Articles

Another cancer tragedy in the making

I despise cancer quacks.

I know, I know. My saying that is probably akin to saying that the sun rises in the east, water is wet, and Donald Trump’s hair resembles nothing in nature. You know, brain-meltingly obvious statements. It’s true, though. I despise cancer quacks. It doesn’t much matter to me whether the quack is a true believer or a calculating con artist, the end result is the same: People with cancer throwing their one best chance to survive away chasing pixie dust and promises of “natural” cures without the toxicity that is the unfortunate byproduct of the surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy that are the mainstays of our current armamentarium against cancer. I’m a cancer surgeon. This I cannot abide, which is part of the reason I became active promoting science-based medicine, started my other blog, and then was so eager to join up when the opportunity to join this blog presented itself four years ago.

It’s hard to blame patients, too. After all, as I’ve described so many times before, curing cancer is hard. Very hard. Cancer is complicated. Incredibly complicated. Quacks make it sound easy and simple. They postulate One True Cause of Cancer, and, as a result, often what they represent as the One True Cure for All Cancer. Faced with a life-threatening disease and the possibility of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation therapy, patients are understandably frightened and, if they don’t have a scientific background, susceptible to the blandishments of quacks. That’s what happened to a patient I wrote about long ago, and that’s what happened to Kim Tinkham.

It’s also what is happening right now to a woman named Danielle, and, worse, she’s falling victim to the same cancer quack. Worse still, from my point of view, she’s blogging it.

I came across Danielle’s blog because I happen to have a Google Alert for this particular cancer quack, and last week up popped a blog called New Life – A New Beginning. I knew it was going to be a problem when I saw the most recent post Good News!, which featured a credulous video promoting the Gerson Therapy. You might recall that the Gerson therapy was the basis of a movie called The Beautiful Truth that I reviewed a couple of years ago. At first I was going to ignore the blog, given that I’ve written about Gerson, and I would have had to watch several videos if I wanted to write about the most recent post on the blog, but something—curiosity, I don’t know what—compelled me to go to the beginning and read, and what I found was both frightening and, conveniently enough for purposes of this blog, a a perfect introduction to a particularly prevalent form of cancer quackery. Since the blog has only been in existence since January and much of what was posted thus far has been brief, including inspirational poems and prayers, it didn’t take me long to locate the key posts that discuss what Danielle, with the support of her husband Brad, has chosen in lieu of conventional therapy.

The diagnosis and the prognosis

In January, Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the U.S., this is all too frequent an occurrence, something that happens approximately 226,000 women every year, with close to 40,000 deaths. Danielle is from Canada (note the .ca in her blog and her mentions of going to the Cross Cancer Institute, which is in Edmonton. Ultimately, she decided to travel to southern California, but that’s getting ahead of the story. Let’s first just take a look at Danielle’s own description of her diagnosis in a post she calls (and I give her credit for cleverness here) more infearmation:

Today we met with our oncologist. The cancer is now considered Stage 3. They have not yet completed all the tests to see if it has attached to any other organs, which, if it has, would bring it to it’s final stage of 4.
From the MRI results, there is a very large tumor with a large blood vessel feeding into it, along with a couple more tumors in my breast. Many lymph nodes are also full of cancer.

This is an aggressive, fast growing cancer, not run by hormones like most breast cancers are, but by a protein called HER2.

I will begin chemo treatments next week, on Thursday, the 2nd.

If all is clear in the rest of my body, the chemo will go on for 4 1/2 months and then my breast will be removed as well as many, if not all of the lymph nodes on that side. After surgery, I will undergo a month of radiation, five days a week. THEN, they are proposing putting me back on chemotherapy.

I tried to absorb all of the potential side effects that this chemo treatment will bring. I think I’ve gone numb.

As Chloe says every night, “I want my normal life back.”

Yes, I’ve heard this lament all too many times. Cancer patients do want their normal lives back, and that’s completely understandable. Before cancer, they could plan on living into their 70s, 80s, or even 90s; after cancer, it’s not clear that they’ll live even a couple of more years. Their lives have to be put on hold while they endure toxic and invasive treatments that might not even save their lives.

There’s no doubt, either, that Danielle has a nasty tumor. However, it is far from a hopeless situation. As she announced in a later post, there was no evidence on CT scans or bone scans that she had distant metastases (i.e., tumor that’s spread beyond the regional lymph nodes). However, as her husband Brad also characterized Danielle’s disease in a later post, she had stage IIIC disease, which tells me that she either has at least 10 axillary lymph nodes with cancer in them, tumor in the supraclavicular lymph nodes, or tumor in the internal mammary lymph node chain (just near the sternum). Because it’s not possible to know how many lymph nodes have cancer in them without removing them all to look, I presume that this means that Danielle has at least one enlarged supraclavicular node that was biopsied and found to have tumor, which is the most common reason for being staged at IIIC. However, she has no detectable metastases in organs like the lung, liver, bone, or brain. What that means is that Danielle is still potentially “curable” (oncologists don’t like to use that word, but it does convey the possibility of long-term survival and living out the rest of one’s natural life expectancy free from breast cancer), but just barely. In essence, she has cancer that is at the limits of modern science-based medicine to eliminate.

Moreover, it’s certainly true that a tumor that is estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) negative tends to have a worse prognosis than and ER/PR-postive tumor. However, in a perverse way, the fact that the tumor is HER2-positive is a good thing. It didn’t used to be. Back before Herceptin, HER2 positivity was viewed as a poor prognostic sign because it portended a more aggressive, less differentiated tumor. However, post-Herceptin, these patients do considerably better because of the efficacy of Herceptin at targeting the HER2 oncogene and shutting it down. We’re now developing other drugs to do the same thing because Herceptin, being a humanized monoclonal antibody against HER2, has to be given intravenously, while newer drugs such as lapatinib can be taken orally.

It also sounds to me as though the oncologists were recommending the appropriate therapy: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy before surgery) to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery to remove residual tumor, followed by radiation therapy, and then a year of Herceptin (trastuzumab), a targeted therapy against the HER2 oncogene. As brutal as this regimen sounds, knowing what I know in general about patients with stage IIIC breast HER2-positive breast cancer, I can say with some confidence that her situation, although dire, is far from hopeless if she were to undergo the standard-of-care therapy recommended by her oncologists and surgeons. In fact, she might have as good as about a 50-50 chance of surviving five years and a slightly lower chance of surviving 10 years, although her chances are probably less than that. While these are not the greatest odds in the world, they are better than for a lot of cancers, and she can survive this thing. One thing that you need to know about ER-negative breast cancer, it’s that, unlike the case of ER-positive tumors, which, although they have a better overall prognosis than ER-negative tumors, have a nasty tendency to recur later than five—or even ten—years, for ER-negative tumors five year survival is actually a pretty good surrogate for long-term survival. The reason is that for ER-negative tumors late recurrence is a lot more uncommon. ER-negative tumors (particularly the so-called “triple negative” tumors, which have neither ER, PR, nor HER2), tend to recur early, within three years, if they’re going to recur at all, and the vast majority of deaths from triple-negative and ER-negative disease tend to occur before five years.

Just to give you an idea, I refer you to this table from the American Cancer Society, and then to two graphs. Data from the table are from patients diagnosed in 2001 and 2002. As you can see, the estimated survival for patients with stage IIIC cancer is 49%.

This agrees with graphs I generated by using Adjuvant Online. For those of you not familiar with Adjuvant Online, it’s a website that uses data from the medical literature to provide estimates of expected outcomes for various treatments of different cancers. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t include HER2 status and the results of Herceptin therapy yet. AO is, unfortunately, a few years behind the times because in the estimation of its authors the long term data for Herceptin is not yet mature enough to incorporate into their models. No doubt that will be remedied in the future edition being worked on now. However, we can approximate Danielle’s case by combining facts (that her cancer is ER-negative) with some educated guesses (such as her age, which appears to be fairly young) and assuming that the tumor has the worst characteristics possible. So I assumed that Danielle is 40 years old, listed her tumor as ER-negative, and chose the worst grade for it. I then made some reasonable guesses about potential characteristics and produced a few graphs, which I’ve arranged from worst to best. I did this because I don’t know enough about Danielle’s situation to be more precise:

As you can see, the estimates of Danielle’s prognosis range from, at worst, around a 30% chance of surviving 10 years to nearly 50%. Because Danielle’s cancer is HER2-positive and could benefit from Herceptin, I’d tend not to be as pessimistic as the lowest estimate and place her chance of surviving 10 years somewhere between 40-50%. As I said before, these odds are anything but great. They are, for example, very different from the 90%-plus chance women with stage I breast cancer have of surviving their disease. But they are far from hopeless. More importantly, look at the green part of the graphs. They represent the chance of surviving ten years with surgery alone. The odds of surviving ten years with surgery alone ranges from 5% to around 19%. Without surgery, it’s virtually zero, and her chance of living even five years without treatment is quite low. And, make no mistake about it, no treatment is exactly what Danielle has chosen.

So why would a relatively young woman with everything to live for choose something that has no chance of saving her life over something that has perhaps a 40% chance of saving her life? Let’s find out.

Enter the quack

Somewhere, somehow, somewhen, Danielle, as is the case for so many breast cancer patients, went on the Internet. While the Internet can be a fantastic resource for information on cancer, it is also, unfortunately, also a fantastic resource for quacks to use to spread slick, seemingly reasonable propaganda for their pseudoscience for very little expense. For instance, on February 5, Danielle was very enamored of an article by someone named Gregory Delaney that’s been floating around the Internet entitled Curing Cancer with Baking Soda: What MD’s and Naturopaths Don’t Know. The article, as you can tell from its title, is a load of pseudoscience, indicating a complete lack of understanding of cancer. Delaney also rants against oncologists as “disciples of fraud” and claiming that the cancer is not the disease, but rather a manifestation of…something else. Instead of embracing the claim that cancer is a manifestation of buried emotional trauma (as do the German New Medicine and Biologie Totale), Delaney embraces the claim that cancer is not a disease but rather a “reaction of cells to various factors that will cause their death if they do not devolve to a lower, cancerous state.” His solution? Just what the title says: Cure cancer with baking soda!

Given that foreshadowing, it’s sadly unsurprising that, in Danielle’s case, the Internet apparently ultimately led her to one “Dr.” Robert O. Young. We’ve met Young before doing what he’s doing here, leading a woman named Kim Tinkham away from effective treatment and, in essence, to her ultimate death, but I’ve never discussed his beliefs other than briefly. I mean to remedy that situation now. Basically Young believes in “alkalinization” über alles as a cure for not just cancer but all disease, and that’s why he calls his variety of cancer quackery “pH Miracle Living.” Young even goes so far as to label his “understanding” of cancer as the “new biology,” which sounds way too much like the German New Medicine and Biologie Totale. But first, let’s hear about Danielle’s decision from her own keyboard:

Today I told the Doctors that I will not be using conventional methods to treat this, at this time.

I know it has been effective in saving so many lives, but this was MY decision.
Given that I was told, due to the aggressive nature of this particular cancer, that these treatments may or may not cure this, they may only extend my life by a few months, the cancer may return, I would most likely suffer heart damage, the irreversible shut down of my hormones, the destruction of my immune system, the loss of my lymph nodes, my energy, my breasts (would likely remove the other as precautionary), my hair temporarily, and the list went on and on… I would head into surgery with no immune system and then when I’d recovered from that blow to my body, I would undergo rounds and rounds of radiation, and while healing from the trauma of that I would be put back on chemo therapy and my immune system again would be destroyed, and if I ever got sick while on these treatments it would be a life or death emergency.

We have discovered extensive, empirically founded research and proven results with many alternative treatments for cancer. There are no guarantees either way, so all I have is the information I have been given, the life I have been given, and the choice of how I live it, for me and for my family.

I am working with a microbiologist Doctor, whose knowledge and practice has resulted in phenomenal outcomes, to implement an intense protocol that will heal my blood.

