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natural cancer cures
A positive attitude does not cure cancer, any more than a negative one causes it. --Siddhartha Mukherjee*
Google "natural cancer cure" and you'll get about 54,000,000 results ("cancer alternative" brings up 316,000,000). I didn't need to do the math to know that I couldn't review all these natural cures unless I lived another one or two hundred years. At the top of the heap is Webster Kehr's Cancer Tutor. He says there are more than 20 ways to turn cancer cells into normal cells. Though there are millions of people with cancer and thousands of scientists treating cancer patients and doing cancer research, Kehr claims that "Inexpensive, safe and gentle cancer treatments (with 90% cure rates) have existed for decades, but very, very few people know these treatments even exist." Wow. I didn't know that very few people knew that. "The reason the media blacklists the truth about the 90% cure rate treatments is that the media is owned by multi-billionaires and the treatments that have 90% cure rates are not profitable enough to satisfy their lust for profits." Naturally. Another thing I'll bet you didn't know is that a dentist named William D. Kelley cured cancer in thousands of patients. He's unknown because he "used products that cannot be patented." Such as? "He used treatments designed by God." Such as? "God put His cancer treatments into Mother Nature for free for His children." Such as? "Orthodox medicine refuses to use treatments that cannot be patented!!" Such as? Proteolytic enzymes. Really? Evidence? That's what Dr. Kelley the dentist used to cure cancer. Oh.
Proteolytic enzyme therapy is also known as digestive enzyme therapy, pancreatic enzyme therapy, and systemic enzyme therapy. According to the American Cancer Society, "There have been no well-designed studies showing that enzyme supplements are effective in treating cancer. Experts question whether enzymes taken by mouth can reach tumors through the bloodstream, as the enzymes are broken down into amino acids before being absorbed in the intestine." One of the more popular promoters of enzyme therapy is Nicholas Gonzalez, who says he was inspired by Kelley. Gonzalez's study on patients with pancreatic cancer treated with pancreatic enzymes was published in Nutrition and Cancer in 1999. He claimed that patients survived longer than typical with his enzyme therapy. An independent study published in 2010, however, found that among 55 patients who had inoperable pancreatic cancer, the 23 who chose chemotherapy survived more than three times as long (14.0 versus 4.3 months) and had better quality of life than those who chose the Gonzalez protocol. (In addition to pancreatic enzymes taken from pigs, the Gonzalez protocol includes taking vitamin and mineral supplements, coffee enemas, and special diets allegedly tailored to the patient's metabolic system.)
Another natural cancer cure touted by Kehr is a "nutritional powder called Cellect." As far as I can surmise, Cellect is a vitamin and mineral supplement that includes natural shark cartilage, algae, hydrolyzed collagen, and milk thistle. We're advised to combine the Cellect with the Budwig diet. "Budwig believed that cancer was caused by the lack of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and that a combination of flax oil and cottage cheese would improve cellular function. The diet consists of a mixture of flax oil and cottage cheese as well as vegetables, fruits and juices. It prohibits consumption of sugar, animal fats, shellfish, processed foods, soy and most dairy products, and encourages daily sunbathing." The evidence? Not mentioned by Mr. Kehr, but the American Cancer Society has this to say: "Most of the evidence for an anti-cancer effect of flaxseed and flaxseed oil comes from research using laboratory animals or cells grown in laboratory dishes....More research in humans is needed to determine the usefulness of flaxseed in cancer treatment and prevention. Animal and laboratory studies show promise, but human studies are conflicting."*
Johanna Budwig (1908–2003) was a German biochemist and pharmacist. She based the diet that bears her name on her research on fatty acids. One reason there have been no published studies in any peer-reviewed medical journal of clinical trials with humans on the diet is that there is no plausible mechanism by which the diet could be effective against cancer. Evidence for the effectiveness of this diet in curing cancer is anecdotal. Budwig believed that "the combination of polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from flaxseed with sulfhydryl-containing proteins from the cottage cheese or quark can reverse the progression of cancer by re-oxygenating damaged tissues and reestablishing normal cell growth."* Her belief "was based on preliminary aspects from her basal fatty acid research and is not supported by later scientific findings in vivo; e.g., at the time, nothing was known about the fact that omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, or about the importance of the exact position of the double bonds in the polyunsaturated fatty acids."*
(Note: You will find some websites claiming that Budwig was a nominated for the Nobel Prize seven times (e.g., Webster Kehr makes this claim on CancerTutor), but the names of Nobel nominees who didn't get the prize are not announced until 50 years after the nomination has been made. If she'd been nominated before 1965, a quick check of the NobelPrize.org search-for-nominees page would tell us if she'd been nominated before that year, but such a search comes up empty. In any case, the Nobel Committee does not accept unsolicited nominations for the award in Physiology and Medicine.
According to BudwigCenter.com, however, Budwig had seven Alternative Nobel Prize nominations. In 1980, Jakob von Uexkull felt that the Nobel Prize categories were too narrow in scope and didn't represent the interests he thought were most valuable to humanity. So he set up his own award, The Right Livelihood Award, now known affectionately as the Alternative Nobel Prize. "Anyone - except Right Livelihood Award Jury and staff members - can propose anyone (individuals or organisations), except themselves, close relatives or their own organisations, to be considered for a Right Livelihood Award.") Hence, being nominated for this award doesn't necessarily mean anything except that somebody likes you enough to nominate you.
Another natural cancer cure is cesium chloride. The American Cancer Society says: "Proponents claim the pH level inside of tumor cells is usually very low, or acidic, compared to normal cells, and that cesium chloride supplements raise the pH level of tumor cells to a normal level, which slows the cancer's growth....Available scientific evidence does not support claims that non-radioactive cesium chloride supplements have any effect on tumors. A few people have had life-threatening problems with heart rhythm, seizures, loss of consciousness, and electrolyte (blood chemistry) imbalances after taking cesium chloride." In other words, scientists don't think too highly of this natural cure for cancer:
Available scientific evidence does not support the claim that the pH inside cancer cells in the body is any different than that of normal cells, or that the pH inside the body can be changed in any significant way. Thus, the underlying principle behind high pH therapy remains unproven.
The next natural cure described by Mr. Kehr doesn't seem that natural: a large machine with lots of lights--it's an infrared energy sauna--called the Photon Genius. This device has a price tag of $25,000 (not including shipping and handling). It's recommended by a "certified Olympic chiropractor." This cure is one of many detox treatments that are synonymous with quackery.
One website promoting far infrared sauna therapy proclaims that "Infrared saunas are clinically shown to help fight cancer." What has been shown is that far infrared has had an anti-tumor effect on human cancer cells in the petri dish and on cancer cells in mice. There have been no clinical trials that would support the notion that infrared saunas cure cancer in humans. Whatever health benefits there are to infrared saunas, curing cancer isn't one of them.
Number two on the Google hit list of 'natural cancer cures' is Joe Mercola. No surprise there. Here's Mercola's cure:
Without a doubt the most powerful essential strategy I know of to treat cancer is to starve the cells by depriving them of their food source. Unlike your body cells, which can burn carbs or fat for fuel, cancer cells have lost that metabolic flexibility. Dr. Otto Warburg was actually given a Nobel Prize over 75 years ago for figuring this out but virtually no oncologist actually uses this information.
You can review my recent interview with Dr. D'Agostino ... for more details but integrating a ketogenic diet with hyperbaric oxygen therapy which is deadly to cancer cells debilitated by starving them of their fuel source would be the strategy I would recommend to my family if they were diagnosed with cancer.*
The evidence? It's not in Joe's favor. Otto H. Warburg trumpeted the idea that "the root cause of cancer is oxygen deficiency." He claimed oxygen deficiency creates "an acidic state in the human body." Cancer cells "are anaerobic (do not breathe oxygen) and cannot survive in the presence of high levels of oxygen, as found in an alkaline state, according to Warburg.
Cancer cells can grow without oxygen. "Solid cancerous tumors produce a large number of new blood vessels around themselves, much more than normal tissues do. These new blood vessels become so numerous that they crowd each other and curl around and pinch the blood vessels to actually block the oxygen-rich flow of blood to the tumors. Tumors grow faster without oxygen, so the extra blood vessels produced by cancerous tumors actually deprive the cancers of oxygen to make them grow faster. Since lack of oxygen harms normal cells and helps cancerous cell to grow, lack of oxygen helps cancers grow faster so they may invade and destroy normal cells.
Inside of every normal cell (except mature red blood cells) are tiny areas called mitochondria. All normal cells get their energy from two chemical pathways: the Krebs Cycle (inside mitochondria - uses oxygen), and glycolysis (outside the mitochondria but inside the cell - does not need oxygen). The main source of energy for normal cells is the Krebs cycle, inside the mitochondria. Cancer cells have defective mitochondria, so their main source of energy is glycolysis, the turning of sugar into energy without needing oxygen. The extra blood vessels that overcrowd each other to block the flow of oxygen around a tumor actually cause the cancer to grow and the normal cells to die. This can spread the cancer. Exercise increases the flow of blood to all areas of the body, so if a patient exercises while being given chemotherapy, more blood will flow to and around the cancer. This increases the amount of oxygen and chemotherapy drugs brought to the cancer cells. The extra oxygen nourishes normal tissue and helps it to grow, while interfering with the cancerous tissue. Furthermore, the extra oxygen can help to revive the damaged mitochondria in the cancerous cells, which could turn the cancerous cells back into normal cells." --Gabe Mirkin, M.D. Fitness and Health e-Zine, April 5, 2015.
Warburg's Nobel Prize, awarded in 1931, had nothing to do with his views or work on cancer. He got the prize "for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme." Furthermore, his views on cancer cells being anaerobic have been shown to be wrong. Peter Lechner cites G. N. Ling:
Because Warburg was able, experimentally, to initiate malignancy by reducing oxygen supplies to fetal sheep cells in vitro, and because of high lactic acid output by malignant cells, he became convinced that malignancy must be a state of anaerobic (fermentation) metabolism, which he likened to that of lower life forms. The Warburg generalization, which understandably persisted for many years, has since been disproven. (In Search of the Physical Basis of Life. NY and London: Plenum Press; 1984:701.)
