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Yes, Chris beat cancer, but it wasn’t quackery that cured him

Editor’s note: Due to technical difficulties, SBM experienced considerable downtime yesterday. I therefore decided to delay publishing this post until now. Harriet’s normally scheduled Tuesday post will also appear later.

I like to think that one of the more important public services I provide here at Science-Based Medicine is my deconstructions of alternative cancer cure testimonials. After all, one of the most powerful marketing tools purveyors of cancer quackery have in their arsenal is a collection of stories of “real patients” with cancer who used their nostrums and are still alive and well. These sorts of analyses of alternative cancer cure testimonials began right near the very beginning of my not-so-super-secret other blog way back in 2004, metastasized—if you’ll excuse my use of the term—to SBM in 2008, and have continued intermittently to this very day, most recently with a bevy of posts showing why the testimonials of Stanislaw Burzynski’s patients do not constitute good evidence that he can cure cancers considered incurable by “standard” medicine. In other words, Burzynski’s “success stories” aren’t the slam-dunk evidence he and Eric Merola want you to believe them to be regarding the use of antineoplastons to cure brain cancers.

Sometimes, these patients who believe that alternative medicine somehow cured their cancers are so transformed, so energized, that they basically devote their lives to selling, in essence, their story, along with all the stuff they did to “cure” their cancer. I just came across one such person, a man by the name of Chris Wark, whose website and blog Chris Beat Cancer sells the idea that he beat his cancer with nutrition and “natural therapies” that he used to “heal himself.” All of this wouldn’t be quite so horrible—after all, there are lots of people who believe in woo and say so publicly—except that Wark is now also selling all sorts of misinformation about cancer, at $175 for a two hour phone consultation. Regular readers will recognize right away where Mr. Wark goes wrong in his story. Even so, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look because since discovering Mr. Wark’s site I’ve seen his name popping up all over the place promoting “natural” cures, and his site has become a repository of all sorts of “alternative cancer cure” testimonials, as well as credulously promotional material for quackery like Gerson therapy, the Beck protocol, and the Gonzalez protocol.

First, let’s take a look at Mr. Wark’s story. Since his story is so simple to deconstruct, I’ll then look at more of the material on his website. Right on the front page of Mr. Wark’s website, there is a brief blurb about him that reads:

My name is Chris Wark. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2003, at 26 years old. I had surgery, but refused chemo. Instead I used nutrition and natural therapies to heal myself. By the grace of God, I’m alive and kicking, and cancer-free!

Elsewhere, Mr. Wark states:

In December 2003 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer. There was a golf ball sized tumor in my large intestine and the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. It was two weeks before Christmas and I was 26 years old.

The oncologist told me I was “insane” but I decided against chemotherapy after surgery. After prayerful consideration I radically changed my diet and did every natural non-toxic therapy I could find.

I started this blog in 2010 to share my story and everything I’ve learned about nutrition and natural therapies for cancer. I didn’t expect it to blow up, but it has.

Regular readers will recognize right away that Mr. Wark is making a common mistake, namely confusing adjuvant chemotherapy with chemotherapy administered for curative intent.

And here is a video:

Again, regular readers will recognize immediately that this is the most common variety of alternative cancer cure testimonial. It’s so common that I really should think of a pithy name for it. Maybe the “adjuvant gambit”? Basically, such testimonials completely confuse the role of two different modalities (surgery and chemotherapy) in treating their malignancies. Mr. Wark’s testimonial contains the same sort of error about cancer therapy that, for example, Suzanne Somers routinely makes when she relates her breast cancer “cure” testimonial. That error is to confuse the use of chemotherapy for primary curative intent with the adjuvant use of chemotherapy. Many cancers, such as hematological malignancies, are treated primarily with chemotherapy, but solid tumors (i.e., tumors arising from organs) are treated primarily with surgery to extirpate the primary lesion. Most hematological malignancies, if they are going to be “cured,” are cured with chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy. Most solid tumors, on the other hand, require complete surgical extirpation to cure them.

The problem, of course, is that many solid tumors have already had cells detach from them and either invade further into the organ or circulate in the bloodstream. Only a very small fraction of these cells can lodge somewhere and form a metastasis, but when you’re dealing with billions of cells or more the risk starts to become significant. In the case of Suzanne Somers’ breast cancer, she underwent excision of her primary tumor, biopsy of her axillary lymph nodes, and adjuvant radiation therapy (although she now says that if she had to do it all over again she would refuse radiation as well). What she did refuse were adjuvant chemotherapy and adjuvant Tamoxifen, the estrogen-blocking drug that was (and still is) commonly used as adjuvant therapy for breast cancers that make the estrogen receptor. No doubt, given her well-known promotion of “bioidentical” hormones as a fountain of youth, Somers did not wish to do anything that would block the action of these hormones. I’m also sure that her doctors almost certainly told her that she needed to knock it off with the bioidentical hormones while being treated for her cancer, a recommendation that was unlikely to have been well-received.

In any case, adjuvant therapy is intended not as a primary cure, but rather to decrease the chances of a cancer recurrence. Radiation therapy is used to decrease the chance of a local recurrence (i.e., a recurrence in the organ or area where the tumor was resected), while chemotherapy or hormonal therapy is used to decrease the risk of a systemic recurrence (i.e., a recurrence elsewhere in the body). Somers did her radiation and thus maximized her chances of not having a local recurrence, but she refused the drugs that would decrease her chance of a systemic relapse. But how big of a risk did she take in doing this? Well, I ran her clinical information through Adjuvant! Online, an online tool that allows doctors to estimate risks and benefits of therapies based on known clinical trial data. This estimate found that, with surgery alone, Suzanne Somers had a 77% chance of living 10 years. Adding hormonal therapy would increase that chance by 5.7% and adding chemotherapy would increase it by 5.9%. Taking both would increase her chances of living 10 years by 9.9%. So, basically, by eschewing chemotherapy and radiation, Suzanne Somers reduced her chances of surviving 10 years from roughly 87% to 77%. That’s the “miracle.”

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Wark states that he had stage III colon cancer. What this means is that the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes. Sure, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are stage IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC colon cancer, the A, B, or C part depending upon the number of involved lymph nodes and whether the tumor has invaded through various layers of the colon or not, but the basic idea is simple: Node-positive colon cancer that has not spread to distant organs equals stage III. For purposes of discussion, that’s all you need to know. Of course, oncologists would not divide stage III into A, B, and C if the differences didn’t matter, but overall all these “flavors” of stage III share one thing in common, and that’s that the tumor has spread to regional lymph nodes, usually in the mesentery (the double layer of peritoneal membrane that suspends the colon and in which the vasculature supplying and the lymphatics draining the colon are located). That’s why an oncologically sound resection of colon cancer mandates resecting the mesentery all the way down to the root of the mesenteric vessels supplying the segment of colon being resected, and a measure of quality of colon resection is a minimum number of mesenteric lymph nodes included in the specimen.

