MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Many cancer patients use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), mostly as an adjunct to conventional cancer therapies to improve the symptoms of the disease or to alleviate the side-effects of the often harsh cancer-therapy. The hope is that this approach leads to less suffering and perhaps even longer survival – but is this really so?

In a recently published study, Korean researchers evaluated whether CAM-use influenced the survival and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of terminal cancer patients. From July 2005 to October 2006, they prospectively studied a cohort study of 481 cancer patients. During a follow-up of 163.8 person-years, they identified 466 deceased patients. Their multivariate analyses of these data showed that, compared with non-users, CAM-users did not have better survival. Using mind-body interventions or prayer was even associated with significantly worse survival. CAM users reported significantly worse cognitive functioning and more fatigue than nonusers. In sub-group analyses, users of alternative medical treatments, prayer, vitamin supplements, mushrooms, or rice and cereal reported significantly worse HRQOL. The authors conclude that “CAM did not provide any definite survival benefit, CAM users reported clinically significant worse HRQOLs.”

Most proponents of CAM would find this result counter-intuitive and might think it is a one-off coincidental result or a fluke. But, in fact, it is not; similar data have been reported before. For instance, a Norwegian study from 2003 examined the association between CAM-use and cancer survival. Survival data were obtained with a follow-up of 8 years for 515 cancer patients. A total of 112 patients used CAM. During the follow-up period, 350 patients died. Death rates were higher in CAM-users (79%) than in those who did not use CAM (65%). The hazard ratio of death for CAM-use compared with no use was 1.30. The authors of this paper concluded that “use of CAM seems to predict a shorter survival from cancer.”

I imagine that, had the results been the opposite (i.e. showing that CAM-users live longer and have a better quality of life), most CAM-enthusiasts would not have hesitated in claiming a cause effect relationship (i.e. that the result was due to the use of alternative medicine). Critical thinkers, however, are more careful, after all, correlation is not causation! So, how can these findings be explained?

There are, of course, several possibilities, for example:

1) Some patients might use ineffective alternative therapies instead of effective cancer treatments thus shortening their life and reducing their quality of life.

2) Other patients might employ alternative treatments which cause direct harm; for this, there are numerous options; for instance, if they self-medicate St John’s Wort, they would decrease the effectiveness of many mainstream medications, including some cancer drugs.

3) Patients who elect to use alternative medicine as an adjunct to their conventional cancer treatment might, on average, be more sick than those who stay clear of alternative medicine.

The available data do not allow us to say which explanation applies. But things are rarely black or white, and I would not be surprised, if a complex combination of all three possibilities came closest to the truth.

123 Responses to Cancer patients who use alternative medicine die sooner

  • Fascinating stuff, and well worth further follow-up. Might I suggest a 4th possibility? That those patients with more severe symptoms (possibly correlating to more significant/advanced disease) are more likely to seek and employ alternative therapies.

    I shall be studying in more detail over coffee later I think.

    • isn’t that the same as my number 3? i.e. being more sick?

    • It should be noted that this is an “escape hatch” used by alt med proponents to excuse the fact that their nostrums do not seem to help cancer patients in any meaningful way. So although it may be true, at least for some, it does not really undermine the fact that there is no evidence that alt med does any good.

    • If the patients were using conventional therapies first, and we know their success rate isn’t great( even many chemo drugs say they cause cancer and we know radiation causes cancer down the road, and many drugs like tomoxifen are carcinogenic)now the variables change vs. if the patient never poisoned their immune system radically first. Now they go to alternative as a last resort, as so often happens. Please, 80% of doctors in cancer specialty won’t do chemo.

    • Wasn’t that number 3? Or is there a distinction I’m missing?

  • Are you familiar with the field cognitive epidemiology? My hypothesis is that CAM users are less intelligent than non-CAM users, and since intelligence predicts longevity, we should expect to see this correlation. So, it’s a self-selection bias-type hypothesis.

    • i am not aware of any comparisons of intelligence between alt med users vs non-users. but there are tons of data showing that users tend to be more educated…not the same, i know, but still…

      • Emil of Denmark wrote: “…since intelligence predicts longevity”

        Do you have a reference for that? I ask because in a survey examining the longevity of chiropractors vs. general population vs. MDs the lifespans of chiropractors turned out to be the lowest of the three groups:
        http://web.archive.org/web/20080828025434/http://www.jcca-online.org/client/cca/JCCA.nsf/objects/V48-3-P217-224/$file/V48-3-P217-224.pdf

        • brilliant!
          i did not know this article; nice one!

        • Looking at the data in this article suggests that the article itself is flawed. The article suggests in the introduction that the mean age at death for medical doctors is 81.5 years. But what is not mentioned is that this is the CURRENT mean age at death, or life expectancy. The data for chiropractor deaths goes back many years. One would expect in any decent analysis, to look at the mean age at death for each year, and compare that to the means for other populations.
          Nor is there any mention in the article of the geographic location of the chiropractors whose deaths were recorded. If we look at table 3 in the article, we find that the mean age at death for medical doctors is based on very little data, and the number chosen was for medical doctors based in 6 different nations, and included only 27 such doctors. A much larger sample of 475 medical doctors located in the UK, having a mean age of death of 75.2 years was ignored. Had the mean age at death for all medical doctors been taken as a whole, that age would have been (off the top of my head) somewhere around 76 years – much closer to the 74.2 years for chiropractors. And given that Table 3 does not reference the years of the deaths of those physicians, it is impossible to do an apples to apples comparison.

          • Another thing is that the statistics they are using are of people who are famous amongst chiropractors. Inovators discoverers people who spent their lives trying bc to better their craft. These are people that would have numerous stressors put upon them their whole lives which could very easily lead to early deaths.

        • Chiropractors would fit in with the less intelligent

    • ah huh…users of CAM are less intelligent. good one idiot.

      • Users of fake medicines are less intelligent than people that use actual medicine, by definition (at least, as far as their medical decisions go).

        • Can I just say that if you are given a death sentence it doesn’t really matter your intelligence. People have seen medicine fail before. These people might have seen it happen one too many times as I know I have or were convinced by people with over glorified research. That means nothing about they’re intelligence just about their desperation. They took a shot and it failed you can’t look down on them for that. The first person who used radiation or poisonous chemo was of the same mindset. To say that these people are less intelligent because they looked for another way other than just going along and just saying yes to the main stream science that has questionable mortality rates anyways just shows not only your lack of intelligence but also your lack of empathy for these poor people who took a chance to better their lives.

        • fake medicines not equal to CAM

          • If you are saying that CAM and integrative medicines are ‘fake,’ then I have to confess that I am one of the “less intelligent” folks who have succumbed to the blandishments of their supporters and actually used some of them. But ssshhhh!!!! Don’t tell! They might come and take back the Ph.D. I got from Duke University in 1998 because I am too “unintelligent” to merit the distinction any longer!

          • @Brenda,
            You are particularly fond of telling people about your PhD and where you got it (though you don’t mention for what it was awarded). You have also said this;

            “Oh…and as for my intelligence… I admit that I am not the sharpest crayon in the box, and less so after my intensive cancer treatments. But I did get my Ph.D. from Duke University, and I had a Mellon Fellowship when I went to grad school. So I’m not a total dolt, I suppose.”
            Let’s see.

            “I see that I was not completely clear, above. Yes, I used the full complement of conventional treatment. I am, today, thoroughly cut, burned and poisoned. I also used the alternative approaches I listed, chosen after investigating what kind of scientific, replicable evidence they had behind them. As well as a bit of mind-body stuff.”
            As this blog has often demonstrated, there is little evidence, if at all, for any of the alternative approaches and you were asked for for the “scientific, replicable evidence” but that is missing.

            “As for which worked…I have no idea. Did the chemo work? If so, which one of the three that I took? How can we tell? Did the surgery work? We only know what it did get out–not what it might have unknowingly left behind. Did the radiation work? Which one of these three “cured” me? What about the supplements? Which one of those “cured” me? How do we tell?”
            This is disingenuous; we can be fairly certain that the combination was recommended so that a complete cure might be found, and it was to date.

            “My supplements (and some changes in my junk food junkie diet) were presented to me in the same way–as my best chance to *support* my conventional treatments, as well as *support* my body in its efforts to weather the assaults of conventional treatment and in its efforts to bring the cancer-supporting processes happening within, back under normal control.”
            Apart from not eating junk food, the notion of “supporting” your body seems more of providing yourself with psychological support during a traumatic time.

            “I had no interest in choosing just one thing and trying it to see if it would bring the cancer under control again. I was fighting for my life, and I was going to try anything necessary — no matter how scary it was for me to put myself in the hands of people I feared more than just about anything else, no matter how strongly I’d always said I’d never do such things as cut/burn/poison. I was going to try anything necessary — provided there was some level of reasonable scientific evidence, publicly available for scrutiny, to back it up. And I wouldn’t change a thing, today.”
            Why do you use the pejorative term “cut/burn/poison” as if it is something that is to be avoided? Many people have their lives to thank for these treatments.

