The extraordinary success of homeopathy remedies-which are diluted hundreds of times-against the most dreaded of diseases is being demonstrated every day at several homeopathic clinics in Kolkata (Calcutta) in India.
In one review of the work at the Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation, 21,888 patients with malignant tumours were treated only with homeopathy-they had neither chemotherapy nor radiotherapy-between 1990 and 2005. Clinical reports reveal that the tumours completely regressed in 19 per cent-or 4158-of cases, and stabilized or improved in a further 21 per cent (4596) of patients. Those whose tumours had stabilized were followed for between two and 10 years afterwards to monitor the improvement (Banerji, 2008).
This suggests that homeopathic remedies on their own are reversing, or certainly stabilizing, 40 per cent of all cancers, a success rate that matches the best results for conventional medicine, and without the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The foundation's homeopathic therapy-the Banerji Protocol-has been independently tested under laboratory conditions, and two of the remedies used, Carcinosin and Phytolacca, were found to be as effective against breast cancer cells as the chemotherapy drug Taxol (Int J Oncol, 2010; 36: 395-403).
All of the remedies used at the foundation are available in shops, and Ruta 6 is one of several regularly prescribed. The Protocol refers to the foundation's use of high-technology screening equipment and the mix of remedies-two practices that are contrary to Classical Homeopathy, which attempts to prescribe one precise remedy that fits with an individual's mind/body profile.
Another clinic in Kolkata-the Advanced Homeopathic Health-care Centre-claims similar levels of success with its cancer patients and, although well documented, they have not been subjected to the same level of scientific validation as the Prasanta Banerji Foundation.
The work at the Banerji Foundation first came to the attention of the West in 1995 when Dr Prasanta Banerji and his son, Dr Pratip Banerji, presented a study at the 5th International Conference of Anticancer Res-earch of 16 cases of brain tumour that had regressed, using only homeopathic remedies. At the time, they had been testing homeopathic remedies on cancer patients since 1992 at their Foundation, and they say they now treat around 120 cancer patients every day.
Dr Sen Pathak, professor of cell biology and genetics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston, approached the Banerjis and, together, they set up a trial to test two homeopathic remedies, Ruta 6 and Calcarea Phosphorica 3X, on 15 patients with brain tumours. Six of the seven patients with gliomas-a type of brain cancer-had complete regression. In an accompanying in-vitro laboratory study, scientists noticed that the remedies induced death-signalling pathways in the cancer cells (Int J Oncol, 2003; 23: 975-82).
The result is astonishing. Gliomas are considered to be incurable; of 10,000 people diagnosed with malignant gliomas each year in the US alone, only around half are alive a year later, and just 25 per cent two years later (The Washington Post, 20 May 2008).
The scientists at MDACC were so impressed by the results that they started to offer homeopathic remedies as part of their range of cancer treatments.
In 1999, the US government's National Cancer Institute (NCI) independently evaluated the Banerji Protocol on 10 patients with different kinds of cancers. In four cases of lung and oesophageal cancer, the NCI researchers confirmed that there had been partial responses to the homeo-pathic remedies. None of the patients had received any previous conventional cancer treatment.
The NCI concluded that there was sufficient evidence of efficacy to support further research into the protocol, an historic decision as it marked the first time that
any official health institute in the US had worked with an alternative therapy for cancer treatment (Oncol Rep, 2008; 20: 69-74).
In the laboratory
To understand the mechanism of the homeopathic remedies on cancer cells, eight scientists from MDACC tested four remedies-Carcinosin 30C, Conium Macula-tum 3C, Phytolacca Decandra 200C and Thuja Occidentalis 30C-on two human breast-cancer cell lines. Around 5000 cells were exposed to the remedies and to a placebo-the solvent without the active ingredients of the reme-dies-for periods of between one and four days. The experiment was repeated three times.
Two of the remedies-Carcin-osin and Phytolacca-achieved up to an 80-per-cent response, indicating that they caused apoptosis, or cell death. By comparison, the placebo solvent achieved only a 30-per-cent reduction, suggesting that the effect was more than twice that of the placebo.
