herbs and Essiac. Other herbs in Essiac are Indian rhubarb, sheep sorrell and slippery elm; Hoxsey's mix also includes barberry bark, buckthorn, prickly ash, poke root and stillingia. Barberry root, prickly ash and stillingia have shown antitumour activities, but only in animal tests (Pelton R, Overholser L, Cancer Therapy).
In Chinese medicine, the herb Epimediia glycoside icariine (ICA) has been shown to increase NK- cell lymphokine-activated killer-cell (LAK) activity, and stimulate the production of TNF in both tumour patients and healthy donors (Arzneim Forsch, 1995; 45 (8): 910-3). Another herb, Sho-saiko-to (TJ-9), has been shown in the laboratory to have antitumour effects and to prevent liver cancer in patients with cirrhosis (Cancer, 1995; 76 (5): 743-9). Ninfin yoh eito extract granules have been demonstrated to improve quality of life in lung-cancer patients after chemotherapy (Ther Res, 1994; 15 (3): 487-500).
Other Chinese herbs with some clinical success are Actinidia, Baohuoside-1, Mylabris, Liu Wei Di Huang or Jin Gui Shen Qi and Buzhong Yiqi (Moss, Cancer Therapy, Equinox Press, 1995).
In homoeopathy, practitioners generally have found success with individual therapies for controlling symptoms or the response to more aggressive treatments (Br Homeop J, 1993; 82: 179-85), and with leukaemia (Br Homeop J, 1986; 75 (2): 96-101). Furthermore, in some experimental trials, it was discovered that in cancer cells, the ionic balance, which regulates cell differentiation, is disturbed. Homoeopaths have sought to reestablish the ionic equilibrium by adminstering biochemical salts in small quantities. In laboratory experiments, Kali phos (30x), Calc phos (30x) and Ferrum phos (30x) have all shown antitumour effects. In 20 women with cervical cancer, treated with Kali mur, Ferrum phos, Calc phos and Silicea, three had a remarkable regression of their cancer and seven, a slight regression (Br Homeop J,1983; 72: 99-103). Other studies have shown that the proprietary homoeopathic extract Ukrain (derived from Chelidonium) has a marked destructive effect on tumour cell lines in the laboratory (J Chemother, 1996; 8 (2):144-6).
Hydrogen peroxide therapy
Since the sixties, we've known that, unlike regular cells which use oxygen in their chemical reactions, the chemical reaction of cancer cells is more primitive, employing fermentation in their metabolic processes without oxygen. What this means is that cancer grows best in an environment without oxygen.
Although we've all heard about the dangers of free radicals in the body, the story is more complicated than that. A free radical is simply an atom or molecule that has one or more unpaired ('free') electrons, which makes it more unstable than an ordinary molecule.
Although these chemical reactions differ widely, some free radical-containing molecules are highly reactive, attempting to pair with whatever cells they are next to, thus setting off a chain reaction of free radicals. This has the effect of damaging the protein of cell membranes, making them leaky, and eventually causing complete cell breakdown and producing a number of diseases.
However, our bodies also make positive use of free radicals to combat disease. For instance, we produce free radicals in the form of hydrogen peroxide to surround and destroy invading organisms. Hydrogen peroxide also appears to stimulate NK cells of the immune system (J Interferon Res, 1983; 3 (2): 143-51).
Although there are something like 2500 scientific references on the role of hydrogen peroxide in preventing disease, research on its role in treating cancer is still being carried out by the International Bio-Oxidative Medicine Foundation in Dallas, founded by Dr Charles H. Farr, a leading proponent of hydrogen peroxide therapy.
Studies in the 1950s on rats reportedly demonstrated a complete disappearance of the tumours within two months (Twenty-second Congress of the EDTA - European Renal Association, 1985: 22: 1233-7). Nevertheless, Farr himself admits that, in humans, when used alone on lymphomas and colon cancer, 'it has an antitumour effect ... but response is slow and changes are subtle'.
However, hydrogen peroxide has worked very well with radiation, enhancing its effect and sparing the tissue from its adverse effects. Studies have shown that the higher the level of oxygen in tumour cells, the more effective the radiotherapy treatment. In one study, 190 patients were selected with such advanced cancer that they were considered beyond conventional treatment. In fact, less than a tenth of them were expected to survive for more than a year. After employing the hydrogen peroxide with radiation, 77 per cent were alive after a year, two-thirds after two years, nearly half after three years and one-quarter after five years. The best responders had cancer of the cervix, bladder, head or neck (Am J Surg, 1964; 108: 621-9).
Farr finds that the most successful treatment combines hydrogen peroxide therapy and high doses of vitamin C with chelation treatment, which removes the toxins of cancer from the body.