            I don’t know what the PhD was for but it doesn’t seem to have covered critical thinking and the avoidance of logical fallacies.

          • Intelligence has nothing to do with resort to witchcraft medicine. Many highly intelligent people smoke, abuse alcohol, take poor care of their diet and general health. As many have already said: some folk turn to sCAM from desperation, others because they deeply fear and mistrust orthodox medicine, others because they have been imbued from an early age with a sense of “spirituality” and the pseudo-scientific guff of altmed attracts them.
             
            @Brenda
            A PhD is definitively not a measure of intelligence. As Frank Collins already pointed out, it’s development of critical thinking that’s important. That and a true sense of scholarship — something I’ve found lacking in many of the PhD theses I’ve read.

          • Ah, touche, Frank. It has, however, been my experience and observation that critical thinking is the stock-in-trade of most advanced degree programs and the fields of endeavor that they support. That critical thinking sometimes seems to become domain-specific, with its practitioners in one field unable to appreciate how it should be applied in other fields and then show themselves able to do so.

            If we accept that “intelligence” is not reflected or even implied by educational attainment…

            And we know that the standard IQ test is not necessarily an accurate measure of global intelligence, but only of “intelligence” rather selectively defined…

            That leaves us with the question of how to define “intelligent”…unless it means “willing or unwilling to use CAM.”

            By that standard, I am a total buffoon, a blithering idiot. And if that is what some folks want to think, so be it. I can live with that.

          • Oh, as for references. I am not going to attempt to debate each of these, but if you wish to do so, fine. Here are a few to give you fodder for many more posts:

            1 Prasad CP, Rath G, Mathur S, Bhatnagar D, Ralhan R. Potent growth suppressive
            activity of curcumin in human breast cancer cells: Modulation of Wnt/beta-catenin
            signaling. Chem Biol Interact. 2009 Oct 7;181(2):263-71; Liu Q, Loo WT, Sze SC, Tong
            Y. Curcumin inhibits cell proliferation of MDA-MB-231 and BT-483 breast cancer cells
            mediated by down-regulation of NFkappaB, cyclinD and MMP-1 transcription.
            Phytomedicine. 2009 Oct;16(10):916-22; Labbozzetta M, Notarbartolo M, Poma P,
            Maurici A, Inguglia L, Marchetti P, Rizzi M, Baruchello R, Simoni D, D’Alessandro N.
            Curcumin as a possible lead compound against hormone-independent, multidrug-resistant
            breast cancer. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Feb;1155:278-83.

            2 Kunnumakkara AB, Anand P, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, invasion,
            angiogenesis and metastasis of different cancers through interaction with multiple cell
            signaling proteins. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):199-225

            3 Somers-Edgar TJ, Scandlyn MJ, Stuart EC, Le Nedelec MJ, Valentine SP, Rosengren
            RJ. The combination of epigallocatechin gallate and curcumin suppresses ER alphabreast
            cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Int J Cancer. 2008 May 1;122(9):1966-71

            4 Rahman et al. Cancer Res. 2005 Jan 1;65(1):364-71; Chang et al. Carcinogenesis. 2005
            Apr;26(4):771-8; Hong et al. Carcinogenesis. 2002 Aug;23(8):1297-305.

            5 Dalessandri et al. Nutr Cancer. 2004;50(2):161-7

            6 Conklin CM, Bechberger JF, MacFabe D, Guthrie N, Kurowska EM, Naus CC.
            Genistein and quercetin increase connexin43 and suppress growth of breast cancer cells.
            Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jan;28(1):93-100

            7 Schlachterman A, Valle F, Wall KM, Azios NG, Castillo L, Morell L, Washington AV,
            Cubano LA, Dharmawardhane SF. Combined resveratrol, quercetin, and catechin
            treatment reduces breast tumor growth in a nude mouse model. Transl Oncol. 2008
            Mar;1(1):19-27.

            8 Lin et al. Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 28;167(10):1050-9

            9 Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and
            calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin
            Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.

            10 Senzaki et al. World Rev Nutr Diet. 2001;88:117-25; Senzaki et al. Anticancer Res.
            1998 May-Jun;18(3A):1621-7; Rose et al. Clin Cancer Res. 1996 Oct;2(10):1751-6;
            Rose et al. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Apr 19;87(8):587-92.

            11 Hardman, J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3427S-3430S; Wen et al. Br J Cancer.
            2003 Sep 15;89(6):1102-7

            12 Yuen JW, Gohel MD. Anticancer effects of Ganoderma lucidum: a review of scientific
            evidence. Nutrition & Cancer 2005;53(1):11-7

            13 Jiang J, Grieb B, Thyagarajan A, Sliva D. Ganoderic acids suppress growth and
            invasive behavior of breast cancer cells by modulating AP-1 and NF-kappaB signaling.
            Int J Mol Med. 2008 May;21(5):577-84. Also see: Kodam et al. Altern Med Rev. 2002
            Jun;7(3):236-9; and Kidd. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Feb;5(1):4-27

            14 Harada et al. Cancer Lett. 2003 Mar 31;192(2):181-7; Chemical & Pharmaceutical
            Bulletin. 1989; 37(2):410-3; Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
            1995;768:243-5

            15 Thyagarajan A, Zhu J, Sliva D. Combined effect of green tea and Ganoderma lucidum
            on invasive behavior of breast cancer cells. Int J Oncol. 2007 Apr;30(4):963-9.

            16 Slivova et al. Nutr Cancer. 2005;52(1):66-73; Masuda et al. Clin Cancer Res. 2003
            Aug 15;9(9):3486-9; Kim et al. J Biol Chem. 2006 Apr 21;281(16):10865-75; Bigelow
            et al. Oncogene. 2006 Mar 23;25(13):1922-30; Waleh et al. Anticancer Res. 2005 Jan-
            Feb;25(1A):397-402

            17 Seely et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2005 Jun;4(2):144-55; Inoue et al. Cancer Lett. 2001
            Jun 26;167(2):175-82; Nakachi et al. Jpn J Cancer Res. 1998 Mar;89(3):254-61

            18 Garg et al. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005 Nov-Dec;7(11-12):1630-47; Chan et al. J
            Cell Physiol. 2006 May;207(2):389-96; Sugiyama et al. Cancer Lett. 1998 Nov
            13;133(1):19-26

            19 Stan SD, Hahm ER, Warin R, Singh SV. Withaferin A causes FOXO3a- and Bimdependent
            apoptosis and inhibits growth of human breast cancer cells in vivo. Cancer
            Res. 2008 Sep 15;68(18):7661-9; Also see: Mulabagal V, Subbaraju GV, Rao CV, et al.
            Withanolide sulfoxide from Aswagandha roots inhibits nuclear transcription factorkappa-
            B, cyclooxygenase and tumor cell proliferation. Phytother Res. 2009
            Jul;23(7):987-92; Stan SD, Zeng Y, Singh SV. Ayurvedic medicine constituent
            withaferin a causes G2 and M phase cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells. Nutr
            Cancer. 2008;60 Suppl 1:51-60.

            20 Sánchez-Barceló et al. Endocr Relat. Cancer. 2003;10(2):153-9.

            21 Kajdaniuk et al. Med Sci Monit. 2002 Jun;8(6):CR457-61

            22 Sephton et al. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jun 21;92(12):994-1000

            23 Whiteside et al. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 1998;230:221-44.

          • @Brenda
            Gosh! You’ve put up a huge list of references. But you haven’t done the scholarly thing of citing them as support for specific points you make. From a peep at a couple of the papers on your and from the titles (cancer’s not my field), what you’re citing mostly are papers that show effects of various natural products on cancer cell lines or tumour-strain mice. In what way does that support alternative medicine?
             
            Loads of pharmaceuticals originate from natural products, and their development from molecules that can be extracted from plants, microbes and other living sources invariably involves experiments of the type described in the majority of your references. But there’s a huge difference between a molecule and a drug (including toxicology, pharmacokinetics, formulability, scale-up production and many other factors) so the majority of molecules that work in cell lines and experimental animals never make it into medicine. We’re already fully aware of the ones that do make it; they are prescribed in medicine.
             
            If you wish to suggest that using an altmed modality such as a herb or dietary supplement which contains the molecules discussed in your list is evidenced for clinical efficacy by the studies you cite, you have, with respect, a huge amount yet to comprehend. If you wish to suggest that the molecules diluted beyond availability by homeopathic approaches can work because of these papers, then you’re wildly off base.
             
