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News1991November › Chemotherapy attacked › November 1991

Chemotherapy attacked

Two attacks on the safety and efficacy of cancer come from Denmark and Germany

Two attacks on the safety and efficacy of cancer come from Denmark and Germany.

A study by the Department of Oncology of the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen showed that of 212 patients being treated with etoposide, cisplatin and bleomycin, five developed leukaemia, which translates into a cumulative risk of nearly 5 per cent five to seven years after the start of the treatment. In the study the culprit was thought to be due to the etoposide alone or in combination with the other two drugs.

It was also thought to be dose related, since all five patients had received a cumulative dose of more than 2000 mg/m2 etoposide, whereas no drug caused cancers were found in those who'd received less than that.

The German study, published recently in Der Spiegel magazine, reported the work of Ulrich Abel, who published a small book entitled Cytostatic Therapy of Advanced Epithelial Tumours-A Critique (Hippocrates Verlag, Stuttgart). Abel, a phD in epidemiology, who works in the Heidelberg/Mannheim Tumour Centre, examined virtually all the published literature dealing with chemotherapy, which amounted to several thousand articles. He also wrote to some 350 cancer centres and experts around the world to find any other research that hadn't been published.

Abel concluded that the success of most chemotherapies was no less than "appalling", that is, there is no scientific evidence for its ability "to extend in any appreciable way the lives of patients suffering from the most common organic cancer". It also doesn't improve the quality of most patients' lives.

He also termed the chemotherapy used to treat malignancies too advanced for surgery, which constitute about 80 per cent of all cancers every year, a "scientific wasteland".

Not surprisingly, Abel's views have been pounced on by the German cancer establishment.

Abel looks upon chemotherapy as another case in medicine of the emperor's new clothes. It is so entrenched in the minds of doctors and patients that neither is willing to forgo treatment even though there is no evidence that it works.


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