For many years, Russian immunologist Dr Valentin Govallo and his colleagues at the Immunology Laboratory in Moscow attempted to fight cancer by boosting the patient's immune system until they realised that it wasn't enough. In the 1970s, Govallo discovered substances in the human placenta which protect the fetus from attack and rejection by the mother's immune system - an 'immunological shield'. This was similar to the immunological shield of tumours, Govallo realised, which has figured out a way to turn off the host immune system - as he puts it, like a 'burglar who first turns off the burglar alarm before he goes about stealing things'. Govallo and his colleagues developed a means of suppressing the immune system of the tumour through a 'vaccine' called VG-1000, using tissue from placentas taken after live, healthy human births. According to Govallo, if you can suppress the tumour's immunity, 'even a dying patient can overcome the tumour'. Dr Govallo discovered that an extract of human chorionic villi, when added to a test tube of white blood cells'effectively blocks all reactions of cell immunity' (Cancer Chron, 1994; 5 (2): 3).
Since 1974, Govallo has treated approximately 100 patients and has documented evidence that the 10-year survival in advanced cancer is about 60 per cent (Govallo, The Immunology of Pregnancy and Cancer). Of 45 patients with advanced cancer treated in 1974, 29 are still alive - a survival rate of 64.4 per cent. He says that VG-1000 is most effective against breast, lung, colon and kidney cancers, malignant melanoma and brain tumours. Currently, Dr John Clement, of the Immunology Researching Center in Freeport, The Bahamas, and medical historian Harris Coulter have developed a protocol for the scientific evaluation of VG-1000 in a clinical trial which began in September 1996. Coulter emphasises that VG-1000, like other immune therapies, works best in patients who have not been extensively treated with radiation or chemotherapy and in those who have undergone surgery. Patients with metastastic liver cancer should not undergo this treatment; in one instance, a patient with this disease developed reactive hepatitis.
Diet and supplements
Those patients who most successfully fight cancer combine a dietary and supplement programme with the use of cancer-fighting substances - rather than simply seeking out a 'magic bullet' which is going to kill their cancer.
In one study of patients with pancreatic cancer, which usually has a survival time of about four months, patients receiving a mix of treatments - vitamins A and E, enzyme therapy, hyperthermia, tamoxifen, mistletoe, thymus extract and other substances to boost the immune system - trebled the usual survival rate, and reported improved quality of life, with a gain of appetite and weight, and pain relief (Erfahrungsheilkunde, 1996; 45 (2): 64-72).
- Follow a high-fibre, low-fat, low-protein diet, rich in dark-green leafy and yellow vegetables. (Risk of cancer appears to increase with the more protein you eat; Int J Cancer, 1990; 45: 899-901.) Lowering fat may enhance the function of your immune system and increase NK cell activity (Am J Clin Nutr, 1989; 50: 861-7).
- Don't fry foods and do limit eggs as well as hydrogenated fats, smoked, salt-cured or pickled foods, sugar and too much salt. Vegetarian diets appear to be protective, as do soy products. The Kelley dietary programme, which has 10 types of individually tailored diets, also has some evidence of success (see WDDTY vol 7 no 3).
- Supplement with at least 10 grams of vitamin C per day, folic acid, B6 and the other B vitamins, antioxidant vitamins A and E, and digestive enzymes, if faulty. Some therapists recommend thymus extract to boost the immune system. Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids have been shown to kill cancer. As for minerals, too much calcium has been related to cancer (Br Med J, 1989; 298: 1468-9) as have too high levels of iron (N Engl J Med, 1988; 319: 1047-52), although at appropriate levels, both are protective. Selenium, magnesium, iodine and zinc all fight cancer. Germanium, another mineral, appears to enhance the production of our body's own interferon (Tohoku J Exp Med, 1985; 146: 97-104).
- Drink hard, rather than soft, water (J Orthomol Med, 1989; 4 (2): 59-69), and avoid chlorine and fluoride, which have both been implicated in cancer.
- Investigate one of the major cancer fighters listed in the main article.
Consider a number of other substances which act as cancer inhibitors, even if on their own they don't actually cure. These can help in conjunction with more potent anticancer agents. These include:
- melatonin, which can amplify the antitumour effect of a variety of substances. In one study of patients with spreading tumours untreatable by conventional means, nearly half the patients given melatonin and interleukin-2 - which helps the immune system fight cancer - were alive a year later, compared to only eight out of 48 of those given support alone (Supp Care Cancer, May 1995). Similar results have been achieved in patients with brain tumours given melatonin alone (Cancer, 1994; 73: 699-701), as well as those with gastric (Tumori, December 31, 1993) and lung cancer (Oncology, 1992; 49 (5): 336-9).
- bovine cartilage, which appears to be superior to shark cartilage (which also provides excessive amounts of calcium). In one study of 31 terminal cancer patients, 35 per cent showed a complete response with probable or possible cures (J Biol Resp Modif, 1985; 4: 583).
- laetrile, amygdalin or vitamin B17, is a nitriloside present in hundreds of plants, particularly the seeds of apricots and peaches. The cyanide contained in it is selectively poisonous to cancer. Several studies have shown that amygdalin can inhibit lung, breast and bone cancer (Moss, Cancer Therapy).
- mind-body therapies, such as deep relaxation, meditation, visualisation and regular exercise as well as support groups