            Your ref. 9, which describes a clinical trial, is (on a brief look) a perfectly reasonable account of the significance of calcium and vitamin D as cancer preventatives, but this is orthodox nutritional medicine, not Big Snakeoil. The effects are teentsy but statistically significant. Note that figs. 1 & 2 are classic examples of exaggeration by graph (the Y-axis runs only from 90 to 100% for Kaplan-Meier plots!
             
            Please do us all several favours.
            1. Learn the differences between pseudoscientific CAM and orthodox medicine.
            2. Don’t imagine that effects demonstrable in vitro, ex vivo or in experuimental animals equate with proof of clinical efficacy.
            3. Remember how you wrote up your PhD thesis: for each point you make, state the point and cite the literature supporting what you say. If you just submitted a list of references as in your last post you’d fail.

          • OFrank…I have neither the time nor the interest in providing a blow-by-blow, citation-by-citation essay for you. So that takes care of your #3. As I said above, I am not going to debate these articles. You may look at them or not, as you wish, and use them as some indicator of whether CAM may have some demonstrable value…or not. As you wish.

            If you are intent on getting this kind of blow-by-blow, fully cited and referenced set of statements, I suggest you contact Keith Block. I’m sure you know who he is.

            In your #2 request, you make assumptions about what I know and what I believe. I am perfectly well aware of the limitations of the research on CAM.

            And your #1 request is just a re-statement of your own position within this framework: Once research on something proves its value, you deem it “orthodox” and deny its provenance. Until that time, something that is today only partially researched (though with promising early results) remains “snake oil” to you, and unworthy of consideration. I’m grateful that the researchers who are doing this work do not have your attitude, or there would be no work being done in this field at all.

            The field of CAM does indeed contain what, in my opinion, is snake oil. Claims and practitioners that one needs to be very, very wary of. But the entire field does not consist of snake oil claims and proponents. It has some scientific basis. Your mileage, OFrank, clearly varies.

          • @Brenda,
            “It has, however, been my experience and observation that critical thinking is the stock-in-trade of most advanced degree programs and the fields of endeavor that they support. That critical thinking sometimes seems to become domain-specific, with its practitioners in one field unable to appreciate how it should be applied in other fields and then show themselves able to do so.”
            How is that critical thinking? Critical thinking is not “domain specific”, or whatever you mean by that term apart from the meaning I have attached to it, limited to the area of study.

            I know a few PhDs too, as well as a few specialist medicos, and that trait is far from apparent. I don’t believe the academic standing of Australian universities is that much lower than Duke (lol) it would make a difference.

            “If we accept that “intelligence” is not reflected or even implied by educational attainment…

            And we know that the standard IQ test is not necessarily an accurate measure of global intelligence, but only of “intelligence” rather selectively defined…

            That leaves us with the question of how to define “intelligent”…unless it means “willing or unwilling to use CAM.”

            By that standard, I am a total buffoon, a blithering idiot. And if that is what some folks want to think, so be it. I can live with that.”
            If this is an example of your thinking, I’m inclined to agree with your conclusion. You also appear to show a substantial degree of self-affection which I don’t find endearing (but that is only my opinion).

          • @Brenda,
            “OFrank…I have neither the time nor the interest in providing a blow-by-blow, citation-by-citation essay for you. So that takes care of your #3. As I said above, I am not going to debate these articles. You may look at them or not, as you wish, and use them as some indicator of whether CAM may have some demonstrable value…or not. As you wish.

            If you are intent on getting this kind of blow-by-blow, fully cited and referenced set of statements, I suggest you contact Keith Block. I’m sure you know who he is.

            In your #2 request, you make assumptions about what I know and what I believe. I am perfectly well aware of the limitations of the research on CAM.

            And your #1 request is just a re-statement of your own position within this framework: Once research on something proves its value, you deem it “orthodox” and deny its provenance. Until that time, something that is today only partially researched (though with promising early results) remains “snake oil” to you, and unworthy of consideration. I’m grateful that the researchers who are doing this work do not have your attitude, or there would be no work being done in this field at all.

            The field of CAM does indeed contain what, in my opinion, is snake oil. Claims and practitioners that one needs to be very, very wary of. But the entire field does not consist of snake oil claims and proponents. It has some scientific basis. Your mileage, OFrank, clearly varies.”

            No one needs to point out your considerable flaws in logic and thinking, you provide numerous examples at which one can only marvel. You provide references that do not substantiate your claims and then get snotty when it is pointed out.

            As I also said, the condescension is obvious though entirely without worth. Too much self-affection, too little to back it up; spurious PhD or not.

          • Right. I bow out. “Spurious Ph.D.”

            Riiiiggghhhttt. I have a friend like you. He’s a dear friend from decades ago. But I have learned that there is no point in talking to him about certain subjects. Ergo, I will bow out here. My intelligence, my education, and my experience with and ideas about CAM are all suspect and beyond salvage.

            Everyone reading these comments, please disregard all I have written, as it is utterly without merit.

            See you later, Frank.

          • @Brenda,
            “See you later, Frank.”

            It is better to let people condemn themselves by their own words. Thanks.

            No amount of pointing out your illogical thinking and fallacies of logic will make any difference to you, infatuated, as you are, by your immeasurable intellect because you have a …………………………..PhD.

            A PhD is a measure of academic attainment, not a licence to know everything about everything. Did they teach you that in PhD school; they sure didn’t teach you anything about objective analysis. Thanks too for the little folksy “homily” though what it is intended to show is beyond me.

            Bye, bye….bye……………(frantic waving). (LMFAO)

          • @Brenda
            “something that is today only partially researched (though with promising early results) remains “snake oil” to you, and unworthy of consideration. I’m grateful that the researchers who are doing this work do not have your attitude, or there would be no work being done in this field at all. ”
             
            LOL! Just FYI, I spent very many years as one of those researchers. Molecules with pharmacological effects are not snakeoil; they’re research leads. But there’s a massive gulf between investigating natural-source molecules as potential pharmaceuticals and selling people unstandardized, unregulated herbal concoctions (which may or may not contain those molecules) as cures for disease without any evidence they can cure the disease or even relieve the symptoms: that’s snakeoil all right.
             
            The philosophical question nowadays facing discovery of novel natural products that have medical uses is whether or not there are any more waiting to be found. Does the DNA>RNA>protein basis of all kinds of life provide for infinite numbers of pharmacologically interesting molecules or have we now stumbled across most of the possibilities?

  • I can certianly see example #2 as being plausible. After all, St Johns Wort is touted for low mood and folk get very low after big, life threatening conditions/ operations.

    It does seem, though, that the numbers suggest CAM doesn’t help at all, but I would like to know how other variables affected the numbers. Stuff like health before cancer, lifestyle post treatment and so on. It may be that believing CAM makes you heal quicker/ better would result in people pushing themselves harder/ too hard during recuperation to their recoveries detriment?

    A breakdown of CAM therapy used and if it was an adjunct or a replacement for regular medicine may show some even more useful data.

    It’s certainly fascinating stuff!

    • In regard to whether people use CAM exclusively or as an adjunct for regular medicine–

      A partial answer may be found in Kelly Turner, Ph.D.’s, *Radical Remission*, in which she interviewed many, many people who were given terminal diagnoses and yet entered durable remissions, including disappearance of the disease. She includes the stories of 35 of those people in the book. A surprising number used alternative treatments exclusively when they were diagnosed with a recurrence after their initial diagnosis. Many others used alternative treatments in conjunction with conventional treatments.

      As for myself, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, Stage IIIB, TNM of 9. I had always sworn I would NEVER cut, burn and poison myself if I got cancer, but the severity of my situation made me know that I would most likely die if I relied exclusively on alternative treatments. So I used diet changes and a supplement regimen chosen in regular consultation with a fully qualified nutritionist–in addition to one very experimental approach for my first chemo.

      It am 5.5 years out, and as far as we can tell, I remain cancer-free. Oh…and as for my intelligence… I admit that I am not the sharpest crayon in the box, and less so after my intensive cancer treatments. But I did get my Ph.D. from Duke University, and I had a Mellon Fellowship when I went to grad school. So I’m not a total dolt, I suppose.

      • I see that I was not completely clear, above. Yes, I used the full complement of conventional treatment. I am, today, thoroughly cut, burned and poisoned. I also used the alternative approaches I listed, chosen after investigating what kind of scientific, replicable evidence they had behind them. As well as a bit of mind-body stuff.

        • Brenda said:

          I also used the alternative approaches I listed

          Just diet and supplements; from a ‘fully qualified nutritionist’? What’s one of them?

          chosen after investigating what kind of scientific, replicable evidence they had behind them.

          And what did that amount to?

          As well as a bit of mind-body stuff.

          What’s that?

          But, which therapies worked?

          • Allan, I used a high-quality Omega-3 fish oil, Co-Q 10, a mushroom mix, Vit D3, alternating green tea capsules (hate the tea!) and grape seed extract, DIM, etc.