Now here’s the thing. The primary treatment for stage III colorectal cancer is still complete surgical resection. Everything else is icing on the cake. To illustrate this point, I ran an Adjuvant! Online estimate for the benefit of chemotherapy for a patient like Wark, who was 26 at the time of his diagnosis. This is a bit hard to do because I don’t have complete staging information. However, Wark was nice enough to inform his readers that he had four positive lymph nodes and a “golf ball sized tumor.” The latter bit of information doesn’t help, because for purposes of staging size doesn’t matter so much as how far the tumor has invaded through the layers of the wall of the colon, but the first bit of information about how many positive lymph nodes were discovered is quite useful because it tells me, when combined with the size of the cancer, that the original tumor was probably not stage IIIA. Most likely, it was stage IIIB, although it is certainly possible that he had stage IIIC disease. For purposes of discussion, I am going to assume he had stage IIIB disease. It’s close enough to make the point, and if he had stage IIIC disease, it would only make the case for chemotherapy stronger.

There are also two main chemotherapy regimens for colorectal cancer. One is basically 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) plus leucovorin and has been the mainstay of treatment of colon cancer for decades. However, over the last 10 or 15 years, a newer, more effective regimen known as FOLFOX has been developed that include 5-FU, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin. There’s also an even newer regiment called FOLFIRI that is 5-FU, leucovorin, and irinotecan, but that one is not yet in Adjuvant! Online. So I’ll stick to 5-FU and FOLFOX. What I did was to enter information provided by Mr. Wark on his website into Adjuvant! Online and make educated guesses about the rest in order to provide you with a graph that shows a ballpark range for the survival benefit that adjuvant chemotherapy would provide him. First, here is stage IIIB disease plus 5-FU-based regimens:

Stage IIIB 5FU

Next, here is stage IIIB disease and FOLFOX:

Stage IIIB FOLFOX

In both cases, with surgery alone, Mr. Wark’s odds of surviving five years are around 64%. That’s pretty good for such advanced disease, but we can do better. 5-FU-based chemotherapy regimens increase those odds by around 12% to a 76% chance of surviving five years. FOLFOX, as you can see, does even better, increasing the odds of surviving five years by around 16%, all the way to 80%. Since colon cancer, unlike, for example, breast cancer, rarely recurs after five years, five year survival rates in colon cancer are pretty close to equivalent to the chances of being “cured” of colon cancer. So basically, by eschewing chemotherapy, Mr. Wark decreased his chances of surviving his disease by approximately 12-16%. Since his odds of surviving his disease with surgery alone were greater than 60% to begin with, although he was lucky that his refusing chemotherapy didn’t put him into that 12-16% of similar patients for whom chemotherapy prevents a recurrence, the odds of his surviving were still in his favor if my educated guess about his stage at diagnosis is reasonably accurate. If, however, I underestimated his stage and he had stage IIIC disease, the argument for chemotherapy would be even stronger:

Stage IIIC FOLFOX

Note that in this graph, Mr. Wark’s odds of surviving 5 years with surgery alone would only be 30%, with FOLFOX chemotherapy increasing the odds to around 55%, nearly double. Of course, even in this extreme case, 30% is around a one in three chance; so survival without chemotherapy would not be that unusual. Although he would, in this case, have to be quite a bit luckier than in the case of stage IIIC disease, his survival would not be so unusual that it could be attributed to whatever woo he decided to partake of. Sadly, as is evident in an e-mail from Mr. Wark reprinted in a credulous article about his story, Mr. Wark does not understand the basics of adjuvant chemotherapy, or, if he does, he is not relating it correctly:

Surgery does not cure cancer, especially not stage 3. If it did, that’s all they would do. There would be no need for chemo and radiation. The medical industry has known that surgery does not cure cancer for at least 100 years. Cancer is a systemic metabolic disease, the result of a body that is nutrient deficient, overloaded with toxins, and has an overloaded or suppressed immune system. If the body is not given the essential nutrients it needs to repair, regenerate and detoxify, cancer will most assuredely [sic] come back after surgery. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, juices and smoothies is the most powerful way to promote the body’s ability to heal itself. All processed food must be eliminated. Animal products should be severely restricted or eliminated for a season until the cancer is gone. And it’s ok if some people don’t believe me. I know lots of survivors that have healed cancer without surgery, but skeptics won’t believe them either.

He is, quite simply, wrong that surgery does not cure cancer. For solid tumors like colon cancer, surgery is almost always the only way it can be cured. Indeed, even in the case of some stage IV disease (specifically, metastases to the liver), surgery can still “cure” colorectal cancer. Be that as it may, Mr. Wark had an estimated 30-64% chance of being “cured” of his cancer by surgery alone. However, those odds aren’t good enough. Why should they be, when we can make them significantly better with chemotherapy? It is sad that Mr. Wark decided to decrease is odds of surviving his disease, particularly given how young he was at the time of diagnosis. It is even sadder still that he has decided to dedicate his life to persuading other cancer patients to make the same foolish choice that he did. As for “survivors that have healed cancer without surgery,” as I have shown time and time again in other contexts, these stories rarely stand up to scrutiny either. In any case, looking at his testimonial, I see that his oncologist estimated that he had a 60% chance of survival. It’s not clear whether that is with or without chemotherapy, but most of the time oncologists assume that the patient will accept standard-of-care therapy. That’s why this piece of information makes me think that Mr. Wark was closer to a stage IIIC than IIIB and therefore leads me to believe that Mr. Wark took an even bigger chance with his life than I had originally thought.

It’s also instructive to take a look at the naturopath who treated Mr. Wark, a guy named John Smothers. Perusing his website you will find the usual naturopathic nonsense about “detoxification,” chronic Lyme disease, “anti-aging” diets, and the like. On Mr. Smothers’ page on cancer, you will find metabolic blood tests, anticancer diets, intravenous vitamin therapy, detoxification, infrared sauna treatments, enzyme therapy, lymphatic massage, and something called Theotherapy, which purports to “release destructive emotional patterns that cause weakness in the body through prayer and grief processing. The body is a slave to the soul. What is in the soul will manifest itself into the physical body. Patterns of unforgiveness will lead to breakdown. Forgiveness must come from the heart. Most of the time this is in many layers.” In other words, Mr. Smothers offers the usual cornucopia of pseudoscience and mysticism that naturopaths love so much, and Mr. Wark has completely bought into it. Indeed, take a look at his reasoning (such as it is) for refusing chemotherapy:

Right from the start, it’s easy to tell that Wark’s reasoning will not be sound. He talks about how nurses have to wear gloves and try to protect their skin from chemotherapy while expressing horror that this is the same stuff that is put into patients’ veins. Of course, patients go through their chemotherapy for six or nine or twelve months—or whatever regimen—and get dosed once every one to three weeks or so. Nurses deal with the substances day in and day out on a chronic basis, possibly over many years. The two are not comparable situations. Next, Wark refers to chemotherapy as “poisoning your way back to health.” Well, yes and no. Sometimes, as Nick Lowe would say, you have to be cruel to be kind (in the right measure). Yes, chemotherapy is toxic, but it works and, unfortunately, we haven’t found anything that works as well yet. Perhaps the silliest thing Wark says in this video is that he has to “believe” in the therapy he chooses and that “if I really believed in chemotherapy maybe it would’ve worked.” Here’s a hint: Truly effective anti-cancer therapy doesn’t require you to “believe” in it. As has been said before, you can be in a coma, and antibiotics will still cure your pneumonia. In the same way, you can “disbelieve” that chemotherapy can treat a cancer, and it will still work. Wark also doesn’t help his case by citing the “2% gambit” about chemotherapy, which is misleading trope beloved of cancer quacks the world over. Wark is no exception.