I’m simplifying things quite a lot here. I realize this won’t make sense to many of you, but for me, this makes the MOST sense; at least, to have this treatment be my FIRST line of defense.

We will receive regular tests and monitor my progress.

I’d hate to be Danielle’s oncologist. What a moral dilemma he must have! As a doctor, you don’t want to abandon a patient, but on the other hand you can’t support this sort of pseudoscience.

Yes, this “microbiologist Doctor” whose practice has allegedly “resulted in phenomenal outcomes” is “Dr.” Robert O. Young. Young bills his treatments as “pH Miracle Living” and even goes so far as to label his “understanding” of cancer as the “new biology.” His “new biology,” however, is nothing more than a mish-mash of old quackery involving live blood cell analysis with his own special (and not so original) spin on “alkalinizing” the blood. For instance, here is what YOung thinks to be the cause of cancer:

Cancerous tissue, above all other consequences of choice, has countless secondary causes. But even for a cancerous condition there is only ONE PRIME ORIGIN and CAUSE. I have simply summarized this origin and cause of cancerous tissue in a few words. The prime origin and cause of cancerous tissue is the over-acidification of the tissues then the blood due to lifestyle and dietary choices. A cancerous tissue begins with our choices of what we eat, what we drink, what we think and how we live. Cancer is a liquid and this liquid is a toxic acidic waste product of metabolism or energy consumption.

All of which is so wrong that it’s not even wrong. But there’s more:

The following is a summary of understanding cancerous tissues:

Cancer is not a cell but a poisonous acidic liquid.

A cancer cell, is a cell that has been spoiled or poisoned by metabolic or gastrointestinal acids.

A tumor is the body’s protective mechanism to encapsulate spoiled or poisoned cells from excess acid that has not been properly eliminated through urination, perspiration, defecation or respiration.

The tumor is the body’s solution to protect healthy cells and tissues.

Cancer is a systemic acidic condition that settles at the weakest parts of the body – not a localized problem that metastases.

Metastases is localized acids spoiling other cells much like a rotten apple spoiling a bushel of healthy apples.

There is no such thing as a cancer cell. A cancer cell was once a healthy cell that has been spoiled by acid.

The tumor is not the problem but the solution to protect healthy cells and tissues from being spoiled from other rotting cells and tissues.

The only solution to the acidic liquids that poison body cells causing the effects that medical savants call cancer is to alkalize and energize the body.

In conclusion, the human body is alkaline by design and acidic by function! If we desire a healthy body we must maintain that alkaline design.

When I pointed out the similarity between the German New Medicine and Robert Young’s quackery, I wasn’t kidding. Both view the tumor as not being the actual disease but rather a “reaction” to something else. In the case of the German New Medicine, the tumor is supposedly a reaction to past emotional traumas; in the case of Young’s beliefs, it’s a reaction to “overacidification” of the tissues. To fight this “overacidification,” Young recommends a whole host of treatments, mostly dietary, and claims that they will cure cancer.

We get an idea of what this involves just by looking at some of of Danielle’s posts. First, let’s look at what Young told Danielle, as reported by her. The causes of Danielle’s breast cancer include, according to Young, rarely drinking water, not eating consistently, eating big meals, eating sugar, not taking deep breaths, being indoors too much, being under stress, being impatient and judgmental, not getting enough sleep, having a “clogged up digestive system” (remember the “toxins” and colon flushes), having blood “full of yeast,” and, of course, being exposed to all sorts of “toxins.” It’s a veritable cornucopia of nonsensical ideas about human physiology that have little or no (with an emphasis on “no”) grounding in science. In fact, one wonders how Young can keep all these causes straight and how he relates them all to “overacidification” of the blood, because apparently, according to him, virtually anything can cause overacidification of the blood.

If you look more closely at Young’s writings, it’s not hard to find that there is almost no form of quackery that he does not embrace. For instance, he is a germ theory denialist:

One must challenge everything in the modern construct of immunology and what is said to be the immune system. The basis of modern immunology is founded on Louis Pasteur, the fraud, impostor, deceiver and self promoter. There is a serious problem to where every word and part of the anatomy must be questioned to find their use and function because of the fraud of Louis Pasteur.

If you really want to see how far he’s willing to take it, look at Young’s explanation of what antibodies are. Not for Young is the standard explanation that antibodies are part of the immune system that bind to specific antigens and assist in the neutralization and elimination of invading microorganisms. Oh, no! Young knows what antibodies really are:

My final example is in defining the truth about antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are chemical clusters or alkaline buffers to a typical acidic condition properly referred to as antigens or enzymes. So called antibodies are released from healthy organ cells, such as the liver, in response to buffer and neutralize the acidity or liquid acid antigen that was first introduced. It must be noted that the word, antibody and antigen, are a Pasteurian dogma construct. The mind set being that an antibody or now even antibiotics, are defending or responding to bodies, microbes or invisible bodies or what I call phantom viruses, like Avian, SARS, or even HIV — even though HIV is not a virus but an alkaline antibody to buffer acid or antigens. The chemical response is actually due to an introduction, vector or antigen of a chemical nature, typically acidic, not a body, microbe or bacteria or yeast.

The above statement reveals such a fundamental misunderstanding of the biology of the immune system—indeed of biochemistry, given that Young apparently thinks that antigens are not really proteins and has no clue what their function is—that it boggles the mind. To him, the known function of antibodies is nothing but “Pasteurian dogma” (never mind that antibodies weren’t discovered until long after Pasteur’s discoveries), and their real function is to buffer acids with alkali, an idea that would certainly come as news to immunologists, biochemists, and physicians. Indeed, so much of a germ theory denialist is Young that when a young Brazilian model tragically died of bacterial sepsis, he blamed it on acid:

Ms. Bridi da Costa, at the young age of 20 died from systemic acidosis from the lack of proper alkaline treatment. Acidic drugs, such as antibiotics and metabolic acids ravaged her body which forced doctors to perform amputations of her extremities and extract part of her stomach as well as both kidneys. I strongly believe that Ms. Bridi da Costa would be alive, healthy and strong today, if, the prevailing 19th Century germ theory medical dogma and subsequent acidic treatment protocols of antibiotics would have been simply replaced with alkaline fluids of sodium, magnesium and potassium bicarbonate and alkaline water and foods.

And:

Body cells transform or breakdown to bacteria and yeast and then to mold as a result of excess tissue acidity and not from an infection from the atmosphere. Therefore, Germs DO NOT CAUSE DISEASE but are the result of excess tissue acidity not eliminated through urination, perspiration, respiration and/or defecation! Acid is the only CAUSE of dis-ease and disease, including sepsis!

Also, apparently viruses are not the cause of disease, but rather “molecular acids.”

I should have remembered: Young is a follower of Antoine Béchamp. He’s a germ theory denialist. Béchamp, as you may remember, was a contemporary of Louis Pasteur and proposed a competing hypothesis for the cause of infectious disease, which he dubbed the pleomorphic theory. The concept he championed was that bacteria do not cause disease but are rather a manifestation of disease. In other words, diseased tissues produce bacteria, arising from structures that Béchamp called microzymas, which to him referred to a class of enzyme. Béchamp postulated that microzymas are normally present in tissues and that their effects depended upon the cellular terrain. Of course, as we all know, ultimately Pasteur’s ideas won out based on evidence, experimentation, and clinical observation, relegating Béchamp to more or less a historical footnote. In fairness, it should be remembered that, 150 year ago, it wasn’t entirely clear who was correct, Pasteur or Béchamp. Given the technology and tools of the time, it was not a trivial matter to determine where bacteria arose, although it didn’t take long before experiments and methodology were developed that pretty much put Béchamp’s concepts to bed for good.

Except for people like Robert O. Young. His ideas incorporate Béchamp’s 150 year old ideas

I could go on and on and on. Truly, as Stephen Barrett put it, there’s so much pseudoscience and misinformation in Robert Young’s books and beliefs that it would easily take a book to refute them all. In the meantime, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at just what following Young’s regimen to treat cancer entails. Danielle, it turns out, provides the details in a post she entitles A Day in the LIFE. Truly, it’s a daunting list of “treatments,” including drinking mineral salts, drinking one liter of alkaline water, taking a “pile of supplements” (Danielle’s words, not mine), drinking another liter of water with chlorophyll and concentrated green vegie powder (what are we, plants, that we need chlorophyll?), eating a liquid meal, doing a colonic, drinking another liter of green water, checking her body’s pH, taking some more supplements, drinking a fourth liter of water, having another liquid meal, drinking a fifth liter, taking some more supplements, drinking a sixth liter of green water, sitting in an infrared sauna, taking a salt bath, dry brushing her skin, and—of course!—taking more supplements.

Wow. And Young complains that conventional medicine takes a lot of effort.

There is no science behind Young’s beliefs. He combines germ theory denialism, vitalism, and a complete misunderstanding of acid-base physiology into a toxic brew with which he entices his marks. Contrary to what patients like Danielle are told, there is no large, robust body of research supporting his approach. There is no evidence that what he does makes any difference whatsoever, while there is copious evidence that foregoing effective treatment greatly increases a cancer patient’s risk of death.

Why do cancer patients fall for this?

It’s not that difficult to understand why Robert O. Young’s message is so seductive to cancer patients. He offers hope where conventional oncologists and surgeons are ethically and professionally obligated to offer their best assessment of the patient’s prognosis and what results they can expect with science-based therapy. Quacks like Dr. Young are not constrained by the truth. It works, too, unfortunately. If you don’t believe me, look at this post by Brad, Danielle’s husband, in which he answers the criticisms of an anonymous commenter who had the temerity to point out that Dr. Young has no scientific credibility. Perhaps the most telling passage from that post is this:

We discovered that the prognosis for this type of cancer was pretty grim, no wonder the “Dr’s” were so tight lipped about the efficacy of their treatments. When talking with them, we received NO sense of reassurance, or confidence that their treatments would work to remove the cancer; they were confident about removing the tumor though (not to mention her breast and the majority of her lymph nodes on her left side). “But wait a second, what?!” – we assumed chemo, surgery, and radiation were a sure thing. No? Well… the research shows that, on average, a person lives 3-4 months longer when these treatments are used (if you’re able to survive the treatments of course). Three to four months longer, that’s statistically significant according to the research because she’s only expected to live 23 months without it, so 26-27 months is significant, statistically speaking – (“who cares about quality of life for the remaining MONTHS of your life, right?”).

What the doctors were CERTAIN about were the side effects. In fact, we heard about 3 hours worth of side-effects related to their proposed treatments. They said, “so, the cancer may grow resistant to the treatments we bombard it with. We can pretty much guarantee heart damage, with a side of intestinal destruction, and we know we can absolutely destroy your immune system and anything else your body could use to heal. And to top it off, you get to lose your hair, have no energy and walk around like a zombie. Don’t worry, as soon as you feel better we’ll make you feel terrible again… how about it?!” I was quite unimpressed when I knew more than the “oncologist” did (thank-you research) about the functional mechanisms of one of the drugs she was proposing to use. Ummm… awkward!

Somehow, if Brad’s posts are any indication, I doubt that he understood the functional mechanism of drugs better than the oncologists, particularly if he was repeating the same sort of misinformation and misunderstanding that Robert O. Young promotes. I’m also a bit confused. The discussion that Brad relates sounds very much as though the oncologists were assuming at the time that Danielle’s cancer was metastastic. When we as oncologic surgeons and oncologists discuss treatment options with potentially curable patients, we do not usually speak of median survival times. Far more often, we tend to talk about the odds of producing a five- or ten-year survival. In other words, we talk in terms of what the odds of a cure are with various treatment options. We usually don’t switch to “median survival discussion mode” until after it has become clear that long term survival is no longer possible, as in the case of stage IV disease.

Unfortunately, some patients, like Danielle and her husband, don’t see shades of gray. Rather than looking at probabilities, they see things in black and white. Cure or no cure:

And, if you have any empirical research to add to the already existing mountain of research we do have, please send that our way. Also, please let us know if you have access to a genuine crystal ball or a personal Mount Sinai, otherwise, it may be best to leave the predictive outcomes for God to decide. It may be difficult to accept the decision that Danielle has made in choosing life. I just want you to know, for as long as we have life, we stand beside you in hope and dignity of human life.