According to the American Cancer society:
Claims about alternative uses of HBOT [hyperbaric oxygen therapy] include that it destroys disease-causing microorganisms, cures cancer, relieves chronic fatigue syndrome, and decreases allergy symptoms. A few supporters also claim that HBOT helps patients with AIDS, arthritis, sports injuries, multiple sclerosis, autism, stroke, cerebral palsy, senility, cirrhosis, Lyme disease, and gastrointestinal ulcers. Available scientific evidence does not support these claims.*
Two of the more vocal promoters of the ketogenic diet with hyperbaric oxygen treatment for cancer are physiologist Dominic D'Agnostino and biologist Thomas Seyfried, who have found some positive results working with rodents, but not with humans who have cancer. Both D'Agnostino and Seyfried seem to think that the genetic component of cancer can be ignored because, in their view, cancer is a metabolic disorder. Most oncologists and cancer researchers recognize this is false dichotomy and understand that both the genetic and the metabolic elements of cancer are important to understanding how to treat the many different kinds of cancer that there are. Cancer scientist David Gorski, M.D., writes:
Indeed, a “chicken or the egg” argument continues about whether it is the metabolic abnormalities that cause the mutations observed in cancer cells or whether it is the mutations that produce the metabolic abnormalities. Most likely, it’s a little of both, the exact proportion of which depending upon the tumor cell, that combine in an unholy synergistic circle to drive cancer cells to be more and more abnormal and aggressive. Moreover, cancer is about far more than just the genomics or the metabolism of cancer cells. It’s also the immune system and the tumor microenvironment (the cells and connective tissue in which tumors arise and grow). As I’ve said time and time and time again, cancer is complicated, real complicated. The relative contributions of genetic mutations, metabolic derangements, immune cell dysfunction, and influences of the microenvironment are likely to vary depending upon the type of tumor and, as a consequence, require different treatments. In the end, as with many hyped cancer cures, the ketogenic diet might be helpful for some tumors and almost certainly won’t be helpful for others.*
So, we've got some good anecdotes and a few petri dish and rodent studies to support this natural cure. A reasonable conclusion at this point seems obvious: the evidence is preliminary and weak but that could change with further study. People with different kinds of cancers are very unlikely to benefit from the same diet, as recommended by the likes of Mercola, D'Agnostino, Seyfried, and others.
- Rife machines.
- Gerson therapy.
- Hoxsey herbal therapy.
- Medicinal mushrooms like reishi and chagacan [chaga].
- Marijuana. [But see Critical appraisal of the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer management ]
- Hydrogen peroxide.
Adams claims: "There is not a single cancer patient that has ever been cured by chemotherapy. Zero. They don't exist. Not a single documented case in the history of western medicine."* He may not have heard of Lance Armstrong. There are also millions of people who were treated with chemotherapy who are considered cured or "in remission," an expression that seems to mean "we can't detect any cancer with our current tests." There are 15 million cancer survivors today, and this is not due to treatments with things like hydrogen peroxide or herbal concoctions.
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that the Hoxsey herbal treatment is effective in treating cancer, and there have been no clinical trials of the treatment published in conventional medical journals. According to inventor Harry Hoxsey, his anti-cancer tonic contains
potassium iodide, licorice, red clover, burdock root, stillingia root, barberry, cascara, pokeweed, prickly ash bark, and buckthorn bark. The diet involves eliminating pork, vinegar, tomatoes, pickles, carbonated drinks, alcohol, bleached flour, sugar and salt, and emphasizes iron, calcium, vitamin C, yeast supplements and grape juice.*
The Hoxsey treatment is illegal in the United States, but you can go to various clinics in Tijuana, Mexico, for the treatment. He's been convicted of practicing medicine without a license several times in the U.S. Hence, his retreat to Mexico.
According to a 1990 report from the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the National Advisory Cancer Council studied many of Hoxsey’s patient records and learned that biopsies were not performed on most of the patients, so there was no confirmation that they actually had cancer.
In a separate review, the National Cancer Institute investigated 400 patients who were reported as cured by Hoxsey. Patients or their families were interviewed, and all records were carefully reviewed. These patients fell into 3 groups: those who had been treated, but were not confirmed to have had cancer; those who had received successful conventional cancer treatment before seeing Hoxsey; and those who had cancer and had died of it or were still alive with evidence of cancer. Out of the 400 cases, not 1 case of a Hoxsey cure could be documented.*
Even controlled studies on mice with tumors showed no effect from the Hoxsey potion. In some animal studies, a few of the individual herbs contained in the Hoxsey treatment showed some anticancer activity. That's hardly enough evidence to recommend Hoxsey's tonic as a natural cancer cure.
The noni juice cancer cure and cancer prevention idea seems to have been stimulated by testimonials and anecdotes that led to several tests on animal cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. (See Puna Noni, Nothing but Noni, and Resort Medical Products.) The overall argument for noni juice as good for preventing and treating cancer is based on the belief that the results in the lab and on lab animals show that noni juice will work in living humans to prevent and treat all kinds of cancers. Some think that phytochemicals in noni work like a miracle drug in preventing and curing cancer. Others have found, for example, that concentrated noni juice reduces angiogenesis in tumor samples in the lab or that noni juice reduces mammary tumor growth in some mice. From these studies they reason that noni juice will work in similar ways in living human beings. Maybe it will; maybe it won't.
What is known is that a diet rich in plant-based foods is good for you. Whether the benefits of such a diet are due to phytochemicals, however, is not known. The University of California at Davis nutrition department has posted a page on phytochemicals where it is stated that epidemiological studies suggest that consumption of a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, but there is not enough evidence to support the belief that phytochemicals are responsible for these effects. In any case, even if phytochemicals are responsible for the reduced risk of chronic disease, it does not follow that the phytochemicals in noni fruit are important. There are several thousand phytochemicals and our knowledge of their possible effects on human health is known by studies on the foods that contain them. Only a small percentage of the total number of phytochemicals have been studied and the likelihood that there will be a randomized control study pitting cancer patients using only noni versus patients using, say, chemotherapy, is about zero. The fact that is very unlikely that noni will ever be rigorously studied enough to show that it isn't effective in the prevention or treatment of cancer in humans will assure that this almost certainly useless product will continue to sell well among those who seek "natural" medicine.
As I note in The Skeptic's Dictionary entry on noni fruit and juice:
What is known for sure is that noni is high in potassium and sugar. Those with kidney problems or diabetes might approach noni with caution. There have also been reports of liver damage due to noni consumption and interference with coumadin and phenytoin. Also, the antioxidant effects of noni products may hinder chemotherapy and radiation therapy.*
The hydrogen peroxide idea, like the hyperbaric oxygen idea, can be traced back to Warburg's notion that cancer cells can be killed by suffusing them with oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has many uses, but infusing the body with it to kill cancer cells isn't one of the wiser choices. The fact that white blood cells create hydrogen peroxide to fight infection is irrelevant to drinking or infusing the stuff in the hopes that it will kill cancer cells. The evidence doesn't support either the notion that oxygen kills cancer cells in humans with cancer or that hydrogen peroxide therapy increases cellular levels of oxygen in living human beings.* "Hydrogen peroxide injections can have dangerous side effects. High blood levels of hydrogen peroxide can create oxygen bubbles that block blood flow and cause gangrene and death. Destruction of blood cells has ... been reported after intravenous injection of hydrogen peroxide. A few people can ... have serious allergic reactions to hydrogen peroxide. A 1993 review article ... found some research evidence that too much oxygen in the body's tissues may damage genetic material and promote abnormal growth."*
What Warburg discovered was that many tumors rely on glycolysis for their energy even in environments with adequate oxygen for oxidative phosphorylation, which generates the bulk of the chemical energy used by cells....
....The issue with the Warburg effect is that it leads to a shift in metabolism that favors glycolysis. As a result of this shift, tumor cells tend to use a lot more glucose than normal cells because glycolysis is much less efficient at converting glucose into ATP molecules used for cellular energy than oxidative phosphorylation. One reason that this is thought to provide a growth advantage to cancer cells is because oxidative phosphorylation requires oxygen while glycolysis does not and cancers frequently outgrow their blood supply such that they often live and grow in tissue spaces where there is not much oxygen. In any case, the avidity of cancer cells for glucose has been known a long time and is the basis for positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, where a radiolabeled derivative of glucose is the most commonly used tracer for exactly that reason: Tumor cells take it up much more avidly than do normal cells, leading to ugly black blobs (old-fashioned PET scans alone) or pretty bright blobs (PET-CT) where there are tumor masses in the scans....*
In 1957, Ronald Holman published in Nature "A method of destroying a malignant rat tumour in vivo," in which he claimed that "daily continued oral administration of commercial hydrogen peroxide (in drinking water) caused complete regression of Walker carcinoma 256 [a type of rat breast carcinoma cell line] in rats in 50–60 per cent of the cases. This laboratory finding was applied in humans with advanced inoperable cancers. In two of the four cases there was reported a definite subjective and objective improvement."* Others claim to have cured cancer in mice with hydrogen peroxide, but there is no clinical evidence that any humans have been cured of cancer with this kind of treatment.
Another line of descent of the H2O2 cancer cure comes from the belief that cancer is caused by bacteria and that hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria. Edward Carl Rosenow, M.D., who headed the Mayo Clinic's division of experimental bacteriology for many years, promoted this idea. Rosenow's greatest fan and promoter was a retired high school teacher and former Army chaplain, Father Richard Wilhelm (d. 1993).
Most of us who respect science also respect its limitations. We know that what happens in a petri dish or in a lab rat when a substance is introduced isn't necessarily duplicated when given to a living human being with cancer. Every one of the defenders of natural cures that I've come across jumps to grand conclusions based on one or two small studies involving cells in the lab or in lab animals or on ideas that sound promising but haven't been tested or have been tested but haven't produced strong evidence in favor of the natural cure. The lack of strong evidence in clinical trials is almost always due to the number of subjects in the trials being too small or not randomized or the trial not having a control group or being a single study with no replication.
There's been a lot of magical thinking about mushrooms over the centuries due to the many interesting colors and shapes these fungi have. Some even look like cancerous tumors. Some are thought to provide sexual potency, especially if you live in China. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any scientific studies on humans to back up the many claims made about the magical powers of various kinds of mushrooms to cure cancer. Anyway, this is what I found out about reishi, chaga, and other mushrooms.
Animal studies have shown some positive results regarding the antitumor, cholesterol-lowering, and virus-inhibiting effects of several active compounds [e.g., lentinan] in shiitake mushrooms.* The shiitake extract Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) is used by some cancer patients, but there isn't enough data to support claims that it works as a cancer cure.*
Reishi mushroom is a fungus ... used as an immunostimulant by patients with HIV and cancer. The active constituents are thought to include both beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes....Reishi has shown some anticancer potential in in vitro and animal studies....further research is needed to establish use of reishi as an anticancer agent.*
Chaga has demonstrated anticancer properties in vitro but no clinical trials have been conducted to assess chaga's safety and efficacy for disease prevention or for the treatment of cancer.*
Maitake mushrooms were used in a small clinical trial to try to stimulate the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The scientists found that "Oral administration of a polysaccharide extract from Maitake mushroom is associated with both immunologically stimulatory and inhibitory measurable effects in peripheral blood."*
The fact is that mushroom research is in its infancy. Very few human trials have been conducted. Many things kill cancer cells in the lab but that doesn't mean these killers will do anything beneficial for a cancer patient.
Amygdalin is a naturally occurring cyanogenic glycoside. 'Laetrile' is a word created from the first letters of laevorotatory and mandelonitrile and describes a semi-synthetic form of amygdalin. Both laetrile and amygdalin have a common structural component, mandelonitrile, that contains cyanide.* Amygdalin is found in certain nuts (e.g., bitter almonds), plants (e.g., cassava), and the pits of certain fruits (e.g., apricots and peaches). "Cyanide is thought to be the main anticancer component of laetrile [amygdalin]."* The Cochrane Collaboration (CC), among others, warns: Due to possible cyanide poisoning, laetrile can be dangerous. The CC reviewed 69 studies that tested laetrile or amygdalin for the treatment of cancer and reported:
The claims that laetrile or amygdalin have beneficial effects for cancer patients are not currently supported by sound clinical data. There is a considerable risk of serious adverse effects from cyanide poisoning after laetrile or amygdalin, especially after oral ingestion. The risk–benefit balance of laetrile or amygdalin as a treatment for cancer is therefore unambiguously negative.* (PubMed summary here.)
