Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is common among cancer patients, not least because all sorts of claims are being made for CAM. One of these claims is that it prolongs survival. But does it improve survival? This new study from the US was aimed at finding out; specifically, the authors wanted to determine whether CAM use impacts on the prognosis of breast cancer patients.
Health Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle (HEAL) Study participants (n = 707) were diagnosed with stage I-IIIA breast cancer. Participants completed a 30-month post-diagnosis interview including questions on CAM use (natural products such as dietary and botanical supplements, alternative health practices, and alternative medical systems), weight, physical activity, and comorbidities.
Outcomes were breast cancer-specific and total mortality, which were ascertained from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registries in Western Washington, Los Angeles County, and New Mexico. Cox proportional hazards regression models were fit to data to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI) for mortality. Models were adjusted for potential confounding by socio-demographic, health, and cancer-related factors.
Among the 707 participants, 70 breast cancer-specific deaths and 149 total deaths were reported. 60.2 % of participants reported CAM use post-diagnosis. The most common CAM were natural products (51 %) including plant-based estrogenic supplements (42 %). Manipulative and body-based practices and alternative medical systems were used by 27 and 13 % of participants, respectively. No associations were observed between CAM use and breast cancer-specific (HR 1.04, 95 % CI 0.61-1.76) or total mortality (HR 0.91, 95 % CI 0.63-1.29).
The authors concluded that CAM use was not associated with breast cancer-specific mortality or total mortality. Randomized controlled trials may be needed to definitively test whether there is harm or benefit from the types of CAM assessed in HEAL in relation to mortality outcomes in breast cancer survivors.
These findings tie in with the results of several other studies, some of which even seem to show that cancer patients who use CAM die sooner than those who don’t. I have previously pointed out that this could have several reasons, for instance:
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.
Therefore, I totally agree with the conclusions of the present paper: Randomized controlled trials may be needed to definitively test whether there is harm or benefit…
Antrodia cinnamomea (AC) is a fungus which is used in Taiwan as a remedy for cancer, hypertension, hangover and other conditions. There are several commercial AC products and the annual market is worth over $100 million in Taiwan alone.
Several studies have suggested anti-cancer properties in vitro but few clinical trials have been reported. Now Taiwanese researchers published a double-blind, randomized clinical study to investigate whether AC had acceptable safety and efficacy in advanced cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Patients with advanced and/or metastatic adenocarcinoma, performance status (PS) 0-2, and adequate organ function who had previously been treated with standard chemotherapy were randomly assigned to receive routine chemotherapy regimens with AC (20 ml twice daily) orally for 30 days or placebo. The primary endpoint was 6-month overall survival (OS); the secondary endpoints were disease control rate (DCR), quality of life (QoL), adverse event (AE), and biochemical features within 30 days of treatment.
A total of 37 subjects with gastric, lung, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer (17 in the AC group, 20 in the placebo group) were enrolled in the study. Disease progression was the primary cause of death in 4 (33.3 %) AC and 8 (66.7 %) placebo recipients. Mean OSs were 5.4 months for the AC group and 5.0 months for the placebo group (p = 0.340), and the DCRs were 41.2 and 55 %, respectively (p = 0.33). Most hematologic, liver, or kidney functions did not differ significantly between the two groups, but platelet counts were lower in the AC group than in the placebo group (p = 0.02). QoL assessments were similar in the two groups, except that the AC group showed significant improvements in quality of sleep (p = 0.04).
The above figure shows the survival curves for both groups.
The authors concluded as follows: Although we found a lower mortality rate and longer mean OS in the AC group than in the control group, AC combined with chemotherapy was not shown to improve the outcome of advanced cancer patients, possibly due to the small sample size. In fact, the combination may present a potential risk of lowered platelet counts. Adequately powered clinical trials will be necessary to address this question.
I agree, the survival curve looks promising. But we must not get carried away: this was a tiny sample size and a relatively short treatment period. Thus the difference could be a coincidence or an artefact.