            The nutritionist I used got his degree at UNC Chapel Hill, an MPH with a focus on nutrition. He provided me with his recommendations, and I was impressed that he could constantly cite this study or that study as a grounds for his suggestions. He later provided me with a written report from our visit, footnoted with all of the studies in question, so I could look them up and read them if I so chose.

            And I did choose. He never represented to me that these studies were as thorough as studies for, say, using Adriamycin. Of course, there are numerous reasons why the funding to conduct such studies is just not as robust as for a pharmaceutical like that. So of course the studies are limited. But some good, scientific work on these issues is out there, and not all of it is negative. I’m talking about studies published in medical and scientific journals.

            A couple of years later, I consulted with an integrative physician working at my cancer hospital, which, by the way, is a comprehensive cancer center. We went over my list of supplements and he made his own suggestions about which to keep, which to drop and which to add. After consideration, I adopted some of his recommendations.

            A year or two after THAT, I found a diagram published to illustrate graphically the scientific evidence for popular health supplements–in general. Not specifically for cancer patients. This is accessible on InformationIsBeautiful.net. The diagram separates supplements into the categories of strong, good and promising evidence, which it puts above a “Worth it” dividing line, and conflicting, slight and none, all of which categories fall below the “Worth it” line. I checked the list of supplements I’d taken over the years since my diagnosis (the list has shifted, with time, and is now much smaller since I’m in remission). I found that I have taken (and actually, I continue to take) 10 of the supplements above the “Worth it” line, and 10 below that line (taking only 4 of those, now).

            I had some friends who, meaning well, kept sending me stuff about how the evil medical establishment doesn’t want to cure cancer because it’s too lucrative a business, and how baking soda or IV Vitamin C or mistletoe or the Gerson diet — ALONE — could cure cancer. I went into the experience with medical PTSD due to a lengthy and unpleasant hospital stay when I was 5 years old. I was having a hard, HARD time trusting my doctors, and this garbage from my friends was not helping. I found the evidence for the things they were pushing to be exceedingly weak, and the constant harping on the “evil medical establishment” to be psychologically disastrous. So I went off on these friends–big-time. To this day, we remain friends, but we are not as close as we once were. There is a distance between us.

            By mind-body stuff, I mean meditation, relaxation tapes, journaling,… stuff like that.

            As for which worked…I have no idea. Did the chemo work? If so, which one of the three that I took? How can we tell? Did the surgery work? We only know what it did get out–not what it might have unknowingly left behind. Did the radiation work? Which one of these three “cured” me? What about the supplements? Which one of those “cured” me? How do we tell?

            As for the diet, that probably has helped. I lost about 50 lbs by changing my eating habits, and given that the breast cancer I had was 96% estrogen positive, and in post-menopausal women, body fat is a prime source of estrogen, I am sure that the weight loss was a positive thing. Did it, and it alone, cure me? Please…what kind of an idiot do you take me for?

            Chemo, surgery and radiation were presented to me by my treatment team as a synergistic effort–together, they gave me my best chance for becoming cancer free. My supplements (and some changes in my junk food junkie diet) were presented to me in the same way–as my best chance to *support* my conventional treatments, as well as *support* my body in its efforts to weather the assaults of conventional treatment and in its efforts to bring the cancer-supporting processes happening within, back under normal control.

            I came out of the experience with some mild heart damage due to the Adriamycin. A couple of years after treatment, I had cause to consult with a cardiologist, who found the damage noted in my chart. She suggested I start on some medication, but I asked her to check to make sure the damage was still there. No need to take a medication that wasn’t really necessary. And lo and behold, there was no more evidence of damage. Did the Co-Q 10 help that? She said — spontaneously, without my asking — that it might have.

            Allan, I had no interest in choosing just one thing and trying it to see if it would bring the cancer under control again. I was fighting for my life, and I was going to try anything necessary — no matter how scary it was for me to put myself in the hands of people I feared more than just about anything else, no matter how strongly I’d always said I’d never do such things as cut/burn/poison. I was going to try anything necessary — provided there was some level of reasonable scientific evidence, publicly available for scrutiny, to back it up. And I wouldn’t change a thing, today.

            (OK…well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been working on that medical PTSD since it raised its ugly head into the light of day at the time of my diagnosis, and if I could go back and go through the experience without that dogging me, it would be really good.)

  • So this study looks like it says that people who used alt-med felt worse in themselves, and the ones who used prayer had a greater tendency to die. Is that it or did I miss something?

    • essentially correct

      • God squad bulls$&T.
        All this stupid talk about God fixing things in modern day????!!!!!
        Read your bibles instead of bashing people with them and you would soon find that God stopped preforming miracles and using men as prophets agggggggeeeeees ago.

        You seem very intelligent so how did that little inconvenience give u the slip?

  • Is patient locus of control playing a significant role? I suggest that patients having an external locus of control are more likely to believe in fate and use mind-body interventions, other CAM, or prayers; those having an internal locus of control are more likely to believe in evidence-based interventions and take more responsibility for their treatment and quality of life.

    Another factor that could be significant is the patient’s concept of an afterlife: wonderful (something to look forward to) versus non-existent or horrible (something to actively avoid).

    • we can speculate endlessly about the factors involved. the existing data sets are probably not sufficient to address any of them adequately. this means that, if we really want to know, we better do the research and generate more data.

  • So the headline scattered across my twitter feed, which seemed to casually imply that alt med, of any and all kinds, hastens your death from cancer, would be, on closer inspection, a misreading on my part?

  • So it was my misinterpretation. I thought it must have been. Clearly the sentence ‘Cancer patients who use alternative medicine die sooner ‘ in the absence of further explanation, does not in any way imply a causal link between a premature death and alternative medicine. At all.
    I can only console myself that I’m not alone in this misapprehension. Various people have excitedly retweeted this. A Mr Kausic Datta has gone so far as to exclaim ‘quelle surprise’ when confronted with this vague study that really warns us of the apparent danger of prayer when gravely ill, at least as far as the death side of things goes. Perhaps that was what he was referring to and I’m wrong again, after all it wouldn’t be the first time.

    • if you read the title carefully, you will realise that there is not a hint of implication of causality. if you read the article at all you realise that the question was considered in some detail and that causality was rejected by me. so what are you on about? surely not that someone else wrote “what a surprise” [for those you do not read french].???!

    • No, it doesn’t. It does, however, sow that the many tales of mutually contradictory alternative miracle cures are probably wrong.

  • That was meant to be “motivation for use” in the comment above. But, to answer your question, there were 1588 completed survey responders. And the most interesting findings were that 63.6% had some kind of post-secondary education, there was an equal spread of stage I to IV cancer diagnosis, 88% had also received conventional cancer treatment in addition to using the tea blend, almost half had been using the tea blend for more than a year, 50% reported symptom improvements (fatigue, nausea, appetite loss being the top three), 64% discussed their use of CAM with their physicians, and about 5% had some kind of minor side effect like diarrhea or upset stomach. So all in all, it’s more of just a snapshot of who was using it, why, and how they felt it was helping. A self-selecting group with self-reported results but generally positive stuff reported that could help inform other more focused studies. It would be really interesting to have followed mortality rates with usage with this one.

  • Edzard, I am glad you were not my oncologist. What an insensitive title to your post: “Cancer patients who use alternative medicine die sooner”, when as you point out at the end there are many factors which could explain why cancer patients die and somehow I cant see whether they have a massage or not in the Royal Marsden will make a great deal of difference to mortality rates of cancer patients.

    As you know, I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer exactly two years ago. Radiation, surgery, a colostomy bag and six months chemotherapy, left me with no sensation in my hands and feet, 15 kilos over weight and unable to walk 100 meters without getting breathless. During treatment you just want to feel a bit better, that may be eating sweets, smoking a joint, having a massage anything that might make it a bit easier and help get you to the last session of chemo, I can see why people turn to God for help, I had Popeye the Sailor Man. Then you get to the last treatment and you continue to deteriorate. No statement describes it better; “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”.

    So what was I to do? August 30th 2012, I was free of cancer the doctors had done their job and they had nothing else to offer me. Nobody knows if the cancer will stay away or what my prognosis is. I could change nothing and see if I make five years or I could take a proactive approach to my health and well being and see if I make five years. I choose the latter, in four weeks time I hope to complete a Marathon, not just any marathon, a marathon on the Great Wall of China which takes the elite about 4 hours. By any objective criteria I am fitter and happier than I have been in 20 years and CAM played a big role in me getting me here. Am I cured? Who knows the grim reaper sits on my shoulder, motivating me to eat my greens exercise and relax by meditating because I believe it will reduce the odds of the cancer returning, then again perhaps I should not be pushing my body like this, with an arthritic right knee and my back aches after every ten mile run, I see a chiropractor three times a week. What does all this prove? Like the study above; Nothing.