“Mountain of research”? More like the University of Google. As I’ve pointed out so many times before, it takes a significant amount of background knowledge to interpret the medical literature, and most people simply don’t have it, no matter how much they think they can just “pick it up as they go along.” Conventional oncologists, being science-based, are obligated to discuss their best estimates of what they can do for a patient and how likely their treatments are to result in cure. Young, on the other hand, is free to cater to fantasy and promise that he can cure diseases that conventional medicine can’t. In other words, he can say that he can cure patients like Danielle without toxicity. Whether he really believes it or is lying, I don’t know, but he can—and does—say things like this. For instance, Young claims that he knows about “natural inhibitors” of HER2 that will cure HER2-positive cancers, even though that there is no evidence that anything he recommends actually does anything of the sort.

Of course, Danielle can’t stay in California indefinitely; so she apparently didn’t. She headed back to Edmonton and has put together her own team of “alternative” medicine practitioners, including a naturopath who has her on on intravenous vitamin C & B12, as well as Mistletoe by injection. She also claims to be using an osteopathic doctor who’s making a cancer vaccine of some sort to help her. Now it’s true that anti-HER2 vaccines are a hot area of research, it’s a really hard thing to do. It takes a large and dedicated team of scientists and clinicians, a facility certified to make biologicals suitable for human use, and a lot of expertise and resources that I highly doubt this osteopath has; that is, unless he’s the principal investigator of a team working on such a vaccine at a major research institution. In other words, Danielle’s bringing Dr. Young’s quackery home with her and finding enablers to help her. Again, I have to wonder what her oncologist thinks. That’s a moral dilemma I’d hate to have to face: Keep following Danielle and ordering tests on her. Maybe the oncologist hopes that once it becomes clear that Dr. Young’s quackery is not working there will still be time to treat her and possibly save her.

I really hate seeing blogs like Danielle’s and stories like hers and others I’ve seen. They make me feel so helpless. I know, using science, reason, and logic, that Danielle has chosen a path that precludes her one and only chance of survival, science-based treatment, in favor of what I consider to be quackery. Her chances might not be that great with conventional therapy. I understand that. I understand, as much as it is possible to understand without actually having cancer myself, the sense of hopelessness she must have felt when she was told she had stage IIIC breast cancer. Unfortunately, her chances following Robert O. Young’s quackery are about as close to zero as I can imagine. Worse, even if conventional therapy can’t save Danielle’s life, it can provide good palliation, something Robert O. Young can’t do. There are few more unpleasant complications of breast cancer than a tumor that grows until it erodes through the skin and turns into a fungating, ulcerating, bleeding, stinking mass on a woman’s chest wall. I’ve written about this before, specifically the case of Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert. (Note: The photos at the link are not for the weak of stomach.) Not only is Danielle foregoing her one and only shot at survival (and it’s a reasonable shot, too), but she’s giving up her chance for decent palliation and preventing the fate that Jakubczyk-Eckert suffered.

Danielle, I’m afraid, is another cancer tragedy in the making. I only hope that she realizes her error before it’s too late. Her latest report might sound as though things are going well, but it’s the calm before the storm. Even nasty tumors like Danielle’s sometimes go through periods where they don’t grow much or where they even shrink a little. Inevitably, they start growing again. Danielle’s already wasted over three months of time that she could have been using fighting her cancer with effective therapy. I hope there’s still time left for her.

Posted in: Cancer, Health Fraud, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (416) ↓

416 thoughts on “Another cancer tragedy in the making

  1. I wonder how many patients Dr. Young acquires because Robert Young was the name of the actor who played Marcus Welby, M.D., in the 1970s TV show.

    Tragic story. I encounter a few patients like Danielle in Scottsdale, Arizona. They are less common in less affluent areas.

    -Steve

  2. rork says:

    Breast cancer is common, and there is pretty much good information out there, and lots of former patients who have been “cured” by science based methods (though some deaths too, I admit), so I’d have hoped that the quacks had a harder time getting any of the action compared to more rare or more dire cancers. And the stuff Young seems to be selling isn’t even close to making any sense. I conclude nobody should be falling for it. But I’m wrong.
    One possible problem. Maybe their oncologists really weren’t very good at explaining things, or not quite current on the literature. That happens to me. Not every doc is from a first rate cancer center and read every paper. Even a single lapse might not help.

    I have a question. Do people like Young make you sign papers saying he won’t be sued after you die? The question is how these folks can stay in business. I’m not a lawyer, but if this isn’t malpractice, I’m stunned.

    Trivia: “late recurrence is a lot less uncommon” maybe might be worth fixing, though most readers here will detect and get through it unconfused I expect, since they’re pretty good.

  3. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    This story reminds me of a fairly recent story of a Dutch website designer named Willeke. She was diagnosed with what seems to have been Stage II breast cancer. Even before the results of the biopsy were in, she contacted a nearby alternative healer, and two days later, after she had heard the results, she decided that she would show the world how she cured herself by alterative methods and that she would write a book about it (similar to another book she just had read). She started a blog, or rather, she dedicated part of her existing website to a blog. In the course of her disease she tried out two dozen different alternative treatments (at least counting from the information or her blog), almost all the time under the supervision of her neighborhood quack, who told her that she was making good progress.

    When she was feeling worse and worse, it was explained that this was a good thing because it showed the toxins are being removed. She died 20 months after the diagnosis, with metastases in the skull and elsewhere. I summarized the case and if you know Dutch, you can read it here: http://www.skepsis.nl/willeke.html (if you don’t know, you have to guess from words like Tesla, Lakhovsky, zapper, orgon, supplement, Simoncini, suiker (=sugar), homeopathy, curcuma, Miracle Mineral Supplement, bioresonance, gluten allergy, Simonton, Osho-meditation, mantra singing, Ryke Geerd Hamer, papaya, Chinese thee (=tea), Aqua Detox, Aloe Vera, morphine, hospice what treatments she got). Even when finally she was offered radiation therapy to diminish the tumors that were causing unbearable headaches, she refused, because she thought the radiation would stop the effect of the alternative cures, which were progressing so well.

    She positively avoided regular medicine. The homeopathic physician she was seeing (who himself died of cancer not long afterwards) advised her strongly to go to the hospital, and she finally stopped seeing this physician, probably because she didn’t like this advice and like the New Germanic Medicine of Hamer better. All the time she was actively promoting her ‘life style’.

    Such people tend to see physicians as people mostly interested in selling worthless cures, and on the other hand they put their faith in the most absurd nonsense of people promising them a total cure, an even in their own ability to design cures, as if it merely is a matter of reading a few ‘how to’-books and artfully combining the information from them.

    Incomprehensible.

  4. Janet Camp says:

    I can understand not wanting to go through the daunting treatment that is recommended and would completely respect the choice to accept death–hopefully with dignity, but to substitute obvious and rank quackery for treatment is so sad. Sad for Danielle, et al, but infuriating to me as an observer. Why can’t we stop people like Young? It must be clear that his “patients” all die. Can’t his right to practice as an MD be questioned?

    Is the bit about heart damage from chemo true; if so, how serious is it?

  5. Donna B says:

    I’m with rork… I don’t understand how this sort of atrocious misinformation can be published without some sort of legal repercussions. It is unconscionable that someone (Robert Young) could spread this crap and divert people from real treatment.

  6. mattyp says:

    Thanks for posting this Dr. Gorski. I have seen too many people in my field deny germ theory and offer The truth about disease in the body (the subluxation). Fortunately, these are diminishing in number, or they are just less vocal than they used to be.

    I don’t have a problem with people seeking natural therapies as an adjunct to current best practice treatments for cancer, so long as a) they advise their oncologist what they intend on taking, so that the oncologist can advise if there is chance of adverse reaction b) the other therapist giving a TRUE account of what effect the therapy will have (usually no objectively measurable effect, occasionally mild symptomatic relief).

  7. Marvin says:

    Young’s blog lists his credentials as “D.Sc.” and “Ph.D.” which are redundant. He lists himself as a “research scientist”. He is not a clinician. Legally, he will likely not be held to the standards of practicing clinicians (who should know better). Also, his victims believe in him. Failures will not be attributed to him, but rather to special pleading and blaming the victim (didn’t get treatment in time, should have come to me first, … blah, blah, blah). Non-clinicians likely do not carry malpractice insurance, at least not like actual clinicians do. There is no payoff for malpractice attorneys.

  8. sowellfan says:

    I’m confused about one sentence, “The reason is that for ER-negative tumors late recurrence is a lot less uncommon.” Given what is said in the sentences before and after this, shouldn’t it be, “…a lot less common.” ?

    Don’t mean to nitpick, especially in the comments section, but I figured this was worth a correction.

  9. drsteverx says:

    @Janet Camp
    There are a few chemo drugs that can result in cardiac toxicity. The one I remember in my internships at U of M was Doxorubicin. Of course it’s the total accumulated dosage that puts one at risk. Toxicity can result in congestive heart failure. This was 10 years ago and now am in community pharmacy so there is probably much more known now.

    Dr young really needs to take a freshman course on physiology at minimum. I think he would find the chapter on acid base homestasis particularly enlightening. It seems we have evolved a whole system to regulate this problem. I didn’t read his “research” but is his opinion of normal pH different than what everyone considers normal? Both acidosis and alkalosis are real medical events, does he not know that we look at this as well?
    Truly amazing

  10. @JanetCamp,

    Is this quack an MD? I looked at his page a few minutes ago, and he lists one of his degrees as a “NMD”, and upon further looking at his other website, he was a ND. I believe he put the “M” in there to further obfuscate his completely useless degree. (I may be completely wrong.)

    Yes, many chemotherapeutic agents can cause heart damage, and this is why (some? most? I have no idea, I’m not an oncologist) cancer facilities have the patient get an EKG and echocardiogram prior to receiving treatment. I’d presume that a patient with a history of multiple MIs or severely decompensated heart failure would be a terrible candidate for chemotherapy and that the treatment would be just as likely to kill him as the cancer.

    I spent about 2 minutes reading this *assh0le’s* website, and had to close the window because steam was coming out of my ears. How on earth do we, as a supposedly advanced nation, let people like this openly advertise these completely dangerous things? How can they get away with it? Why isn’t the government beating on his door, unplugging his computer, and arresting him? I’m sorry. I fully support freedom of speech, and freedom of stupidity, but I do not support allowing these f-ing idiots to advertise completely fake garbage that, without a doubt, will kill people. How is this legal? Why isn’t the government cracking down on this?

    P.S. This alkaline water stuff is among the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I can’t believe major water manufacturers are buying into that garbage. Anybody who tells you that you need to drink water with a different pH to correct physiological problems has absolutely zero understanding of the body’s buffering system which allows it to compensate for acidosis/alkalosis insults. That is literally first year of medical school stuff. The body has multiple homeostatic mechanisms to compensate for any attempted change in the blood’s pH, which is kept in a very strict range from 7.35-7.45. If you venture very far outside of that range, then you’re dead. Remember that pH is logarithmic, so a pH change from 7 to 8 (or from 7 to 6) is a 10 times change in acidity or alkalinity.

    Further, pathological changes in the blood pH are the RESULT of a disease process, not the cause. For example, a man with COPD can’t move air very well, causing him retain CO2, which results in his blood being slightly acidotic, and this is compensated by metabolic processes which then alkalinize the blood. Even if you could theoretically change someones blood pH by drinking a bottle of alkaline water (can’t do it, if your body was that susceptible to changes in blood pH we wouldn’t be capable of living), you’d only be treating the “symptoms” not the “problem”, which, ironically, is what sCAMers always claim legitimate medicine is doing.

  11. PJLandis says:

    I feel like this post is skipping over the strong expressions of religious faith in this woman’s blog, expressed not only by her and her husband but by numerous commentators who identify themselves as relatives and identifiable friends.

