Last year, the American government's Office of Technology Assessment published a report about the efficacy of alternative treatments. That report was widely denounced as biased and unscientific by many alternative patient groups and researchers alik
Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on research and treatment since 1971, the "war on cancer" is a colossal failure. The overall age adjusted cancer death rate has actually risen by 5 per cent. In 1987 a US government study reached this dismal verdict: "For a majority of the cancers we examined, the actual improvements have been small or . . . overstated."
Alternative Approaches are:
To mainstream doctors, cancer is viewed as a localized disease, to be treated by localized means. By cutting out, irradiating or poisoning the tumour, the traditional doctor hopes to kill it and thus save the patient.
In opposition to this allopathic model based on aggressively attacking an "enemy" disease, alternative cancer therapies regard the tumour as a symptom. To the alternative practitioner, cancer is a systemic disease, one that affects the whole body. In holistic medicine, the body is a healthy, self regulating organism which doesn't get sick unless something harmful is done to it. Instead of attacking the tumour, many alternative therapies aim to rebuild the body's natural immunity and strengthen its own ability to destroy cancer cells.
"We're not talking about quackery or snake oil medicine here. There are serious, scientifically based approaches to cancer which do not happen to fit the mainstream model," says Michael Evers, executive director of Project CURE, a Washington, DC based patient advocacy group; Project CURE's goal is to have nontoxic cancer therapies available to patients as part of standard medical practice. To this end, it lobbies American Congress to support "a pluralistic medical system" in which competing options will be available to all consumers.
Misconceptions about alternative cancer therapies abound. Here are the most common:
Myth No. 1: All alternative cancer therapies are worthless.
This is the general position of the $80 billion a year "cancer industry". But the facts tell a different story. Patients of alternative practitioners many of them diagnosed as terminal by orthodox MDs are alive and well five, 10 or even 15 years after diagnosis and treatment. Many more patients at least have been able to hold their cancers in remission. Some alternative physicians have amassed clinical evidence demonstrating safety and effectiveness, although these therapies have yet to be subjected to evaluations that would meet with official approval from the orthodoxy.
"We find patients alive today who would not be survivors if they had followed conventional treatments," observes Ruth Sackman, president of FACT (Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy). "This is a phenomenon worthy of scientific investigation by the medical establishment."
This is not to say that all nonconventional methods work. Some may be ineffective or fraudulent. Patrick McGrady, Jr., founder of CANHELP. a database organization which helps provide a customized report for patients seeking suitable alternative or conventional forms of treatment, cautions: "Most alternative therapies are almost totally useless just like the conventional therapies."
"In the case of terminal cancer, success ratios [of alternative treatments] have ranged from 2 to 20 per cent," claims holistic health advocate Gary Null, who spent years tracking down nontoxic practitioners' patients and investigating various clinics. Some sources cite higher success rates with particular nontoxic therapies. McGrady of CANHELP is quite sceptical of all such claims. One thing is certain: there are no "magic bullets," no guarantees.
Myth No. 2: Alternative cancer therapists are quacks unscrupulous, unlicensed, untrained in medicine, out for a fast buck.
In a 1984 study in Annals of Internal Medicine, Barrie Cassileth, Ph.D. and fellow researchers found that 60 per cent of the 138 alternative cancer practitioners they investigated were medical doctors. Of the remaining 40 per cent, many held doctorates in biology, chemistry, or other related sciences and had extensive research backgrounds.
The American Cancer Society's compendium of "Unproven Methods in Cancer Management" is the cancer establishment's chief tool to label some 72 alternative therapies as "pseudoscience," charges Ralph Moss, author of the hardhitting expose The Cancer Industry (Paragon House, NY, 1989). "Just including a scientist's name on the list has the effect of damning that researcher's work and putting the tag of 'quackery' on him," Moss adds. It can lead to loss of funding, great difficulty in publishing, rejection of testing applications and harassment by government and medical associations.
Moss's analysis of the unorthodox therapists whose names appear on the ACS Unproven Methods list reveals that 65 per cent of them were MDs, many from prestigious medical schools; an additional 13 per cent held Ph.D.s in medical or scientific disciplines.