His last trope is that chemotherapy destroys the immune system. He discusses how, if you have cancer, it is the immune system that is keeping it in check and the reason that it’s “not all over your body.” Well, not exactly. He seems to forget that if his immune system had been as awesome as he thought it was he probably would never have grown a golf ball-sized tumor in his colon that spread to his mesenteric lymph nodes in the first place. Of course, his explanation is that it’s the “toxins” that overloaded the immune system and let the tumor develop. He then brings up an example of the patient who undergoes surgery and chemotherapy, thinks he’s tumor-free, and then a few months later develops widespread metastatic disease. To Wark, this is because chemotherapy “destroyed the immune system.” Yes, chemotherapy, depending on which drugs are being used, can temporarily suppress the immune system, but it doesn’t destroy it. The immune system is quite good at rebounding after chemotherapy is done, and the destruction of the immune system is not the main reason why cancer can recur after a seemingly successful treatment. It’s because our treatments aren’t yet good enough to eliminate every last cancer cell. Some can go dormant, only to emerge later.

Of course, Mr. Wark’s testimonial is not enough. He’s begun to collect testimonials of his own. The vast majority of them don’t provide enough information to tell me one way or the other whether there’s anything to them or not. I might have to take a look at a couple of them in more detail in the future, but for now I’ll “cherry pick” a couple. Most of them are maddeningly vague, although some have fairly obvious explanations. For example, Ann Cameron claims to have cured herself of stage IV colon cancer with carrot juice. She had stage III colon cancer, underwent surgery, and refused chemotherapy. Later, she was noted to have lesions in her lungs suspicious for metastases. These supposedly disappeared with carrot juice. However, there is no record of any of these lesions having been biopsied. A PET scan showed “spots” that looked like lymph nodes, but again there is no mention of these lesions ever having been biopsied. My conclusion? These almost certainly were not metastatic cancer.

Next up is a man named Jeffery Williams, who was diagnosed with stage III testicular cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the testicle but was found to have a mass in his abdomen. What follows is a prolonged story of his refusing chemotherapy, using megadoses of carrot juice, and following the Hallelujah Acres Diet, with Angstrom ionic liquid cesium and potassium, Solaray Tumeric and Essiac Tea, along with insinuations that his doctors lied to him about the tumor in his abdomen. At one point, he says he couldn’t find a doctor willing to biopsy the mass, which sounds very odd given that an abdominal mass that’s suspicious for tumor in a patient with a history of testicular cancer almost mandates a biopsy. Finally, a biopsy supposedly showed “100% dead cancer cells.” Of course, a biopsy showing “100% dead cancer cells” does not mean that therapy was working; it could simply mean that the tumor outgrew its blood supply, its center died, and the biopsy (presumably a needle biopsy) only got the center of the tumor. Be that as it may, this is what Williams describes after that:

I also found a surgeon who was willing to remove my tumor. On April 20th 2010 I had a 9.5 hr. surgery to remove the tumor at Cleveland Clinic. I received 4 inches of incision from my first surgery in 2009 and 26 inches of incisions on my second surgery on April 20th 2010. I have had a cat scan once a year since April 20th and I have had no problems.

One notes that he doesn’t say what the pathology showed that the tumor was, which is by itself quite odd. The whole thing sounds very fishy, but even if the story is as Williams represented it, it sounds as though two operations cured him. Even odder still, if Williams was so convinced that his “natural” treatments had cured him of his tumor, why on earth did he go to such lengths to find a surgeon willing to resect the mass? As I said, the pieces of this testimonial don’t all fit together.

Of course, there are breast cancer testimonials, including those of Monique Norton, Susan Macco, and Ashlie Sanders (who appears to have had her entire tumor removed by the biopsy). They’re all of the same variety as Suzanne Somers’ testimonial. They all underwent surgery and eschewed other therapies, meaning that the surgery cured them. They all attribute their survival to whatever quackery they chose to pursue rather than the surgery. I’m tellin’ ya, as a breast cancer surgeon I sometimes get depressed at how little credit we are given.

As glad as I am to see a cancer patient overcome the odds and beat his disease, it’s truly depressing to see that same patient spread misinformation about the science-based medicine that saved him and then to promote all sorts of quackery. Look at his Resources page, for instance. It’s a veritable cornucopia of quackery, up to and including Hulda Clark and Bob Beck, Gerson therapy, Ty Bollinger, Russell Blaylock, and more. Worse, he hides behind a variant of the quack Miranda warning in which he prefaces his advice with “I’m not a doctor and can’t give medical advice,” after which he basically gives medical advice. A great example is in response to a question from a 32 year old woman with breast cancer who has undergone surgery and is understandably frightened at the prospect of beginning her chemotherapy. Here’s Wark’s response:

I’m not a doctor and can’t give medical advice, but obviously I chose not to do chemo because yes, it does destroy your immune system, and it is also a carcinogenic substance. I decided to do every natural therapy I could find FIRST. If none of it worked, then chemo would be my last resort. That was my plan.

Doctors do not control your life, you control your life.

Two of my favorite quotes:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that there is something more important than fear.”

and “If you’re scared, Do it scared.”

My opinion is that mainstream cancer treatment does more harm than good. That is my opinion.

Your cancer could be all gone, but your body may still be a place where new cancer cells could thrive. This is why it’s critical to get hardcore about your health, which it sounds like you’re doing already.

If you decide to postpone chemo, there is a support system for you that I can help you connect with.

All of which sounds very much as though Wark is trying to dissuade this woman from undergoing chemotherapy. He does this even though he tries to cover his behind with a disclaimer like this:

I am not a doctor.

I don’t prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure disease.

I do not practice medicine.

I have no certifications of any kind and I don’t plan on getting any.

What I do have is nearly 10 years of experiential expertise. As you can tell by the vast amount of info on this site, I am an avid researcher on nutrition and natural therapies. I am deeply immersed in the alternative health community and I know many people who have healed themselves.