    If you believe in a personal god, acting in your life, its not surprising that you would reject basic scientific and medical ideas because they are predicated on naturalistic worldview that doesn’t make much sense in a world where god is behind every action, or even just the key ones. If you don’t believe in a natural world, one where things proceed without any supernatural causes, then how can you make any determination about whether someone is a quack or whether there claims are rational?

    Her husband uses words like empirical research, but his posts indicate he either doesn’t mean that in the commonly understood sense or he has his own definition which I imagine never contradicts what they consider revealed truth.

    Maybe I’m reaching, but it seems like these ideas they’ve latched onto are probably more in line with a worldview that doesn’t believe in evolution, or more generally a worldview that doesn’t need to be rational because Jesus fills in the holes.

  12. DugganSC says:

    As for why these doctors seldom get sued, I suspect it’s like the urban legend of the cat tranquilizer. The people who fall for this sort of scam are the ones who want to really believe that it works, so no matter how bad things get, they think it would have been worse without the treatment.

  13. mousethatroared says:

    Just a really sad story. I wish I understood why people makes decisions like this. I don’t. One can say it’s the alt med mentality, but I have a few friends who are very alt-med, and they still pursued modern medicine for serious health conditions. I know many people who are very religious, but they still pursue modern medicine in a way that is pretty much the same as the non-religious folks I know (with the addition of prayer and a possible shift in who is organizing the casserole delivery).

    Maybe it’s just a particular set of life experiences, or peer beliefs or a particular personality’s response to stress…

  14. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Some good can come out of these sorts of blogs. Before these sorts of stories were visible only as anecdotes from the quacks themselves. Five years from now, if someone says “I’m trying the Young approach to treating cancer”, we can say “Have you heard of from Canada? Check her website. Notice how it is no longer updated as of August, 2012. That’s because she’s dead.”

    It’s still a sad, pointless, stupid death – but perhaps some good can come out of it.

  15. WLU, that’s a sad, but interesting, point. Maybe someone should archive some of these blogs from people that futilely pursue these sCAM cancer txs.

  16. David Gorski says:

    Unless, of course, seeing that she’s getting unwanted challenges to Dr. Young, Danielle or Brad decides to turn her blog into a private, invitation-only blog…

    It wouldn’t surprise me.

  17. Jacob V says:

    Young’s amazingly convoluted nonsense science like gobbledygook reminds me of two things. One is the absurd ramblings and writings of L. Ron Hubbard regarding human origins and mental health, and the earnest and even passionate ramblings of actively delusional schizophrenic and psychotic clients I’ve had over the years explaining to me why their actions and thinking process are completely rational and reasonable.

  18. Chris says:

    Marvin:

    Young’s blog lists his credentials as “D.Sc.” and “Ph.D.” which are redundant. He lists himself as a “research scientist”. He is not a clinician.

    And his “credentials” are from a now defunct never accredited internet school Clayton College of Natural Health. There is a reason he does not know basic biology.

    On a brighter note, this morning’s paper had an article about a music video made by a young man with cancer, using his fellow patients at the children’s hospital: Stronger.

  19. I simply cannot understand how these morons call themselves “Doctor Xxxx” when they have a completely fake doctorate. And you know good and well they go around introducing themselves as “Doctor ..” at parties, to strangers, professionally, etc. It’s just such a horrible molestation of the word. They literally have no practical knowledge of any legitimate subject and they feel compelled and qualified to write authoritatively on it – to the point of literally killing people. … ……………….. Is there anyway to get national coverage on this stuff? Does anyone have any outlets or contacts that write for very well known publications (outside of the typical skeptical universe)? It’s not libel if you write fact, so all the article has to do is highlight quotes from this psychopath and then reveal the truth immediately beneath it, and then give statistics on cancer mortality with and without treatment…..

  20. windriven says:

    I wonder if Jann Bellamy would revisit the issues involved with civil litigation against quacks?

    From my own admittedly limited experience, the quack lobby is pretty effective in preserving and expanding the legal playground for quackery, at least in the Pacific Northwest (home of, for instance, the Bastyr Institute of Idiocy and Related Disciplines). It may be that the plaintiff’s bar proves to be a more effective tool than legislation.

    Would it be useful – or even possible given their busy schedules – for Drs. Gorski, Novella, Hall, Crislip, et al to establish an expert witness bureau for appropriate cases where quackery has caused demonstrable harm? A few high profile judgments could have a real impact on quacks and the vulnerable who patronize them.

  21. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    SkepticalHealth, have you not heard of whatstheharm? Once these sorts of stories start accumulating, it becomes easier and easier for skeptics to point out that no – this isn’t a cure-all and not just one but several people have died. Of course, thanks to the myriad self-confirming biases endemic to the human mind it’s generally very difficult to change people’s mind. In some cases people would literally rather die than admit they were wrong.

    As for national coverage, bar the occasional responsible journalist (Aside from Brian Deer, Trine Tsouderos springs to mind as does Amy Wallace) the stories that sell are the ones promoting simple fear, not complex facts. Nick Davies’ rather depressing Flat Earth News talks about why.

  22. Alia says:

    My aunt has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. And when I read such stories as Danielle’s, I’m beginning to feel really grateful for her scientific mindset. She decided to go with what her oncologist recommended, meaning chemo to shrink the tumor, surgery and now radiation. Of course, the outcome is not certain. Of course she is suffering from side effects, she’s grown very thin and she’s really tired – but at least we know she is doing everything to increase her chances of survival.

  23. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    PJLandis wrote

    If you believe in a personal god, acting in your life, it’s not surprising that you would reject basic scientific and medical ideas

    There is simply no logical connection between belief in a personal god and acceptation or rejection of scientific ideas. Lots of pious Roman Catholics have no problem with medical science. They may have a few odd opinions about how exactly the immaterial soul is infused into every human and immediately is contaminated by original sin (and how this immaterial original sin can be removed by the ritual of baptism, but then it still returns in the next generation), but that is quite different from believing what is the best approach to a serious disease.

    However, many adherents of so-called alternative treatments have a strong need to convert everybody to their point of view. If everybody (including yourself) doubts that you are right, the way to resolve the cognitive dissonance is that you start preaching to others. I doubt that Danielle will make her blog unreadable for others. On the contrary, she probably hopes that all readers see the light.

    Such people have an urge to preach to the world about how good their decision is. They will probably continue until the end and even then they will probably rationalize their decisions as the best possible. It sometimes happens that such people, when they are about to die, tell their relatives that they have been horribly cheated by the ‘healer’ and ask them to sue the guy. But these are exceptions, I’m afraid.

  24. michaelSkiCoach says:

    My sister had cervical cancer and went through chemo, surgery and radiation therapy and it was tough, very tough but she is alive today and the complications and side effects sure beat being dead. She’s a cardiologist and so the decision to go with real medicine was not in doubt but there were times when she even wondered if the cure was worse than the disease!

    I almost wonder if the typical medical TV shows that usually show a miraculous recovery are not making things worse. Your average person on the street assumes that its not a cure unless the patient fully recovers and this is seldom the case with serious cancers.

    Its very hard to listen to this story when you have family members that have been through something like this.

  25. ZeGuimaraes says:

    “looks like the SBMers are hijacking your blog Danielle. You’ve attracted the attention of the ‘great’ David Gorski, a breast cancer surgeon who seems to do little else other than blogging daily to defend big pharma. His minions (probably paid bloggers) feign false concern for your well-being, all the while hoping you fail in your current quest. I wish you all the best. I am sure you have made the right choice”

    This is just sad. I feel sorry for her.

  26. lilady says:

    I really am upset that Danielle has rejected the advice of her oncologists for treatment of her breast cancer. In lieu of an extended course of treatment that would give her a chance to survive her cancer, she has opted for the totally bogus treatment offered by *Dr. Young*, which will lead to her inevitable death.

    According to her pictures she is a young woman who has 3 young children and, absent any comorbidities, would be a good candidate for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, yet she has opted for the easier-on-the-body regimen that the charlatan *Dr. Young* has *prescribed*.

    Some individuals have posted on Danielle’s blog, and provided the link to this website. If you are “lurking” here Danielle, this message is for you…

    You have received a life-changing diagnosis, of breast cancer. Your physicians have provided you with information about the treatments which will give you the very best chance for long term survival and a cure. It must be a confusing and frightening time for you. You are vulnerable and angry about this disease and don’t understand some basic human physiology regarding acid-base balance. Here is a simple explanation for you…I linked to this website for another poster on another blog…who was “touting” Young’s treatment:

    http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/acidosis/

    What *Dr. Young* is offering you is a totally bogus cure that is not based in science. Please do some research about your cancer and reputable websites. For a start you should consider the American Cancer Society website:

    http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/DetailedGuide/

  27. PJLandis says:

    Well, religious belief, and in particular a belief in a personal god, certainly doesn’t always cause a rejection of modern science or medicine, but your wrong if your claiming it doesn’t have a causal relationship in some cases… evolution is a clear case of exactly what your denying and if your committed to rejecting such a fundamental scientific truth it’s a lot less difficult for me to accept that your not confused about whether Germ Theory is correct but rather you’ve decided that you don’t believe in it. If someone is really committed to an active supernatural presence in their life it does undermine the naturalistic worldview inherent in scientific inquiry and acceptance of evidence-based conclusions; statistics aren’t all that convincing if you believe the faithful are always in that luck minority.

    I think their is evidence in that blog that these people are making decisions based on just such a rejection, valuing some kind of revelatory evidence over empirical evidence.

    “…if you have access to a genuine crystal ball or a personal Mount Sinai, otherwise, it may be best to leave the predictive outcomes for God to decide.”

    If they’re leaving the outcome to god, how can argue that a conventional course of treatment will be more effective than “choosing life”?

    And maybe I’m using the phrase “personal god” incorrectly, because my understanding is that the Catholic Church mediates between the divine and the faithful, hence the acceptance of the scientific method, however recent it maybe, is a decision made by the designated church officials not via any sort of direct relationship with god. Even their, if someone abandons onerous treatment to visit a shrine I don’t see how you can’t consider that related.

    Anyway, it’s not that I’m saying religion necessarily causes a rejection of science/evidence based medicine, but if it is the root of someones decision to reject treatment for cancer I wonder if there is much effect in trying. I see evidence in her blog that a fundamental misunderstanding of the science might not be the root of her decision to forgo treatment; same with Tinkham, who didn’t seem to reject her diagnosis, she just decided it was wrong for her because she had The Secret. I would be interested to see that addressed in this blog, other than always assuming these patients are misinformed or misled; I think there’s indications that Danielle knows exactly what she’s doing and Robert O. Young is more facilitating than truly misleading in this case.

  28. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Old Doc Young’s theory about viruses sounds enough like the spontaneous generation of rats (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spontaneous_generation) to make me wonder if he doesn’t also believe in that.

  29. lilady says:

    @ ZeGuimaraes:

    “You’ve attracted the attention of the ‘great’ David Gorski, a breast cancer surgeon who seems to do little else other than blogging daily to defend big pharma. His minions (probably paid bloggers) feign false concern for your well-being, all the while hoping you fail in your current quest.”

    I wonder what your “credentials” are ZeGuimaraes?

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/editorial-staff/david-h-gorski-md-phd-managing-editor/

    Care to share your credentials and your Conflicts of Interest, ZeGuimaraes?

  30. Jeez, has anyone read that blog post? She’s on IV Vitamin C, IV Mistletoe, and her Osteopathic Doctor is making her a “vaccine” which is going to help her. Damn, I am simply dumbfounded that there are such INSANE quacks out there.

    How is it that a legitimate doctor can be sued for a birth defect that is not their fault, and yet ………. these psychopaths can literally pull this garbage out of their asses and just go on their merry way, with a trail of corpses in their wake?

  31. How is it any different to walk up to someone and stab them in the chest with a knife than it is to convince a cancer patient to take IV vitamin C and IV mistletoe and to ignore conventional treatment? In both, the actions of one person directly contribute to the death of another. The only difference I can see is “intention”, but at some point gross ignorance, when pretending to be a “doctor”, has to account for something.