The largest study on humans with cancer treated with laetrile concluded that "amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment." The study included 178 patients with cancer who were also treated with a special diet, enzymes, and vitamins. "No substantive benefit was observed in terms of cure, improvement or stabilization of cancer, improvement of symptoms related to cancer, or extension of life span. The hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range. Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored."*
"Laetrile has shown little anticancer activity in animal studies and no anticancer activity in human clinical trials."* The popularity of amygdalin or laetrile as a cancer treatment began in the 1960s. Even though this treatment has been thoroughly debunked, its defenders have not given up on it. Researchers in 2014 claim to have killed cancer cells in the petri dish with amygdalin, keeping hope alive. These researchers write: "Amygdalin, a natural compound, has been used by many cancer patients as an alternative approach to treat their illness. However, whether or not this substance truly exerts an anti-tumor effect has never been settled." Actually, the issue has been settled by the evidence. It's already known that amygdalin can kill cancer in the lab and lab animals; so can many other substances that have no value in treating humans with cancer. The point of this study seems to be that as long as you can kill cancer cells in the lab with laetrile, the issue of its effectiveness as a cancer cure for humans is unsettled. This would be true if it had not already been shown that the substance does kill cancer cells in tests tubes and lab animals but does not cure cancer in humans.
Because of its ineffectiveness and potential for harm, laetrile is not approved for use in the United States. Tijuana and Rosarita Beach, Mexico, however, have many clinics offering laetrile and many other "alternatives" to science-based medicine. The actor Steve McQueen made laetrile a household word in the U.S. when he sought treatment and died at a Tijuana clinic in 1980. Coretta Scott King also sought refuge in Mexico when she was dying of cancer after having a stroke. The widow of Martin Luther King spent her last days at a clinic in Rosarita Beach run by Kurt Donsbach, a chiropractor whose "alternative treatments" for incurable diseases are illegal in this country. Donsbach sells hope to the dying and desperate at a clinic he calls Hospital Santa Monica. Quackwatch founder Dr. Stephen Barrett, who has investigated thousands of health-related scams, has been monitoring Donsbach since 1971. Barrett says: "I know of nobody who has engaged in a greater number and variety of health-related schemes and scams."
Donsbach was sentenced to a year in federal prison in 1997 for smuggling more than $250,000 worth of unapproved drugs into the US from Mexico. He never served a day of the sentence, however. In 1988, the US postal service ordered Donsbach to stop claiming that a hydrogen peroxide solution he sold could prevent cancer and ease arthritis pain. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to posing as a doctor.
The 78-year-old King was just one of many desperate souls who have been lured to the Mexican clinic over the past twenty years to be treated with vitamins and herbs, iron lungs, and other useless procedures.
Ty Bollinger has a website and a set of videos promoting not only laetrile as a natural cancer cure, but baking soda and the alkaline diet as well many other natural cancer cures that aren't really cures of anything. He's an accountant whose research, he says, was driven by seeing several family members die of cancer. It is a fact that many people do not want to accept, but we all die and some of us die of cancer whether we eat red clover or apricot pits or steak and eggs. If you want to eliminate 97% of all cancers all you have to do is not allow anyone to live past 45 years of age. Isn't it amazing that we can live just about any lifestyle we like until we're 45 before our lifestyle starts causing our cancers at a rate that increases the older we get? Ty seems to think that science-based medicine and greed killed his relatives because there's been a conspiracy to wipe out natural cures competition by the AMA, Big Pharma, the FDA, the media, etc. His relatives' doctors were not trained in nutrition or natural cures or detox; if they had, then his relatives would still be alive. At least, that's what Ty implies by his ongoing attack on the "cancer industrial complex."
William M. London, a professor of public health at California State University, Los Angeles, has evaluated Bollinger's work in several articles entitled "Untruths About Cancer in the Failed Quest for Cures": part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6. These articles are posted on the James Randi Educational Foundation website and expose the various deceptive ploys used by Bollinger to foster mistrust in science-based medicine and trust in various forms of treatments that have never cured anyone of anything.
[new] Professor London has also deconstructed the Cancer Control Society, which, like Bollinger, promotes the idea that cancer can be cured by nutrition and detoxification. For over four decades at its annual convention, this organization has been promoting cancer treatments that haven’t been shown to be safe and effective or have failed under proper testing, "often seducing consumers, journalists, and health professionals" with heavily hyped misinformation.[/new]
Kombucha tea "is made by fermenting sweetened black tea with a flat, pancake-like culture of yeasts and bacteria called the 'Kombucha mushroom.' It is not actually a mushroom, but is called one because of the shape and color of the sac that forms on top of the tea after it ferments....Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Kombucha tea promotes good health, prevents any ailments, or works to treat cancer or any other disease....No human studies have been published in the available scientific literature that support any of the health claims made for Kombucha tea."*
There is some anecdotal evidence, however, that Kombucha tea has cured somebody's cancer. For example, Russ Curran believes Kombucha cured Laraine Dave’s breast cancer. So does Laraine's son G. T. Dave, who bottles and sells the stuff that has been described as tasting like sour cider vinegar. Kombucha may leave a sour taste in the mouth, but did it really cure Laraine Dave's breast cancer? The evidence is thin and sketchy. Here is all Laraine provides in her testimony:
In 1995, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer, known for moving quickly to the lymph nodes and bones, and based on the size of the tumor (almost that of a golf ball) doctors could not even give me a year to live. I was tested again a week later, and to everyone’s surprise, my cancerous cells had not metastasized. My physicians asked me if I was doing anything special. “Drinking Kombucha every day” I replied, since it really was the only thing different that I had been consuming over the last several years. Up to this point I had been drinking it as kind of a beauty aid, but now decided that it was time to look into this “miracle drink.” That is when I discovered numerous books and stories about Kombucha and a healing tradition that spanned centuries and cultures.
That's it. No details are given as to how she was diagnosed. No mention is made of any biopsy being done or whether she had a lump removed by surgery from her breast. She doesn't say any more about her cancer than that it is "rare and aggressive...known for moving quickly to the lymph nodes and bones." The fact that her breast cancer hadn't metastasized indicates that either her tumor wasn't malignant, that her cancer had been detected very early, or that she had cancer but not a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. One might just as well say that Kombucha caused her cancer as say that it cured it. She'd been drinking the stuff for several years. Before that, she didn't have cancer. Anyway, I think for such an extraordinary claim--that this concoction of tea, yeast, and bacteria--cured a very aggressive form of breast cancer, we'd expect a bit more evidence than has been provided. Where is mention of her doctors and their evaluations? Where is evidence that she even had cancer, much less a very aggressive form of breast cancer? And, just because she drank the tea for several years before being diagnosed and cured doesn't mean that the tea had anything to do with causing or curing her alleged cancer.
It is unlikely that Big Pharma is going to initiate clinical trials on Kombucha. It might turn out that Kombucha kills cancer cells in the petri dish or in lab rats. I agree with the alternative-treatment folks that there's no money in things like Kombucha as a treatment for cancer, but I don't think that's the reason Big Pharma isn't likely to test the stuff. It's unlikely that even someone with a vested interest in the stuff, like the Daves, would pay for any kind of study on humans that might provide some evidence regarding the cancer-curing properties of this bitter tea. But they're the ones who should be doing the trials, not Big Pharma or the government or any reputable university. Without a plausible mechanism as to how this concoction could possibly have any benefit for anyone with any kind of cancer, there is no reason to invest scarce resources to investigate Kombucha. Having a long history as a folk remedy (in East Asia, Russia, and Germany) hardly qualifies as providing a plausible mechanism for the ingredients in Kombucha--which aren't always the same, by the way--having any kind of beneficial effect on cancer patients.
"Because of the fermentation process, Kombucha can easily become contaminated. Allergic reactions, jaundice, serious illness and occasionally death have been associated with the consumption of home-grown Kombucha tea.... Contamination with Anthrax and Aspergillus, a fungus that is dangerous to people with lowered immune systems, have been reported....Severe illness and death have been associated with the consumption of Kombucha tea."* Still, many users find Kombucha gives them a lift, which could be due to the high caffeine and sugar content of the fermented beverage.
Graviola (aka custard apple, cherimoya, guanabana, soursop, and Brazilian paw paw) is a fruit from trees found in the rain forests of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. A report on Natural News stated: "Scientific research published in the Journal of Natural Products back in 1996 revealed, perhaps for the first time ever, that graviola, and graviola seeds in particular, contain a cytotoxic compound that is literally 10,000 times more potent than common chemotherapy drug Adriamycin at treating cancer. And unlike this and other toxic chemotherapy drugs, graviola does not damage healthy cells in the process, targeting only malignant cells for destruction." What the folks at Natural News didn't tell their readers is that there have been no studies involving human beings that have tested the cytotoxic effect on cancer cells of any of the many constituents of graviola.
Natural News also quoted a source called The Citizens Column, which claims: "Research shows that with extracts from this miraculous tree it now may be possible to attack cancer safely and effectively with an all-natural therapy that does not cause extreme nausea, weight loss and hair loss; and protect your immune system and avoid deadly infections."
Contrary to what Natural News claims, graviola has not shown any cancer-fighting effects in humans (because no human studies have been done). The claim that graviola is 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy has been fabricated.
Overall, there is no evidence to show that graviola works as a cure for cancer. In laboratory studies, graviola extracts can kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. But there haven’t been any large scale studies in humans. So we don't know yet whether it can work as a cancer treatment or not. Many sites on the internet advertise and promote graviola capsules as a cancer cure, but none of them are supported by any reputable scientific cancer organisations.*
Graviola may look promising, but the data is not in yet that supports claiming this fruit is better than chemotherapy. This has not stopped many alt med believers from promoting supplements derived from graviola as a cancer cure.
A toxicology expert says he is shocked to see firms in the supplements trade developing products containing extracts from the tropical fruit graviola (also known as soursop or Annona muricata) given its association with atypical Parkinson's disease.*
Dr. Alex Schauss, senior research director at AIBMR Life Sciences, which specializes in toxicological/safety testing, nutraceutical research, managing clinical trials, and regulatory compliance, says that graviola fruit and leaves contain the neurotoxin annonacin, which can cause problems if too much is consumed.
I did nutrition research in Guam in the early 1980s on behalf of a legislative committee on the island over a span of three years and we found an association between chronic fruit consumption and atypical Parkinson's disease [that was] shocking. 67% of Parkinson's cases were of the atypical form, compared to less than 5% in Europe. What worries me is the appearance of the fruit in products of late given that it contains isoquinoline alkaloids that have been linked to the development of atypical Parkinson's.*
Animal studies have found that graviola can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure or are on blood pressure medication, you might consider consulting your physician before taking graviola supplements. A large dose taken at one time can cause nausea and vomiting.