    We are all going to die and for many of us its going to be cancer. Even if I become one of the statistics in the above point of view, they have missed the most important factor in my living with cancer. I always had hope of extra day of life. I will have died happy and given it my best shot to see my kids grow up. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, my mind, body and spirit are ready, not many can say that.

    • the whole point of the article was to show that causality is NOT established. i think you mis-interpret the article and even the title. i also ask the question whether, had the correlation been the other way round, would the alt med camp have claimed causality. i see this as an exercise in critical thinking. please try to see it that way too.

      • Edzard, you wrote: “…had the correlation been the other way round, would the alt med camp have claimed causality.”

        I must agree with you on that one. The leaps of logic of some of the more populist of the altmed folks and their persistent willingness to vilify conventional medicine in strong (stronger, strongest) terms was very off-putting to me. And continues to be so. The real kicker, for me, is when I see egregious blanket statements about CAM being spouted by the conventional medical community, as well. One side can be just as knee-jerk and blind as the other, sometimes. During the initial stages of my treatment, I wrote a whole little essay about these two “gods” of medicine, and how I despised both of them for their invective against each other.

    • “I see a chiropractor three times a week.”
      Well, at least you don’t have to go very far for that. You are a chiropractor so walking into the next treatment room doesn’t involve much travel. Why did you turn to the so-called allopathy for cancer? According to the claims made chiropractic, it cures most human ills.

      As for sensivity, who cares whether a doctor is “sensitive” or not? The only thing I care about is competency. The reason chiropractors care about “sensivity” is that it builds trust with their “patients” so they can perform more useless treatments and continue to fleece them of their money.

  • What about the quality of life of the survivors?

  • Unfortunately I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years which had badly metastasized and I was pretty ill but I focused. I did a lot of reading, a lot of talking and then a lot more reading. Using what I suppose is “CAM” therapy, I beat my cancer with a combination of approaches – I still read articles like this with interest because I don’t think we will ever truly find an answer to what works best. For me, it was DCA and I’m thankful every day for reading before deciding anything.

    • Sarah – a survivor said

      Unfortunately I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years which had badly metastasized and I was pretty ill but I focused. I did a lot of reading, a lot of talking and then a lot more reading. Using what I suppose is “CAM” therapy, I beat my cancer with a combination of approaches…

      So, were you also having conventional treatments as well and how do you know what it was that worked?

      • A combination of DCA, cutting sugar from my diet and IV Vit C. No “conventional” treatment but wouldn’t rule it out in the future. At this point my doctor (NHS) has declared me cancer free but I’ll never rule anything out should the cancer come back.

  • Surely it’s dependent on the patient’s specific cancer, and overall lifestyle. I know people whose cancer has completely disappeared from Gerson therapy alone. I also know people whose cancer had a positive result from chemo/radiotherapy, but of course many who haven’t. I am not taking either side in the argument for or against alternative therapy vs. conventional medicine in treating cancer. However, I believe there should be a choice for the patient when they are diagnosed. They should be told about drugs AND alternative medicine, and the pros and cons of both.

    • yes, cancer patients should be told the honest truth and scientific evidence about all options so that they can make up their own minds. if we do this objectively, we will have to say that there is no alternative cancer cure.

    • M Walker said:

      I know people whose cancer has completely disappeared from Gerson therapy alone.

      You may well know people who have used gerson ‘therapy’ and whose cancer has subsequently disappeared (assuming there was a positive diagnosis in the first place), but I seriously doubt that you know that there was any causation.

      However, I believe there should be a choice for the patient when they are diagnosed. They should be told about drugs AND alternative medicine, and the pros and cons of both.

      So, what do you class as alternative ‘medicine’ and what ‘pros’ do you think those people should be told about them?

  • I’m curious about something. I had cancer some years ago and did everything the doctors prescribed – no CAM for me. I religiously have my ongoing cancer check ups and they tell me I am fully recovered and the chance of recurrence is no more for me than for the general population. One side effect of my treatment (among many, both temporary and permanent) was terrible nausea, vomiting and inability to eat or keep food down during treatment. Even taking the anti-nausea medication they prescribed for me (3 pills a day for two months at $75 a pill!) didn’t seem to work for me. Then a friend gave me some marijuana to try (something I never would have thought of). I totally hated (and still do hate) getting high but it did work – one or two puffs and I actually could eat a modest amount and keep it down. Here’s my question – is using marijuana the way I did considered CAM? My evidence is purely anecdotal. It sure felt like a true physiological effect. Placebo effect? Was I fooling myself? Has marijuana been studied?

    • i am not an expert in the benefits of cannabis; but i think there is quite a bit of evidence that it is effective for nausea. i would not include it under the umbrella of alt med, however.

    • “one or two puffs and I actually could eat a modest amount and keep it down”
      When I was much younger and had the occasional joint, we called it the “munchies”. Dope makes you hungry and sleepy, so you got exactly what most other users get from it. No secret there.

  • If the “whole point of the article was to show causality is not established” perhaps you should have used a question mark in the title, as I said the title was “insensitive” to cancer patients using CAM, I did not try to interpret anything from the study, we both agree it proves nothing one could just as easily argue the people who prayed were happier, because they believe they are going to paradise when they die. I just provided a personal experience of cancer treatment and empathy towards terminally ill people who often just want their spirits raised, something you dont give much thought to, in my opinion.

    Last April on Twitter you described a terminally ill elderly man who decided not to have chemotherapy as a “victim of CAM”, were my cancer to come back as terminal and I decided that I could not face another 18 months of treatment, would you also describe me as a victim of CAM? As I think it would be very hurtful to my family, you being a doctor and everything.

    • yes, i could have put a “?” on the other hand, i could also have used a “!”
      what you do not seem to realise is that this blog is for critical analysis of alt med; it is not a patient support group exercise. and what i said on twitter some time ago has little impotatnce for this blog or much else. twitter has a different purpose again, in my view.

      • What this blog seems to promote are two things:

        1) agree with Professor Ernst and get a pat on the back from him and his regular commentators
        2) disagree with Professor Ernst and his sensationalist headlines and have fun made at your expense

        • Which comment do you perceive as making fun at anyone’s expense?

        • I disagree. To me,

          1. If the pat on the back means that he gives a supportive comments in return to the ones he likes, that makes sense, don’t you think? That’s what happens when people agree with one another; it provokes a positive reaction. I don’t know that that would be any different on any other blog, regardless of topic.

          2. Ernst has said repeatedly that this article and the studies cited are food for thought, and that he’s written this piece because the question is interesting to him, as a scientist and a skeptic. He states in the article, “So, how can these findings be explained?” And then offers three *possibilities*.

          ‘These findings’ is not the same as ‘this fact’; he’s analyzing the results of studies as they raise important questions. “The authors of this paper concluded that “use of CAM seems to predict a shorter survival from cancer.” Obviously he has a slant because he is a skeptic, but he never says, “This is true. I KNEW it!” Both in the article and in his comments, things are left in the air as inconclusive, and reason for further discussion and study. To be honest, I found his approach fair and rather refreshing.

          3. I am not crazy about the title, either; I do think it was irresponsible.

          I don’t see where he’s made fun of the people who disagree with him, though. Which comments did you mean, exactly?

          I think that as blog posts/opinion pieces go, the author has been a generally good and respectful sport.

          Are the exchanges in CAM-supportive blogs usually different somehow? Not sarcastic; it’s an honest question because I don’t know.

        • In other words, if you:

          1) agree with the requirement for evidence of efficacy then you may get a pat on the back.
          2) disagree with scientific evidence then you then you will likely be thought of as a numpty.

          Simples, innit?

  • 4) Use of alternative medicine crowds out the conventional kind. This is a variant of #1, whereby alternative medicine patients are not as meticulous with regards to following treatment protocols as other patients.

    5) Physicians who tolerate alternative medicine are less apt to apply aggressive conventional treatments. Or maybe they outsource some of their pain management, to the detriment of the patients.

    Overall, I wasn’t surprised by the longevity results. Quality of life is another matter: I would have thought that the extra attention paid by alternative medicine practitioners would help. It might be interesting to replicate the study in a US region that practices aggressive managed care.

    At any rate, this is an interesting study: it’s worth drilling into a little.

  • CAM users reported significantly worse cognitive functioning … than nonusers.

    I suppose a causal relationship there is at least plausible…

  • I realise your blog is not a support group, however you are aware your opinions and statements are widely circulated because you are a professor and a doctor. Not sure I would call your “imagination” getting ahead of the study “critical analysis” when you stated “I imagine that, had the results been the opposite (i.e. showing that CAM-users live longer and have a better quality of life), most CAM-enthusiasts would not have hesitated in claiming a cause effect relationship” . They may have done and they may not have done, its just pure speculation on your part.