One such scientist was Max Gerson, MD, hailed by Nobel laureate Dr Albert Schweitzer as "one of the most eminent medical geniuses in the history of medicine."
Myth No. 3: Patients who seek alternative therapies are driven by desperation. They're ignorant, gullible, or both.
Contrary to the stereotype, Cassileth's 1984 study found that patients using unorthodox cancer therapies were a lot better educated as a group than patients on conventional treatments only. Most of the patients paid less than $1000 for the first year of alternative treatment costs that are modest compared to expenses of $2,500 per day for conventional US treatments.
Myth No. 4: Alternative cancer therapies are "unproven", therefore untested and unscientific.
In his revealing analysis of the ACS blacklist Ralph Moss discovered that for 44 per cent of those condemned therapies, no investigation at all was carried out by the ACS or any other agency. In another 11 per cent, the investigations actually yielded positive results. Inconclusive findings were reported for 16 per cent. In the remaining cases (28 per cent), the ACS judges determined the methods in question to be ineffective, findings determined through second and third hand reports like magazine articles and foreign medical associations charges Moss.
Five unorthodox cancer treatments, once stigmatized by their inclusion in the ACS blacklist, were later removed from it and now form an accepted part of treatment.
How "Cancer Inc." Suppresses Promising Cures
Today's medical cartel is spearheaded by the American Medical Association with its extremely powerful lobby. The AMA has waged a campaign in Congress and state legislatures to push legislation that strengthens its grip on US health care policies. Over the course of its history the AMA has denounced midwifery, self care, optometry, homoeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and lay analysis as being dangerous, fraudulent, or both. In 1987 the AMA was found guilty of restraint of trade in a "conspiracy to destroy and eliminate" the chiropractic profession, a legitimate competitor. The AMA is appealing the case.
Allied with the AMA are the government's National Cancer Institute (NCI), with its $1.5 billion annual budget, the private American Cancer Society (ACS), pharmaceutical giants, insurance companies, hospitals and medical schools. The insurance companies provide third party reimbursements to doctors, making up 70 per cent of doctors' incomes. This group of interlocking and vested interests has been dubbed the "cancer industry" or "Cancer Inc."
The NCI distributes hundreds of millions of dollars yearly in research grants and, together with the ACS, sets dominant trends in research. Incredibly, 90 per cent of the members of the NCI's peer review committee get NCI money for their own research, while 70 per cent of the ACS's research budget goes to individuals or institutions with which ACS board members are affiliated. "In any other part of government, it would be a corrupt practice for the persons giving out the money and the persons getting it to be the same people," said Irwin Bross, former director of biostatistics at Rosewell Park Memorial Institute, the nation's oldest cancer research hospital.
Examples of Suppressed Alternative Treatments
Burton. Dr Lawrence Burton's Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT) consists of injections of four blood proteins that augment immune system functioning and shrink tumours. Burton, former senior oncologist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, astonished the medical world in 1966 when he and a colleague injected cancerous mice with a serum, causing the tumours to shrink by half in just 45 minutes. Ninety minutes later, the tumours had practically vanished. This unprecedented demonstration, made under ACS auspices in the presence of 70 scientists and 200 science writers, generated front page headlines in major newspapers around the world. Burton repeated the demonstration months later before an audience of cancer specialists at the New York Academy of Medicine, this time in a controlled experiment, with comparable results.
Burton opened a cancer clinic in Great Neck, NY in 1974, and treated many patients who reportedly experienced dramatic tumour shrinkage or remissions. Dr John Beaty of Greenwich, Connecticut, who sent 20 advanced cancer patients to Burton, reported tumours regressing in 50 per cent. Despite these results, Food and Drug Administration harassment forced Burton to close his clinic in 1977 and open one in the Bahamas.