We can learn from the experiences of others. That is how I healed my body of cancer. Whatever your health challenge (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, etc.) I am confident that YOU can heal it.

Chris Wark charges $100 an hour or $175 for two hours to impart his “healing wisdom” to you. One wonders how many people with cancer this not-a-doctor has led astray, potentially to their demise, and how what he is doing isn’t practicing medicine without a license.

Posted in: Cancer

Leave a Comment (58) ↓

58 thoughts on “Yes, Chris beat cancer, but it wasn’t quackery that cured him

  1. Rose Taberner says:

    Quote: They all attribute their survival to whatever quackery they chose to pursue rather than the surgery. I’m tellin’ ya, as a breast cancer surgeon I sometimes get depressed at how little credit we are given.

    Oh, Dr Gorski, you and all (science-based) breast cancer surgeons are my heroes!

    As a HER2+ sufferer, not out of the woods just yet, I wish to state that even though I have been dealt this agonising card in my life, I also feel blessed that people like yourself, the researchers, the scientists and my medical team are present and striving for my survival. I give FULL credit to my surgeon and oncologists.

    Thank You.

  2. Carl says:

    Oh boy, just in case you didn’t think this Chris Wark idiot was into enough dumb stuff, check out part of his response to someone asking what caused her child’s cancer:

    “could’ve been vaccines”
    http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/this-cartoon-brilliantly-explains-the-truth-about-cancer-research/

    So he isn’t just deluded by his personal experience, he’s an all-around gullible dope.

    And by the way, it really is a good cartoon (which explains why curing “cancer” is hard), but Wark takes the typical crackpot view that if a problem is difficult, whatever simple BS you make up must be the secret real answer.

    1. Sawyer says:

      Wow. It’s one thing to misinterpret the work of pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, or universities, but it takes a special kind of willful ignorance to get the conclusion of a comic strip backwards. Does he think PhDComics is actually on his side, or that they are part of the conspiracy?

  3. studio34 says:

    Great read about adjuvant treatment. I never realised it was used in this way and what the implications were without it. Thanks.

  4. goodnightirene says:

    Another aspect of this is the people who have surgery, go ahead with radiation or chemo and STILL do the woo, and then of course claim that the woo cured them! You have to include God in the woo because if there’s anyone who leaves the surgeon feeling unappreciated, it has to be God.

    I have a neighbor who is 92 and having some hospital stays to get stents, pacemaker, etc. She keeps asking, “why has God kept me here so long?” She never even mentions any of her doctors by name. She seems to want to die in a way (depression?), but then she always calls me when she “can’t breathe”, and I call 911, of course–I guess that must be God’s number.

  5. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Again, regular readers will recognize immediately that this is the most common variety of alternative cancer cure testimonial. It’s so common that I really should think of a pithy name for it.

    Surgical discounting?

  6. Carl says:

    Denying the excision
    Steel neglect
    Phantom tumor syndrome
    Axed and answered

  7. Calli Arcale says:

    He’s actually charging considerable amounts of money for his “not medical” consultations? Good grief. I know there are gullible people around, jeepers. I would honestly put this clown on about the same level as phone psychics and Nigerian 419 scammers.

  8. pmoran says:

    “Again, regular readers will recognize immediately that this is the most common variety of alternative cancer cure testimonial. It’s so common that I really should think of a pithy name for it. Maybe the “adjuvant gambit”?

    No, “gambit” implies an intention to trick or deceive in some way. Also many lay people will have no idea what “adjuvant” means..

    I would not rule an element of exaggeration in some cases. Surviving cancer “against the odds” confers a sense of personal importance. It elicits loads of positive attention from the others on “alternative” cancer lists.

    However, mostly I sense a genuine belief that they would not have been offered chemotherapy unless the prognosis was very bad. Even if the true state of affairs was adequately explained, many patients will just not take it all in, or will assume that their doctors are trying to put a brave face on things.

    There may also be a few doctors who are ignorant enough to deliver silly “six months to live” type prognoses when that is just not so. I am never too sure about those stories. Sometimes such a pronouncement looks so unlikely on the facts of the case that I suspect the patient is either exaggerating or has misheard something.

    “Faulty prognosis”? Perhaps not snappy enough.

    1. David Gorski says:

      No, “gambit” implies an intention to trick or deceive in some way. Also many lay people will have no idea what “adjuvant” means..

      Well, yes and no. In the case of Mr. Wark, I know he’s been told what adjuvant chemotherapy is, but, as I quoted above, he rejected the explanation that the surgery cured him. I’ve come across this same phenomenon in breast cancer survivors who rejected adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation. They reject the explanation. So you might be right in their cases; “gambit” might not be the right word. On the other hand, I know that certain quacks know damned well what they’re doing when they promote testimonials of this sort.

  9. Sugarbubbie says:

    I also want to say thank you for the hard work you have put into being a breast cancer surgeon. I wouldn’t be here if not for my exceptional surgeon at MD Anderson. Or my brilliant oncologist. The care given by doctors such as yourselves merits a special Noble prize (not Nobel) and I’d nominate all of you!!

    So please keep shining the light on quacks like these, maybe you can give them a math lesson too?? Because two things that work to keep you alive (surgery and chemo) are better than one.

  10. Frederick says:

    Nice article. I’m now a regular reader of you site ( i discover it because of James Randi site). Those people also denial the whole law of probability. of the 60% of people that can survive 10 years, there is X% of them that will survive their whole life. it is understandable that people want answers, and solution. wanting to believe people with 0 knowledge instead of people with science and experience behind them, I’ll never understand that. yeah they are bad doctors out there. they are people after all.

    I notice the guy Spoke about mister Beck, i heard of him many time. always thought it was made up by a guy ( hetalk about him as Dr. Beck). That man was a co-worker of mine ( not anymore i quit my job after 11 years to go back to school at 34.) A nice man, cool guy to work with funny, as knowledge in physic and chemistry, he done race car driving in the 80′s. he is brilliant… BUT he is a DIY guy. ( do the repair on his car and motorcycle he got a 3d printer). And that lead me to ‘heal himself’. And believe in ALL conspiracy crap from chemtrail to 9/11 and he even believe that the HHO kit work for his car ( that is were his physic knowledge should have be handy in debunking). Anyway he Speak to people about Colloidal Silver, Dr. beck, Blood electrifier etc etc. ” i never really debate of this with him, a little but not to deep, at 53 years old, i never thought i’ll change his mind, and did not want to become enemy, because he is really a nice man. Anyway he always explain, of course, how BIG PHARMA does not like that because of money bla bla bla. ( you all know the routine). yeah right, the guy sell his stuff, he has equipment to make silver colloid. he has mad ‘research to achieve better nanoparticles of silver. he got a Microscope and everything. he build and sell blood electrifier. He made himself a website ( he has change where it is hosted because he previous web host did not want that kind of site he was angry with that, i say, good thinking). I heard himself talking about a women who had cancer, and she was using what he sell, and she was OK right now.