The investigators are sufficiently cautious in the interpretation of their findings, and most of us would probably agree that it is necessary to submit such traditional remedies to proper scientific tests. Yet, I feel a sense of unease when I read such articles.
On the one hand, it is possible that such investigations meaningfully contribute to progress. On the other hand, I wonder whether they merely end up providing a significant boost to the trade of bogus remedies sold at high prices to desperate patients. Do the benefits really out-weigh the risks? We will probably never know.
But to minimize the risk, the authors should now swiftly conduct a more definitive trial and create some clarity about the value or otherwise of this traditional cancer remedy.
Did you know that:
- All diseases are really just psychological conflicts.
- Conventional medicine is a conspiracy of Jews to decimate the non-Jewish population.
- Microbes do not cause diseases.
- AIDS is just a normal allergy.
- Cancer is the result of a mental shock.
These are just some of the theories of RG Hamer realized in his Germanic (or German) New Medicine.
Hamer once had a medical licence; it was revoked after he was found guilty of malpractice. Subsequently, he continued treating patients as a ‘Heilpraktiker‘. He has been in court many times, sentenced repeatedly and imprisoned at least twice. There is an abundance of information about Hamer available on the Internet (for instance here), and I am therefore not attempting to repeat it here. Yet to give a quick impression of Hamer’s mind-set, I translate what he is quoted stating: ” … I do not even believe in the holocaust…I also do not believe that man was on the moon and, much worse, that the Twin Towers were brought down by Arabs, but hardly anybody believes that today…”
Hamer’s treatments have been associated with several deaths. The most recent case has only just been reported in this article from the Austrian newspaper ‘Der Standard’. As it is in German, I will summarize the essence here:
An Italian couple apparently had refused to let her daughter’s leukaemia be treated with conventional medicine (which usually is life-saving in this condition) but insisted that she receives Hamer’s methods of cancer therapy (which are not evidence-based). They therefore took her to a Swiss clinic where she apparently received cortisol and vitamins. After the interventions of Italian doctors, the parents were forbidden to take charge of their daughter’s care. Meanwhile, however, the daughter, Eleonora Bottaro from Padova, had reached the age of 18 and was therefore legally allowed to decide about her treatments. She opted to continue the treatment in the Swiss clinic and died of her leukaemia in mid August.
Some aspects of this new case are reminiscent of the one of the Austrian, Olivia Pilhar. In 1995, this girl, then aged 6, was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour. The parents withheld conventional treatments from her and opted for Hamer’s methods as an alternative. When the authorities intervened, the parents took their child to Malaga where she was treated according to Hamer’s weird ideas. Following a court order, the child eventually did receive proper medical treatment and survived her disease. Her parents received a suspended prison sentence of 8 months in Austria.
Sadly, alternative medicine hosts many miracle healers like Hamer. They have in common that
- they create their own bizarre ideas about healthcare which are neither plausible nor evidence-based;
- they mix them with a rich dose of conspiracy theory;
- they tend to sue those who expose them for what they are;
- they manage to amass a sizeable following of often quite fanatical believers;
- they exploit them by selling false hope;
- they manage to create some sort of cult;
- they do financially very well with their quackery;
- they endanger the health of consumers and patients who have the misfortune to come into contact with them;
- they are undeterred by medical ethics, the law or the authorities.
These people disgust me beyond words. Yet, even in this company of rogues, Hamer is special – not least because of his rampant racism. He claims, for instance, that conventional medicine is guilty of the “most hideous crime in the whole history of mankind” and alleges that Jews have killed around two billion people with morphine, chemotherapy and radiation.