    • critical analysis can, of course, include imagining what might have happened, had the results be different – not least because in the last 20 years i have come across uncounted occasions where unwarranted conlusions have been drawn based on flimsy data. several previous posts on this blog bear witness of this phenomenon. in contrast to my critics, i do tend to differentiate clearly between imagination and fact.

  • Okay, you are an MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd heh! How long would you cure flu or cold with your conventional method?

    Me, am none of the above MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd. I’m a researcher. Without a researcher, none of your MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd work anyway.

    To prove who can cure a common cold or flu quicker, Let both of us have a contest. We both catch flu at the same time. Who can cure the flu faster win. You are an MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd and I’m just an ordinary researcher. I already know your answer, There is no cure for flu, WRONG! There is and it took less than three days to cure it.

    ANY, MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd up for a challenge? For better proof, get all the major broadcasters like CNN, ALJAZEERA and ABC document both of us 24/7.

    I have been testing this cure for the last 10 years and it still work to this day 2013, September 01. I will proof your worlthless MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd to the dirt!

    Ek Sangha

    • Ek Sangha,
      I am waiting in breathless anticipation for your flu cure. When will it be available for sale?

      What, you mean it doesn’t really work at all and you made it all up? :)

  • You have such a chip on your shoulder. I wonder what terrible thing happened to you to fill you with such vitriol. I assume you don’t believe in prayer, but I will pray for you anyway. Just like acupuncture and herbal medicine prescribed and administered by an appropriately trained and skilled practitioner, you don’t have to believe in it in order for it to work.

    :-)

  • The real comparison shoul be done between conventional medicine and each of the protocols of alternative medicine, exactlying replicating the protocol (not doing as Mayo Clinic did with Dr. Ewan Cameron and Dr. Linus Pauling when they did not replicated the protocol of those two doctors to study the role of Vitamin C). There are many useless alternative medicines as you say in your post, but the real and relevant question is to be made by conventional medicine and it seems they don´t want to do so. How and why people cured from cancer without conventional medicine? This question has never been investigated. Why? These two videos may give a clue to the answer:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBUGVkmmwbk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWLrfNJICeM
    This is a statement from someone who took vit B17 to treat a cancer with an expected life very short and lived 27 years. Obviously besides vit. B17, the protocol has other substances. If one wants to be honest should compare the exact protocol and not a different version to achieve the results that best meet the hidden objectives like Mayo´s clinic did with Pauling:
    http://nancysniche.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/my-mother-survived-cancer-without-chemotherapy/
    We should not be talking about conventioanl and alternative medicine. We should be talking about what is better for each situation and unfortunaly I think that this is not what it is done. If there is a cure all the focus should be in: What happened? I don´t believe in miracles or spontaneous remissions. A reason must be found. But it seems that no one looks for that reason. No looks no findings. The intelligent people from this forum can anser me why?

    • Gawd … Burzynski, laetrile* and vitamin C for cancer. And YouTube videos for “evidence.” You think we don’t know about Burzynski and Eric Merola, the advertising man who made the two infomercials for Count Stan?

      You forgot Gerson. And Hulda Clarke’s zapper. And Robert O. Young alkaline pH “miracle.” Hey, I heard iscador (misletoe) works. And what about cannabis?

      They all have videos too. That’s all they have.

      *There is, and has never been any such thing as “vitamin B17.”

  • The last line SHOULD have read ‘there is NOT, and never has been …”

    • Sorry Woo Fighter, but you didn’t understand anything of what I wrote. It is not my job to make you think and understand.

      • @ Joao
        You seem to think that you have discovered a hidden secret in a couple of youtube videos and an anecdote.
        We know such mistakes all too well. This is what we are dealing with daily in our fight against health fraud and misinformation. The two videos are good examples of charlatanry and outright lies that we already know very well.
        Dr Burzynski is a well known false and fraudulent cancer doctor and you can find a lot of material to confirm that. Watching Eric Merola’s film will not show you the truth about Burzynski. As for the other film, just go to wikipedia and look up the list of ineffective cancer therapies. There you will find out what is with all these supposedly hidden miracles.

        We know very well the real, sad truth behind these two propaganda videos. They are simply fake and full of misrepresentations of the truth.

        If you read the anecdote about Laetrile/B17 again you may notice that the lady had real, modern (at that time) treatment. She both had surgery and very strong radiotherapy. The operation is what saved her life and perhaps the two massive doses of postoperative radiotherapy. The doses used at that time were not small.
        Her longevity was not due to a silly diet and apricot kernel extracts. She was simply lucky to have a cancer that was removed properly.

        • This is my last post. You still don´t understand. I am a conventional doctor and my experience is similar to the link below but not equal. My results show an improvement in chemotherapy so this data is out of date, although I still think that doing nothing is in the majority of the cases (excluding some blood cancers) better than being treated:
          http://www.rethinkingcancer.org/resources/magazine-articles/2_1-2/cancer-cures-more-deadly-than-disease.php

          Do you know that chemoterapy is the only medical treatment that has never been compared to placebo? The new drugs are only compared to other chemoterapies or to the same with different doses? Do you know what means a cure (survival rate after 5 years)? And there is nothing said about the rate of death before 6months, one year or two years? Do you know how many die sooner because of conventional therapies? And the guilt is always the cancer (poor cancer). Oncologists have permission to kill and give the excuse of a rapidly metastatic cancer or failure of the heart or lungs or another excuse to blame. They don´t ever say the patient has died because of chemoterapy or consequences of it, or that the cancer spread quickly because of the destroyed immune system of the patient or because of the killing of the red cells by chemotherapy and less oxygen for the body that is like sugar to cancer cells. Do you know how cancer cells appear and grow? Do you know that the malignant stem cells who are responsable for the metastics are resistent to chemoteraphy? Do you know that for the majority of cancers the metastics are the cause of death and not the size of the tumor? Do you know that in many autopsies (I personally made) the patient had a cancer that was not known in life (lucky guy, because he lived longer doing nothing)? I always asked myself since 30 years ago when I graduated, why it was so difficult to cure a cancer. If you have a depressed imune system you can get cancer or an infection. But if you recover, your body can beat the infection (even ebola) but for the medicine this could never occur with cancer. Why? This is was very strange to me. We know cancer cells appears every day, but our body get rid of them without us knowing. Cancer cells are anaerobic, acid and need sugar to survive. Why is so difficult to cure it with nontoxic therapeutics? My professors could not give me an answer. It seems a paradox. With so many papers written in literature over the years (just go to pubMed) about many and many substances with anti-cancer properties, why the treatment over the last 70 years is still the same unproven and very toxic treatment? Have you ever enter a clinic to see what the treatment does to people?
          Regarding wikipedia and Burzynski just read:
          http://www.burzynskimovie.com/index.php/frequently-asked-questions#.VE0StBavw1o
          There you find some research published with antineoplastons made in Japan.

          I am not going to answer no more replies. If you are happy with the official “truth” so be it. I can’t do anything. Big Pharma love good and ingenuous people like you.

          • I am a conventional doctor…

            I really hope this is a bad joke. Perhaps something similar to the sour humour of “The Landover Baptist church” website, which in rather poor taste ridicules religious extremism.

            Because if “Joao” really is a doctor of medicine, people with real and serious diseases might be going to him/her for advice and trusting him/her. Judging from what “Joao” has written we are dealing with a rather serious peril. If “Joao” really is a physician, then he/she has clearly abandoned the profession and disregarded medical science in favour of imaginative make believe truths outside proven knowledge and rationality. “Joao’s” rambling list of erroneous notions about cancer is a truly sad reading.

            Oncologists have permission to kill and give the excuse of a rapidly metastatic cancer or failure of the heart or lungs or another excuse to blame. They don´t ever say the patient has died because of chemoterapy or consequences of it, or that the cancer spread quickly because of the destroyed immune system of the patient or because of the killing of the red cells by chemotherapy and less oxygen for the body that is like sugar to cancer cells.

            This example is only one of many that indicate not only deep contempt for fellow humans but complete lack of knowledge and understanding of medicine in general and cancer in particular, its nature and modern therapy.
            Referring to Stanislaw Burzynski as someone to go to with cancer is like suggesting you go to a butcher to mend a broken hip. Burzynski might have had a medical education as a young man and been a promising researcher 30 years ago but since early in his career he has been nothing more than an outright and demonstrable swindler. There is ample evidence for that.
            Also, believing the blatant lies from mountebanks like Hardin B. Jones and similar health-deceivers, that the sum result of modern cancer treatment is negative i.e. more people die of the treatment than would have died without it, is similar to claiming that more people die every year in plane crashes than the number who travel annually in aeroplanes. Grade school education should be sufficient to understand the irrationality of such a notion.
            How in the world would oncologists, surgeons, nurses, physiotherapists and anyone working with cancer therapy, for many decades be able to hide and falsify results on a global perspective? Doctors and their loved ones get cancer too and it is completely impossible that we all in unison would have been able to swindle and defraud our patients year after year if modern medical cancer treatment was so dismally dysfunctional.

