Alternative cancer treatments


(Paul Flinders) #1

Carrying on from Stella’s thread - I wanted to make some comments about alternative treatments and, especially, provide some balance for the “Truth about Cancer” video.

In the case of pancreatic cancer - and indeed eventually when treating all advanced cancers - I think we would have to accept that conventional medicine does not have many answers, and the ones that it does have are not great; major surgery with lasting consequences - a Whipples is not fun, neither is the more modern variant of PPPD (Pylorus Preserving Pancreato-Dudenectomy) - followed by months of aggressive chemo and all that only means being able to offer the “lucky” 1 in 5 that can be operated on a 50:50 chance of surviving for 5 years and somewhat less chance than that of a meaningful cure.

It is even worse in the 'States where I think people genuinely worry about whether oncologists are truly impartial given incentives from drug companies and, if not insured, facing huge bills for treatment.

Unfortunately I think healthcare in the 'States is rather broken which lends credence to the alternative medicine groups and their theories - and there seem no end of quacks ready to take advantage.

Quick factoids - the single biggest factor in cancer survival in the USA is whether you have health insurance and the most common cause of personal bankruptcy is trying to meet healthcare costs.

Taken with the fact that most average people do not understand clinical research and have real difficulty when someone calling themselves a doctor says that conventional medicine is cheating all their patients and his antineoplaston therapy is what they need for a cure, especially when we’d have to admit that chemotherapy is pretty toxic stuff and not infrequently kills people.

At least conventional doctors try to do research to demonstrate whether their therapies are effective - you can claim that controlled trials or cohort studies are really biased and not much good or that the journals are blind to research not done by big pharma or big well funded institutions but, to paraphrase Churchill, yes RCT’s are the worst way to do research - apart from all the other ways that is.

However a good surgeon and oncologist can explain what the chances are and what the alternatives are.

I know of no piece of reliable evidence that even begins to be honest about the benefit of reducing sugar intake, mega doses of vitamin C, pumpkin juice, apricot kernels, green tea, “detoxification” regimens, misletoe, protein extracts, powdered shark cartilage or any other junk treatment1.

It’s not as up to date as I’d like but I heartily recommend https://www.quackwatch.org/ as a starting point to avoid some of this stuff.

The “Truth about Cancer” video is discussed, rationally, here.

Some other cancer myths are discussed here

1] I made one of these treatments up - at least I think I did, there’s a lot of crazy stuff out there :slight_smile:


(Jane Jones) #2

It’s a difficult one. I get bombarded by people telling me that quitting gluten, or sugar, or potatoes and drinking green gloop will allow me to throw away my toxic chemotherapy and biotherapy drugs and skip off into a new dawn.

But as against that there are reputable bits of research that point the finger at poor diet… “The data revealed that our behaviour is our biggest threat to staying alive, with poor diet the greatest risk factor. Indeed, a bad diet was behind more than 19% of all deaths worldwide in 2017, and almost 70% of coronary heart disease deaths.”

(And if you really want to loose the next 3 hours of your life link on to the actual global burden of disease study…fascinating)

So those who urge us to embrace flax seeds are not all wrong, but perhaps just a little overenthusiastic. And perhaps not able to distinguish well enough when these behavioural and lifestyle approaches will work and when they won’t. I certainly gave a lots of these things a try, and whilst they may have done precisely nothing for my pathology, I do feel better and healthier as a result of my lifestyle changes. And I now have a super healthy lifestyle, which will hopefully count for something as I still take my toxic drugs and sufer few side effects.