    … by the way, has anyone ever considered that a nutjob quack would create a fake persona, and have “cancer”, and pretend to use fake treatments and then get cured from it?

  32. lilady says:

    Thanks Chris, for the link to the “brave Anonymous” on Danielle’s blog. I’m still waiting for “ZeGuimaraes” credentials and for the Conflicts of Interest…

    Maybe “ZeGuimaraes” is a *certified microscopist*?:

    http://www.phmiracleliving.com/t-MICROSCOPY-COURSE.aspx

  33. @lilady, oh my god that link. He’s a psychopath!

    Look at all those amazing things he can tell just by looking at the blood. He’s truly a psychopath. Look at the pictures of blood. The first one shows spiculated RBCs, which could be anything from an artifact of slide preparation to certain RBC membrane deficiencies, but it certainly is not Candida. We obviously know the other cells on the slide are RBCs because of their central pallor which signifies their biconcave disc shape. (If anyone is curious, just Google search “candida microscope”, … the fungus does not look like a spiculated RBC!)

    Slide B, he shows “gout” in the blood – lol. Gout is diagnosed by taking fluid from the JOINT and looking at it under certain microscopic conditions. I can’t actually tell what C and D are, it’s been too long since histology classes, but they obviously are tissues, which….. you don’t see in blood obtained from a fingerstick sample!!!

    I’d love to know what his “new biology” defines as the etiology for AIDS (he mentions this on his webpage.)

    This truly has to be a delusion. He maintains a fixed false belief that he has miraculously and independently discovered RIDICULOUS things that are completely untrue. This is the problem with morons pursuing moronic education, they don’t have anyone with a working neuron to bounce ideas off of, so they just go on and on further and further away from reality. Oh, his wife is a massage therapist. Her education consisted of high-school level anatomy and physiology, along with classes in acupressure, reflexology, and energy healing. She’s obviously qualified to be a dietician. LOL.

  34. ZeGuimaraes says:

    Hey, you calm down lilady. As Chris said i was quoting that comment, wasnt it obvious? That’s what the ” ” mean.

    My credentials: none, since i´m still a student.
    Conflicts of Interest: i like to read this blog…

  35. ZeGuimaraes says:

    Another sad comment from that blog:

    “Paid pharma hacks trying to infest this blog with negative comments so that anyone stumbling across it will think twice about pursuing a non-toxic alternative route. The crumbling edifice of the pharma paradigm is really starting to show when tactics like this are used. Frankly, for Gorski to use his blog in such a personal and insensitive way is about as low as it gets, knowing full well that his drooling acolytes will try to stomp all over this blog!”

  36. pmoran says:

    One must sympathize to some extent. All that treatment, and perhaps only one chance in four or less that it will save her life!

    With such patients we could perhaps have a little more to say about the palliative benefits of conventional care. Keeping the cancer, so that it can grow, ulcerate, ooze, bleed, smell and grow into the nerves and bones of the chest is not a great option. Some cancers don’t metastasize until very late, but they can still be devastating locally. We are now seeing horrifically advanced beast cancers not otherwise experienced since early last century as the result of ill-judged “alternative” cancer “treatment” e.g. see this site http://www.vci.org/breastcancer1.htmnot for the weak-stomached

    She could be encouraged to put a finite time limit on her trial of “alternatives” so that if the cancer is not obviously getting better within X weeks or if it is obviously still growing before then, she reconsiders some degree of palliation — e.g. surgery +/- radiotherapy.

    The cancer will pretty certainly continue to grow with any alternative treatment. Try and find ANY testimonials that show cancers like this going away.

  37. Jann Bellamy says:

    @ windriven:

    “I wonder if Jann Bellamy would revisit the issues involved with civil litigation against quacks?”

    I’ll consider this for a future SBM post. FYI, according to a letter I received from the Medical Board of California dated September 19, 2011 (in response to my communication to the Board), Mr. Young, as they refer to him, is currently being investigated. I will ask for an update and let you know the response in a comment to this post.

  38. Chris says:

    ZeGuimaraes it would make it easier if you provided the link to the comment you were quoting (you don’t have to embed it), and used a few more words to clarify your meaning. It took me a bit to find that comment.

  39. lilady says:

    @ ZeGuimaraes…I assumed you were the “Anonymous” poster…my “assumption” was wrong.

    @ pmoran: When I was doing clinical rotations in a hospital during my nursing school training, I cared for a patient whose breast cancer was untreated. I actually changed the dressing on her cancer wound. The stench from the rotting fungating cancer was something I could never forget.

    I have been fortunate that I haven’t faced the threat of breast cancer in my life. At this point, I would undergo any treatment that would give me a chance at long-term survival. I have friends who have undergone breast cancer treatments and my daughter’s close friend died from an aggressive breast cancer…at age 31. She was diagnosed with breast cancer six months after she gave birth to her second child.

  40. David Gorski says:

    All that treatment, and perhaps only one chance in four or less that it will save her life!

    You underestimate her odds. As I explained above, there is at least a one in three chance, possibly as much as 50-50, and I tend to think it’s probably closer to the high end than to the low end with aggressive therapy.

  41. Janet Camp says:

    Thanks for the clarifications about heart damage.

    I hope Jann Bellamy will decide to write more about this problem and I am happy to hear that Young is being investigated.

    Regarding the discussion between Jan Wilhelm and PJLandis, I think there is a difference between a “standard” or “mainstream” religion and a CULT. Many of the alt med people I know who are so far gone that they will not see a (real) doctor or have any tests such as a mammogram, believe in alt med in a way that can only be called cultish. It goes beyond a general belief in a higher power or lifelong church attendance that some simply do without question but doesn’t stop them seeing a doctor and taking his/her advice. Cults require slavish devotion and methodically ostracize any “outsiders”. They are headed by a single charismatic figure who requires slavish “obedience” (not unlike religions at their outset, but without the perspective of time and the accumulation of priesthoods and such).

    Fundamentalist religion can easily become cultism and so can “spiritual” beliefs that aren’t part of any organized church. Many New Age types I’ve known simply pick and choose bits of all sorts of belief systems until they come across a particular “personality” that they then follow in a cultish way. They will sometimes do this repeatedly, sort of a “serial spirituality” with an even stronger charismatic person supplanting another–sometimes it’s a series of fundamentalist churches. Even when these people die of their cancer (and it usually is cancer), they persist in the idea that “everything possible was done” by the “healer”. One woman I knew, whose sister died at 55 of colon cancer (she finally started chemo well into Stage IV, but continued all her woo) had no regrets–“she was sooooo happy at the end, seeing the ‘light’…..”. When you ask these people why their loved one died in spite of the “miracle cure”, they say, “maybe he lived longer because of it–who knows?” The idea being the old “science is just another belief system” gambit.

    I think this woman probably knows she doesn’t have a good chance of survival and has chosen the “spiritual” alternative of dealing with it in a way that gives her more peace. This is just the difference between serious believers and rational thinkers, but that doesn’t excuse the “Dr” Young’s of the world for practicing medicine without a license.

  42. To David Gorski:

    A couple of years ago, I sent a message to you on Facebook regarding someone who claimed to be “cured” by some treatment (I’ve long since forgotten the details). You replied back that sometimes people go into remission by means we haven’t quite figured out that is independent of any treatment, science-based or woo.

    There’s a whole marketing problem with real science. We describe things in nuanced terms, with accurate, ethical, and statistically sound predictions. I’m sure you never say “I’m going to cure you.” I’m sure, however, that you could bring boatloads of cases where someone was cured of this type of cancer during real treatments using real medicine, knowing that it may not have been real medicine, just random chance. You must describe real probabilities in an ethical manner.

    “Dr.” Young (scare quotes intentional) doesn’t have to describe real probabilities. And she does go into remission (even a temporary one), he’ll take all the credit. If she doesn’t, then he’ll say, “she started too lated,” or “she trusted the allopaths too much.”

    But would it be wrong of me to just wanting to drive over to his clinic and beat the living crap out of him? Would you some of you come visit me in prison? I’m so angry about this.

  43. One must sympathize to some extent. All that treatment, and perhaps only one chance in four or less that it will save her life!

    I sympathize that she has a disease. But even if it were a 25% chance (and Gorski says it could be 2X that level), it’s still better than 0%.

    That’s why many of us blog. I just hope that whenever someone blogs about how evil these people are (sorry to use some value judgement about their morality…oh wait, that was intentional), it pushes up the science on google hits, so that someone might read this article rather than the lies of the denialists.

    This story is just making me want to cry.

  44. Donna B says:

    Her blog is private now.

    @SkepticalHealth– stop trying to understand Mr. Young. You’re going to hurt yourself!

  45. (rum & coke)

    Donna, what conclusions could we draw from her making her blog private? Let’s be honest, blogging is 99% about vanity, and every single person who blogs wants people to read their posts. So why would she make hers private? She could disable comments, delete comments, etc. But not let anyone read her stuff? Is she ashamed of what she is writing? Or is she avoiding drama? Who knows.

    I read some of the comments on her blog – and left some myself. Most were warning her not to succumb to quackery which will indisputably contribute directly to her death, and told her to not cast away legitimate medicine which, according to Dr. Gorski, gives her about a 50% chance, which is pretty damn good – considering that even if she ultimately died, she’d probably have increased life anyway.

    Let’s be honest, what do we think about a person who is diagnosed with a terminal condition who starts a website telling the world about it? That’s pure vanity – “I’m suffering, please pay attention to me! Me! Me! Me!” Kidding.. Kind of. I do believe that this person was anti-medicine from the get go, because you’d have to be to believe something as absolutely idiotic as the garbage that Mr. Young was spewing. In another comment thread they are discussing if our poor education, etc, makes Americans so likely to believe in this alternative garbage. I think it’s the success of medicine that allows CAM to exist – we make people so healthy that if you’re not a fat turd that eats at buffets every night then you’ll either die from cancer or old age, or be smushed by something big and metal – and yet this isn’t good enough. If neurotic people feel even the slightest bit “strange” then *something* is wrong with them and they must pursue ideological BS to make themselves feel better.

    … I should have been a pathologist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iChp2giuLUA

  46. lilady says:

    She’s on Facebook:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/NewLife-A-New-Beginning/271762069554170

    Scroll down to see a poster, who knows someone who is searching for an alternative treatment for a four-year-old child, diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

  47. David Gorski says:

    I read some of the comments on her blog – and left some myself. Most were warning her not to succumb to quackery which will indisputably contribute directly to her death, and told her to not cast away legitimate medicine which, according to Dr. Gorski, gives her about a 50% chance, which is pretty damn good – considering that even if she ultimately died, she’d probably have increased life anyway.

    Most of the more recent comments (i.e., the ones after my post here “went live”), yes. If you look at the old posts, though, with few exceptions the comments were totally supportive. Her readers praised her effusively for her “bravery” in choosing “Dr.” Young over conventional medicine, offered her their copious prayers, told her she’s doing the right thing, offered her their best wishes, etc. My post had gotten too long (gee, surprise, right?); so I didn’t think it advisable to add a section about the echo chamber that her blog had become. In retrospect, I wish I had archived her blog.

  48. lilady says:

    Dr. Gorski…I think she was *lurking* here; she has now shut down her Facebook page, as well:

    “Closing shop.

    My facebook page and blog will no longer be public. If you would like to read my blog you can email me at blogreadersareus@gmail.com.”

  49. That’s such a shame. A tragedy really. Part of being a human being is realizing that you’re wrong, that you made a mistake, and learning from it. This poor lady’s refusal to be remotely rational, and her predilection for useless alternative medicine is going to leave her husband without a wife, and her children without a mother. I really wish that someone would sit her down and ask “What the f*** are you doing?” Sometimes people need a kick in the rear.

    This is just a pointless human death. It literally puts us back 1,000 years. Why is STUPIDITY trendy?