    Anyway if anyone curious : http://www.silvercolloidal.tk/

    Well thank Again for for site, i’m not doctor, never graduate in any science. But i always learn about science ( Astrophysics, particle physic are my favourite). I lately i developed a passion for informing myself about Woo woo and pseudo-science. And you site if a very good source of credible analysis and Info. Thank for that. And i think that site like yours do as much good as healing people. information is important!

  11. mousethatroared says:

    That was an excellent explanation of adjuvant therapies. I think it’s probably the third or fourth time I’ve heard it explained, but I feel this time I actually got it (Unless, I lose it again). I think the charts really help.

  12. I just discovered this website and simultaneously realized this is what I will be reading and Googling before bed every night for a while (a time usually reserved for work). Wow, can’t wait to dive in. Thank you!
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/dr-christiane-northrup-and-breast-thermography-the-opportunistic-promotion-of-quackery/

  13. FooBar says:

    You doubt patient about not knowing the stage of cancer (IIIa, IIIb etc), yet my dad had been diagnosed with colon cancer, the doctor said NOTHING about stage and all those stuffs. The only thing the surgeon says is: you need a surgery to remove the mass. We have to really chase after the doc to get precious few minutes of conversation to squeeze out information like “stage”, or “survival rate”.

    One year after the surgery, it recurred. Now the oncologist says, chemo is all I can offer. There’s really no information they offer other than “this is what I can do for you”.

    I’m not saying I’m not thankful for the doc to surgically remove the cancer in my dad’s colon, but really, docs are so “used to” cancer that they don’t really care anymore. They just do the “Best Known Method” and offered no information.

    What I’m saying here is that these people’s story may be true, it may not, but a lot of the survivor simply share their experience (except this Chris guy)

  14. Jason says:

    Is there any way to alter our lifestyle to possibly reduce cancer risk? I did a lot of the reading posted here on cancer and the jist seems to be that nearly everything touted as anti cancer is bogus. The only three things that could possibly help are regular exercise, healthy body fat levels, and a highly varied high fruit and vegetable diet with moderate protein and fats, preferably not from red meats or animal fats. Is that a correct understanding of the few things that may help?

    1. weing says:

      “Is there any way to alter our lifestyle to possibly reduce cancer risk?” That pretty much sums it up. The most important thing may be to choose your parents very carefully.

    2. Chris says:

      You forgot: to not inhale smoke into your lungs on purpose! Do not smoke.

      1. jason says:

        Of course. I figured that one went without saying. In this day and age the only way you would smoke is if you really don’t care.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      The thing is, these are not “minor” things, they require a sustained, life-long commitment and investment of time and energy nearly every day of your life. And while it may seem like a short list of recommendations, they way they play out is nearly infinite in terms of types of activities (exercise) and meals you can eat. Humorously enough, that idiot Oz and related quacks will criticize drug companies for pushing pills…then try to sell you some magic ingredient or extract, often in pill form, in exactly the manner that drug companies do. They try to make cancer prevention as easy as taking a pill, rather than the difficult investment it really is.

      The nice thing being, all these positive health habits have a ton of spin-off effects; less joint pain, more bone strength, easier to poop, helps with infectious disease as well, better sleep, improved mood, and the like.

      As far as food goes though, I’d read over at respectful insolence about a study that found food only really helps when you’re young – a varied diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is most chemopreventive when there’s a lot of cell division and and growth occurring, which peaks well before your 20th birthday. That depressed me, ’cause I eat way more veggies and fruits now than I did when young.

      1. jason says:

        Damn. That really does suck. I too was not very concerned with dietary choices in my teens.

        On a side, are the benefits of exercise thought to be due to exercise itself I.e. duration, intensity, type or simply because it helps with bodyfat management?

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          My understanding is that the loss of fat is a benefit, and a considerable one (though it’s more that it helps you keep it off, it’s not necessarily the best way to lose it once obese) the exercise itself has health benefits independent of weight loss. Obese people who exercise are better-off than obese people who don’t. There are a variety of health-improving effects, my loose recall is that it stimulates certain non-specific branches of the immune system which serves to act as a “general clean-up” of the body, it stimulates blood flow throughout the body including flow of lymphatic fluid through the lymph nodes, there is a general increase in temperature, and within the blood vessels themselves there is a “smoothing” effect on the cells that line the lumen that makes blood flow more easily. Exercise also is quite indiscriminate in how it burns calories, so it matters much less the kinds of fats and carbohydrates that you consume, guarding against the effects of excess trans and saturated fats, as well as simple sugars (not that you’re better off downing a can of coke before an hour at the gym). For diabetics, and even pre-type II diabetics it causes a set of insulin-independent transport proteins to rise to the surface of cells (possibly just muscle cells, I’m not positive) that has the effect of removing sugar from the bloodstream, thus lowering it. Before the development of insulin, the only treatment for diabetics was regular exercise post-meal to lower blood sugar to safe levels. It also transports fats and sugars into the muscle cells themselves, such that even if you have the exact same body fat % as someone else, if you exercise regularly the distribution is different – less of it is found in the abdomen where it is dangerous, and more is found inside muscles where they exist as a ready source of energy. Plus, bone density, joint flexibility and muscle strength all increase, which offsets the inevitable declines in all three as we age.

          I’m sure there’s more, you’d have to find a book on exercise physiology, or an exercise physiologist for the details.

        2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          As far as duration, intensity, type, etc., any exercise is better than none, but aerobic exercise (jogging, swimming, walking, tennis, etc.) is better than anerobic (weights, stretching, yoga). The benefits follow a logarithmic-shaped distribution; with no exercise, benefits are minimal. A bit of exercise is much better than none, and low-moderate exercise is much better than a bit. Once you hit moderate, high-moderate and high, the benefits exist but you get less “bang for your buck”. At extreme high and Olympic, the benefits actually decline and the very highest levels of exercise intensity (Olympic athletes, people who routinely run record-breaking Iron Man competitions and similar insane levels of exertion) tend to actually die younger than their lower-intensity peers.

          Aerobic exercise has significant benefits in terms of heart health in that it tends to return considerable blood to the heart through the action of the muscle pump (flex a muscle and the change in shape means the one-way valves of the veins force blood back to the heart; do this a lot, such as via running, and you dramatically increase flow rates and in particular return rates). The increased blood return expands the size of the heart acutely; this stretch makes it easier for the heart to pump, and pumps more blood per beat. Chronically, this causes cardiohypertrophy – bad for people who sit on the couch, good for cross-country skiers (pretty much the best exercise ever). The constant stretch causes the heart to remodel, adding fibers and length (but don’t quote me, I might be wrong on that specific point) and the overall result is a larger heart. This means the heart takes longer between beats to fill up, expands more with every beat, and pumps more blood with every beat. The result is bradycardia – a decreased heart rate, which is why athletes hearts tend to beat slower than nonathletes. The weight of the heart is the same, the volume is larger, and there is less strain on the muscle overall.