One other site that I like is the NHS myth busting bit…

https://www.nhs.uk/news/


(Helen Wright) #3

I don’t think it’s an easy topic either…I don’t know anyone who’s lives haven’t been touched by cancer…I did watch the first series of the truth about cancer and I’ve just watched episode 1 of the global quest…I think it’s right that there should be a global quest…from episode 1 I would be interested in Hoxsey’s biomedical centre and there was a woman interviewed who had recovered from pancreatic cancer and a decade later also recovered from liver cancer…I don’t feel that people should be put off from watching the series…over the next couple of weeks or so I shall endeavour to watch the other episodes…

There does seem to be a very real threat of medical kidnap in USA for refusing chemotherapy…the case of the oncologist who was imprisoned for 45 years for diagnosing patients with cancer when they didn’t have cancer and prescribing aggressive chemotherapy treatment in order to get the kickbacks is very disturbing…


(John Withall) #4

If cancer was an easy topic they would have been able to cure ages ago. When I was diagnosed, like a lot of people i started research (Oncologists hate this!!) Oh no not another google expert! It’s only natural to look up your quarry to try and discover what you can. Sadly with America being on line it’s open day for every mad case.

I read about a Scottish man over a century ago, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011933964. John Beard who worked on a different way to treat cancer which had some success. It used pancreatic acid to kill cancers, in one terminal case the facial tumour completely fell off a mans face and the tumour died, as with most treatments results varied. My Oncologists said you’ve done some homework, now explain why tumours can grow on the pancreas and kill people? That, he said was the problem, cancer cells can morph as they move around the body.

Personally I feel that tumours come from our own supply of stem cells, these have no identity but travel around our bodies to become what ever type of cell they are required to be (hence the ability to morph or metastases in other parts of the body) All cells have a finite life span usually days to weeks, this die off message is missing in cancer cells so they continue to multiply. I am no doctor but even Oncologists are still learning from the very highest professor to the first year graduates, world wide there are thousands of people involved in the fight, sharing data for the common good.

I don’t believe any avenue should be closed off but be warned so many American authors get away with publishing BS and selling books because the dead cannot sue!!

One thing that upset me, the drug companies do rule the roost but thankfully there are charities that fund research that otherwise would never take place. My example, during chemo it is quite common to get oral thrush, a mass of very painful mouth ulcers. The Trust I was under (UK) said do not use over the counter mouthwash as these contain alcohol and make the mouth even more sore. I did at the latter stages suffer a mouth full of ulcers, the hospital gave me a bottle of very expensive mouthwash (expensive to the NHS) main ingredient? Alcohol! oh and a form of sugar! what don’t you give to yeast type infections (ulcers) Alcohol and sugar, any home brewer can tell you the result of that. Instead I used good ol fashioned bicarbonate of soda (lots of that around from my swimming pool work) I attended my appointment at the hospital 4 days later and my oncologist was amazed to see the ulcers had cleared and said that was a very good result from the mouthwash. I explained I had only used it once as it was useless and the rest was rinsing 5-6 times a day with bicarbonate of soda, I was labelled a maverick and told no drug company would ever fund research into bicarbonate of soda as the drug companies would never make any money from it. Draw your own conclusions, I recommended that treatment to a lady in France and her Oncologist also recommended it. Some of these examples prove the best still do not know everything, they are learning all the time and now they can breakdown the DNA of tumour cells we are getting close all the time.


(Jane Jones) #5

A favorite quote from Judah Folkman (oncologist). In the late 1990s, he said ’ If you are a mouse with cancer, we can help you, but if you are human, it may take another 20 years’. Sadly his estimate was out, but I guess the mice are doing better all the time (or rather the mouse cells, since real mice aren’t used as much now).


(Paul Flinders) #6

No, if you are a human with cancer rather a lot can be done to help. Not always to cure but most definitely prolong life and reduce suffering.

Sorry John you have completely the wrong idea of stem cells.

True, but an oversimplification.

Cancer cells are not all the same, even in the same cancer. Each distant site or metastasis starts with a single cell so sometimes will have notably different characteristics from the original tumour.

Cancer cells are also not the same during the lifetime of the cancer - they continue to mutate because cancer cells have defective DNA damage detection and repair systems, and treatment either kills a portion which is sensitive to that treatment but other cells which are not will then grow - or a new mutation arises giving a population which is resistant. This is why treatment for advanced cancer only works for a while, if at all - it is actually a very good example of evolution in response to environmental pressures.