Also, the effect was strongest with the greater dilution-which, in the contrary world of homeopathic medicine, means more powerful-and for longer periods of exposure.
The remedies triggered an 'apoptotic cascade' that interfered with the cancer cells' normal growth cycle and, yet, the surrounding healthy cells were untouched, the researchers found. In other words, they targeted only the cancer cells, whereas chemo-therapy drugs attack all growing cells. And, say the researchers, the effects of Carcinosin and Phytolacca were as powerful as Taxol (paclitaxel), the most commonly prescribed chemother-apy drug for breast cancer (Int J Oncol, 2010; 36: 395-403).
Rooting for Ruta
Although Carcinosin and Phytolacca fared well in the laboratory, many of the Foundation's patients are taking the Ruta 6 remedy-and with extraordinary success, according to one survey of 127 American patients with brain tumours, half of whom were at grade IV, the end-stage before death.
The tumours had completely disappeared, according to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, in 18 of the 127 patients who were taking only Ruta and no conventional treatment. Another nine patients had significant tumour regression. The tumours were stable in around half of all patients scanned, but had grown in around 27 patients. Overall, around 79 per cent of the brain-tumour patients surveyed saw either great or some benefit from Ruta.
In an earlier study by the Foundation among patients who were taking Ruta alongside con-ventional chemotherapy for brain tumours, 72 per cent derived some or great benefit from Ruta and chemotherapy combined, suggest-ing that Ruta on its own is more effective than-or certainly as effective as-the drug, and without its debilitating side-effects (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Ruta6).
In a separate study of brain-tumour cases-148 patients with malignant gliomas and 144 with meningiomas-treated at the Foundation between 1996 and 2001, the 91 patients who had been treated exclusively with Ruta and Calc Phos had an average survival time of 92 months, whereas 11 patients who had been treated conventionally, and used homeopathy as a supplement, survived for 20 months. In addition, 7 per cent of the homeopathy-only patients had a complete cure, 60 per cent were improved, 22 per cent were stable-with the cancer neither improving nor worsening-and 11 per cent saw their cancer worsen, or died (Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation, www.pbhrfindia.org).
The other clinic
There is a second homeopathic clinic in Kolkata that is, confusingly, also run by two P. Banerjis-Parimal and his son Paramesh. The clinic, the Advanced Homeopathic Health-care Centre, has not attracted the same interest from the West; although its claims appear to be equally as impressive, they have not been independently verified.
Paramesh's grandfather, Dr Pareshnath Banerji, opened a homeopathic clinic in India in 1918, and his work was continued by his son, Parimal, who adapted Classical Homeopathy into the new approach he calls 'Advanced Homeopathy'.
With this method, he uses homeopathic remedies in the way a conventional doctor would use drugs, by treating one presenting symptom at a time; a cancer patient with pain would be treated for the pain first, for example. Parimal claims the approach is scientific, based on around 14 million cases dealt with through past generations of his family, with results that can be replicated by any trained practitioner.
The claims that the Banerjis make for Advanced Homeopathy are extraordinary. They say that 95 per cent of their patients do not need surgery, not even for major diseases, including cancer. Although the Centre has not undertaken any clinical trials, its case studies draw an impressive picture.
- A 65-year-old woman with advanced pancreatic cancer, whose tumour was too large to be removed and who refused all other conventional treatment, was alive two years after starting Advanced Homeopathy.
- A 35-year-old man had a malignant nasal polyp so large that it completely filled the left nostril. Initially, he had the polyp surgically removed, but it grew back each time. However, since 2007, he has not had any surgery but, instead, has relied exclusively on Advanced Homeopathy, and the tumour has not grown back.
- A 14-year-old boy had advanced glioma so severe that it was pushing against the eyeball. His only treatment was Advanced Homeopathy, says the Centre and, within a year, all of his symptoms had disappeared; the boy had gone from a comatose state to running around and playing.
- A 24-year-old man with a brain tumour that had spread to his spinal cord-which could not be treated conventionally because of the risk of permanent paralysis-was treated with Advanced Homeopathy. According to MRI scans, the tumour stopped growing, and the patient was able to carry on with his life, free of symptoms.