Graviola's purported anti-cancer potency comes largely from its ability to reduce the supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to cancer cells. ATP often provides metabolic energy to healthy cells as well, and some nutritional supplements, notably Coenzyme Q10, are known for increasing ATP. For this reason, CoQ10 may neutralize the effect of graviola [and of some chemotherapy drugs!] and they should not be taken together. Researchers exploring the mechanisms that graviola uses claim that the acetogenins in the plant can distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells because cancer cells have a consistently higher level of cellular activity. The acetogenins recognize and selectively inhibit the cancer cells. Pregnant women are advised to avoid graviola because the high energy in the cells of the developing fetus may trigger the botanical's toxic activity. The plant was also found to stimulate the uterus in an animal study. The most detrimental effect attributed to graviola is that it "may cause neural dysfunction and degeneration leading to symptoms reminiscent of Parkinson's Disease." The first study to make this assertion was conducted by French researchers in Guadeloupe, who found an abnormally high presence of atypical Parkinson's amongst a poor population that used graviola for both food and medicine.
Whatever benefits may come from eating graviola or taking supplements made from the plant's fruit, seeds, leaves, or roots, curing cancer isn't one of them.
Many advocates of natural cures for cancer focus on herbs. CancerActive, for example, lists twenty herbs that "fight cancer." It is difficult to know exactly what a vague expression like 'fights cancer' means, but it seems that one of the more common meanings among the natural-cure folks is 'boosts the immune system.' Before discussing herbs, I should note that all oncologists recognize that herbs can interact with medicines in adverse ways (likewise for vitamin and mineral supplements). If you have cancer, you should let your oncologist know of any herbal supplements you are taking. (Culinary herbs need not be a concern since the amounts used are usually going to be too small to have an adverse interaction with your cancer treatment.)
One of the more popular herbs for 'fighting cancer' is astragalus, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine taken from the root of Astragalus membranaceus, a type of bean (legume). "Animal studies and preliminary human clinical studies suggest that astragalus may improve immune system function and boost the effect of conventional immune therapy for some cancers. But available scientific evidence does not support claims that astragalus can prevent cancer, cure cancer, extend survival, or reduce side effects of conventional cancer treatment. There is some suggestion that it may enhance the effects of certain chemotherapy drugs, but this theory needs to be tested more thoroughly."*
Another herb touted by CancerActive is curcumin, an ingredient in turmeric. "Curcumin can kill cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also slows the growth of the surviving cells. Curcumin has been found to reduce development of several forms of cancer in lab animals and to shrink animal tumors."* But so far the scientific studies showing that curcumin kills cancer cells in humans haven't hit the marketplace.
Joe Mercola loves it...naturally. He starts off his paean to spices--Turmeric Compound Boosts Regeneration of Brain Stem Cells, and More--with some erroneous history: "Many spices have powerful medicinal properties, which is why they've been used to promote healing for thousands of years prior to the advent of patented synthetic drugs." No. Spices were used as medicine because real medicine wasn't invented yet. Our ancient ancestors didn't know any better. As humans evolved, we made progress. We actually tested herbs and spices to see if they really do what our ancestors thought they did. Some did; some didn't. Some humans even go so far as to note that just because something kills cancer cells in a petri dish or a lab rat, doesn't mean it will do any good for a human.
Curcumin may interfere with certain types of chemotherapy. The American Cancer Society warns that curcumin can interact adversely with certain drugs:
Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds often found in plants that can protect the body’s cells from damage caused by activated molecules known as free radicals. Laboratory studies have also shown that curcumin interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth, and spread. Researchers have reported that curcumin inhibited the formation of cancer-causing enzymes in rodents....
Curcumin can kill cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also slows the growth of the surviving cells. Curcumin has been found to reduce development of several forms of cancer in lab animals and to shrink animal tumors.
Human studies of curcumin in cancer prevention and treatment are in the very early stages. In scientific studies, curcumin does not absorb well from the intestine, so that big doses must be taken for even small amounts to get into the blood circulation. Large doses of curcumin would need to be taken in order to study any effects it might have in the body....
When used as a spice in foods, turmeric is considered safe. More research is needed to establish the safety of turmeric when used in herbal remedies. Little is known about the potential risks of taking the larger amounts used to treat illnesses. Taking large amounts by mouth may result in stomach pain, gas, indigestion, and nausea. Skin rash and stomach ulcers have been reported after long-term use, and allergic reactions are possible. People who are allergic to ginger or yellow food colorings are more likely to be allergic to turmeric. There have also been reports of rashes (contact dermatitis) after touching curcumin.
A recent safety study in humans suggested that curcumin changes metabolism of oxalate, a substance that can form kidney stones. The researchers urged caution in use of this supplement by people with other conditions that make them susceptible to kidney stones.
People taking blood-thinning medications, drugs that suppress the immune system, or non-steroidal pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) should avoid turmeric because of the risk of harmful drug interactions. In animal and laboratory studies, turmeric made certain anti-cancer drugs less effective. Antioxidant supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Patients who are in cancer treatment should talk to their doctor before taking vitamins, minerals, or other supplements. (emphasis added)
In other words, the jury is still out on the potential benefits and harms of curcumin.
Nigella sativa, or black cumin, is a flowering plant that grows in Europe, India, and the Arabian Peninsula. Its seeds have been used for cooking and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Some promoters of black cumin seed oil call it a "miracle remedy" with "amazing curative powers." They think the efficacy of this stuff is supported by the fact that it was found in King Tut's tomb. I don't think that fact matters one way or the other. Shamans have been prescribing placebos for thousands of years. So what?
Gary Null says that “black cumin oil is probably the single most important oil you can put in your system.” The evidence doesn't support Null's belief, however.
One of the leading proponents of black cumin oil as an anti-cancer agent is Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., author of Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. One component of black cumin seed oil is thymolquinone or TQ, which Aggarwal and other scientists have found hindered tumor growth in laboratory animals. Apparently, TQ protects cells from oxidative damage and has anti-inflammatory properties. Aggarwal claims that this herb may be effective against ovarian, prostate, breast, colon, and pancreatic cancers. The operative expression here is the weasler 'may be effective.' Aggarwal also claims that black seed can initiate cancer cell death and halt the process of metastization. Maybe it can, but whether it does initiate cancer cell death or halt metastases in humans is yet to be proved.
Unfortunately, Aggarwal's work is currently under a cloud of investigation regarding images he used to support his many claims about the curative and cancer-fighting powers of herbs and spices. He is an internationally respected author of hundreds of articles, owner of over 30 patents, and co-editor of more than a dozen books. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Some readers get their natural cancer cure information from a site called Cancer Active, a site I have come to distrust. While researching curcumin, I found the following quote on the Cancer Active page: ""No cancer has been found that is not affected by curcumin" (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas)." The quote is misleading and is typical of the kind of misleading information I found on the Cancer Active site. The full statement reads "No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin." The statement is not the position of MD Anderson Cancer Center, but of Bharat B. Aggarwal, whose work is under a cloud of suspicion. Aggarwal supports his claim that curcumin prevents cancer by noting that "The incidence of the top four cancers in the United States-- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower in India" where turmeric is used regularly in culinary dishes. Not everyone agrees with this claim. For example, Nita J. Kulkarni, a freelance journalist and writer who lives in India, wonders why "India has one of the highest cancer rates in the world." Also, Aggarwal doesn't note that Indians have a lower life-expectancy than Americans, meaning that not as many Indians live long enough to get cancer. Nor does he note that rates for oral and esophageal cancers in India are some of the highest in the world. Is that because Indians use turmeric regularly?
How about milk thistle seeds, which contain the antioxidant silymarin?
A few studies have suggested that silymarin, an antioxidant, may be useful for treating certain types of liver diseases in humans such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis. Most of the studies did not show improved survival, although laboratory tests showed an improvement in liver function in some. One small study found that it seemed to help protect liver function in children getting chemotherapy for cancer. Larger randomized clinical trials are needed to determine whether these effects are reliable. Early studies in test tubes and laboratory animals have suggested that silymarin may help with cancer prevention and treatment. Human studies are needed to find out what role silymarin may play in preventing or treating cancer in people.
So, milk thistle looks promising for liver cancer, but more study is needed to establish that there is a safe and effective dosage of this substance for treating cancer.
"Red clover contains hormone-like chemicals called isoflavones that seem to cause reproductive problems in certain animals. Experts think a diet high in isoflavones may have been responsible for reports of reproductive failure and liver disease in cheetahs living in zoos. In large quantities, red clover can cause sterility in livestock."* Advocates of red clover as a natural cancer cure, like CancerActive, think the evidence shows that red clover can "help beat breast and prostate cancers." Scientists have shown that isoflavones in clover kills cancer cells in a test tube. So do arsenic, bleach, and many other things. A very small study (of 20 men) with prostate cancer who had received Trinovin ™, a supplement derived from red clover, before having their prostates removed appeared to have more cancer cells that were dying in their surgically removed prostate tissue. The study was neither blinded nor randomized.*
The University of Maryland Medical Center claims that there is a fear among some researchers that because of it's estrogen-like effects, red clover "might also contribute to the growth of some cancers, just as estrogen does. Until further research is done, doctors cannot recommend red clover to prevent cancer. Women with a history of breast cancer should not take red clover." The American Cancer Society says that the "Available clinical evidence does not show that red clover is effective in treating or preventing cancer." Sloan Kettering reports that red clover has been shown "to inhibit growth of normal prostate cells and increase resistance of prostate cancer cells to high dose radiation, in vitro. Patients should avoid use of red clover during radiotherapy for prostate cancer....Patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid red clover because it has estrogenic activity...."
Another advocate of red clover as a natural cancer cure is Jerry Lee Hoover, a naturopath now working out of Nicaragua. Jerry Lee writes:
There are many herbs for cancer, but the one I highly recommend is Red Clover. You use only the flower, not the stem or roots. Red clover contains the following chemicals: biotin, choline, copper, coumarins, glycosides, inositol, magnesium, manganese, and selenium. It also contains vitamins: A, B1, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, B17, C, P and the mineral Zinc. [B12? Really. Everybody else on the planet who knows anything about B12 knows that only animal products contain this vitamin 'naturally.' B17? Really? Where he got this nutritional data is unknown, but I wouldn't trust it.] This is quite an assortment of minerals and vitamins for one herb. And possibly in the future we will discover it contains other important ingredients. Red Clover has been used in America for over 100 years to treat and prevent cancer. It is good for cancer on any part of the body. I have personally used it for many years at my clinic and have seen many individuals recover from cancer. Use only the bulk red clover flowers, not the stem or roots, use no red clover capsules. Make a tea by bringing the water to a boil, removing from the heat and adding the herb. Let it steep for 20 minutes or longer. Use one to two teaspoons of herb per cup of tea. The best time to take the tea is at night before bed on an empty stomach. If you take it twice a day then also first thing in the morning when you first get up on an empty stomach.
Hoover advises against using any supplements, but favors going barefoot outside on the ground for 10 minutes a day.