If you are free on 17 – 19 November, why not pop over to Vienna and attend the European Congress for Homeopathy? The programme looks exciting (and full of humour); here are eight of my favourite lectures:
- R G Hahn ‘Homeopathy from a scientific and sceptic point of view’
- L Ellinger ‘Homeopathy as a replacement of antibiotics and in epidemics’
- T Farrington ‘Homeopathic treatment of farm animals’
- M M Montoya ‘Evidence based medicine in veterinary homeopathy’
- S Kruse ‘Homeopathy in neonatology’
- J Wurster ‘Homeopathic treatment and healing of cancer’
- P Knafl ‘The homeopathic treatment of cancer in cats and dogs’
- E Scherr ‘The homeopathic treatment of cancer in horses’
And why are the presentations selected above amongst my favourites?
I am glad you asked! Here are some of my reasons:
- Prof Hahn as been mentioned on this blog before. He published what some homeopaths consider a biting criticism of one of my papers. I find his arguments utterly bonkers and I tried to explain this here. In the comments section of this post, one commentator wrote: “Dr. Hahn has an interesting take on the relationship of reason and science. Perhaps the best illustration of his confused views is illustrated in a comment-dialog (in english) following a blog post by Michael Eriksson, a Swedish computer scientist living in Germany. There, the two exchange views on this matter: https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/science-and-reason/
The following quote from Dr. Hahn’s comments in this thread I find illustrative:
The question is – should we believe in scientific data or should we believe is them only if you can accept them by reason? I claim that you should trust the data, in particular if “reason” is provided by a complete outsider. The risk is very great that reason provided by an outsider is completely wrong.
Dr. Hahn reveals his denial of homeopathy’s implausibility and motivates this view by rejecting reason itself. He seems to be totally blind to the meaning of the term “reason” and presumably therefore blind to his own lack of it.
As I said, quite a curious case. Perhaps a variant of the Nobel disease?”
END OF QUOTE
These considerations render the title of Hahn’s lecture more than a little humorous, in my view.
- Homeopathy as a preplacement of antibiotics could to be a special type of very dark humour. If anyone really did implement such a strategy, there would be millions of fatalities worldwide within just a few months.
- Homeopathy for animals has also been debated on this blog before. The long and short of it is that there is no good evidence that it works.
- What follows for ‘evidence-based veterinary homeopathy is simple: it is a contradiction in terms.
- Homeopathy for children is not much different; in fact, it is worse: arguably, this is child abuse.
- The last there of my selected lectures are all on cancer, a subject that we too on this blog are familiar with (see here, here, here, here and here, for instance). Where does the homeopathic obsession with cancer cone from? Have homeopaths somehow decided that, as they are so very useless at curing trivial conditions, they must now go for the life-threatening diseases?
In any case, this conference promises to be a hilarious event – full of comedy gold, hubris, and wishful thinking. I think it’s a ‘must event’ for sceptics – so hurry and book soon!
The Subject of the German ‘Heilpraktiker’ has recently been the topic of one of my blog-posts. In Germany, it has been a taboo for decades, but now the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ (FAZ) have courageously addressed the problem. In today’s article, the FAZ reports that, Josef Hecken, the chair of the an organisation called ‘Selbstverwaltung im Gesundheitswesen’ (self-administration in healthcare), demands that “health-insurers should be forbidden to pay for treatments that are not supported by evidence.” Hecken, is also the chair of the Gemeinsamen Bundesausschusses, an umbrella organisation of doctors, insurers and hospitals which determines which services are paid for and which not. He stated that even paying for homeopathy out of your own pocket when treating diseases like cancer must be forbidden and stressed that “this is not about well-being but human lives.”
Hecken’s views are partly supported by Rudolf Henke, the chair of both a German doctor’s union and of the Marburger Bund, a union of hospitals: “the regulations regarding the Heilpraktiker have to be re-considered entirely… I do not believe it to be acceptable that Heilpraktiker are able to treat cancer patients.”
These remarks relate to the deaths that recently occurred in a clinic led by a Heilpraktiker. About two thirds of all German health insurers seem to pay for consultations with a Heilpraktiker. Vis a vis the fact that most of their treatments are not evidence-based, this situation seems intolerable and deeply unethical.