Outside of India, research into the effects of homeopathy on cancer is very limited, primarily because it is seen as being no better than a placebo and, so, is an unethical treatment. Because of this, most studies in the West have reviewed homeopathy as a palliative therapy to help patients cope with the rigours of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In one study, 100 women with breast cancer completed a one-hour consultation with a homeopath who was asked to help with any three symptoms chosen by the women that were the result of conventional treatment. The 67 patients who completed the homeopathic treatment and the two follow-ups all reported "significant improvements" in their hot flashes, fatigue, anxiety and depression, although the remedies did not ease pain (Palliative Med, 2002; 16: 227-33).
In another study of women with breast cancer, the homeopathic remedy Verum was tested against placebo for treating hot flashes after taking the drug tamoxifen. In this experiment, 26 women were given Verum, 30 took Verum and a placebo, and 27 were given just a placebo. Both the combination- and single-remedy groups reported improvement in symptoms compared with those in the placebo group (J Altern Complement Med, 2005; 11: 21-7).
Homeopathy also helped ease some of the effects of radiotherapy in a group of 32 women with breast cancer. Hyperpigmentation-or darkening of the skin-after radiotherapy was reduced in the homeopathic group compared with 29 controls who did not receive homeopathy, and their overall side-effects were also reduced (Br Homeopath J, 2000; 89: 8-12).
The homeopathic remedy Traumeel, for skin and muscular problems, has been successfully tested in several trials. In one, it was given to 15 patients (aged three to 25 years), who had undergone stem-cell transplants for their cancer, to treat stomatitis (mouth ulcers). Compared with a placebo, which was given to 15 other patients, Traumeel "may reduce significantly" the severity and duration of stomatitis (Cancer, 2001; 92: 684-90). In a second study, Traumeel was tested on 20 patients with various cancers, again for treating stomatitis. It reduced the duration of symptoms to just six days, compared with 13 days in the placebo group (Biomed Ther, 1998; 16: 261-5).
Individualized homeopathic remedies helped a group of 45 women who had been treated for breast cancer. Homeopathy was prescribed to treat symptoms following oestrogen withdrawal; the severity of hot flashes and other symptoms-except for joint pain-decreased, while their general quality of life and well-being scores increased (Homeopathy, 2003; 92: 131-4). Another group of 20 women recovering from breast-cancer treatment, including tamoxifen, also reported improve-ment in the severity and frequency of their hot flashes (Homeopathy, 2002; 91: 75-9).
The black hole
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently joined the chorus in the West that maintains that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo effect. Responding to a Voice of Young Science Network campaign, which is calling for a ban on the promotion of homeopathy in developing countries, the WHO stated that homeopathy is not a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis or malaria.
Welcoming the WHO statement, Dr Robert Hagan, a member of the Voice of Young Science Network, commented: "We need governments around the world to recognize the dangers of promoting homeopathy for life-threatening illnesses" (BBC News, 20 August 2009; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ 8211925.stm).
Yet, homeopathy is doing just that in India. In that culture, homeopathy is accepted as a genuine medical therapy, and is governed by laws that ensure that homeopaths are properly trained and registered.
It is perplexing why good medical studies-which are supported by the US government and by leading American academics-are not being recog-nized, let alone discussed, in the West. Surely, cancer is so serious a threat that every avenue needs to be explored with an open mind, and not left to the drug and academic cabals. Conventional medicine does not offer any genuinely effective solutions and, yet, blocks anything that might, especially something as "impossible" and "nonsensical" to their science as homeopathy.
Factfile A: Homeopathy in India
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, described homeopathy as a "refined method of treating patients economically and non-violently. Government must encourage and patronize it in our country."
And so they did. In 1960, the Maharashtra Act-also known as the 'Bombay Act'-set up a court of examiners, concerned with the teaching of homeopathy and the creation of new colleges to do so, and a board of homeopathy, which regulated and licensed practitioners.
Nine years later, a new act was passed that created a central council to govern homeopathy and Ayurveda, India's traditional medical system. In 1973, the Homeopathy Central Council Act was passed, which standardized homeopathic education and allowed homeopaths to practice in different states throughout the country.