  50. lilady says:

    I was able to bring up Danielle’s husband’s posting on her blog, where he discusses all the *research* they did about *Dr.* Young’s treatment. Brad really believes he knows more than Danielle’s oncologists…and his post is directed at a poster who questioned their decision to forgo treatment at the cancer center in Canada, in favor of the Quack’s treatment.

    Before the blog was taken down, they had a PayPal account to make a donation for Danielle’s care.

  51. pmoran says:

    This is why healthfraud activities should not get too personal. This poor woman has gotten caught up in justifiable hostility towards cancer quackery, when she might yet have been persuaded not to commit herself irretrievably to method after method that we can predict will not work.

    She is no “alternative” zealot — she has said herself that she knows that conventional treatment might save her life. She merely doesn’t realize (yet) that the treatment offered is almost certainly not going to be “worse than the disease”.

    One of the worst outcomes for the purposes of our resistance to cancer quackery might be if she were persuaded against her will to undergo surgery, radiotherapy and the full gamut of adjuvant treatments including chemotherapy and still finds herself facing recurrent cancer within a year or two. Imagine how that would be portrayed by those currently supporting her decision.

    If, OTOH, she did well, that would arouse little comment. That is what we are supposed to be able to so.

  52. gretemike says:

    One out of four or 50/50, either way it’s a shame that the chance is apparently being tossed away.

    Has a CAM practitioner ever been convicted of negligent or reckless homicide (manslaughter) following the death of a patient?

  53. lilady says:

    @ PMoran:

    “This is why healthfraud activities should not get too personal. This poor woman has gotten caught up in justifiable hostility towards cancer quackery, when she might yet have been persuaded not to commit herself irretrievably to method after method that we can predict will not work.”

    I disagree. If a cancer patient opens a blog to post about her alternative cancer treatment provided by a snake oil salesman…blogging about her choice is fair game. She also invited comments…and some of those comments questioned her choice and linked her to reliable websites.

    I am convinced that she and/or her husband were “lurking” on this blog. That is why I addressed her directly and provided some a link about acidosis/alkalosis and a link to the American Cancer Society-Breast Cancer website.

    We really do not know if she is an “alternative medicine zealot”. What we do know is that she has chosen *alternative medicine* offered by a snake oil salesman, for her cancer treatment.

    Unfortunately, there is little or no chance that she will be “…persuaded against her will to undergo surgery, radiotherapy and the full gamut of adjuvant treatments including chemotherapy….”. Her husband, in a colossal display of hubris, claims to have done all the *research* (amazingly, only since January!)…and claims that he knows more than her oncologists.

  54. lilady says:

    “Has a CAM practitioner ever been convicted of negligent or reckless homicide (manslaughter) following the death of a patient?”

    Yup, LLMDs (Lyme Literate Medical Doctors) who provide treatment for *chronic Lyme disease* have been convicted of manslaughter:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-12-08/health/ct-met-chronic-lyme-disease-20101207_1_lyme-disease-raxlen-medical-boards/3

  55. gretemike says:

    For a variety of reasons I think typically police and prosecutors do not become aware of people who die while under the care of a quack. But generally speaking a prosecution under at least negligent manslaughter ought to be viable in this type of case. Perhaps one day we’ll see a prosecution aided by the contents of such blogs.

  56. gretemike says:

    In case Danielle or her husband ever reads this, I would encourage them to ask the CAM provider to give them a signed document setting forth the treatment he is providing and that he is recommending that treatment as the sole treatment for Danielle’s [specifics of her cancer], and that he expects the treatment will be curative. If he doesn’t provide it, or if he will only provide it with changes (“I am not recommending this as the sole treatment”) think hard about why. If he does provide it, the husband should save it for potential future use.

  57. David Gorski says:

    This is why healthfraud activities should not get too personal. This poor woman has gotten caught up in justifiable hostility towards cancer quackery, when she might yet have been persuaded not to commit herself irretrievably to method after method that we can predict will not work.

    I beg to differ. There wasn’t anything “personal” and nothing but good wishes for her and the hope that she gives up the course she is on, which precludes her only chance at long term survival. There were comments from people who understood what she is going through. None of the comments were disrespectful—except towards Dr. Young, who, let’s face it, is hard to write about without letting at least a little bit of anger show. The man is beneath contempt.

    Then, one or two of her commenters sprang into action, with comments calling me in essence a pharma shill, claiming that the commenters from here who took the time to try to gently persuade Danielle from her course are also apparently pharma shills, and in general a lot of paranoia. Unfortunately, it appears to have worked. In retrospect, I now wonder whether the one most vociferous “anonymous commenter” was in fact Robert Young himself. I’ve aroused Young’s ire multiple times in the past, particularly over the Kim Tinkham case on my other blog (he’s even e-mailed me), and “anonymous’” comments were suspiciously…personal. What are the odds that some random commenter would know that much about my activities or would refer to me as being a “well known” blogger in the pay of pharma? I’m guessing probably not high.

    Whether “anonymous” was actually Young himself or not, seriously, Peter. What would you have us do? Stay silent? Try to contact her out of the blue as a stranger? Do nothing and follow her blog from afar? Apparently, nothing skeptics and supporters of SBM ever do is good enough or acceptable to you. To you, we’re always in the wrong. The only time I’ve seen you say something supportive (of my efforts, at least) in the last year was a few months ago, when I was a bit more credulous than I should have been about whether radio waves can have biological effects. In any case, hopefully, seeds of doubt in Dr. Young have been planted. I can only hope they germinate in time, if they germinate at all. If there are members of her family who are appalled by what she is doing, maybe this will be ammunition for them to stage an intervention. It probably won’t work, but doing nothing will almost certainly not work.

    One of the worst outcomes for the purposes of our resistance to cancer quackery might be if she were persuaded against her will to undergo surgery, radiotherapy and the full gamut of adjuvant treatments including chemotherapy and still finds herself facing recurrent cancer within a year or two. Imagine how that would be portrayed by those currently supporting her decision.

    I really can’t believe you said this. Worry about how it would be portrayed if Danielle were persuaded to undergo standard-of-care therapy and the tumor recurred and she still died? Quite honestly, that calculation didn’t even enter my thinking. I would have been overjoyed if she accepted standard of care therapy and very sad if she died anyway, and I would have made note of it. After all, even with the best we have to offer, she still probably has about a 60% chance of dying of her disease within 10 years, something I made very clear in this post. The problem is that she has a close to 100% chance of dying a very unpleasant death a lot sooner if she sticks with Robert O. Young. If she accepted standard of care therapy, at least she would have gotten the best palliation SBM has to offer, rather than no palliation at all, which is what she’s getting now. You appear to be using that possibility as an excuse to do nothing. Worry about trying to save a life now and don’t worry overmuch about how it will be portrayed by quacks and supporters of quackery if conventional therapy fails! (At least, that’s what I say.) Even if Danielle embraced conventional therapy and survived at this point, the quacks would portray it as being due to her having followed Young’s protocol, not to the science-based therapy, anyway. As I’ve said before in many cases of people falling for quackery, I’m OK with SBM not getting the credit (and it probably wouldn’t). At least Danielle would be alive.

  58. fledarmus1 says:

    Of course she took her blog and facebook page private. Faced with a looming ugly and painful death, she has chosen to bet on a spontaneous remission or a misdiagnosis that will make the whole nightmare go away and return her life to what it was, rather than face the reality of an extremely painful couple of years and a long recovery that will leave her with a life less enjoyable than what she currently has. That can’t be an easy choice under any circumstances. I’m sure the blog and facebook pages were started with a view to getting sympathy for her condition and support for her choices. They are faith-building and support-building exercises for her, not open forums for the sometimes abusive confrontations between scientists and placebo vendors.

    As long as Mr. Young is finding customers for his treatment, can’t we use this opportunity to match his patients to comparable patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments for an outcomes study? That might even be a helpful point of discussion for oncologists whose patients resist treating their cancers… “Well then, would you mind if we monitor your condition so that we can use your case as a placebo control for our next trial?”

  59. @Dr. Gorski, I think we need more long and detailed blog posts going over the different “treatments” that Robert Young offers his clients, and expose each and every one of them as pure quackery, and hopefully get that up the ‘ol Google page rank.

  60. DugganSC says:

    I think part of the problem remains that of credibility and how to properly convey the proper information to the layman. Scientifically, statistically, the scientific methods are shown to be the ones that work, but the details of why they’re right generally come down to authority when they start showing all of the figures. You know you’re right and I know you’re right, but these patients have the doctors showing them one course of action and that the other side is all wrong while the CAM practitioners show a different course of action and that the other side is all wrong. For people without medical training, it’s going to be difficult to differentiate between the guy using unfamiliar scientific terms and the person using unfamiliar pseudoscientific terms.

    How do you convince them that you’re not trying to snow them just like you claim the other guy is?

  61. David Gorski says:

    As long as Mr. Young is finding customers for his treatment, can’t we use this opportunity to match his patients to comparable patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments for an outcomes study? That might even be a helpful point of discussion for oncologists whose patients resist treating their cancers… “Well then, would you mind if we monitor your condition so that we can use your case as a placebo control for our next trial?”

    That would be unethical. We can’t do that.

  62. ksstepha says:

    I think in this situation, if her faith is determining her choice, it may help to find RELIABLE experts that share a similar faith. I know many doctors that have a strong faith. It is really powerful to hear that a doctor is praying for his patients…..along with providing science based treatments that you are emphasizing.

    There has been some posts bringing up the issue regarding faith and science and I don’t see why it has to be so black and white. (Hot Spot!!) I find that those that cling to one side or the other may not be as informed in the other sides or both sides all together. I am not a doctor and I am not an expert in any religion. I feel I am an average Christian person working in the medical field. I feel the more I have learned in science, the stronger my faith has grown in God. I know everyone’s faith forms and grows differently, but I do not see science oppossing a higher power, I feel that science is how God expresses Himself. He has blessed many people with the capacity to retain knowledge and others with skills to help fellow humans (of course a scientific process was involved in genes, environment etc), in a way we are sinning if we do not embrace what He has offered. When we think we know more and are better than God, that is when we are putting our will over His. I have never thought that by having a faith in God, that I would not endure suffering. In fact, the Bible is loaded with examples of faithful people suffering, Paul, Moses, and even Christ himself. The power of God is He helps people endure the suffering and He promises a life of eternity through Christ that far out weighs the current life.

    I too am so sick of the false information and people taking advantage of others whether it is for wealth, fame, or just ignorance. Every single day I have people approaching me with such hokey ideas…at first kind of amusing….now just so infuriating. My field is not life or death like this example is from, but I can understand (to some level) the frustration you are all feeling when clearly you are the experts and obviously KNOW YOUR STUFF…. and others are just spewing nonsense!

  63. mousethatroared says:

    DugganSC “For people without medical training, it’s going to be difficult to differentiate between the guy using unfamiliar scientific terms and the person using unfamiliar pseudoscientific terms.”

    I think you are spot on with this. If you don’t have much science training (like me), you are often on the position were you are taking a doctor’s word for it that there is good evidence for their recommended therapy.

    So how do you tell who to trust?

    I think it’s unlikely that the general public will become educated enough in science to make a decision informed by plausibility, or scientific principles, anymore than the general public can choose an architect based on their knowledge of physics or a car based on their knowledge of mechanical engineering.

    I wonder, do people preform any better in choosing their architects, construction contractors or cars than they do choosing their doctors?

    Wishful thinking is often a problem in any choice with risks and benefits.

    Okay, I’m rambling.

  64. brad says:

    This is Brad. Yes, Danielle’s husband Brad! The very guy that Dr. Gorski menitioned in this article. I’m the guy that has done thousands of hours of research (empirically based, peer-reviewed, causative research) on both sides of the debate (conventional and non-conventional). The nice thing about debate is that it provides a great “big picture” perspective. One thing is clear, we are all striving for the best step forward in our response to this disease.