Hecken’s stance seems clear, rational and, in view of the popularity of homeopathy in Germany, even courageous: “The government should charge the ‘Gemeinsamen Bundesausschuss’ or another organisation with the task of conducting a meta-analysis on the evidence of homeopathy and then draw the appropriate conclusions… We have reached a point where we need a public discussion, and I am prepared to take the flack.”
On the website of THE CENTRE FOR HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION (CHE), an organisation which claims to operate ‘in partnership with’ the MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY LONDON, we find the most amazing promotion of quackery. Under the title of ’10 Top Homeopathic Remedies for your First Aid Kit’ they state that “we wanted to give you some top tips to put together your own remedy kit to use in first-aid situations for yourself, friends and family.”
Yes, you did read correctly: apparently, the Middlesex University is supporting a homeopathic ‘first aid’ kit. You find this unbelievable? You are not alone!
The remedies they recommend would be ideal in the 30c potency for everyday use, they claim. Here are a few of the high-lighted remedies, together with their ‘indications’:
ACONITE This remedy is great for shock…
ARNICA This is the classic remedy for trauma… The typical arnica patient will tell you that they’re fine and avoid attention, but may well still be in shock…
ARSENICUM This is your go-to remedy for food-poisoning…
BELLADONNA …This is a great remedy for fever, sunstroke, and for a skin condition such as boils.
HEPAR SULPH Very painful and infected wounds and abscesses respond well to this remedy.
RHUS TOX …used to treat skin rashes like chicken pox and shingles.
There are many more remedies to choose from, but hopefully this will give you a good little starter kit. Also it is possible to buy a comprehensive homeopathic first-aid kit from any of the reputable homeopathic suppliers. These kits will come with instructions on how to use the remedies too.
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The CHE run all sorts of courses. It’s a shame that we all missed the recent lecture Evidence based homeopathy – with Dana Ullman. But if you are in London, you might want to attend on 7/9/2016 entitled Homeopathy, Detox and Cancer – with Dr Robin Murphy ND. It will cover subjects like these:
- The Cancer Diseases – the cancer disease is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which primarily affects the cells and immune system first.There are many causes of this condition such as emotional shocks, toxins, drugs, trauma, radiation and severe stress, etc. In some cases the cause is genetic or not known. Aging is another factor in the development and treatment of the cancer diseases.
- Homeopathic remedies: Cancer remedies, cancer pains, chemotherapy and radiation side effects, socks, trauma, sleep, surgery, remedies for prevention and recovery.
- Detox therapy: Detox principles and methods, heavy metals, chemo drugs, radiation, chemicals, etc. Detox diet, superfoods, herbal tonics and natural remedies.
END OF 2nd QUOTE
Yes, not just first aid but also cancer! This is sensational (or is the term scandalous better suited?) ! Cancer, they claim, can be caused by emotional shock (they do seem to like this term!) and there are homeopathic cancer remedies (the English cancer act prohibits claims, I think). This course must be a bargain at just £30! Perhaps some London sceptics should attend?
It would be ever so easy to make fun at this – but let’s try to keep a straight face because, in fact, this is not funny at all. It seems clear to me that it would be possible to kill quite a few emergency patients following the instructions of the homeopathic first aid kit, and one would most likely hasten the death of many cancer patients following Murphy’s cancer course.
Why is the Middlesex University a ‘partner’ in such monstrosities? Presumably they get some money for it, and officials would probably claim that their ‘partnership’ does not amount to an endorsement of such dangerous quackery (interestingly, when I searched their site for ‘homeopathy’, I got “no results found”). Yet they must be aware that they are lending credibility to indefensible charlatanry and thereby risking their own reputation.
If I were the Vice Chancellor of Middlesex, I would quickly sever all links to THE CENTRE FOR HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION and publish an apology for having been involved in such mind-boggling quackery.