Hoover also recommends a raw-food diet: "Cooked food is dead food, plant any seed and it will grow. Cook the seed and then plant it and it will not grow because its life principle has been destroyed. This astounding fact is known to the Cancer society, but the public was never informed. Place cancer cells in a cooked media and they will proliferate. Now place the cancer cells in a raw matter and they will disappear!" Hoover supports his beliefs about cancer cells in cooked media, etc., by citing Allen Banik (1901-1992), an optometrist. Banik explains his views in his 1987 book The Choice is Clear, where he advises that we drink no tap water. We should drink soft water or distilled water, "water that has no minerals, as the minerals in water are inorganic and are harmful to our health." Someone else may wish to pursue the origin of these myths regarding minerals.
I'll consider one more herb: wheatgrass. A discussion of wheatgrass treatment must start with a quote from the Bible because this seems to be the origin of the belief that eating grass of any kind is healthy for humans.
...a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.'--Daniel 4:31-32
According to William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., the belief that wheatgrass can cure serious disease was promoted by Ann Wigmore (1909-1994). Wigmore's belief in the healing power of grasses was based on the Bible story of Nebuchadnezzar, the insane Babylonian king who supposedly spent seven years living like a wild animal eating the grasses of the fields. "Because he recovered, Wigmore presumed that the grasses had cured his insanity."
The common observation that dogs and cats nibble on grass, presumably when they feel ill, also strengthened Wigmore's belief in the healing power of grasses. Wigmore theorized that rotting food in the intestine forms toxins that circulate in the bloodstream (aka, the intestinal toxicity theory) and cause cancer. She taught that the life span of the wheatgrass juice was less than three hours, so it had to be cut from growing plants, juiced and consumed fresh. She speculated that the enzymes found in raw wheatgrass were alive and could "detoxify" the body by oral ingestion and by enemas. Wheatgrass is prepared by sprouting wheat berries and growing them until they form chlorophyll. It was the chlorophyll in wheatgrass that enthused Wigmore. She called chlorophyll "the life blood of the planet." Wigmore believed that cooking foods "killed" them because this deactivates enzymes. She held that the moment the "sacred" 7.4 acid-alkaline balance (the same as human blood) is "killed" that its effectiveness would be reduced.*
The American Cancer Society has this to say about wheatgrass:
Although most people use wheatgrass juice as a dietary supplement or as a serving of vegetables, some proponents claim that a dietary program commonly called "the wheatgrass diet" can cause cancer to regress or "shrink" and can extend the lives of people with cancer. They believe that the wheatgrass diet strengthens the immune system, kills harmful bacteria in the digestive system, and rids the body of toxins and waste matter...Although there are individual reports that describe tumor shrinkage and extended survival among people with cancer who followed the wheatgrass diet, there are no clinical trials in the available scientific literature that support this claim. (emphasis added)
Wheatgrass is widely used by people who believe it has proven medicinal value. Yet, "there have been almost no clinical studies in humans to support claims made for wheatgrass or wheatgrass diet programs. One very small study suggested that it may help people with colitis, a bowel problem."*
The lack of scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of wheatgrass has not deterred Webster Kehr, though:
If we look at oxygen as a bullet to kill cancer cells, then we should look at wheatgrass as a shotgun blast at treating cancer. The number of ways it deals with cancer is incredible. First of all it contains chlorophyll, which has almost the same molecular structure as hemoglobin. Chlorophyll increases hemoglobin production, meaning more oxygen gets to the cancer. Selenium and laetrile are also in wheatgrass, both are anticancer. Chlorophyll and selenium also help build the immune system. Furthermore, wheatgrass is one of the most alkaline foods known to mankind. And the list goes on.
I'm sure it does...endlessly. Chlorophyll is not identical to blood in structure or parallel function in plants. "The fact that grass-eating animals are not spared from infectious or degenerative diseases despite their large intake of fresh chlorophyll attests to its limitations." Furthermore, "chlorophyll cannot affect the human body internally because it is not absorbed. There is no reason why products containing chlorophyll should be considered 'natural.' Chlorophyll is extracted by exposing plant materials to chemicals such as acetone, hexane gas and copper."* Studies on selenium in cancer treatments have produced mixed results.
Although DCA is promoted as 'natural,' dichloracetic acid and sodium dichloroacetate (a "buffered", non-acidic form of dichloracetic acid) are man-made chemicals that have not been found in nature.
In 2007, a Canadian study found that rats with cancer that were given DCA in their drinking water had much slower tumor growth than those not given DCA. They also found that DCA killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells, in tissue cultures (laboratory dishes).
Since that time, several studies have been done in the lab looking at the effects of DCA on cancer cells in a dish or in animals. Prostate cancer cells seemed to be easier to kill with radiation if they had been exposed to DCA. Breast cancer cells implanted into rats' tails spread into fewer areas if the rats were given DCA. Cancer cells from the endometrium (lining of the womb) were more likely to die with DCA exposure, although this only held true for the mildly to moderately invasive cancer cells. The very aggressive cancer cells were not affected by DCA....[As] of late 2009, no studies in humans have yet shown that DCA can help treat cancer. Available evidence does not support the use of DCA for cancer treatment at this time.*
It should be noted that DCA is not legally available as a drug or supplement in the U.S. other than through clinical trials. This fact, no doubt, has led to the suspicion among natural-cure folks that the FDA and the drug companies don't want us to have this inexpensive cancer cure. Defenders bring in our old friend Dr. Warburg to explain how DCA might work to cure cancer:
Patients often ask how DCA targets or impacts cancer in the body. It appears that a large part of how DCA works to kill cancer cells is by affecting their mitochondria function which is the “battery” center. DCA may interfere in the way the cancer cells use energy leaving them somehow more vulnerable. This effect is a newer way of targeting cancer cells from a metabolic point of view which stems from some very old research by Dr. Otto Warburg (i.e.the noble prize winner in 1931). Basically, he had shown that cancer cells use sugar to grow (i.e. the Warburg-Effect) and so by interfering in that metabolic energy process could potentially disrupt more sensitive growing cancers.*
All cells need sugar (glucose) to grow. Cancer doesn't have a sweet tooth.
714X was developed by Gaston Naessens (b. 1924), who claims that it can cure cancer and many other diseases by improving the body's immune function. "According to FDA forensics chemistry analysis of a sample of 714X, the product was 94 percent water, about 5 percent nitrate, 1.4 percent ammonium, less than 1 percent each ethanol, sodium and chloride, and less than one one-hundredths of a percent of camphor."*
No laboratory studies of the safety and/or effectiveness of 714-X have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. A few animal experiments have been done, but the results of these experiments have not been reported in scientific journals. The animal studies used a lymphosarcoma tumor model in rats and lymphoma tumor models in dogs and cows. 714-X was not found to be effective against cancer in these studies....
No clinical trials or other studies with cancer patients have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to support the safety or effectiveness of 714-X.*
The manufacturer of 714X, Cerbe Distribution Inc., claims on its website that because of 714X's unique properties it can't be tested the way pharmaceuticals are tested: "...for 714X, as for any natural health products (e.g. vitamin C) or special treatments (e.g. massage), the ultimate impact will always depend on the biological terrain unique to each individual and life context in which each person evolves." Cerbe calls 714X "an immuno-modulator health product aiming to both support a weak immune system or to slow down an over-active one."
714X has never been approved by the FDA but may be purchased in Canada, where the law allows desperate people with no other recourse for treatment to use 714X.
The creator of this concoction is an exemplar of the lone crank in science. He invented a microscope he calls a Somatoscope, which, he says, allows him to see tiny living things in the blood he calls somatids.
According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson, somatids:
are not physical beings, so they cannot be seen with regular microscopes, and require a special type of light microscope called a darkfield microscope to be seen. This idea is sometimes called the somatid theory or pleomorphism theory. The somatids, according to Royal Rife, MD and Dr. Gaston Naessans [sic] of Canada, are a type of animal or creatures, in fact, that cohabit the body with us on a very microscopic scale. They live within the body cells and cannot be detected easily as they are not purely physical. Instead, they may be described as etheric beings who assist the physical body to live on earth in the conditions here.*
Naessens theorized that these somatids cause cancer. One fellow describes it this way:
There are three basic forms of Somatids that Naessens says are essential to life because they produce a particle responsible for cell division. Healthy bodies keep the Somatid number in check but in unhealthy bodies the Somatids change form pleomorphically, evolving from one shape to another and can reach as many as sixteen. This is another fact of enormous importance because most of today’s microbiologists think that pleomorphism is fantasy.* (emphasis added)
Most scientists might think Naessens' ideas are fantasies because they can't see what he sees and he hasn't proved these critters exist much less that they cause cancer. In 1967, the American Cancer Society published a report on an investigation of Naessens.* Naessens claims he studied biology at the University of Lille, in France, but school records fall to verify this. He later immigrated to Quebec, Canada. In 1956, Naessens was convicted of illegally practicing medicine. He was fined 300,000 old francs and made to pay 600,000 old francs to the doctors' "ordre" and "syndicat." In 1964, Professor Pierre Denoix, Director of the Gustave-Roussy Institute at Villejuif, France, investigated Naessens, who was claiming he had a cancer cure called Anablast.
Denoix concluded that Naessens was mistaken in the premise on which the serum was based, and that an investigation of cases of cancer and leukemia treated with Anablast bad proved that the serum had no therapeutic value. (In every allegedly successful case Denoix was able to investigate, the patient had first received standard therapy.) Soon afterward, Naessens was indicted for practicing medicine and pharmacy illegally. Denoix reported that the particles he had seen were well known by hematologists to be products of red-cell disintegration. He also concluded that microorganisms that Naessens cultivated were the result of secondary contamination of the material studied.*
Naturally, Naessens has defenders who claim he is a genius being persecuted and censored by the cancer industrial complex. One of Naessens' biggest supporters is Billy Best, who claims he cured his cancer with 714X and Essiac tea, an herbal concoction. The available scientific evidence does not support the claims that the ingredients in this tea, either alone or together, are effective for the treatment of cancer in humans.
Naturally, Webster Kehr thinks baking soda to treat cancer is a great idea, especially since baking soda is about 300,000 times cheaper than chemotherapy (Kehr's numbers, not mine). The creator of baking soda therapy is Italian oncologist Tullio Simoncini. The treatment is based on the notion that cancer is caused by a fungus. Simoncini believes the candida fungus causes cancer despite the fact that the "available scientific evidence does not support claims that cancer is caused by infection with a type of yeast known as Candida albicans. Available scientific evidence also does not support the idea that sodium bicarbonate works as a treatment for any form of cancer or that it cures yeast or fungal infections. There is substantial evidence, however, that these claims are false."* Simoncini, by the way, lost his license to practice medicine in Italy after several of his patients died, but this hasn't stopped him from continuing with his practice.