More Snake Oil, unfortunately.

One question to ask yourself is - “If Hoxsey’s therapy or antineoplastins or Vitamin C so good, why isn’t every oncology centre in the world using it”. Trust me, every oncologist on the planet wants to treat and cure cancer and if there were a miracle cure they would love to know about it.


(Jane Jones) #7

Paul, you’re being too focused on the individual words. Place a wry smile on your face and read the quote again. Essentially it’s saying we’ve got so far, but not yet all the way - but it will happen.


(Paul Flinders) #8

He was certainly a pioneer of work into angiogenesis and its role in tumour growth.

I can’t find the exact text that you supplied but I have found references to the quote and I think what he said was a bit different; it was this:

What he meant was that one needs to be cautious when looking at animal models, however good the results are there, because human tumours don’t necessarily behave the same.

In this he was proved correct - angiostatin (his discovery) did prevent the growth of tumours in mice but it did relatively little in humans.

Even today 20 years later while we have anti-angiogenesis drugs such as Bevacizumab they have had only a modest impact on cancer treatment (although I think that they have revolutionised treatment of macular degeneration).

Your last comment is quite correct though - we have come a long way with cancer treatments, especially in the last 20 years but there is a very long way still to go :slight_smile:


(John Withall) #9

Hi Paul, the idea of stems cells came from John Beard and his colleague who looked at the samples from John and stated they are stem cells from a baby but they were cancer cells from adults. It sounded like a possibility. Baring in mind this isn’t my topic I would love to read more about it if you have any links.

I did some digging into one site I read up on 8 years ago, it’s alternative but worth a read I feel.
https://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=512


(Paul Flinders) #10

This is quite good, a little long and technical but worth it if you can follow it through.

https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm

The most active stem cells in the adult body are probably those in the bone marrow and in the gut, but they don’t migrate and they loose the ability to turn into any tissue type (but there is research on whether this can be controlled).

The way you described it is closer to how they behave very early on in embryo development.

That link didn’t get me anything about stem cells.

Yes, there is a theory about stem cells in cancer but it is important to recognise we are not talking about normal stem cells, nor normal stem cells becoming cancerous in some way but a population of cells within the cancer which behave a little like stem cells in that they are not especially active and divide only slowly - they are, therefore, difficult to kill with cytotoxic chemotherapy.

However while cytotoxics are still very important in cancer chemotherapy they are fairly blunt tools. Most new drugs are targeted treatments which affect cancer cells in a different way to cytototoxic drugs and I am sure the importance of the older drugs will reduce over time.


(John Withall) #11

Sorry Paul, I should have flagged up that I changed topic to alternative treatment rather than stem cells.

“Yes, there is a theory about stem cells in cancer but it is important to recognise we are not talking about normal stem cells, nor normal stem cells becoming cancerous in some way but a population of cells within the cancer which behave a little like stem cells in that they are not especially active and divide only slowly - they are, therefore, difficult to kill with cytotoxic chemotherapy”.
That is about as far as I read up on the topic, I was glad to have all that behind me now. I will take some time to read up on the stem cells


(Paul Flinders) #12

Ah, OK.

I will admit that article is not the worst I have ever read but there is no evidence that Apricot kernels or amygdalin does anything to treat or prevent cancer - and there are some valid reports of toxicity from eating, especially in children.

Oh, one point from your earlier post - not sure why any oncologist would call you a maverick for using bicarb as a mouthwash. In fact there is good evidence that saline or bicarbonate made up as an isotonic solution is very effective at preventing and treating chemo induced mouth ulcers. I would agree about the high alcohol content of most mouthwashes (including Difflam which is very commonly handed out from chemo units) means that overuse will actually worsen things.


(Paul Flinders) #13

I think you might mean Sue Olifent who is said  to have recovered from metastatic pancreatic cancer (so one cancer in two places, not two cancers 10 years apart) with lifestyle and dietary changes including apricot kernels, various berries, tumeric1 and green tea.