          Anaerobic exercise (weights pretty much, ultra-high intensity training that can only be sustained for seconds) also strengthens the heart by forcing it to pump against a greater resistance. While this sounds like hypertension, it’s not – the resistance increases are transitory. A highly flexed muscle will squeeze the artery shut; the harder the flex, the greater the resistance. The heart gets less blood back, but what blood it does get back it must pump against a higher resistance – transitorily. The latter point is key. This is why weight lifters turn purple and get a lot of veins popping up. However, over the long term, the gradual increase and decrease in resistance strengthens the heart like it would any muscle worked this way; unlike the aerobic heart, the anaerobic heart becomes thicker, the heart wall is thicker, even if the overall volume is unchanged. The result is the heart can pump against a greater load, and there is simply more of it – so if you have a heart attack through blocked arteries, you have a larger amount of heart muscle that survives and can continue pumping.

          You’re better off with aerobic than anaerobic, but both have their benefits. There’s a ton of microbiological changes and neovascularization and other stuff I didn’t go into, because I don’t really remember it and I don’t recall it as being as significant.

          Exercise physiology is neat.

  15. Joe says:

    I think you have a typo in your article,

    “Although he would, in this case, have to be quite a bit luckier than in the case of stage IIIC disease…”

    should be IIIB.

    Also I have a couple questions if you don’t mind.
    1) Do you consider Coley’s toxins and misletoe therapy quackery.?
    2) If an MD suggests chemo before surgery, does that mean the tumor has spread so much that the survival chances are very low? This is for a breast cancer case.

    TIA

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      If the constituents of Coley’s toxin haven’t been proven to work, they won’t be used by actual doctors. If they have been proven to work, they will be widely adopted for each type of cancer for which they are proven to work. If you have to ask, they probably haven’t been proven and anyone making claims that they work is probably selling it. Quackwatch lists it as an unproven method. But basically if you don’t see it listed on the NIH as a treatment modality, it’s at best investigational and should only be pursued in the context of a clinical trial. Otherwise, you are paying for the privilege of being subjected to an unproven, possibly worthless, possibly toxic, dirty chemical compound of uncertain potency, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Anyone who makes you pay for a treatment but can’t point to a serious discussion and recommendation of the ingredient on the NIH, Medscape or Mayo Clinic website that states it is unequivocally effective for your cancer is a quack.

      Ditto for mistletoe. Quacks will happily sell you false hope, either due to greed or the arrogant ignorance that testimonials are evidence.

      Chemo is sometimes used to shrink tumors to make surgery more successful, but each type of cancer is different. There’s no such thing as “cancer” really, each tissue can develop different types of cancer, and each can develop in a different way. That’s why there are so many subspecialties of oncology. You’d have to ask the individual oncologist for the reasoning.

      An excellent book on cancer in general is The Emperor of all Maladies. Don’t know how it applies to any specific cancer you might have in mind.

      1. Joe says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        Concerning mistletoe, I found comments by Dr Gorski in previous articles, including this 2011 one:

        “While Iscador might actually have some activity against, for example, breast cancer, it is not without toxicity, and the evidence for its efficacy in cancer is at best conflicting. Even if Iscador turned out to be an effective treatment for breast cancer, it would be an example of being right for a reason that is spectacularly wrong.”

        I also found a 2012-2013 article, “Emerging roles of mistletoe in malignancy management” which claims it has some promise. Unfortunately I don’t have the biochemistry background to evaluate:
        http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s13205-013-0124-6.pdf

        FYI, there is an organization that is attempting to raise funds for mistletoe trials carried out by Johns Hopkins Hospital.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          There’s myriad compounds being explored for their properties, anti-cancer or not, highlighting single ones before they are proven to work is always odd to me. CAM proponents will often promote solely the “natural” ones as if they somehow had unique properties or promise over those developed in a lab. It’s weird, why do they think that nature would have a set of compounds specifically designed to prevent or treat human cancers? What evolutionary pressure would there exist to selectively produce compounds that interfere with cell division without toxicity to healthy cells? Of course, there is none; if we’re lucky, certain compounds created by plants will be useful to us (and many are – as herbs, spices, foods, dyes, scents, etc.), and there are many that are, though suboptimally so because they don’t exist to benefit humans. Even morphine, probably the drug closest to ideal for human use, can still be improved into more addictive, more analgesic, more euphoric versions.

          CAM proponents will often point to preliminary trials as if they somehow proved their dogma, nature exists to heal humans. It’s a double-standard, if a chemical made by Pfizer, cooked up in a steel vat, had the same promise and preliminary trials, and that were sold – CAM proponents would point to it as evidence of Big Pharma’s evil. But if it comes from a plant, they can’t shove it into a bottle fast enough. Because they’re hypocrites with impaired critical thinking.

  16. jason says:

    Wow. Interesting stuff for sure. I knew strength training was good for mobility into old age and cardio was good for the heart but I had no idea of the other stuff.
    I hear 20 minutes is the minimum for cardio with 30 minutes being the point of diminishing returns beyond that. Is that fairl accurate?
    Does any benefit nutrition has boil down to simply giving your body the nutrients it needs to work properly, like the immune system, and not any magic chemicals like egcg or sulforaphane?
    I am glad I I found this site. Too much misinformation about this miracle food, or magic supplement, or magic elixir.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      More important than specific durations and intensities are consistency – the exercise benefits accrue gradually over years, the tissue remodeling can take a very long time and you have to keep it up. Think in terms of walking a thousand miles, with every bout of exercise being a single step. That’s why, like weight loss (and specifically, keeping your weight reasonable over years), requires a lifestyle change and maintenance until, basically, you die.

      Evolution doesn’t code for longevity or quality of life past your 20s.

      At 20 minutes, in untrained people, a series of metabolic changes occur within the muscle and body that switches from primarily carbohydrate metabolism to fat metabolism, at low intensities. Which means you can go for longer, which means you can burn more fat without harming yourself through overtraining.

      Nutrition is a ridiculously difficult topic to test for. The best advice comes from Michael Pollan – eat food, unprocessed, that you cook yourself, a wide variety, mostly fresh fruits, plus meats and cheeses.

      Pollan, aside from that advice, is a bit of a loon though.

      You definitely need vitamins to avoid deficiency. Super-consumption of vitamins in the form of pills may even be a hazard to your health. There are things called “phytochemicals” found in mostly plants that appear to have health effects, but when eaten as food. Eaten as drugs, highly concentrated and in quantities orders of magnitude greater than what is found in food, they can be dangerous or ineffective. The “dilution” of these chemicals in and as food probably protects against the risks found when you megadose them.