            I have given up trying to exhibit tolerance and respect towards individuals like “Joao” who maintain the ridiculous view that since medicine isn’t perfect then there must be an alternative perfection to be found in anything that the cat brought in.
            I do not care didley squat if he/she had ten doctoral degrees and a nobel price or two. He/she is WRONG. There is no “alternative” or “complementary” truth or reality out there to fill in the voids.
            A person, presenting drivel as in the comment above, is either seriously dishonest or simply not sound.
            I have all my life been a philanthropist and a true believer in the good and honesty of my fellow human beings. I have always tried to be polite and considered it wrong to use derogatory words to describe any shortcomings of the character or honesty of my fellow human beings. But what else is there to fall back on in a case like this?
            I have myself recently lost loved ones to cancer. I have spent a good part of my professional life treating cancers and other dismal diseases, using all my dexterity and skill to whittle out tumours and my intellect, education and skills together with other experts to choose at any time the best available treatment alternatives for every patient. I have saved lives and I have not saved some. I have spent hours, day and night, in agony and elation operating victims of cancer. The net result of my efforts and the collected, credible and repeated medical and scientific evidence tells me that modern cancer therapy is on the right track. Although not perfect as we all agree, the progress has been and still is nothing less than astounding.

            To me and all other health professionals, writings such as those of “Joao” and his/her likes are a dismally deep and dishonest insult!
            Should I perhaps be polite and deviously diplomatic in my verdict of “Joao’s” dangerous drivel and simply be content with paraphrasing W.S.Churchill’s evaluation of T.E. Lawrence about whom he said: “He was not altogether in harmony with the normal”?
            No, I do not see any reason to be polite or diplomatic when confronted with an obviously unsound health professional (or one pretending to be one?) who promotes perilous doings.
            Promoting quackery like Burzynski’s or advising against proper modern cancer therapy is demonstrably very very wrong and may prove to be nothing less than life threatening to people seeking help for cancer.
            I will let you guess what I could be tempted to call “Joao”. This is after all a public and civilised venue.

  • Björn Geir:

    Did you see “Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business part 2?”. It is now in Vimeo.
    Go to the seconds between 1:29:00 and 1:29:25. My answer to your post is there.

    • You know what “Joao”… You missed!
      If you had done a little bit of homework (like simply google the name of the young woman) , you would have saved yourself a lot of embarrassment.
      The 25 second part you refer to of this terribly tasteless propaganda movie, shows a young couple at a critical period in the young woman’s life. She is suffering from a deadly disease and they have put their faith in the piss-products that Burzynski has been poisoning his poor patents with for almost four decades.
      In the 25-second part, which you thought would be a fitting put-down for me, the couple, who spent a fortune on treatments by Burzynski, tell his critics to “f..ck off”. I guess you were meaning to tell me to do the same but there you failed, miserably. I can well understand their sentiment at the time because the old idiot had led them to believe that she was getting better.
      Instead of getting better Laura died a few months later.
      The young woman, Laura Hyman, whom Burzynski used as a success story in that tasateless and blatantly deceiptful propaganda film, died last spring only a short while after Burzynski had told her she was cured. They were so happy and got married a few months later. Three weeks after that she was dead.
      So much for the success of “antineoplastons”.
      Laura’s brain tumour, which was cystic at first, went its usual, deadly course and the cyst seemed to recede on scans. Not because the tumour was receding but because it was getting more aggressive.
      She was used by Burzynski and Merola, who even today uses this case for money making propaganda. Burzynski charges his patients fortunes for his therapy, which he is allowed to perform because he promises they are a part of clinical trials. That is the trick he has been using for decades to be able to take the money from patients with deadly diseases and deceive them, one after another.
      Now does he finish these trials and publish the results? NOPE. He has NOT published ONE SINGLE paper about the results of his ancient “invention”, the antineoplastons.
      No one else has been able to use the stuff for anything good either.
      Out of 61 clinical trials of Burzynski listed here, ONE single trial out of the 61 is registered as completed but there isn’t even any results listed and nothing published!!!
      But Burzynski has their money, lots of it, and part of it he has used to pay Eric Merola well for producing the films so that he can continue to lure patients to his false treatments. On Vimeo they are even asking people to contribute to the “cause”!!! That is what I call evil.

      There is not one confirmed and credible case of a successful Burzynski’s therapy to be found anywhere. There are a lot of anecdotes, many of them (like Lauras’) hampered by the Burzynski propaganda machine, but none that can be independently confirmed as successful.
      Typical reasons for cases that seem to be successful but cannot be confirmed or are later shown to be failures (like Laura Hymas’) are:

      –The patient never had cancer.
      –A cancer was cured or put remission by proven therapy, but questionable therapy was also used and erroneously credited for the beneficial result
      –The cancer is progressing but is erroneously represented as slowed or cured. (Like Laura Hymas’ case)
      –The patient has died as a result of the cancer (or is lost to follow-up) but is represented as cured.
      –The patient had a spontaneous remission (very rare) or slow-growing cancer that is publicized as a cure.

      If you want to read more credible anecdotes about the results of Burzynski’s cancer treatments, why don’t you look here:
      http://theotherburzynskipatientgroup.wordpress.com/

      Tell you what “Joao”… You are plain and simple WRONG.

      Next time you write on this web, do your homework, like a proper physician would do.

      • Who calls to the most cruel and barbabrian chemoteraty a treatment? Hitler? Staline? You know very well that returning cancers are frequent when doing “treatment” with chemoterapy. Laura did chemoterapy. You forgot to say that Burzynski treatment allowed by FDA is a poison gift (if you are a real oncologist you know what I am talking about). You forgot to say that the link you sent to me says: “Laura had been completely clear [of cancer] for 18 months. Even her oncologist here said she was an exception” or “When we found out the cancer had come back we asked for the same treatment but Laura was denied it. We were in contact with her doctor in America and he applied for the legal right to treat her again but this was declined. We could have fought it legally but we just didn’t have time.” OOps you “forgot”.
        If you are a real oncologist you know every thing I said in past posts are truth. If you are a real oncologist you know that it is more and more frequent to see someone with a second cancer, a third cancer or even a fourth cancer simultaneously after beginning treatment. Bad luck???? That didn´t happen 20 years ago with the same frequency, and chemotheray was already given. Why??? You are being dishonest and you know that. When people want to talk bad about someone they emphasize the failures. But they never tell the truth about conventional “treatments”. If you are a real oncologist and no alternative medicine works or lifestyle or nutrition or something else, then do nothing. Let the patients live longer and with more quality.
        And yes I am a man. And yes, my name is Joao. In reality it is João. I don’t put the accent when I write in English. And if I am a doctor, yes I am. And if I heal people, no I don’t. I only see the mess oncologists do to patients when they die. Unfortunately the majority of “deaths from cancer” don’t go to do an autopsy. But many have already gone by my hands. I don’t know which is the better treatment for each cancer but what I know is that medicine is allowing people to be murdered legaly with treatments that were never been tested for security and effectiveness. I repeat: there is no evidence of security and effectiveness for conventional “treatment”. Correction, there is clear evidence that they are dangerous, cruel and will be in the future in the number one top list of the most barbarian and cruel treatments from the past. They will call us barbarians.
        I have already answered too much. I will not replie any more to your posts because it is worthless and I know from your answers that you are not a doctor. We both know who you are. My previous answer applies.

        • So, where are the “clear evidence” ?
          How about stop your load of fallacy (one godwin point for you) and show the clear evidence about the inefficiency of modern medicine cancer treatement ?
          How do you explain that the cancer rate are declining from the past 10 years ? (Last report of american cancer society http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140107102634.htm)
          Why are you mixing “alt med” with lifestyle or healthy diet ?
          Why are you so dull about the antineoplaston bullshit ? Proof are here : it’s money-money. Or do you have some evidence ? (I mean, no youtube video seriously lol ! You have for sure been taught about how to do proper reference during your M.D !)

        • I made one small mistake in my comment above, which might make it difficult for the audience to Google the case.
          Please note that in one place I wrote Laura Hyman The correct spelling of her name was Laura Hymas.
          It is easy to confirm with a little web-search that the confused nonsense in Joao’s reply is mostly copied directly from Bursynzki’s propaganda material.

  • I see in the comments the “it worked for me” crowd is up in arms.

    Statistically you are better off with conventional treatment, just because something works for you doesnt mean when applied to the population at large it will save the maximum number of lives.