Like baking soda, calcium is touted as a cancer cure because--what was it Dr. Warburg said about oxygen and cancer cells?--"cancer can only survive in an acidic environment. So to cure any form of cancer, you must boost your pH level to the maximum to kill off all acid in the body. Once you take acid out of the body, cancer cells begin to die very quickly. This is a proven fact. And one of the best way's to boost your pH level is with calcium. Commit these three words to memory and never forget them… calcium kills acid."* That's the truth according to the natural cures religion, but the science doesn't jibe with this faith in calcium. "While further research is needed to clarify the role of calcium in preventing or reversing cancer growth, there is little doubt that adequate calcium intake is required for preventing bone shrinkage and weakening. For people who have cancer, calcium and vitamin D intake may help keep bones strong."*
Laboratory and animal studies and observational epidemiologic studies suggest that higher levels of vitamin D in the body may be linked to lower cancer risk. Observational studies only record information about people without changing anything they do. These studies cannot confidently predict the effects of increasing a person’s intake of vitamin D.
These studies suggest that the risk for some forms of cancer is lower in those who get more calcium and vitamin D (which may include vitamin D from foods as well as sunlight). Higher vitamin D levels in the blood have also been linked to lower risk for some types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. One researcher who analyzed 60 such studies noted that calcium intake appeared more protective than vitamin D against colon and rectal cancer. Because of the way vitamin D works with calcium, it may be hard to separate these effects....
Well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm whether low levels of vitamin D raise cancer risk and to find out if taking more vitamin D (with or without extra calcium) reduces cancer risk. Until such studies are completed, it is too early to advise people to take vitamin D supplements for cancer prevention alone.*
[T]here are no placebo-based clinical controlled trials linking vitamin D with any disease other than osteoporosis.*
[Studies] suggest that people with melanoma or bowel cancer might benefit from increasing their vitamin D levels, either through diet, supplements or UV exposure. But it’s important to note that vitamin D supplements (and excessive amounts in the diet) can potentially cause harm if taken in large doses without medical supervision.*
So, calcium and vitamin D are essential to good health but to proclaim them as natural cancer cures seems premature.
Once again, Dr. Warburg's oxygen-kills-cancer belief emerges as the prime player in a proclaimed natural cure for cancer. One of the leading proponents of the raw-food diet as a cancer cure is Paul Nison (whose website www.rawlife.com goes directly to his online store for your shopping convenience). In his essay "Diet for Cancer Patients," Nison writes:
Cancer can only come alive and grow in a body that is lacking oxygen. The average person today, especially someone with cancer, is walking around with a serious case of insufficient oxygen. The following tips are musts if you are serious about overcoming cancer.
First, you must eliminate the bad stuff: processed foods ("Every bite taken from foods that come in a container, box, can, bottle or bag contributes to cancer"), new foods ("If it wasn’t food one hundred years ago, don’t consider it food today"), dead foods ("Foods that lack enzymes are known as dead foods and support death....cooking destroys all enzymes in foods and a person trying to heal from cancer should consume a 100% raw, live-food diet."), and sugars ("avoid all sugars, even sugars found in fruits").
Yes, you read right. Fruit is bad for you and everybody else on the planet. Why? Here is Nison's explanation, which may seem reasonable to you if you know nothing about nutrition:
[Sugar] leads to fermentation in the body that feeds and promotes yeast growth and negative bacteria. Overeating sugary foods causes constipation and gas, and this gas can back up into the bloodstream. This is where most diseases originate–from candida to cancer and everything in between.
Fermentation, you may remember from your biology lessons, is a good thing to happen in muscles, not a bad thing. If you want evidence that sugar causes cancer, you will be disappointed. Sugar doesn't cause cancer but "there is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including esophageal cancer. It can also lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, which may increase the risk of cancer."*
Sugar doesn't make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn't speed their growth. Likewise, depriving cancer cells of sugar doesn't slow their growth.*
If you remember some basic logic, you'll realize that the only foods left to eat on Nison's diet are raw vegetables, raw nuts, raw fungi, and a few other things. According to Nison:
If you have cancer you must treat your body the best way possible. This means only consuming food raw, ripe, fresh organic and live. Once you are healed, you can cut back to 80% of your foods meeting this criteria, but 100% is still best.
I would say that you should treat your body the best way possible even if you don't have cancer. I'd like to see the evidence that this means consuming only raw, ripe, fresh, organic, and live food. Nison says
The main part of your diet should be raw vegetables and sprouts, such as leafy green vegetables, wheatgrass, algae, sea vegetables, and sunflower sprouts. The reason these green foods are so beneficial for the body is that they contain chlorophyll: the blood of plants.
I went over misconceptions regarding chlorophyll in the section above on wheatgrass. According to Nison, nuts and seeds (soaked in water for 12 hours) are good because they contain enzymes. How enzymes cure cancer is not discussed. Certainly, a healthy diet should include foods that provide a variety of enzymes.
If there is any evidence that the raw food diet cures cancer, Nison forgot to mention it. And if he and others promoting this diet seem like evangelists, that's because they are. Nison is a teacher at the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI), which he describes as the "world's foremost health institute that specializes in healing people with cancer."* The founder of HHI was the wheatgrass lady mentioned above: Ann Wigmore, who thought that the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible was a divine lesson in nutrition. Nison also believes his diet plan is sanctioned by divine guidance as found in the Bible:
It was our Creator who first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, and planted a garden. He made animals and fish before making even one human being. He provided what we needed before He even created us. If he designed our body and he knows every single hair on our heads, I'm sure he knows what we should eat and when we should eat it.
He created the heavens and the earth, including humans, food, sun, and the moon. The sun and the moon set the schedule we have been designed to follow....When the sun is up, feel free to eat; when it is down, stop....This is the number one rule of the Daylight Diet. If you stick to this important principle, you will see excellent results in your health, energy, sleep--your whole being--because this is how we have been designed to eat. Nighttime is for resting and sleeping.
The current leader of the HHI is Brian Clement, who was in the news recently (Nov 14, 2014) for treating two young Ontario First Nations girls with leukemia using "cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections, and a strict raw food diet." Oddly, the "world's foremost health institute that specializes in healing people with cancer" is called a "health resort" and is licensed as a “massage establishment.” No doubt this peculiar labeling is for legal reasons since none of these people at HHI are legally licensed to treat cancer. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) investigated Clements when he came to Canada to promote his cancer-healing diet.
CBC News is looking into the claims and credentials of Clement.
He’s been giving lectures in and around both girls’ communities in recent months....
In a video obtained by CBC News, Clement says his institute teaches people to “heal themselves” from cancer by eating raw, organic vegetables and having a positive attitude.
“We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care,” he says.
“So when McGill fails or Toronto hospital fails, they come to us. Stage four (cancer), and they reverse it.”
The evidence for Clement's claims about reversing cancer? You'll have to take his word for it or the words of testimonials posted on the HHI website. "According to the Florida State Health Authority, Hippocrates Health Institute is a licensed massage establishment. It says Brian Clement is not a licensed doctor or naturopath."* His degrees are from diploma mills.* Even so, it is difficult to understand where he gets some of his ideas. According to Clement, "In cooked meat, the fat molecules burst and are carcinogenic. That is true for vegetable oil also, including olive oil. Meat is not a complete protein. There are 8 times the protein deficiencies among meat eaters compared to vegetarians."* In a video, Clement proves that he can speak gibberish with the best of them:
Photons come down in the secondary stage, they hit the earth. They transmute into different frequencies. Those frequencies are what create the physical body or the energetic body we really are. When you and I are talking and thinking and people are listening, that’s the energetic body. The physical body that you’re sitting watching us here now, that’s created by the microbial effect in the soil, which are still the protons but recycled or re-cached protons.
I think that's enough of Mr. Clement. [update] Well, maybe not. On February 10, 2015, Mr. Clement was issued a cease-and-desist order by Florida's Department of Health. Sandra Warmer, medical quality assurance investigator with the Florida Department of Health, wrote to Clement: "In November of 2014, you (Brian Clement) were reportedly representing yourself as a medical doctor (advertising that you are a naturopathic medical doctor [NMD]) without being licensed with Florida Department of Health. It was also reported that two minor children with leukemia were treated by or are being treated by you with unproven and possibly dangerous therapies." Clement was fined $3,738 and ordered to immediately cease and desist from practising medicine until he is "appropriately licensed by the department."[/update] [update of the update]: In March, the state dropped their investigation and fine, citing "insufficient evidence." In November 2015, Clement was back in Canada claiming that somebody at his clinic had reversed MS in a patient. [/update]
Finally, one of the more common tropes among the raw-food advocates is that cooking food robs them of their nutritional value. "Contrary to the propaganda of raw-food advocates, cooking actually can help you absorb more nutrients."*
Intravenous vitamin C has been considered an alternative medical therapy for cancer since the 1970s, but the treatment has not been investigated by science-based medical researchers since clinical trials in the '70s and '80s at the Mayo Clinic with oral vitamin C found no anti-cancer effects.* Things are changing, but before going over them, remember this caveat put forth by David Gorski, M.D.: "A good drug for cancer is, at the very minimum, active at low or reasonable concentrations against the cancer cells being targeted, and vitamin C fails miserably on that count. Worse, there are at least indications that in some cases vitamin C might interfere with chemotherapy."*
Studies suggest that high levels of vitamin C may cause the death of cancer cells in the laboratory. High levels of vitamin C can't be achieved by oral ingestion and must be introduced intravenously. The University of Kansas (KU) has an integrative medicine department that has recently published the results of a study on intravenous vitamin C and ovarian cancer. Their infusion center has been offering this therapy for some time. In a press release, KU stated: "Scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center have determined that high doses of vitamin C, administered intravenously with traditional chemotherapy, helped kill cancer cells while reducing the toxic effects of chemotherapy for some cancer patients." The results of their study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. "The researchers' clinical trial involved 27 patients with newly diagnosed Stage 3 or Stage 4 ovarian cancer. All of the participants received conventional therapy with paclitaxel or carboplatin, while some were also treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C. Researchers monitored the participants for five years. Those patients who received vitamin C tended to experience fewer toxic effects from the chemotherapy drugs." This is a small study and the expression 'tended to experience fewer toxic effects' is damning with faint praise. On the other hand, we know from other studies that high doses of vitamin C can kill cancer cells in the petri dish and in lab rats.
A co-author of the KU study, Dr. Jeanne Drisko, is director of integrative medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Understandably, she is enthusiastic about IV vitamin C therapy. "If you can get your blood levels of vitamin C very high, it gets driven into the space around the cancer cells," she explained. "In that space, it's converted into hydrogen peroxide. It's very similar to what our white blood cells do. They create hydrogen peroxide to fight infection."*
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, advises caution. We need larger studies. "You also have to make sure these treatments don't interfere with the treatments we're giving currently," she said. The efficacy of this therapy isn't proven yet. Dr. Michael Seiden, chief medical officer for The US Oncology Network, agrees. "It is important to emphasize that many vitamin therapies have shown interesting results when applied to cancer cells in test tubes yet, to date, these approaches typically are not effective and occasionally prove harmful in human studies," he said. "At this time, there is still no evidence that high-dose vitamin C should be part of the treatment for women with ovarian cancer." Dr. Gorski thinks that the study "suggests there might be some utility for ascorbate (vitamin C) against ovarian cancer," but there is much work to be done before we can say this is a safe and effective treatment for cancer. Dr. Gorski offers a very detailed technical analysis of the problems with the KU research and reasoning. He concludes:
So what we have here is a small clinical trial with a 19% dropout rate that wasn’t even blinded. It reported zero difference in overall survival (both were, as one would expect for ovarian cancer at this stage, abysmal), and zero statistically significant difference in time to relapse/progression. In all fairness, there would have had to have been an enormous effect to produce a statistically significant effect on survival or progression in such a small study, but these are the two “hard” endpoints that would be least affected by the lack of blinding, although one notes that time to progression could be affected by lack of blinding when the definition depends on interpreting scans. It’s also hard not to note that the differences in toxicities are all in the mildest reported toxicities, grades 1 and 2 (out of a scale of 1 to 5, with a score of 1, which denotes mild toxicity that requires no intervention to 5, which is death). There were no statistically significant (or even close to statistically significant) differences in toxicities graded 3 or 4, which are the most troubling kind.