In 1985, US health officials of the NCI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) fraudulently accused Burton's Bahamian clinic of spreading AIDS contaminated serum to patients returning to the US. Under American pressure, the Bahamian Ministry shut down the clinic. It was only reopened after lawsuits were filed against NCI and CDC, and after Burton's patients appealed to members of the US Congress, including distinguished cancer surgeon Dr. Philip Kunderman (former chief of thoracic surgery, Roosevelt Hospital, NY), who stated that his own cancer was successfully controlled on IAT. One of the most promising cancer treatments today is tumour necrosis factor (TNF) a blood substance said to cause rapid tumour shrinkage. TNF was created directly out of Burton's original research, in the opinion of a number of observers.
Burzynski. Former professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, Dr Stanislaw Burzynski, a polish emigre physician (at 25, one of the youngest men in Europe ever to obtain both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees), developed a cancer treatment using harmless peptides which occur naturally in humans. His research points to a severe shortage of these substances, called antineoplastons, in cancer patients. In reintroducing the peptides into patients' bloodstream either intravenously, or orally with capsules he found that they experienced tumour shrinkage or complete remission.
The antineoplastons in effect "reprogramme" cancer cells by carrying "good" information to abnormal cells which instructs these cells to develop normally. For most patients, there are no negative side effects; in fact, the treatment sometimes produces benefits, such as increased white and red blood cell counts and decreases in blood cholesterol.
In a paper delivered at the 1986 International Cancer Congress, the world's most prestigious forum on cancer research, Dr Burzynski reported five year follow up results in a clinical trial of his methods with advanced cancer. Forty seven per cent of the patients experienced complete remissions, 60 per cent had objective remissions, 20 per cent survived over five years without cancer. Burzynski has published his results extensively in the peer reviewed medical literature. Confirmatory studies at major US medical centres are part of a large and growing body of evidence that antineoplastons are effective in treating human cancer patients.
The ACS put Burzynski's antineoplaston therapy on their unproven methods lists in 1983, where it remains. Three months later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Burzynski and his Houston Institute to stop all further development and use of antineoplastons. Although Burzynski applied for drug approval, FDA dragged its feet for six years, after which agents raided his institute, looking for vague "violations" and seized all of his scientific, medical and personal records. (The raid occurred on the same day that the Burton clinic was shut down in the Bahamas). Burzynski sued the FDA for the the return of his records, but the agency continues to hold them.
Iscador. This extract of the European mistletoe has played a central role at the Lukas Klinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland in the treatment of thousands of patients, many in the terminal or inoperable category. Iscador appears to destroy cancer cells, while simultaneously providing essential nutrients and stimulating the body's immune mechanisms by enhancing natural killer cell activity. It is free from side effects. A growing international medical literature supports its use.
Nevertheless, the ACS has placed the Iscador mistletoe extract on its black list. ACS's condemnation of Iscador, according to People Against Cancer's Robert Houston, was based on "an evaluation of the literature by Dr Daniel Martin, a surgeon who has been an outspoken opponent of unorthodox therapies. . .and by Dr Emil Freireich, a pioneer of cytotoxic chemotherapy who was on record for his opposition to unorthodox approaches."
Coley's Toxins. Dr William Coley, a prominent turn of the century New York surgeon, developed a vaccine of mixed bacterial toxins to destroy malignant tumours. After treating 312 inoperable cancer patients with the vaccine, he reported that 124 were brought into complete remission and virtual cure. His daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, executive director of the Cancer Research Institute, documented 894 cases treated with her father's vaccine. In a 1976 summary as well as 17 monographs, she reported five year survival rates of 65 per cent in inoperable breast cancer, 84 per cent in giant cell bone tumours, 67 per cent in Hodgkin's disease, and similar results in many other types of cancer.
A controlled clinical trial at NYU Medical Center in 1962 concluded that the Coley therapy "has definite oncolytic [cancer destroying] properties and is useful in the treatment of certain types of malignant disease."
Despite such findings, the AMA loudly denounced "Coley's fluids," and the ACS put the vaccine on its Unproven Methods blacklist, labelling it a "quack remedy." Coley's treatment was quietly removed from the ACS lists in 1975 through the influence of Dr Lloyd Old, vice president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, whose research team was pursuing directions similar to Coley's suppressed method.