    Dr. Gorski has established a campaign against Dr. Robert Young and has chosen to exploit my wife’s situation in the process. Dr. Gorski has ASSUMED many things about our situation and experience without doing his homework (a few simple questions would have informed him of what led Danielle to her decisions). Dr. Gorski has grasped and led many others into a rudimentary surface level perspective of Danielle’s experience. Her blog was intended to keep loved ones up to date – the people who have an indepth understanding of her situation. Her journey goes beyond Dr. Young; pH miracle was simply a step.

    Many people have commented to Dr. Gorski’s article assuming a lack of affluence and intelligence on our part. I have a Master’s degree in health sciences focused on advanced statistical analysis and research design and interpretation. We are not “internet researchers”. We go to the source (eg. PubMed) and weed through the numerous findings for unbiased, peer-reviewed, causative research. Our research, NOT Dr. Young’s, has turned up numerous “natural Her2 inhibitors”. There is even research into the bioavailability of these natural inhibitors. Did we know more than Danielle’s oncologist about Herceptin… yes we did. Why? Because we did the research! The esoteric “oncological” language, was more of a speed-bump than a deterrent.

    Danielle sat with information from both sides before she made her decisions, and she continues to do so. To further add to this information, I had requested more EMPIRICAL research to add to our already existing mountain of EMPIRICAL research (NOT found on Google). In response, it looks like Dr. Gorski has provided an article regarding triple negative cancer not Her2 positive. He`s also thrown in a few graphs constructed with an online decision-tree type calculator. Please remember, these types of tools have been standardized to a particular population – which, according to Dr. Gorski’s own comments, aren’t yet designed to assess Her2 related cancers. Danielle’s direction was chosen, based on empirical EVIDENCE, and factors related directly to her situation.

    In my initial response to “anonymous”, I mentioned leaving “the PREDICTIVE outcomes to God”. Prediction presupposes some form of assumption that unless tested has no place in empirically based decisions. God, if there is one, is the only one that can “predict” the future of Danielle’s decision. No doctor or quack can do that! Has Dr. Gorski tried to make an educated guess? Absolutely, and his guess assumes many things. This subtle quackery snuck by most because of assumptions made by many.

    My wife`s blog was never intended to become a discussion forum for the scientific community and therefore has been made private to minimize any further exploitation and to allow the people that care for her personally to share their concerns, hopes, and encouragement. It’s like her tiny little blog stepped on a giant scientific ant hill. I guess her words are more powerful than we realized. Again, it’s clear that the intent underlying exploitations, diatribes, and assumptions is the hope that a LIFE (a beautiful one at that) will be saved. I`m sure the concern expressed through assumptions, diatribes, and exploitations will continue.

    Regards to all…

  65. David Gorski says:

    Brad,

    I”m glad you showed up. You probably don’t realize it, but I’m not an evil guy, and I do actually care. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this post. However, seeing potentially curable patients choose quackery saddens me (for the patient) and enrages me (rage directed at the quack).

    In the interests of education, would you be willing to provide the links to the articles on natural HER2 inhibitors that your research led you to? I’m quite serious. Show me the scientific and clinical evidence that these “natural” inhibitors work as well or better than Herceptin. I know of some natural products being studied for their effect on HER2, but none of them are yet ready for prime time. I’d also be interested in knowing where you did your empirical research, given that you said you didn’t use Google. (Actually, I use Google quite a lot, even for academic searches, which is why I’m curious.)

    Second, I beseech you. Look at “Dr.” Young’s claims with a more critical eye. They are utter nonsense, so much so that anyone with freshman-level biology and certainly a first year medical student could dissect the numerous errors in his understanding of how the body regulates pH, as well as his germ theory denialism.

    Finally, I was very clear about the limitations of my analysis within the confines of what I knew. If you would like some other information about HER2-positive relapse patterns with more detail, try:

    Pattern of distant recurrence according to molecular subtype in Korean women
    Patterns of relapse and metastatic spread in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer according to estrogen receptor status
    Breast Cancer Subtypes and the Risk of Local and Regional Relapse

    Among others. I could go into molecular subtypes, which is the direction the field is going, but that is not necessary for purposes of our discussion.

    As for the tool I used, yes, it doesn’t yet take into account HER2-postivity. However, that makes its estimates actually probably rather more pessimistic than they need to be for HER2-positive tumors. The reason is that HER2 positivity allows for treatment with Herceptin, which increases survival and decreases risk for relapse, which is something that is not true for triple negative cancer. Consequently, the prognosis for ER(-) tumors calculated by Adjuvant Online comes from data that is based on a mixture of HER2(+) and HER2(-) cancers.

    In any case, none of this actually changes my assessment that Robert Young is a quack. Yes, I said it. In my opinion he’s a complete quack. He uses ideas from the late 18th century instead of modern, science-based ideas, and his “live cell analysis” is pure pseudoscience. He can’t do what he says he can do, and Kim Tinkham paid the price. I sincerely hope that your wife doesn’t follow Ms. Tinkham. I really do, whether you believe it or not.

  66. Brad, thank you for writing. I am completely lost as to how you are so active in supposedly pursuing research, but at the same time readily accept all of the false claims that Robert Young makes. Can you find any legitimate evidence (double-blinded, peer-reviewed, etc) supporting any of his “new biology?” Supporting his alkaline water, or his belief that you can take a few drops of blood and diagnose almost anything by simply looking at the RBCs? (I posted in this thread a few examples where Young clearly had no idea what he was talking about, where he grossly misidentified speculated RBCs as Candida yeast.)

    Further, as Dr. Gorski asked, where is the evidence of any of these “natural HER2 inhibitors” having efficacy greater than that of the current standard of care? I would presume that if you were going to make a choice between two protocols for a life-or-death situation, you’d pick the option that has the greatest chance of survival based on the most rigorous evidence. So where is the evidence of the “alternative” treatment? What evidence did you show your wife that led her to not pursuing the current standard of care treatment?

  67. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    Brad

    There are many things that can be said about your wife’s choice for her treatment, but the simplest is this. If she believes this to be true;

    “Cancer is not a cell but a poisonous acidic liquid.
    A cancer cell, is a cell that has been spoiled or poisoned by metabolic or gastrointestinal acids.
    A tumor is the body’s protective mechanism to encapsulate spoiled or poisoned cells from excess acid that has not been properly eliminated through urination, perspiration, defecation or respiration.”

    then she has been tragically misled. Any treatment that is based on this understanding is the same as no treatment. Please, do not fool yourselves. You may have many concerns about the effects of conventional treatments for cancer, but following these alternative treatments will result in the disease running its grim course.

    A breast-obsessed friend of my father encouraged his well-endowed wife down the road of alternative cancer care for the sake of preserving her lovely boobs. She died. Horribly.

    No one pretends that conventional treatment is pleasant and that painful death can be avoided with certainty, but useless treatment guarantees an horrific outcome.

  68. Donna B says:

    So, what is the difference between your purported natural HER2 inhibitor and a purified version in pill form, besides, of course, being less potent? And acceptance of the need for such a treatment is really an indirect admission that Robert Young’s definition of cancer being a ” poisonous acidic liquid” is hilariously incorrect.

  69. I must have drank a lot of cancer last night. :)

  70. Donna B says:

    I noticed your rum and coke up there ;)

  71. Harriet Hall says:

    @Brad,

    Dr. Gorski’s post doesn’t come from any personal vendetta against Robert Young; it comes from an empathetic breast cancer expert’s distress at seeing yet another patient fall prey to quackery and lose her only chance of a cure. (Sometimes it is only a small chance, but it’s clearly a better chance than anything CAM can offer.)

    You did your best to evaluate the evidence you found, but you didn’t have the background to understand how wrong Young is. Now that the deficits in his knowledge and the flaws in his reasoning have been pointed out to you, it’s up to you to decide whether to accept the evidence of science or continue to believe in Young despite the evidence.

    Cancer treatment is harsh, and I can understand why some people might choose to reject that treatment in favor of acceptance and leaving their fate in God’s hands. I’ve written about such cases at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/taking-control-of-death/

    What I can’t understand is rejecting a proven treatment but then adopting something unproven in its place, especially something that takes a lot of time and effort that could be put to better use enjoying whatever time is left with friends and family. It strikes me as the triumph of hope over critical thinking, as grasping at the flimsiest straw to avoid confronting reality. I guess I can understand how reason flies out the window when someone is frightened and facing death, but I’m still distressed when people die earlier or suffer unnecessarily because their fear and unrealistic hopes led them to accept misinformation.

    Informed choice is the key here. It’s obvious to us that you are not truly informed, but have been biased by false information. You may not see it that way because you are not prepared or willing to. There’s nothing left for us to do but rage at Young, weep at your wife’s situation, and put accurate information out there that might prevent others from being similarly misled.

  72. Bogeymama says:

    Brad, I’m a fellow Albertan, and though I’m not a physician, I have worked in oncology and once had a behind-the-scenes internship at the Cross – I accompanied the oncologists on clinic days, spent time with the pharmacists, and attended journal clubs and rounds. I can tell you that they are constantly reviewing the literature, and are an incredible, compassionate group of dedicated health care professionals.

    I’m also a mother of young children, and if I were in your shoes, I would be sharing my details with Dr. Gorski and using this as an opportunity for a second-opinion-of-sorts. It’s hard to find one in our publicly-funded system, and I do believe he’s on your side! A 40 year-old friend of mine just went through breast-cancer treatment in Calgary, and while she has declined radiation, she did have surgery and chemo. She is feeling strong, and is returning to work this week. She was also stage 3 and had several nodes removed during the surgery. She thought about declining all treatment at the beginning, but she is glad now that she took the route she did.

  73. nord says:

    @SkepticalHealth

    I think that some of the alkaline water companies are targeting athletes for their products. Although the acid/base- one cause of all cancer stuff being discussed here is clearly bunk, there may be some merit to forcing alkalosis of your blood for performance purposes. This is because your blood does indeed go outside the range of 7.35-45 (easily and for prolonged periods) during exercise. Although getting to 7 even, as you point out, would be a big jump and more that what I am referring to. To be clear, I believe you are referring to the pH that your body keeps the blood at most of the time- so that you don’t die.
    On a note unrelated to this post, it would be nice to have someone cover exercise programs, products, nutrition, etc… Lots of woo there it seems and is a huge market these days.

  74. pmoran says:

    Brad, it appears that your wife has chosen to use a number of the most currently popular and often recommended “alternative” cancer methods, including the alkalinizing (which, oddly enough, this IS popular at present). These are also the ones that look most promising to you on the evidence you say you have found?

    Would you agree that if this combination of methods don’t work, there is little reason to believe that any other “alternative” method will work better? There is no superior evidence for any other?

    This is why I urge you to put a time limit on this experiment if you continue it. There may not be much lost if you spend a month or two working hard on these methods so long as you don’t then fall into the trap many other breast cancer women have, of going on to try one treatment after another, urged on by the ubiquitous self-appointed experts you will encounter on the path you have chosen.

    Many of those women did not even have the palliative care that the mainstream can offer, because they are constantly told that any conventional care reduces their prospects of cure. There is actually considerable evidence as to what those propects are with many popular and once popular “alternative” cancer cures. If you are interested in some examples see http://www.users.on.net/~pmoran/cancer/Alternative_studies.htm

  75. actinomyces says:

    Brad,

    I’ve thought of your family constantly since reading this and your lovely wife’s blog (prior to making it private). I am so, so sorry this is happening to your family. I’m sure this Internet kerfuffle is only adding to your family’s stress right now (nothing like having a bunch of strangers judging your personal choices I’m sure), and for that I am also sorry, but I imagine many of the people commenting here feel they cannot morally stand by and say nothing if there was even the slightest chance something we had to say would have an effect.

    I’m a researcher too, and I’m sure you don’t have to be told different types of research have different levels of reliability, and their conclusions and results must be weighted as such. It’s hard for everyone not to emphasize the things we find that in any way justify or rationalize the position we want, or have already taken. This is a well known cognitive bias we humans have, and I find myself fighting it frequently.

    Please, please, please use your obvious intelligence and skills to delve more into Dr. Young’s claims. He makes many.

  76. Chris says:

    Brad, in all your research did you not think to question Mr. Young’s education?