According to an article in DER SPIEGEL, 4 patients of an alternative medicine centre died, while several other websites reported that the figure amounted to ‘just’ three. The centre in question is the Klaus Ross clinic in the German town of Bruggen-Bracht on the border with the Netherlands.
In addition to these fatalities, several further patients are being treated in hospital and German prosecutors in the town of Moenchengladbach have urged other patients showing any symptoms to “urgently seek medical advice.” Dutch police, who are supporting the inquiry, appealed for information from other patients, as newspapers reported the clinic had been using an experimental transfusion.
Concern was first raised when a 43-year-old Dutch woman with breast cancer complained of headaches and became confused after being treated at the clinic on July 25. She later lost the ability to speak, and died on July 30. The “cause of her death remains unclear,” the German prosecutors said in a statement earlier this week. Many Dutch people are known to have visited the clinic and while “it is not yet known exactly what happened, there is a health risk to patients who have undergone treatment at this clinic”, according to a statement by Dutch police.
Klaus Ross was cited saying that “one of our patients unexpectedly has passed away… We regret this seriously and are in shock as we heard the news. Our thoughts and deep condolences are with her family, friends and loved ones… we regret the suspicion set in the media that alternative medicine, and our clinic especially, could be held responsible…. Alternative medicine is always an extra tool to battle diseases.” Allegedly, Ross always advised patients to be monitored by their own doctors.
The centre in question specialised in ‘biological’ cancer therapies and beauty treatments; it has now been closed and Ross has reportedly been charged with manslaughter. The interventions on offer include a wide range of unproven therapies, including detox, oxygen therapy, various supplements, immunotherapy and hyperthermia. According to some reports, the therapy implicated in the fatalities was 3- bromopyruvate (3BP). 3BP is an experimental cancer treatment which is currently attracting much, mostly pre-clinical research. One review article summarized the evidence such:
Although the “Warburg effect”, i.e., elevated glucose metabolism to lactic acid (glycolysis) even in the presence of oxygen, has been recognized as the most common biochemical phenotype of cancer for over 80 years, its biochemical and genetic basis remained unknown for over 50 years. Work focused on elucidating the underlying mechanism(s) of the “Warburg effect” commenced in the author’s laboratory in 1969. By 1985 among the novel findings made two related most directly to the basis of the “Warburg effect”, the first that the mitochondrial content of tumors exhibiting this phenotype is markedly decreased relative to the tissue of origin, and the second that such mitochondria have markedly elevated amounts of the enzyme hexokinase-2 (HK2) bound to their outer membrane. HK2 is the first of a number of enzymes in cancer cells involved in metabolizing the sugar glucose to lactic acid. At its mitochondrial location HK2 binds at/near the protein VDAC (voltage dependent anion channel), escapes inhibition by its product glucose-6-phosphate, and gains access to mitochondrial produced ATP. As shown by others, it also helps immortalize cancer cells, i.e., prevents cell death. Based on these studies, the author’s laboratory commenced experiments to elucidate the gene basis for the overexpression of HK2 in cancer. These studies led to both the discovery of a unique HK2 promoter region markedly activated by both hypoxic conditions and moderately activated by several metabolites (e.g., glucose), Also discovered was the promoter’s regulation by epigenetic events (i.e., methylation, demethylation). Finally, the author’s laboratory turned to the most important objective. Could they selectively and completely destroy cancerous tumors in animals? This led to the discovery in an experiment conceived, designed, and conducted by Young Ko that the small molecule 3-bromopyruvate (3BP), the subject of this mini-review series, is an incredibly powerful and swift acting anticancer agent. Significantly, in subsequent experiments with rodents (19 animals with advanced cancer) Ko led a project in which 3BP was shown in a short treatment period to eradicate all (100%). Ko’s and co-author’s findings once published attracted global attention leading world-wide to many other studies and publications related to 3BP and its potent anti-cancer effect. This Issue of the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes (JOBB 44-1) captures only a sampling of research conducted to date on 3BP as an anticancer agent, and includes also a Case Report on the first human patient known to the author to be treated with specially formulated 3BP. Suffice it to say in this bottom line, “3BP, a small molecule, results in a remarkable therapeutic effect when it comes to treating cancers exhibiting a “Warburg effect”. This includes most cancer types.
