With nearly 30,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK and over 130,000 in the US, colorectal cancer has risen up the ranks to become the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both countries. However, combating the disease doesn't have to spell a colostomy. Here are some alternative therapies to consider:
* Megadoses of vitamin C. One large-scale trial, headed by the late champion of vitamin C Dr Linus Pauling, found that 10 g/day of vitamin C reduced deaths across a wide variety of advanced cancers, including colorectal cancer. In addition, 55 per cent of the vitamin C group outlived all of the untreated patients, who all died within 200 days. Some vitamin C-takers were still alive a full five years after diagnosis (Cancer Res, 1979; 39: 663-81).
Because of the vitamin's short half-life, Frank Wiewel of People Against Cancer in the US suggests taking it intravenously or as 1-g doses orally every hour during the day.
* Gerson diet. This nutritional approach to cancer aims to regulate the body's sodium-potassium balance through water management, and to provide high doses of micronutrients through the frequent consumption of fruit and vegetable juices. The diet is very low in fats and protein, and patients are prescribed frequent enemas containing coffee.
Anecdotal reports suggest that colorectal cancer patients on the diet have a better chance of survival than would be expected with any conventional treatment. Indeed, in some cases, there has been almost complete regression of tumours.
Side-effects of the Gerson treatment include flu-like symptoms, intestinal cramping, diarrhoea and vomiting. Coffee enemas can produce colitis or severe inflammation of the colon, as well as introduce electrolyte imbalances that could lead to serious infection and death.
* Mushroom therapy. The mushroom Coriolus versicolor is used in Japan as a cancer treatment, mainly in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. The mushroom is known to contain the polysaccharide 'Krestin' (PSK), which has antitumour, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
In one randomised placebo-controlled trial with more than 100 patients after surgery for colorectal cancer, the number of patients in remission and still alive after 10 years was significantly higher with PSK than with the placebo (Cancer Immunol Immunother, 1990; 31: 261-8). In another trial of more than 400 patients, again after colon surgery, the overall survival rates with PSK were better than those with chemotherapy (Dis Colon Rectum, 1992; 35: 123-30).
Although side-effects with C. versicolor are unusual, they can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin pigmentation, anorexia, anaemia, liver dysfunction, leukopenia and thrombocytopenia (reduced white blood cell and platelet counts, respectively).
* Essiac. This herbal formula, first used to treat cancer in Canada in the 1920s, uses four main ingredients: burdock root (Arctium lappa), slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and Turkish rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum), with small additions of blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus), red clover (Trifolium pratense), watercress and kelp.
Recently, lab tests have shown that burdock, one of Essiac's main ingredients, can decrease the carcinogenic actions of certain chemicals (Mutat Res, 1984; 129: 25-31).
* Revici therapy. This system of chemotherapy, devised by Dr Emanuel Revici, is based on lipids (fats) plus other elements such as selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. It has been used by the Institute of Applied Biology in New York since 1947. One unpublished paper ('Evaluation of 1,047 patients with advanced malignancies treated from 1940 -1955') by Dr Robert Ravich reported a positive response in 48 per cent of 186 colon cancer patients.
* Mistletoe (Viscum album). Mistletoe, a tree parasite, has demonstrated significant effects on blood samples from cancer patients. Different mistletoe extracts were found to stimulate the production of cytokines and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), suggesting powerful immune-enhancing properties (Arzneim Forsch, 1998; 48: 1185-9).
* Live virus therapy. This form of immunotherapy was developed by Dr Laszlo K. Csatary, who chanced upon a chicken farmer whose advanced stomach cancer regressed completely after his flock had an outbreak of Newcastle disease. Dr Csatary created a live strain of Newcastle disease virus (NDV), which he called 'MTH-68/H', and began using it to vaccinate his cancer patients. One study of colon cancer patients found that, after two years of MTH treatment, only 3 per cent of patients died compared with 23 per cent of untreated patients (Proc Annu Meet Am Assoc Cancer Res, 1995; 36: A1336).
The side-effects of MTH include mild, transient flu-like symptoms and delayed-hypersensitivity skin reactions.
* Heat treatment. Cancer cells are known to be susceptible to heat, so researchers at the Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC, devised an alternative to chemotherapy for colon cancer. Heat (hyperthermia) and the intraperitoneal administration of the calcium-channel blocker verapamil inhibited cancer cell growth, and destroyed about 50 per cent of them through programmed cell death (Anticancer Res, 1997; 17: 2213-6).
* Immunoaugmentative therapy (IAT). Developed by Dr Lawrence Burton of St Vincent's Hospital in New York, this therapy works by augmenting the body's supply of immune proteins. Blood tests are taken to assess exactly which immune proteins are needed, as well as to monitor the effects and determine the dose-response relationship. The number of long-term survivors with colon cancer is large. Side-effects include mild flu-like symptoms.
* Cimetidine (Tagamet). This antacid medication was initially used for the nausea from chemotherapy. "But a large number of case studies published in the peer-reviewed medical literature prompted studies which demonstrated nearly 400 per cent improved survival in colon cancer," says Mr Wiewel.
* The Alternative Therapy Program, available from People Against Cancer in the US, finds the best cancer treatment for people who join the group as Sustaining Members. For more information, contact People Against Cancer, tel: + (515) 972 4444; fax: + (515) 972 4415; e-mail: Info@ PeopleAgainst-Cancer.com; website: www.PeopleAgainstCancer.com.