Modern medicine has only its singleminded one-size-fits-all treatment for all types of tumours - with very little evidence of success. However, alternative medicine provides a number of other possibilities if you wish to avoid the slash-poison-or-burn approach.
Homoeopathy has been in the vanguard of natural treatments for tumours, although much of the research has been performed with animals. Although the specific remedies may or may not necessarily apply to humans, the evidence that homoeopathy itself is an effective treatment is highly compelling.
As long ago as 1925, 218 larval cultures of fruit flies with a propensity for fatal tumours were given Arsenicum album, Mercurius nitrosus and (isopathic) powdered tumour material. The treated larvae had a fourfold reduced death rate compared with 22 control groups, half of which died (Hom Rec, 1925; 18: 130).
In another animal study, mice transplanted with the cells of malignant fibrosarcoma (a connective tissue cancer) were subsequently injected with Kalium phosphoricum, Calcarea phosphorica or Ferrum phosphoricum (each at a 30D potency). The results astounded even the investigator himself: 52 per cent of the 77 mice were free of the cancer whereas all 77 control mice died within 10-15 days (Br Hom J, 1980; 69: 168-70).
In our bodies, specific tumour antigens in our DNA and RNA cause the formation of an antibody that signals the presence of an intruder (the tumour) and stimulates a protective antibody reaction. The immune system responds initially but, as the tumour grows, it soon becomes inadequate.
French investigators decided to attempt to re-induce this defensive response by homoeopathic 'stealth'. After exposing rats to the tumour-inducing carcinogen 2-acetyl-aminofluorene (AAF), the researchers gave the animals a mixture containing equal amounts of 9CH and 15CH potencies of DNA plus RNA. This combination produced a significantly higher survival rate (Ann Hom Fr, 1979; 21: 404).
Another large-scale animal study, involving 1002 rats, showed that administering Phenobarbituralum 9CH could prevent the development of the AAF-induced liver-cell tumours in half the animals. Other homoeopathic substances used on a similar number of rats in this trial led to no significant outcome changes (Boiron J et al., Transactions at the XXVth Congress of the Liga Medicorum Homoeopathicorum Internationalis, Papers and Summaries, Brighton, UK, 1982).
Naturopathic and herbal medicines also have solid evidence of success in preventing and treating tumours. Phytoestrogens can prevent prostate cancer (Nutr Cancer, 1999; 33: 20-5), and green tea can protect against cancerous tumours (Can Med Assoc J, 1998; 158: 1621-4).
Ginseng may also help fight tumours. One study tracking ginseng consumption in 4634 people over five years showed that those who had taken fresh ginseng regularly enjoyed a substantially reduced cancer risk (Int J Epidemiol, 1988; 27: 359-64).
Another promising herbal remedy is a mixture of seven Chinese herbs known as Sho-saiko-t. In a study of 260 patients with liver carcinoma and cirrhosis treated with 7.5 g of the mixture daily, the life expectancy of the herbally treated group was higher than that of a control group that only received orthodox drugs (Cancer, 1995; 76: 743-9).
In another published study of a different Chinese herbal complex known as 'Destagnation', patients suffering from nasopharyngeal tumours given the herbal mixture had a five-year survival rate of 53 per cent compared with only 37 per cent among a control group that was only given radiation therapy.
In nutritional medicine, alkylglycerols, which are found naturally in mother's milk and human bone marrow, are otherwise most abundant in shark liver oil. A Swedish study showed that these agents can enhance the regression of uterine cancer when administered prior to radiation therapy (Acta Obstet Gynaecol Scand, 1986; 65: 779-85) and reduce radiation injury by as much as two-thirds (Acta Obstet Gynaecol Scand, 1986; 58: 203-7).
Harald Gaier has moved to The Diagnostic Clinic (tel: 020 7009 4650).