While 3BP seems to show some promise, clinical trials have not yet been published and another review correctly cautioned that clinical trials using 3BP are needed to further support its anticancer efficacy against multiple cancer types…
The person in charge of the centre, Klaus Ross, has no medical qualifications but claims to have studied naturopathy and was a ‘Heilpraktiker’. As such, he is probably not licenced to administer 3BP to cancer patients.
A standard series of out-patient cancer treatments at Mr Ross’ clinic was reported to cost around 10 000 Euros.
We have discussed the subject of urine therapy before. And, as I did then, I again apologise for the vulgar title of my post – but it describes urine therapy just perfectly. My new post is based on what I recently found on a website that is entirely devoted to this strange form of treatment:
Around 4 am, workers at the Keeshav Shrusti Go Shaala at Bhayander, in India, head to the tabelas (cow sheds) to collect the first urine of their 230 cows. They collect 200 litres of gomutra (cow urine), which is then sent to a production unit where it is filtered, bottled and then shipped across the country to be sold at high prices.
The popularity of alternative medicine and a back-to-nature rush has meant that those seeking gomutra as the cure for all ailments — it is touted as a cure for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis among others — has spurred a rise of gomutra products in the Indian market.
A year ago the Indian ‘Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’ even initiated projects to study the anti-cancer and anti-infection properties of various cow products including cow urine and dung. Last September, Maa Gou Products (MGP) approached BigBasket to distribute its range of cow-urine based products, ranging from floor cleaner, tooth powder, balm and face pack.
Today there are several sites that have been set up specifically to sell cow products. For instance, the one-year-old vendor portal www.gaukranti.org. The site, which retails a range of products, gets 40 per cent of its revenue from cow urine.
But, not all cow urine bottles are the same or tout the same solutions. Some are used as cleansers; Mumbaikars will recall the Kandivli ccorporator who suggested that KEM Hospital be cleansed daily with cow urine. Some others are meant specifically for weight loss.
GoArk, for instance, is a weight loss product made by boiling cow urine in an iron pot to which a vapour condensing device is attached. The main difference lies in the source of the cows. Goseva GoArk is prepared from the GIR cow’s urine and GouGanga is from mixed Indian breeds. Bos Indicus, the breed indigenous to the subcontinent, is to be preferred. One expert explains: “foreign breeds such as the Jersey cow have been subjected to genetic modification.” He says that once the gomutra is collected it is filtered around eight times through a piece of cotton cloth. The distillation process, he says, helps ensure that there is no ammonia so that the shelf life is increased. Typically, it’s good to be used up to two years after bottling. The demand for gomutra — whether as a medicine, a face pack or a floor cleanser — is now rising beyond India. There even have been inquiries from the UK, US, Australia and even Arabic countries.
So, watch this space!
“When orthodox medicine has nothing more to offer” is the title of an article by Dr Elizabeth Thompson, a UK medical homeopath. The article was written years ago, but it is still an excellent example for disclosing the dangerously false and deeply unethical reasoning used by many alternative practitioners. The notion that all sorts of disproven treatments like homeopathy are justified when orthodox medicine has nothing more to offer is so very prevalent that I decided to do this post analysing it.