The legislation formalized a rich tradition of homeopathy in India that began in 1839, when Romanian doctor John Martin Honigberger successfully treated the Maharaja of the Punjab for paralysis of the vocal cords. Honigberger had been taught homeopathy by Dr Samuel Hahnemann, its creator, and became convinced of its efficacy when he treated himself for malaria. After treating the Maharaja, Honigberger moved to Calcutta, where he was known as the 'cholera doctor' because of his successful treatment of the disease using homeopathic remedies.
In 1867, Dr Salzar from Vienna began teaching homeopathy in India, and two of his students went on to create the first homeopathic college in India in 1878.
However, the British rulers were not sympathetic to homeopathy, and it began to flourish in India only after the country achieved independence in 1947.
Factfile B: Not just water
Scientists and doctors say homeopathy is a nonsense because of the high dilution of the active ingredient. Most remedies are diluted beyond Avogadro's number, which is the final concentration at which molecules of the original substance can still exist.
Any homeopathic remedy with a potency of 12C-in other words, 1200 dilutions-or greater is beyond the Avogadro number, suggesting that only water is left. This means that any effect of homeopathy must be due to the placebo, or 'feel-good', factor, say sceptics.
But homeopathy turns conventional science and medicine on its head: it contends that greater dilutions have greater potency and, so, the more dilutions, the more powerful the remedy.
Conventional science doesn't have a model to explain how homeopathy works and, yet, a meta-analysis of 75 studies concluded that 67 of them demonstrated an effect well beyond that of placebo (Complement Ther Med, 2007; 15: 128-38). The effects have also been seen using highly sophisticated measuring technology, such as:
- calorimetry, which measures the amount of heat given off by a sample (J Therm Anal Calorim, 2004; 75: 815-36);
- spectroscopy, which measures how a substance absorbs and emits electromagnetic radiation (Homeopathy, 2007; 96: 175-82); and
- thermoluminescence, which measures the amount of light produced by a sample when heated (Physica A, 2003; 323: 67-74).
Factfile C: The new science of water
Undaunted by the public ridicule of his compatriot Jacques Benveniste and his theory that water has a memory, Nobel prize-winning virologist Luc Montagnier has confirmed that water does indeed retain frequencies, even at levels of dilutions as used in homeopathy.
Montagnier, who was awarded the Nobel prize for his discovery of a link between HIV and AIDS, has found that solutions containing the DNA of viruses and bacteria "could emit low-frequency radio waves". These waves influence the molecules around them, turning them into organized structures. In turn, these organized molecules also emit waves.
Confirming what homeopaths have said for several centuries, Montagnier has discovered that these information-emitting waves remain in water even after it has been diluted, often to levels regularly prescribed in homeopathy (Interdiscip Sci, 2009; 1: 81-90).
Montagnier's discoveries mirror those of French immunologist Jacques Benveniste, who spent the last 15 years of his life investigating water and its ability to 'remember' substances, even after it had been diluted many times.
However, after having had his original paper published in the prestigious Nature journal (Nature, 1988; 333: 816-8), Benveniste was visited at his laboratory by the journal's editor John Maddox and 'quackbusting' magician James Randi.
They said that Benveniste was unable to replicate the findings that inspired his original paper, effectively accusing him of being a 'quack' and, thus, ruining his reputation.
Factfile D: Homeopathy and the NHS
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) spends around lb100 billion a year, and lb4 million of it on homeopathy, mainly by funding the UK's four homeopathic hospitals.
Even though the expenditure is negligible, doctors continue to call for its complete abolition in the NHS. Groups of doctors have pressed primary care trusts (PCTs) to stop offering homeopathy to local patients, while the British Medical Association (BMA)-the doctors' trade union-has called on the UK government to ban it outright.
The BMA meeting-where one doctor described homeopathy as "nonsense on stilts"-also called on the government to place all homeopathic remedies in pharmacies under a special 'Placebo' section (Mail Online, 2 July 2010; www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1290861/Homeopathy-remedies-labelled-placebos-banned-NHS-say-leading-doctors.html).
WDDTY Vol. 22, 12. March 2012