      Harold McGee’s amazing On Food and Cooking goes into some of these issues, but it’s just a fascinating, riveting book in general.

      1. Jason says:

        Thanks for all the information! I appreciate the time you have given to answer my questions. Fortunately it sounds like my diet has been pretty much in line with these suggestions, albeit it occurred much later in life than ideal, and I have been doing consistent exercise with a mix of cardio, HIIT, and strength training to varying degrees of each over the past five years and plan to continue for the rest of my life. Maybe I should have more cardio time in there and plan on upping that to 30 minutes 3x/week from sporadic cardio, sporadic HIIT, and mostly resistance training. Seems I would be suited to a better balance.

        Thanks again.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          I spent years focussing on weights over cardio,and as I have aged I gradually increased my cardio. The only way I could make it tolerable was by putting a TV in front of my treadmill and working my way through the classics of modern cinema and television. You know, things like Babylon 5, Attack on Titan, Tropic Thunder and Transformers (just the first one, since the sequels were just awful). When I jog outside, I listen to books on tape.

          Weights are a lot more fun.

          Yeah, regular cardio is a good thing. Even 30 minutes 3/week seems a bit low, though I can’t claim expertise on the specific numbers. I have a theory that the most meaningful number is the distance travelled, irrespective the speed. Walking is supposed to be as cardiovascularly beneficial as jogging, it just takes 3 times longer to get the same effect (i.e. a 30-minute walk is as “healthy” as a 10 minute jog).

          Scott Gavura reviewed some books on the topic a while back.

          They recommend some cardio every day of the week,which just seems…so tedious. I’d much rather higher intensity 3/week than low intensity every day. But again, most important is whatever you can stick with.

          1. mousethatroared says:

            When I was working out more consistently, I always felt that I could count resistance training that doesn’t have big pauses as low to med intensity cardio. If you are doing things like squats, plank, higher rep weights, then it does get your heart rate up as much as walking (at least).

          2. jason says:

            I can probably manage 3x/week but everyday? Yikes.
            Have you seen these two studies?
            http://www.e-space.mmu.ac.uk/e-space/handle/2173/263356
            http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/10/1/237

          3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            The first one isn’t a study, it’s a narrative review. A good source, but not an independent trial – and narrative reviews are more vulnerable to manipulation because you don’t have to be as rigorous in your selection criteria compared to a meta-analysis. That’s a neat article though, and if it’s accurate, an interesting synthesis of a pretty extensive volume of literature.

            The next one suffers from the curse of nearly all exercise physiology studies – small number of subjects, and they don’t follow them for a long time; this actually only represents two bouts of exercise which ain’t much. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it certainly represents very acute adaptations at best and these effects could totally taper off after a couple rounds of exercise. You have to be careful about acute versus chronic adaptations to exercise, all training has a neurological component – people get stronger or more efficient very quickly after starting, then the results slow down. A lot. It’s sigmoidal.

            The main thing is – if you’re in it for long term, like years or a lifetime, you have to keep interest. Anything can become tedious if you don’t enjoy it, and then you’ll find excuses and stop doing it. I’ve been lifting weights for over 15 years, doing basically the same routine. It works for me. But I read between sets so I don’t get bored. If a goal of “I want to get big” or “strong” or “cut” helps you keep going, great! If you have to switch activities every couple years, no big deal. But one must always be wary of beginning to hate it ’cause then you’ll stop. It’s an ultra-long-term lifestyle commitment to stay fit.

            The second thing to worry about is injury. I’ve stopped going for “what’s the most I can bench” ’cause I’ve injured myself too many times. It’s a pain in the ass to add 20 minutes of stretches and exercises to any routine, particularly when you hate them, particularly when you’re also unable to lift anything close to your max ’cause you’re nursing an injury. It’s a tough balance, and I’ve definitely slacked off as I’ve aged. On the other hand, my waist has been consistently the same size for over a decade now, which is good.

            You’ve always got to find what works for you.

            I don’t really “see” studies, I’ve never kept up on the primary literature. You know who does? Paul Ingraham at saveyourself.ca. But I don’t think he really goes in for weights. Still a very worthwhile site to visit.

          4. Jason says:

            I definitely agree about the first one, which is essentially a review, possibly being biased, and I am still planning on adding more cardio back into the mix. The second one, while short term, is really interesting in the highly elevated EPOC, and while I certainly cannot say for sure without a longer study, I would think that EPOC would remain fairly steady provided intensity is maintained and progressive overload is applied.

            I will definitely check out that website. Thanks.

  17. OutlawBunnyhugger says:

    He said “I have met more people who have not survived” chemo. Not to be insensitive but if they hadn’t survived they would be dead. Is he talking to the dead, too?

    This guy is a criminal. He knows he was cured by surgery. He should be in prison for misleading people.

  18. My god, this site is just full of propaganda and trolling.. It must be funded by the pharmaceutical industry big time.. Every article is just trying to slander and bully people who have or are using alternative treatments which I see no reason for other then trying to spread propaganda that alternative treatments = evil and bad

    But just by looking at this article I find so many stupid comments that it angers me..

    “Most solid tumors, on the other hand, require complete surgical extirpation to cure them”

    Cure them? You dont cure cancer by removing a tumor, as we have known for a long time, the tumor is NOT the cancer.. but maybe SBM doesnt know this yet..

    What conventional medicine fails to understand is that no body or part of the human anatomy is made up by artificial chemicals or drugs, it uses nutrients and minerals to build and heal itself.. Take a simple wound, no drug will make that wound close or heal as its your body who will regenerate cells to heal and to do so it needs nutrients that we get from food such as proteins, vitamins etc.. to fail to understand this is to ignore the law of nature and is not how science works..

    Sure, there are a lot of alternative treatments that are questionable to its effect if any, but there are a lot of treatments with science backed research that show it does work.. But its easier to prove a profitable drug that will make a few very wealthy, specially when they control the statistics and testing. Oh and did I mention all the lobbying power to make sure anything else that threatens a billion dollar yearly industry goes away and become preferably illegal..

    What treatment would I go for?
    Well I know what treatment I wouldn’t go for, and thats Chemo, Radiation and surgery..

    I have done a lot of research on a treatment where they use high doses vitamin c intravenously (not orally, as many anti this will point to when they try to argue it doesnt work)..

    There are loads of information and research papers to be found and even many finished and ongoing clinical trials that show very positive results..

    Science is about finding the best solution objectively and doing so by testing other theories to breaking point.. It is NOT about biased reporting and slandering others that dont agree with you.. which I feel SBM does.

    1. Chris says:

      ” the tumor is NOT the cancer.”

      Citation needed. I am sure that Dr. Gorski, a surgical oncologist, would love knowing the truth about tumors.