  77. lilady says:

    @ Brad:

    I posted at you and your wife here…and I made an assumption that neither one of you were well-versed in research…hence I linked you to a website for acid/base balances. That “assumption” of mine was based on Danielle’s blog which touted *Dr.* Young’s treatment and his theories about imbalances in the body’s acid-base balances…and the curing of cancers by tweaking acid-base balances. And, Brad, I read your post directed to “anonymous” where you claimed to have done thousands of hours of research. That was the clincher for me that you were bragging about your *credentials* and you were also justifying your decision to consult with *Dr.* Young and other alternative *practitioners*.

    You state that you have researched *Dr.* Young (“I’m the guy that has done thousands of hours of research (empirically based, peer-reviewed, causative research) on both sides of the debate (conventional and non-conventional).”…yet you haven’t provided any of *Dr.* Young’s research or any research from the “other (non-conventional) side of the debate” about acid/base balances. Why?

    I also appealed to Danielle to consider how her choice for *alternative* medical treatment and her support of the charlatan *Dr.* Young eliminated her chance for remission…and possible cure of her breast cancer, and, I linked her to the American Cancer Society-Breast Cancer website. We all (Dr. Gorski and the posters here) have empathy for Danielle and the diagnosis she has received. She is depending on you to research treatments, yet you seem to think that there are a few “sides of the debate” about cancer treatment. No Brad, there isn’t an *alternative* side of the debate, when the *practitioner* on the other side is *Dr.* Young.

  78. brad says:

    Dr. Gorski, you are aware of the research regarding “natural products being studied for their effects on Her2”.
    Wonderful, in the interest of education use this platform and your credibility to share it with the world.

    This inquisition is intriguing, discuss on…

  79. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Brad, the truth is that by choosing a lack of treatment, your wife is going to die unless she changes her mind very soon. Reality is harsh, and indifferent to our hopes and dreams. But it sometimes responds to treatment.

  80. Brad,

    Why can’t you provide any of this evidence showing that these “natural treatment options” have greater cure rates for breast cancer than the gold standard treatment? Surely someone who has a “masters” and has done thousands of hours of research would have indexed these studies and could pull them up in a moments notice. Please enlighten us with this abundance of evidence that convinced someone who supposedly has a degree in advanced statistical analysis that these alternative treatments are better than what all the worlds scientists and doctors have come up with so far.

    … The truth is that there are no studies showing these alternative treatments are curative for any cancer, and your bias towards quackery makes you apt to believe whatever poopoo Robert Young spews. I do not believe you have any background in health science seeing as you trust Young, when nearly everything Young writes is laughably and pathetically wrong.

    In short, you are killing your wife. If you convinced her to forego legitimate treatment then her blood is on her hands. Will you deprive your children of their mother solely because of your naturalistic ideology?

    Damn.

  81. brad says:

    Lack of treatment – ASSUMPTION
    Going to die – ASSUMPTION
    Responds to treatment – ASSUMPTION

  82. Harriet Hall says:

    @Brad,

    “This inquisition is intriguing”

    That comment is very revealing. You must have a humongous chip on your shoulder. There is no inquisition here, only a sincere desire to help your wife and to look at the evidence.

  83. brad says:

    SkepticalHealth,

    “Nearly everything” Young writes is laughably and pathetically wrong.

    Which part isn’t?

  84. Harriet Hall says:

    @Brad,

    “Lack of treatment – ASSUMPTION
    Going to die – ASSUMPTION
    Responds to treatment – ASSUMPTION”

    Not just assumptions; rational probability judgments based on scientific knowledge and evidence.

    Your ASSUMPTION that CAM will be helpful is not based on any credible evidence.

    Jumping out of plane without parachute: risk of death is an assumption. There have been rare survivors.

  85. actinomyces says:

    OK, methinks this is planted. Let me guess, after his wife is miraculously cured by this quack, their blogs will be public again.

    At least I HOPE that is the case.

  86. brad says:

    @Harriet Hall,

    “Jumping out of a plane without a parachute: risk of death is an assumption”.

    Is this an assumption or a rational probability judgment?

  87. Brad, no links for all of this evidence that you spent thousands of hours of research finding that convinced you and your unbiased wife to forego legitimate, potentially life-saving treatment and instead pursue quackery with Young? (His fake claims including essentially everything he writes: his complete misunderstanding of cells, cancer, tumor, acid-base disorders, blood, biology, and science.)

    actinomyces, you may be correct. I’m surprised there aren’t more fake miraculous cures more often. Although nobody would begin to be convinced without biopsy proven cancer, etc. Its like the naturopaths who diagnose a pimpled as skin cancer and then cure it…. Get screwed! :)

  88. Chris says:

    Brad, why are you trusting Robert Young who only has a mail order degree and absolutely no understanding of basic biology and chemistry?

  89. David Gorski says:

    Which part isn’t?

    None of it. Young’s ideas are nonsense, through and through. True, a raw vegan diet won’t hurt, but it won’t alkalinize the blood; even if it did, alkalinizing the blood is incredibly unlikely to do any good for your wife’s cancer; and, contrary to what Young says, cancer is not a “reaction” to cells “spoiled by acid.” Nor are viruses “molecular acids.” Nor are bacteria produced by acid in the body. The list goes on and on and on. It’s hard to find anyone who is wrong about more things that Dr. Young. It really is. He is a complete and utter quack. You can tell him I said that if you like.

  90. nybgrus says:

    I’ve been reading this with interest and even had a discussion with some very non-science friends of mine regarding the principles this post and the comments raised – namely, why on earth does someone like me or Dr. Gorski care about whether someone truly believes in “The Secret” or “Dr.” Young’s “treatments?” If someone genuinely believes that they are being helped by something, and that is their decision and they die happily as a result, what difference does it make? What is the harm done?

    My answer is simple – and Dr. Hall said it as well. It is a matter of informed consent.

    If someone chooses to completely eschew treatment because (s)he decides facing certain death is preferable to the side effects of the best available treatments, so be it. As a medical student, and soon to be doctor, that would sadden me since my purpose in life is found through doing everything I can to preserve and improve the lives of others. I may implore you to reconsider. But ultimately, it is your decision and one that I would respect.

    But when the decision is made because something that is completely and unequivocally false is chosen as a reasonable alternative, that is no longer an informed decision. Especially in this case where Young is claiming equivalence (and even superiority) without one iota of reason behind it.

    There is absolutely no doubt, not even a single shred of one, that Robert Young’s thoughts on the pathogenesis and treatment of cancer are wrong. I cannot even begin to stress this enough.

    If you and your family still choose to refuse standard of care treatment, then so be it. But please do so with full knowledge of the decision you are making. Following Robert Young’s advice on this matter in the hopes that it may offer some sort of help is simply incorrect. I can assure you this is not a fine point nor one which reasonable people may quibble about. This truly is as black and white as it possibly gets.

    It bears repeating again – there is absolutely no chance that Young’s treatments can help treat, cure, or otherwise ameliorate your wife’s cancer. The decision to pursue his treatment in the hopes that it may offer any help is simply not based in reality.

    I will add my voice to implore you to really look at the basic claims Young makes regarding the pathogenesis of cancer and how to treat it. Go to the library and get a high school physiology book and read about acid base regulation and oncogenesis. Pick up a few and skim through them. Look at international texts and articles. See how many of them agree with Young, and see how many of them demonstrate quite clearly that Young simply cannot be right.

    Once again, if you choose to refuse standard treatment, that is indeed your choice to be respected. But I beseech you to stop placing your hopes in the utter folly that is Young and his “treatments.”

  91. David Gorski says:

    Wonderful, in the interest of education use this platform and your credibility to share it with the world.

    With all due respect, Brad. I thought you had become a self-taught expert on “natural HER2 inhibitors.” (That’s what you told us in your wife’s blog, isn’t it?) I was honestly asking you to tell me which ones you had found and what the evidence was that they work because I was taking you at your word that you had done so much research. At the worst, I’d find your understanding is too deeply flawed to be of any use. At best, I might learn something. Yet you refuse to answer. Why is that?

    This is not an “inquisition,” at least not from me. I really do want to know where you got your information from and what research supports the use of these “natural HER2 inhibitors.”

  92. brad says:

    Why is the ASSUMPTION that our interaction with Dr. Young was to ameliorate Danielle’s cancer?
    Why is the ASSUMPTION that Dr. Young’s ideas are Danielle’s chosen non-therapy?

    We haven’t provided any of you with enough information about her for you to make ANY rational probability judgements.

  93. brad says:

    Everyone… take out your dictionary and look up the word “inquisition”.

  94. brad says:

    I’m CHOOSING not to provide the research because this post by Dr. Gorski destroyed the initial intention of my wife’s blog.

  95. brad says:

    Any other inquisitions?!!

  96. nybgrus says:

    Why is the ASSUMPTION that our interaction with Dr. Young was to ameliorate Danielle’s cancer?
    Why is the ASSUMPTION that Dr. Young’s ideas are Danielle’s chosen non-therapy?

    I would venture to say it is because that is the content of the blog. I can’t personally comment since, by the time I managed to read this piece in the first place, the blog had become private. But I can’t imagine that Dr. Gorski nor the others here had had actually read the original content would be so mislead as to completely erroneosly believe that your wife had chosen standard therapy and not Young’s treatments, or that she had completely eschewed Young’s treatments in any way.

    However, feel free to put the issue to rest – what course of treatment is she pursuing? Is she pursuing Young’s treatments and following his advice for amelioration of her cancer?

  97. nybgrus says:

    I’m CHOOSING not to provide the research because this post by Dr. Gorski destroyed the initial intention of my wife’s blog.

    I’m getting the uncomfortable feeling that we are being played here. I’d like to think it not the case, since that would indeed be rather the lowliest of the low, and I will not assume it since indeed a life may be at stake.

    However, I would ask that Brad engage in a more productive conversation since I can assure you that the commentariat here is genuinely interested in the best possible outcome for you and your wife. Petty vindictiveness serves no one.

  98. David Gorski says:

    If someone genuinely believes that they are being helped by something, and that is their decision and they die happily as a result, what difference does it make? What is the harm done?

    My answer is simple – and Dr. Hall said it as well. It is a matter of informed consent.

    Exactly. I fully support the right of a competent adult to refuse therapy, but that adult must know the consequences of that decision. In other contexts, I’ve written about a principle I call “misinformed consent.” I’ve written about it with respect to the antivaccine movement, who hugely exaggerate the risks of vaccination and deny the benefits. I’ve also written about it in terms of quackery. That is what people like Young provide: Misinformation, and that’s what people like Danielle end up basing their decisions on; i.e., misinformed consent.

    That is what you and Danielle have accepted from “Dr.” Young.

    If Danielle doesn’t want to accept conventional therapy, she needs to understand that what Young is providing her has about as close to zero chance of helping her as there can be. Her cancer will eventually progress and she will die a very unpleasant death. I realize that what I am saying sounds cruel and harsh, but it is a rational and accurate estimation of what will happen based on many decades of scientific and clinical research. Sugar coating it will serve no purpose at this point. I would help you save her that if I can, but you have to stop viewing me (and my readers) as the enemy. We are not. Even if conventional medicine can’t save Danielle (which, I will openly admit, is more likely than not), it can give her her best chance of survival, and, equally importantly, even if it can’t save her it can provide palliation. Young can’t do any of that. None. Of. It.

  99. David Gorski says:

    Why is the ASSUMPTION that our interaction with Dr. Young was to ameliorate Danielle’s cancer?
    Why is the ASSUMPTION that Dr. Young’s ideas are Danielle’s chosen non-therapy?

    Because Danielle and you said so on her blog. It’s not an assumption.

    I’ve also read other accounts of Young’s regimens and recognized much of it in your wife’s blog posts.

    We haven’t provided any of you with enough information about her for you to make ANY rational probability judgements.

    Actually, you have. You told us that it’s a stage IIIC tumor, ER-negative, HER2-positive. That’s enough to make some rational estimates plus or minus a range of uncertainty.

Comments are closed.