Unfortunately there isn’t enough freely available information to really comment on her case. She has a book but I don’t really want to spend £12 to find out it doesn’t give enough details either.

We know from the summaries that she presented with abdominal pain and weight loss, had a scan which showed a 6cm mass in her liver, possibly causing some obstruction and some suspicious areas in her pancreatic tail.

We don’t know if she had the liver lesion biopsied - we know she refused biopsy of the pancreas. We are told she was informed that it was inoperable (fair enough) and untreatable (odd, this was in 2010, so palliative chemo should have been an option).

So we don’t really know how sound the diagnosis was - the presenting symptoms would fit but they’d fit for other things and not everything that looks like cancer on a scan is cancer (hence the importance of extra tests such as biopsies).

Even if she had cancer we don’t know that it regressed because of her alternative “treatment” or because something very odd happened - spontaneous regression of cancers is a recognised, albeit very rare, phenomenon - perhaps even in pancreatic cancer

1] There is actually some interest in the anti-cancer properties of tumeric so that one, at least, might have legs.

(Helen Wright) #14

The lady’s name is Pamela Kelsey…treated at the Hoxsey biomedical clinic in Mexico…from episode 1 of the truth about cancer a global quest…


(Helen Wright) #15

Yes I’ve heard of the anti-cancer properties of turmeric and when combined with black pepper is a natural anti-inflammatory…(super u actually sell this combination)

Turmeric combined with black pepper otherwise known as golden paste is really easy to make…I made some but mine tasted so horrible that I was glad to see super u stocks it and it will be on one of my future shopping lists…x :slight_smile:


(John Withall) #16

Mixed with coconut milk it is better.


(David Martin) #17

Great posts Paul.


(Paul Flinders) #18

OK, had to look that one up :slight_smile:

Her original diagnosis was 1975 so misdiagnosis is high up the list, CT scanners were in their infancy and not yet common in clinical practice.

There are also inconsistencies in her story - she was told that she was “fortunate because it was just beginning, just starting to go into the intestinal area” yet there is no mention of being offered surgery (which would have been standard at the time). So the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was made clinically, by the Hoxsey clinic itself and inappropriate treatment was recommended.

There is sort-of a rule which is that if a patient survives advanced pancreatic cancer for more than a couple of years you question the original diagnosis - in this case I would suggest that her very survival calls into question whether she had pancreatic cancer in 1975.

The second episode (in 2011, so 36 years later) seems on sounder ground - this time there is a CT scan and, apparently, an appearance of extensive involvement of her liver but, again, no mention of biopsies to prove the diagnosis.

I don’t know what the diagnosis was, nor whether the Hoxsey therapy cured whatever was going on but, I would come back to my question above.

If these treatments are so great why is the literature not full of trials attesting to their efficiency, why is it not standard practice across the globe?

The answer, unfortunately, is that these treatments do not work, one or two “miraculous” but questionable successes are held up as “proof” but little is said of the multitude of patients whose cancer did not get better (these clinics are rarely transparent).

The reason that we do trials is that medicine is wierd. Odd things happen and the placebo effect is real and powerful - we need to be sure that the benefits are not due to chance or both doctors and patients convincing themselves that the therapy did some good when it did not.

The hallmark of almost all alternative practitioners is that they do no reliable research and instead put their faith in testimonials and, well, faith.

But that does not stop them profiting from their cures - in her interview Kelsey states:

Yet the Hoxsey clinic charges $5,000 for a therapy.

Funny that.


(Paul Flinders) #19

Why thank you David :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


(Helen Wright) #20

I agree John that oncologists don’t like the questions from someone conducting their own research and enquiring about alternative/complementary medicine…My Dad refused chemo on ethical grounds…it’s a subject close to my heart and so many of our hearts…as one of my own daughters is currently living through a nightmare…

Wishing you only the very best of outcomes…I really think it helps so much that we all share our experiences…some may consider it anecdotal but I think our personal yet collective experiences are so important…xxx