The benefits of non-IV, non-supplemental vitamin C are well known, but in case you didn't know:
Many scientific studies have shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables (many of which contain vitamin C as well as other vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals) reduce the risk of developing cancers of the pancreas, esophagus, larynx, mouth, stomach, colon and rectum, breast, cervix, and lungs. Many of these studies show people who eat foods to get a high level of vitamin C have about half as much cancer as those who have a low intake of these foods. Likewise, people with higher blood levels of vitamin C tend to have a lesser risk of developing cancer than do people with lower levels, although this likely reflects better overall nutrition rather than supplement use.*
Ron Hunninghake, M.D., defends intravenous vitamin C infusion to treat cancer and much more.
Intravenous vitamin C also does more than just kill cancer cells. It boosts immunity. It can stimulate collagen formation to help the body wall off the tumor. It inhibits hyaluronidase, an enzyme that tumors use to metastasize and invade other organs throughout the body. It induces apoptosis to help program cancer cells into dying early. It corrects the almost universal scurvy in cancer patients. Cancer patients are tired, listless, bruise easily, and have a poor appetite. They don't sleep well and have a low threshold for pain. This adds up to a very classic picture of scurvy that generally goes unrecognized by their conventional physicians.*
Memorial Sloan Kettering provides a different, perhaps more balanced view of the benefits of vitamin C:
The purported effects of vitamin C have been examined in many clinical and epidemiologic studies. Regular intake of vitamin C supplements may reduce the duration and severity of common cold. However, the effect is minimal except in people exposed to acute severe physical stress (2). Vitamin C is believed to promote cardiovascular health but findings are inconsistent. Previous studies suggest that intake of dietary vitamin C, not supplements, may reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases (3). However, two large scale randomized trials did not find any benefits (4) (5). Furthermore, supplementation with vitamins C and E increased risk of mortality and nonfatal myocardial infarction in patients with coronary artery disease (6). Data on vitamin C’s effect in reducing blood pressure are also conflicting (7) (8)....
The role of vitamin C in cancer prevention is unclear. Studies indicate that vitamin C reduces oxidative stress (18). High plasma level of vitamin C is associated with lower gastrointestinal cancer incidence probably due to its protective effects against dietary carcinogenic nitroso compounds (19). Intake of vitamins A, C, or E reduced risk of cervical cancer (20), but they do not prevent gastrointestinal (21), prostate (22), lung cancers (23) and other cancer incidence or affect cancer mortality (24). Further, vitamin C supplementation is associated with increased risk of liver cancer, although this effect is not observed with vitamin C from dietary sources (25).
High-dose vitamin C has been long been used as an alternative cancer treatment (26) based on the hypothesis that the formation of new collagen resists malignant infiltration (27). Early reports using parenteral plus oral ascorbic acid showed promising results (28). But subsequent randomized, placebo-controlled trials in advanced cancer patients using 10g per day of oral vitamin C did not demonstrate any significant benefits (29) (30). This lack of effect is explained by the finding of pharmacokinetic study that ascorbic acid can only reach a limited plasma concentration through oral administration (31). A higher pharmacologic concentration, achieved only via intravenous injection, had selective cytotoxic effects on cancer cell lines (32) (33). Ascorbic acid is postulated to act as a carrier of hydrogen peroxide to the extracellular fluid (32) where it generates free radicals against tumor cells (33). High-dose IV ascorbic acid up to 1.5g /kg/day appears to be well-tolerated (34), may improve the quality of life of terminal cancer patients (35), and reduce chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer (67). This led to a renewed interest in studying high-dose IV vitamin C as an anticancer treatment (34) (36). However, it should be regarded as an investigational drug and used only in a clinical trial setting.
Interestingly, there is contradicting evidence against the use of vitamin C supplements during chemotherapy. In vitro and animal studies found that cancer cells preferentially uptake vitamin C (37) and render some chemotherapy drugs less effective (38). Also, a major concern surrounding use of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, is that they can interfere with the actions of chemotherapy and radiation therapy that rely on the production of reactive oxygen species for their cytotoxic activities (39). However, a clinical study showed that ascorbic acid does not reduce the therapeutic effects of paclitaxel and carboplatin (40). Another study found an increase in chemo-associated adverse effects with inadequate intake of vitamin C in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (41).
Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes, descended into some very bad science in his later years. He and Ewan Cameron published a paper claiming to show that mega doses of vitamin C cures cancer.
Unfortunately, as experimental clinical protocols go, this study was a complete mess. Linus Pauling was not a clinician and had no experience in clinical trial design, and it really showed. Even as a retrospective analysis, the paper was a total embarrassment. There was no standardization, no good matching of controls by age, stage of cancer, or performance status; given the terrible design, there was clearly serious selection bias going on at a minimum. The study’s flaws, which were too numerous to mention, rendered its results essentially meaningless. If you want a quote from his original paper that shows this better than anything, here it is: “We believe that the ascorbate-treated patients represent a random selection of all the terminal patients in the hospital, even though no formal randomization process was used.” Suffice it to say that, in a clinical trial, it is not sufficient to “believe” that your groups were properly randomized and matched. You have to show it. Indeed, Dr. William D. DeWys, Chief of the Clinical Investigations Branch of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Therapy Program, pointed out that Pauling and Cameron failed at even a rudimentary effort to control for these variables:
Cameron’s patients began getting vitamin C when Cameron judged them “untreatable” and their subsequent survival was compared to that of the control patients from the time they had been labeled “untreatable.”
DeWys reasoned that if the two groups were comparable, the average time from the initial diagnosis to “untreatable” status should be similar for both groups. But they were not. He concluded that many of Cameron’s patients had been labeled untreatable earlier in the course of their disease and would therefore be expected to live longer. DeWys also noted that more than 20% of the patients in the control group had died within a few days of being labeled untreatable, whereas none of Cameron’s patients had died. This, too, suggested that Cameron’s patients had had less advanced disease when they were labeled untreatable.
The bottom line was that, for the above reasons and others, Pauling and Cameron’s study was shockingly bad. Undeterred, they published a follow-up study in 1978 that purported to confirm the findings of their 1976 study.*
Like many other quacks before and after him, Pauling didn't do proper studies on vitamin C and cancer, write proper scientific papers on the studies, and submit those papers to a peer-reviewed journal. He started his own institute and went on the lecture circuit to promote his books that promoted his beliefs. One of his more notorious associates, Matthias Rath, did the same thing and is considered one of the leading forces behind the attempt to treat AIDS in South Africa with vitamin supplements.
Thomas Lodi, who runs the swell-sounding "Oasis of Healing," is one of many advocates of intravenous vitamin C as a natural cure for cancer, but this is the least dangerous of his natural cures. He also promotes Insulin Potentiated Low dose chemotherapy (IPT):
Basically, the idea behind IPT is that cancer cells like sugar, which is true; all cells like sugar. They do. Cancer cells tend to rely on glycolysis, and because glycolysis is an inefficient way of extracting energy from glucose compared to aerobic respiration they need a lot of glucose. Couple to that the idea that decreasing the glucose concentration could sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy and thus was a dangerous bit of quackery born. In IPT, the cancer quack will administer a high dose of insulin, enough to drive the patient’s blood sugar down to very low levels, at which point the patient is given chemotherapy, usually at subtherapeutic doses. (Remember, the low glucose is supposed to sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy so that lower doses are effective.) After that, the patient is given glucose to reverse the hypoglycemia caused by the insulin. The reason why IPT is so dangerous is that there’s no room for error. If the “natural practitioner” accidentally drives the patient’s glucose too low, he could die.*
But what could be more natural than death?
The final natural cure treatment I'll consider is the so-called mind-body cure, promoted by such luminaries as Bernie Siegal, Deepak Chopra, and Dr. O. Carl Simonton and his descendents at the Simonton Cancer Center. These are the folks who think cancer is due to your stinking thinking (your stupid beliefs and your bad attitude) and that the cure is to think the right thoughts and have a positive attitude. They recommend such nonsense as imagining little pac-men or soldiers attacking your cancer cells. (I'd rather imagine my capecitabine and temozolomide breaking up the DNA or RNA of my cancer cells, preventing them from reproducing, though I know those drugs will do what they do regardless of my thoughts.) Visualization and right thinking, they believe without a shred of scientific evidence to back up their beliefs, are the keys to curing your cancer. If only believing could make it so. On the other hand, if you are looking to relieve your pain and anxiety, something like meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, or even some types of visualization might relax you and reduce your stress, which would be a major benefit to many people, not just cancer patients and their caregivers.
What should we conclude from this brief review of just a few of the more popular natural cures for cancer? The obvious conclusion is that the evidence for any natural cure for cancer is very weak. Most of the natural cure folks blame this lack of evidence on the fact that there's no money to be made from natural cures, which is obviously false because most of these advocates are making a living by selling others on treatments that do not have strong scientific backing. It may be true that there is no money to be made by Big Pharma from non-patentable natural cures and that thus there is no incentive for Big Pharma to invest in large clinical trials on things like mushrooms or hydrogen peroxide as cancer cures. But Big Pharma is not the only place where such research can be done. Many universities are testing natural cures. Our own NIH has poured millions into testing a variety of folk cures--with nothing to show for it, I might add. The idea that Big Pharma and the "medical establishment" have systematically conspired to suppress knowledge of natural cures because if word got out it would cut into their profits is attractive to many people, though there is little evidence that this has happened or is happening now. Some of these natural treatments are tolerated by science-based medicine because they do no harm. Some are opposed because they interfere with science-based treatments and may harm patients when used in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Some are opposed because they are useless and some are opposed because they are harmful.
Even dinosaurs got cancer. How likely is it that they got cancer because their diets deprived them of oxygen? Anyway, at this point, despite its fallibility, I'm giving my support to science-based medical treatments for cancer. There are hundreds of different kinds of cancers and it is true that science hasn't found a cure yet. It is also true that the more we learn about cancer the more we realize that there is so much more to learn. The more we understand, the more we realize there is so much more to understand. I doubt there will ever be a cure for cancer in the sense of something that rids any body with any kind of cancer of every cancer cell in that body. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if I were to come back from the dead a few hundred years from now to find that scientists have figured out how to make each cell in any body immortal and healthy.