    Also please read up on post hoc fallacy. You can never know what exactly killed your cancer.

    Then there is the uncomfortable fact that many champions of the movement for CAM vs cancer, after years of blogging and promoting, come out and admit their cancer returned and they now have to relent and try some chemo.

    “It works for me” is not something any responsible clinician could ever accept as evidence. And how would you even know the cancer truly is gone if you hadnt gotten some medical radiation in the form of an XRay to find out?

  • I am an oncology nurse who has watched many, many people die from cancer, patients and my own family members. I am inclined to believe that a majority of the people using CAM as an ADJUNCT to traditional treatments (chemo/radiation/surgery) have probably tried everything else already. They are at the end of their ropes. They are suffering and willing to try ANYTHING for a small amount of relief. They are already dying. By the time I see these people they are usually past the point of hope for a cure, so I can’t speak to how often traditional treatments are curative, although I believe there are a great many Americans living today who have been successfully treated for cancer. I don’t believe in CAM really myself, but I think if a patient finds any relief or even relaxation through massage, meditation, acupuncture, or any other form of CAM that couldn’t be harmful, it should be encouraged. Traditional medicine works sometimes, but the cure rate is really not good. CAM doesn’t cure anything, but it might help believers with symptom control when cure is no longer a possibility. I really hope that someday (hopefully soon) we have a real cure for cancer and we can look back at chemotherapy as the barbaric treatment it is, but for now it is the best hope we have.

  • 4) pure coincidence.

    5) in a weird twist: mind over matter. patients abstaining from alternative treatments might simply have a higher will to live, and confidence in their treatment and themselves, than those reaching to something alternative to perhaps increase their odds of survival in their own mind. with a better outlook on their odds from the start, medical treatment users could achieve a better state of emotional health, reduced stress/anxiety/fear, and in turn be more likely to report higher quality of life. Alternative users would have looked externally for this boost, but by nature of their outlook can only have as much confidence in those treatments as they did for the medical treatment, resulting in poor mental health and quality of life which could effect their already compromised physical health in the same way chronic stress/anxiety or depression effects otherwise healthy people. which in turn could effect medical treatments’ effectiveness, or simply amplify the negative effects of treatment, long-term and short term. (though if this is the case it would be worth reevaluating the numbers without considering psychological/psychiatric therapy an alternative, as it would be the effective means of boosting patients emotional health to avoid these negative effects — actually as a branch of medicine, why is therapy considered separate/alternative from medical treatment at all?)

    6) the risks of exposure to harmful viruses/bacteria could be much higher by nature of the treatment, and the user has compromised immunities. for example: encountering more people with varying degrees of hygiene; herbs and whatnot from areas the user doesn’t normally eat from, that have been cleaned to standards below typical food they’d eat.

  • They don’t even say what alternative medicines they are talking about here

    The PROPER source of this is PubMed -as referenced and that most people never bother to click and read- tells a different story. This article is biased to ignorant interpretation.

    They don’t even tell what alternative medicines they are talking about here

    Bullshit piece. ‘I read it on the Internet so it must be true’

    Facts are here for interested parties
    PubMed is THE ONLY source for such data.
    Make your own interpretations from it yourself.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9708945

  • https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/27713298/Web/cure/How_It_Works.html

    How Cannabinoids kill cancer, by retired Biochemist and prostate cancer survivor (thanks to Cannabis oil), Dennis Hill.

    “Cancer-specific Cytotoxicity of Cannabinoids

    First let’s look at what keeps cancer cells alive, then we will come back and examine how the cannabinoids CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) unravels cancer’s aliveness.

    In every cell there is a family of interconvertible sphingolipids that specifically manage the life and death of that cell. This profile of factors is called the “Sphingolipid Rheostat.” If endogenous ceramide (a signaling metabolite of sphingosine-1-phosphate) is high, then cell death (apoptosis) is imminent. If ceramide is low, the cell is strong in its vitality.

    Very simply, when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it causes an increase in ceramide synthesis which drives cell death. A normal healthy cell does not produce ceramide in the presence of THC, thus is not affected by the cannabinoid.

    The cancer cell dies, not because of cytotoxic chemicals, but because of a tiny little shift in the mitochondria. Within most cells there is a cell nucleus, numerous mitochondria (hundreds to thousands), and various other organelles in the cytoplasm. The purpose of the mitochondria is to produce energy (ATP) for cell use. As ceramide starts to accumulate, turning up the Sphingolipid Rheostat, it increases the mitochondrial membrane pore permeability to cytochrome c, a critical protein in energy synthesis. Cytochrome c is pushed out of the mitochondria, killing the source of energy for the cell.

    Ceramide also causes genotoxic stress in the cancer cell nucleus generating a protein called p53, whose job it is to disrupt calcium metabolism in the mitochondria. If this weren’t enough, ceramide disrupts the cellular lysosome, the cell’s digestive system that provides nutrients for all cell functions. Ceramide, and other sphingolipids, actively inhibit pro-survival pathways in the cell leaving no possibility at all of cancer cell survival.

    The key to this process is the accumulation of ceramide in the system. This means taking therapeutic amounts of CBD and THC, steadily, over a period of time, keeping metabolic pressure on this cancer cell death pathway.

    How did this pathway come to be? Why is it that the body can take a simple plant enzyme and use it for profound healing in many different physiological systems? This endocannabinoid system exists in all animal life, just waiting for its matched exocannabinoid activator.

    This is interesting. Our own endocannabinoid system covers all cells and nerves; it is the messenger of information flowing between our immune system and the central nervous system (CNS). It is responsible for neuroprotection, and micro-manages the immune system. This is the primary control system that maintains homeostasis; our well being.

    Just out of curiosity, how does the work get done at the cellular level, and where does the body make the endocannabinoids? Here we see that endocannabinoids have their origin in nerve cells right at the synapse. When the body is compromised through illness or injury it calls insistently to the endocannabinoid system and directs the immune system to bring healing. If these homeostatic systems are weakened, it should be no surprise that exocannabinoids are therapeutic. It helps the body in the most natural way possible.

    To see how this works we visualize the cannabinoid as a three dimensional molecule, where one part of the molecule is configured to fit the nerve or immune cell receptor site just like a key in a lock. There are at least two types of cannabinoid receptor sites, CB1 (CNS) and CB2 (immune). In general CB1 activates the CNS messaging system, and CB2 activates the immune system, but it’s much more complex than this. Both THC and anandamide activate both receptor sites. Other cannabinoids activate one or the other receptor sites. Among the strains of Cannabis, C. sativa tends toward the CB1 receptor, and C. indica tends toward CB2. So sativa is more neuroactive, and indica is more immunoactive. Another factor here is that sativa is dominated by THC cannabinoids, and indica is predominately CBD (cannabidiol).

    It is known that THC and CBD are biomimetic to anandamide, that is, the body can use both interchangeably. Thus, when stress, injury, or illness demand more from endogenous anandamide than can be produced by the body, its mimetic exocannabinoids are activated. If the stress is transitory, then the treatment can be transitory. If the demand is sustained, such as in cancer, then treatment needs to provide sustained pressure of the modulating agent on the homeostatic systems.

    Typically CBD gravitates to the densely packed CB2 receptors in the spleen, home to the body’s immune system. From there, immune cells seek out and destroy cancer cells. Interestingly, it has been shown that THC and CBD cannabinoids have the ability to kill cancer cells directly without going through immune intermediaries. THC and CBD hijack the lipoxygenase pathway to directly inhibit tumor growth. As a side note, it has been discovered that CBD inhibits anandamide reuptake. Here we see that cannabidiol helps the body preserve its own natural endocannabinoid by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down anandamide.

    This brief survey touches lightly on a few essential concepts. Mostly I would like to leave you with an appreciation that nature has designed the perfect medicine that fits exactly with our own immune system of receptors and signaling metabolites to provide rapid and complete immune response for systemic integrity and metabolic homeostasis.

    ~Dennis Hill”

    • Oh, and b.t.w. Cannabis not ‘alternative’ medicine, it is THE MOST NATURAL medicine there is on Earth for humans. (and all mammals with an Endo-Cannabinoid System)

      FACT!

  • A variation on 3) is patients who use CAM perhaps tend to be late detected rather than early detected patients.

    I’ve seen patients newly diagnosed with late stage cancer hurl themselves headlong down the alt med route having never previously tried any CAMs. That could be quite common, particularly among older patients. Instances I’ve seen are often at the instigation of younger family members.

    I’d also propose a variation on 2) in that patients diagnosed suddenly adopt a raw/organic/vegan/juice diet for the first time in their lives – or start cleansing, fasting, detoxing or what not – which we know are useless, if not harmful. The last thing people already sick and weakened by cancer need is a diet that’s difficult to digest or nutritionally deficient. It may also make them miserable, accounting for the low quality of life scores.

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