In the following, you see the most relevant sections of Dr Thompson’s original article (in normal print) and my brief comments (in brackets and in bold):
…Some people come when conventional treatments can no longer offer them anything to save their lives. This is a frightening time for them and although the homeopathic approach may not offer a cure at this late stage of their illness (Is she implying that, in some cases, homeopathy can cure cancer?), it can often offer hope of a different kind. (Surely, one does not need homeopathy for giving patients hope). Sometimes it helps people to outlive the prognosis given to them by months or even years. (A prognosis is not a precise time of death; it is based on statistics and therefore depicts a likelihood, not a certainty. Thus patients outlive their prognosis all the time regardless of treatments.) Sometimes it helps them need less (less than what? there is no control group and therefore the statement seems nonsensical) in the way of conventional medicine including pain killers and offers them continuing support despite progressive disease (is she trying to say that in conventional medicine patients with progressive disease do not get continuing support?).
As a doctor working in both conventional and complementary cancer care I have learned the importance of integrating these two perspectives (the integration of unproven therapies into EBM can only render the latter less effective). Ideally the doctor practising homeopathy would work as an integral part of a much wider team which would include family members, nurses, general practitioners, oncologists, surgeons, palliative physicians and other complementary therapists (the concept of a multi-disciplinary team for cancer is one from conventional medicine where it has long been routine). It is disappointing sometimes to see that other healthcare professionals can be unsupportive of a person’s desire to use complementary therapies and for some people the knowledge that the team is not working together can cause doubt and insecurity (for the majority of patients, however, it might be reassuring to know that their oncology-team is evidence-based).
Some patients come at the beginning of their diagnosis wanting to support their bodies with gentler (homeopathic remedies are not gentler, they are ineffective) approaches and help themselves recover from some difficult and powerful treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy (Why are they being told that alternative therapies are effective in achieving these aims when there is no good evidence to show that this is true? Isn’t that unethical?). As well as using homeopathic medicines (no good evidence of effectiveness!!!), the GHH also has experience in using Mistletoe which is given by injection and has been shown to stimulate the group of white cells whose numbers can be depleted during chemotherapy and radiotherapy (also no good evidence that it works clinically!!!).
Other patients come when they have finished most of their treatments but may still not be feeling well despite being given the all clear by their doctors (same again: no good evidence!!!)…
One wonderful aspect of the homeopathic approach is that it can be a very important opportunity to help someone re-evaluate their life and their health (We don’t need to prescribe placebos for that, this aim is better reached by employing a clinical psychologist).
Sometimes hurts in the past have never been healed and sitting with someone as they describe difficult experiences can be itself therapeutic. Combining this therapeutic listening time with substances from nature that gently stimulate the body’s own healing potential (where is the evidence for that claim?) can be an approach that through patient demand and research (what research?) we can demonstrate is really worth offering to many more people…
END OF QUOTE
This text shows in an exemplary fashion how desperate patients can be convinced to make dramatically wrong choices. If you read Dr Thompson’s text without my comments, it probably sounds fairly reasonable to many people. I can understand why patients and carers end up thinking that homeopathy or other disproven therapies are reasonable options WHEN ORTHODOX MEDICINE HAS NOTHING MORE TO OFFER.
But the claim of homeopaths and others that mainstream medicine has, in certain cases, nothing more to offer is demonstrably wrong. Supportive and palliative care are established and important parts of conventional medicine. To deny this fact amounts to a lie! The implied scenario where a patient is told by her oncology team: “sorry but we cannot do anything else for you”, does quite simply not exist. The argument is nothing else but a straw-man – and a vicious one at that.
Moreover, the subsequent argument of homeopaths, “as ‘they’ have given you up, we now offer you our effective homeopathic remedies”, is not supported by good evidence. In other words, one lie is added to another. To call this unethical, would be the understatement of the year, I think.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a truly fascinating plant with plenty of therapeutic potential. It belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae and is native to southern Asia. Its main active ingredients are curcumin (diferuloylmethane) and the related compounds, demethoxycurcumin and bis-demethoxycurcumin (curcuminoids) which are secondary metabolites. Turmeric has been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine and has a variety of pharmacologic properties including antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic activities.