There is a lot of uncertainty those of with cancer must accept. For some, the uncertainty produces unbearable stress. One of the main benefits I see from belief in natural cures is the relief of anxiety it produces. There are several natural biases, I think, that are at work here: the illusion of control, the illusion of understanding, confirmation bias, and communal reinforcement. Many people feel helpless when they are told they have cancer. They don't want to be at the mercy of a disease, passively accepting whatever the disease might bring. They want to take control of their lives. Belief in natural cures gives people the feeling that they are in control, that they do understand cancer and can cure themselves. Once you believe in natural cures and that the medical establishment has suppressed vital information, it is easy for the believer to find evidence that supports their belief and to ignore or belittle all the overwhelming evidence against it. There is a whole community of folks out there led by the likes of Joe Mercola, Mike Adams, Webster Kehr, Brian Clement, and many more who provide support and comfort for beliefs about natural cancer cures that the scientific community finds lacking in sufficient evidence. The cognitive biases at work here lead many cancer patients to believe that they have found an absolutely infallible cure for their disease. They want to believe that there is a simple and relatively inexpensive and noninvasive procedure that will give them total control of their disease. There is comfort in believing you understand your disease and how to get rid of it. Many cancer patients experience great anxiety at the thought of dying from a disease they don't understand and have no control over. Such anxiety can disappear if you are given hope that you will not die, that you can control your disease, and that the cure is really simple and natural. Many of us diagnosed with cancer fear having surgery or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments. We fear the procedures themselves, their potential side-effects, and the uncertainty of the results. Believing you don't need surgery or chemotherapy or radiation reduces fear and anxiety. It's comforting, but the feeling is based on illusions. The feeling of control and the relief of anxiety that comes with it are the greatest benefits of believing in natural cures. The one benefit I don't see from natural cures for cancer, however, is a cure for cancer.
cancer quacks reviewed elsewhere in The Skeptic's Dictionary
Phillip Day is the author of Cancer: Why We’re Still Dying To Know The Truth and other books and YouTube videos promoting the idea that scientific medicine is evil and corrupt because it is motivated by little more than making money. Day also promotes the idea that the truth is out there but "they" don't want you to know about it. His message is similar to that of Kevin Trudeau in Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About. He says that cancer is caused by nutritional deficiency and toxicity. He recommends laetrile, detoxification, and nutrition changes as a cancer treatment. He calls laetrile vitamin B17. (Laetrile is a modified form of amygdalin, which is also called B17.) Day claims that research has proven that just as scurvy can't develop if you ingest sufficient vitamin C, cancer becomes almost impossible to develop if you take laetrile. Research has not shown any such thing. The current popularity of amygdalin or laetrile began in the 1960s and has been thoroughly debunked, although its defenders have not given up on it.
Jon Barron: cancer is due to not having the right diet or taking enough supplements.
All cancers are alike. They are all caused by a parasite. A single parasite! It is the human intestinal fluke. And if you kill this parasite, the cancer stops immediately....It takes 5 days to be cured of cancer [with a liver flush] regardless of the type you have. Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy can be canceled because, after Clark's recipe cures the cancer, it cannot come back. She died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood and bone, in 2009.
According to the Dr. Rath Health Foundation website (RHF),Matthias Rath is "the physician and scientist who led the breakthrough discoveries in the natural control of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions."
He claims he has discovered that cancer growth and metastasis can be prevented by the optimum supply of lysine [an amino acid] and other natural substances blocking the enzymatic digestion of the connective tissue by cancer cells.
Robert O. Young promotes the alkaline diet. He claimed he had reversed Kim Tinkham's breast cancer with his pH miracle treatment shortly before she died of cancer. He went on trial in November 2015 for practicing medicine without a license and for promising cancer cures at his Valley Center ranch.
Rashid Buttar is an osteopath who believes that the cause of all chronic disease is "toxicity." This doesn't mean he thinks poisons or infections are the cause of all disease, however, because he thinks there are "energetic toxicities," "psychological/emotional toxicities," and "spiritual toxicities."* He applies his belief in "toxicities" at a place called the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Huntersville, North Carolina.*
On November 20, 2007, the North Carolina Medical Board charged Buttar with providing therapies to several cancer patients "that were unproven and wholly ineffective. The therapies consisted primarily of intravenous administration of a variety of substances, none of which has any known value for the treatment of cancer. The substances included EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), chromium, certain vitamins, and hydrogen peroxide." (Have a look at what Buttar prescribed for his cancer patients.) The Board charged that Buttar’s treatment of these patients was unprofessional, unethical, ineffective, and exploitive; it sought to "annul, suspend, revoke, or limit his license to practice medicine." The Board restricted his practice so that he could no longer treat children or cancer patients, but he was allowed to continue his "toxicity" treatments.
William Rader is a trained psychiatrist who used to make his money treating eating disorders but now claims to use fetal stem cells to cure many diseases and disorders. His office was in Malibu, California, but his clinic moved first to the Bahamas (untl he was kicked out) and then to the Dominican Republic (where his outfit was known as Medra) and then to Mexico in 2011 (where it is known as Stem Cell of America). His website (www.medra.com) now redirects to stemcellofamerica.com, a page of testimonials that are impossible to verify. Rader's California medical license (A 22848 ) was formally revoked as of November 5, 2014 for selling unproven stem cell treatments to desperate patients with incurable conditions. An overview of the charges against this pathetic creature is posted here.
a few more ineffective cancer cures
Unproven and Disproven Cancer Treatments
Treatments not discussed above in this entry on natural cancer cures include
- Breuss diet (Rudolf Breuss [1899–1990] believed that cancer lives on solid foods taken into the body and that cancerous growths will die if a patient drinks only vegetable juices and tea for 42 days);
- Hallelujah Diet (an attempt at a biblically based diet promoted by George Malkmus: the diet is vegetarian and consists predominantly of raw food);
- Kousmine diet (devised by Catherine Kousmine [1904–1992], which emphasizes fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, and vitamin supplements.
- macrobiotic diet (George Ohsawa [1893-1966] started the macrobiotic movement with the publication of his Zen Macrobiotics in 1965. Michio Kushi popularized the movement in the United States. Kushi claims that cancer "is the body's own defense mechanism to protect itself against long-term dietary and environmental abuse.");
- Moerman Therapy (a diet devised by Cornelis Moerman [1893–1988], who believed a lactovegetarian diet plus supplements of vitamins A, B, C, D,and E, iodine, sulfur, iron, citric acid, and selenium would prevent or cure cancer);
- Superfoods (foods hailed as having miraculous health benefits, e.g., spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, citrus fruits; fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines; vegetables with bright, dark, or intense colors; many legumes such as peanuts, lentils, beans, and raw cocoa; and whole grains.);
- Field bindweed (C. arvensis) extracts have not been tested in humans as a cancer treatment. Laboratory studies in mice and chicken eggs suggest that extracts of bindweed flowers and leaves can stop blood-vessel growth. In mice, this caused tumors to stop growing. This effect has not been tested in humans.
- Intravenous vitamin C. High doses of oral and injectable vitamin C have been used as alternative cancer treatment. Clinical studies concluded oral vitamin C is not effective, probably due to limited absorption. High-dose of intravenous vitamin C is currently under investigation as a cancer treatment. Vitamin C can reduce the effectiveness of many antineoplastic agents, including vincristine, doxorubicin, methotrexate, cisplatin, and imatinib.
- Anti-Neoplastons Therapy of Dr Stanislaw Burzynski. No randomized, controlled trials showing the effectiveness of antineoplastons have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. All support comes from Burzynski himself or from testimonials. Antineoplastons are not approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention or treatment of any disease.
- Pectin. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that pectin has anticancer properties. Human studies are needed to verify these results.
- Poly-MVA. "I have seen no scientific evidence demonstrating that Poly-MVA either prevents or effectively treats cancer. Indeed, I have found no reports of any well-controlled scientific studies. Most of the "success stories" cited by promoters are simple testimonials or come from studies that have not been published in scientific journals. Poly-MVA may not be dangerous in and of itself, but when you're dealing with a life-threatening illness such as cancer, it is always ill advised to substitute an unproven treatment for one that has been scientifically demonstrated to help. At best, Poly-MVA would do no harm. At worst, by using it as an alternative cancer treatment you could lose valuable time that might be better spent fighting the disease with therapy that has some medical merit." --Andrew Weil, M.D.
- Ukrain. Two small pilot studies suggest that Ukrain may be useful in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer, but there were also side effects that may be related to its use. More studies are needed to confirm safety and effects.
- Numerous plant and fungus-based treatments.
Junkfood Science: Do you fear sugar might causes cancer?
Contains a detailed take-down of a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The paper is a meta-analysis of 37 published observational (epidemiological) studies that had looked for correlations between glycemic index/load and diseases. It was reported as having shown that low-GI [glycemic index] foods offer a "similar or higher level of protection as whole-grain foods or high fiber intake in the prevention of chronic lifestyle-related disease" and that foods with a high glycemic index increase risks of cancer. The authors achieved this conclusion despite the fact than not a single one of the 37 studies they evaluated showed a viable correlation between glycemic index and any disease.
This article takes down another study claiming a causal connection between sugar and cancer.
This epidemiological study, was published in the International Journal of Cancer. Its data was from 120,852 people in the Netherlands Cohort Study, who’d also completed food frequency questionnaires in 1986.
After 11.3 years of follow-up, the researchers found no genuine relative risk for colorectal cancers related to dietary glycemic index or glycemic load among the men or women. They also found no clear associations between any cancer subsite and dietary factors. Relative risks for cancers associated with sugary, high-glycemic foods ranged from 0.83 to 1.20. The relative risks all hugged either side of null (RR=1) with none tenable, like the other observational studies. (emphasis added)
Simply Raw: Making overcooked claims about raw food diets by David Gorski
A cancer quackfest by Orac
Jessica Ainscough, Australia's 'wellness warrior', dies of cancer aged 30. Ainscough, who attracted thousands of followers on social media, shunned conventional medical treatment for her rare cancer and tried to cure it with Gerson therapy. As expected, the Gerson therapy didn't work. She survived for seven years after being diagnosed withepithelioid sarcoma. Five-year survival and ten-year survival rate for patients with epithelioid sarcoma are approximately 50-70% and 42-55% respectively. For more, see Orac's post on her life and death.
The Cold Truth About Raw Food Diets by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
"Contrary to the propaganda of raw-food advocates, cooking actually can help you absorb more nutrients."
"Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work" by Barry L. Beyerstein, Ph.D.
When false hope leads well-meaning people astray by Orac
"I had never heard of the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI) or the doctor, Dr. Brian Clement before; so, as is my wont, I went to the source, the Hippocrates Health Institute website. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that its programs were a veritable cornucopia of nearly every quackery on the planet, including at least one I hadn’t realized that people did."
Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock. Please see my review of the story of master charlatan John Brinkley and his nemesis Dr. Morris Fishbein, the same Fishbein that Mike Adams despises and considers the root of all medical evil.
Cautions from Barrie Cassileth PhD, Chief Integrative Medicine Service; Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.
Last updated 03-May-2016