Hoxsey. Harry Hoxsey, an ex-coalminer, used a herbal cancer remedy reportedly handed down through his family since 1840, when his great grandfather devised the formula after watching a cancerous horse cure itself by grazing on medicinal herbs. The basic formula, taken internally or externally, uses nine herbs, including licorice, red clover, cascara, burdock root, and stillingia root. A dietary regime, vitamins and immune stimulation are part of the Hoxsey therapy as practised today.
By 1955, Hoxsey's Dallas clinic, with over 12,000 patients, was the world's largest privately owned cancer treatment facility. Hoxsey was frequently arrested for practising without a license. In 1960 his clinics were banned in the US. He died in 1974. Today his former chief nurse continues the therapy at the Bio-Medical Center in Tijuana, Mexico.
The AMA labelled Hoxsey a dangerous quack, but refused to investigate the Hoxsey medicines or to evaluate their efficacy. Yet two federal courts upheld the "therapeutic value" of Hoxsey's internal tonic, and a 1953 federal report to Congress confirmed Hoxsey's charges of a "conspiracy" by the AMA, NCI, and FDA to "suppress" an impartial assessment of his methods. The AMA later admitted that Hoxsey's external medication had merit.
Medical historian Patricia Ward recently found that six of the nine Hoxsey herbs demonstrated anti tumour or immune enhancing activity.
Other Alternative Therapies
Livingston. Dr Virginia Livingston, who died recently, a graduate of New York University School of Medicine, discovered a microbe which she maintained is the cause of cancer. Her theory is that progenitor cryptocides bacteria, present in all people from the time of conception, run rampant when immunity is weakened by such factors as stress, poor diet, old age, or surgery. If proliferating, PC bacteria produce the hormone HCG (human choriogonadotrophin) which, she believed, promotes tumour growth. Scientists have long known of the presence of high levels of HCG in cancer cells and in the blood of cancer patients.
Livingston's treatment at her San Diego clinic included a vaccine (Made from PC in the individual patient), antibiotics, immune stimulants, and a diet emphasizing raw or lightly cooked fresh foods. The diet is rich in abscisic acid, a plant hormone similar to vitamin A. This natural substance is said to neutralize the HCG and thus have an anticancer effect.
Kelley. Dr. William Kelley, an orthodontist by training, treated cancer patients for 20 years. Kelley believed that the pancreas, rather than the immune system, plays a critical role in cancer. Studies in the clinical literature lend some support to the theory that pancreatic enzymes not only serve a digestive function but also circulate in the bloodstream and kill cancer cells.
Kelley's treatment includes large doses of pancreatic enzymes, vitamin and mineral supplements, and fresh, preferably organic foods. One of 10 basic diets, some vegetarian, is prescribed to suit the patient's condition. Detoxification, assisted by coffee enemas, on the principle that caffeine administered rectally opens the bile ducts and releases accumulated toxins.
Dr Nicholas Gonzalez, a private physician in New York, analyzed the medical records of 455 patients with a total of 26 different types of cancer treated by Kelley. Many patients, he says, were alive five, 10 or 15 years after having been diagnosed as terminal by orthodox doctors. Of the five persons with inoperable pancreatic cancer, four are still alive (the fifth died of Alzheimer's disease), after a median survival of 8.5 years; the conventional survival rate for this kind of cancer is three to six months.
Macrobiotics. This diet emphasizes whole cereal grains, beans, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables, and occasional fish. Case histories of people who apparently reversed their cancers through this diet and lifestyle changes can be found in literature available from the Kushi Institute (Brookline, Massachusetts). Macrobiotics is rooted in the ancient Chinese principle of complementary yin-yang forces. According to Michio Kushi, the system's rebalancing the body destroys some cancer cells, and causes others to change to normal ones.
Interestingly, the high fiber, low cholesterol, low fat diet long advocated by a number of alternative cancer therapists shares many similarities with the diet recommendations only recently set forth in major reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the ACS, and the NCI.