In the often weird world of alternative medicine, turmeric is currently being heavily hyped as the new panacea. Take this website, for instance; it promotes turmeric for just about any ailment known to mankind. Here is a short excerpt to give you a flavour (pun intended, turmeric is, of course, a main ingredient in many curries):
It comes at a surprise to a lot of people that herbs can be highly effective, if not more effective, than conventional medications …
To date, turmeric is one of the top researched plants. It was involved in more than 5,600 peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies. In one research project that extended over a five year period, it was found that turmeric could potentially be used in preventive and therapeutic applications. It was also noted that it has 175 beneficial effects for psychological health…
The 14 Medications it Mimics
Or should we say the 14 medications that mimic turmeric, since turmeric has been around much longer than any chemical prescription drug. Here’s a quick look at some of them:
- Lipitor: This is a cholesterol drug that is used to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress inside of patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. When the curcuminoid component inside of turmeric is properly prepared, it can offer the same effects (according to a study published in 2008).
- Prozac: This is an antidepressant that has been overused throughout the past decade. In a study published back in 2011, turmeric was shown to offer beneficial effects that helped to reduce depressive behaviors (using animal models).
- Aspirin: This is a blood thinner and pain relief drug. In a study done in 1986, it was found that turmeric has similar affects, which makes it a candidate for patients that are susceptible to vascular thrombosis and arthritis.
- Metformin: This is a drug that treats diabetes. It is used to activate AMPK (to increase uptake of glucose) and helps to suppress the liver’s production of glucose. In a study published in 2009, it was found that curcumin was 500 to 100,000 times more effective at activating AMPK ad ACC.
- Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: This includes medications like ibuprofen, aspirin and dexamethasone, which are designed to reduce inflammation. Again, in 2004, it was proven that curcumin was an effective alternative option to these chemical drugs.
- Oxaliplatin: This is a chemotherapy drug. A study done in 2007 showed that curcumin is very similar to the drug, acting as an antiproliferative agent in colorectal cell lines.
- Corticosteroids: This is a steroid medication, which is used to treat inflammatory eye diseases. In 1999, it was found that curcumin was effective at managing this chronic condition. Then in 2008, curcumin was used in an animal model that proved it could also aid in therapy used to protect patients from lung transplantation-associated injuries by “deactivating” inflammatory genes.
Turmeric Fights Drug-Resistant Cancers… it’s been shown that curcumin can battle against cancers that are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation…
END OF QUOTE
As I said, turmeric is fascinating and promising, but such hype is clearly counter-productive and dangerous. As so often, the reality is much more sobering than the fantasy of uncritical quacks. Research is currently very active and has produced a host of interesting findings. Here are the conclusions (+links) of a few, recent reviews:
Overall, there is early evidence that turmeric/curcumin products and supplements, both oral and topical, may provide therapeutic benefits for skin health. However, currently published studies are limited and further studies will be essential to better evaluate efficacy and the mechanisms involved.
While statistical significant differences in outcomes were reported in a majority of studies, the small magnitude of effect and presence of major study limitations hinder application of these results.
The highlighted studies in the review provide evidence of the ability of curcumin to reduce the body’s natural response to cutaneous wounds such as inflammation and oxidation. The recent literature on the wound healing properties of curcumin also provides evidence for its ability to enhance granulation tissue formation, collagen deposition, tissue remodeling and wound contraction. It has become evident that optimizing the topical application of curcumin through altering its formulation is essential to ensure the maximum therapeutical effects of curcumin on skin wounds.
What emerges from a critical reading of the evidence is that turmeric has potential in several different areas. Generally speaking, clinical trials are still thin on the ground, not of sufficient rigor and therefore not conclusive. In other words, it is far too early to state or imply that we all should rush to the next health food store and buy the supplements.
On the contrary, at this stage, I would even warn people not to be seduced by the unprofessional hype and wait until we know more – much more. There might be risks associated with ingesting turmeric at high doses over long periods of time. And there are fundamental open questions about oral intake. One recent review cautioned: …its extremely low oral bioavailability hampers its application as therapeutic agent.
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