      Oh, and this bit: “My god, this site is just full of propaganda and trolling.. It must be funded by the pharmaceutical industry big time.” It has a name, it is called the Pharma Shill Gambit.

    2. Windriven says:

      “alternative treatments = evil and bad”

      No, alternative treatments are just worthless. If you had the barest inkling of how science works you might understand this.

      “Cure them? You dont cure cancer by removing a tumor, as we have known for a long time, the tumor is NOT the cancer.. but maybe SBM doesnt know this yet..”

      You pathetic ass. Where did you get your medical education? Did it come in a box of Cracker Jack?

      Scientific medicine has transformed life for countless millions who will never get smallpox, never get polio, never die of appendicitis, never die of pertussis. The ones who do die of these illnesses die of the same stupidity that you give voice to above. How many lymphomas has you bullshit cured this year? How many premature babies has it saved?

      “There are loads of information and research papers to be found and even many finished and ongoing clinical trials that show very positive results..”

      Funny that you don’t cite them. Is it because they are published in the Intergalactic Journal of Fuzzy Thinking?

      “I have done a lot of research on a treatment where they use high doses vitamin c intravenously (not orally, as many anti this will point to when they try to argue it doesnt work)..”

      I hope you never get cancer. If you do and you treat it as you claim, it is unlikely that you’ll die of something else.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      What conventional medicine fails to understand is that no body or part of the human anatomy is made up by artificial chemicals or drugs, it uses nutrients and minerals to build and heal itself.. Take a simple wound, no drug will make that wound close or heal as its your body who will regenerate cells to heal and to do so it needs nutrients that we get from food such as proteins, vitamins etc.. to fail to understand this is to ignore the law of nature and is not how science works..

      What, and this is a surprise? Science doesn’t yet have a means to miraculously heal wounds, it closes them through adhesives, stitches and staples, and attempts to prevent infections (which will stop the wound from ever closing). Well duh. So your complaint is…science is ignorant because it isn’t magic? And your substitute is…what exactly? Your solution is…science should figure out a way to heal wounds instantly and without infection? Are we talking about medicine, or Dungeons and Dragons? Because you are describing the “cure light wounds” spell.

      Sure, there are a lot of alternative treatments that are questionable to its effect if any, but there are a lot of treatments with science backed research that show it does work.. But its easier to prove a profitable drug that will make a few very wealthy, specially when they control the statistics and testing. Oh and did I mention all the lobbying power to make sure anything else that threatens a billion dollar yearly industry goes away and become preferably illegal..

      So yes, the rare alternative treatment has been proven to work, and are now sold quite profitably thank you very much (St. John’s Wort being one, spinal manipulation for low back pain being another, and I’m a bit pressed to come up with a third). The fact that drugs make companies wealthy does not mean the drug is ineffective, or that it is somehow wrong – it merely means drug companies exist to make a profit and will preferrentially sell profitable drugs. This includes off-label drugs, such as acetominophen, or aspirin, as well as nondrugs that CAM promoters pretend are drugs, like vitamins, roots, leaves and bark.

      What treatment would I go for?
      Well I know what treatment I wouldn’t go for, and thats Chemo, Radiation and surgery..

      In which case, you would die, probably quickly, probably in substantial pain, and with less time or money to spend on your family, friends and self. But you’ll have made a branch of Big Pharma very happy because you bought up their premium-brand vitamins.

      I have done a lot of research on a treatment where they use high doses vitamin c intravenously (not orally, as many anti this will point to when they try to argue it doesnt work)..

      The thing is – vitamin C has very little, essentially no, good evidence for it. There is in fact a fair bit of evidence against it. You would be buying a cheap supplement, given through an expensive puncture of the skin, totally on the faith of the people who want to sell you vitamins. Now, this seems like a bad idea, and is one of the primary criticisms of why Big Pharma’s research can’t be trusted. Why is it a good idea when you’re taking advice for an untested treatment from a single guy or small clinic, but a bad idea when it’s a huge company? Do you think the guy hooking up your IV has no economic or ideological incentive to lie, to you or even to him/herself?

      There are loads of information and research papers to be found and even many finished and ongoing clinical trials that show very positive results..

      Oh, please, present them. In fact, pubmed numbers, or DOIs are fine if you don’t want to type out the full citation.

      Science is about finding the best solution objectively and doing so by testing other theories to breaking point.. It is NOT about biased reporting and slandering others that dont agree with you.. which I feel SBM does.

      You are rather ignoring two things – first, you are making claims about treatment modalities that mostly haven’t been tested (or have been tested, and failed, or have been tested and succeeded and have since been adopted as treatment options by doctors and scientists). Second, the key distinction between evidence-based medicine and science-based medicine is the role of prior probability. The treatments you promote often ignore prior probability, they assert facts that are known to be wrong, or are extraordinarily unlikely based on what we already know. Given scarce resources, which is a better investment – a novel compound that appears likely to interfere with a specific biochemical pathway found in a specific cancerous cell line, or the delivery of massive doses of a water-soluble compound found in the body already, as a general treatment for all cancers, despite the fact that each cancer has a unique course, lethality and intracellular dysfunction?

      Your arrogance appears to be based on ignorance of just how complicated medicine and biology actually are, not on some profound and magical understanding that has escaped the grasp of scientists who study it every day.

  19. devo-T says:

    Ahh yes, testimonials: the most scientific method of all.

  20. Roman says:

    How fascinating to stumble upon Dr. Gorsky’s interesting commentary on Mr. Wark’s adventure in cancer!

    15 years ago, at age 59, I, like Mr. Wark, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. If memory serves, forty percent of my lymph nodes were found to be affected, so it would have been stage III-c colon cancer. (Those charts developed by Dr. Gorsky are a revelation and very much appreciated!) My problem seems to have been very similar to the case of Mr. Wank, setting aside the age difference; but then at that point our respective treatments forked into quite different trajectories.

    Immediate surgery was followed in my case by radiation therapy, chemotherapy with 5-FU (how well do I remember that!), and then a much-needed period of recovery. Now, at age 74, I am alive and kicking. I swim 20 laps and bike daily, eat healthy foods, and enjoy my life and my family.

    Dang, too bad I didn’t think of scamming on this experience by peddling $100/hr phone consultations! But, in any case, I shall ever be thankful to my outstanding surgeon and oncologist for having saved my life by having done what needed to be done, and done it so well.

    –Roman

  21. Atticus says:

    So why was Chris Wark’s oncologist insisting that he do chemotherapy, and why did his oncologist insist that he sign documents exempting him from chemo if chemo wasn’t necessary?

    Equally, are you saying that all stage 3 colon cancers can be cured by surgery alone?

    Please clarify.

  22. Roman says:

    Atticus wrote:

    So why was Chris Wark’s oncologist insisting that he do chemotherapy…

    Presumably because, as Dr Gorsky explains in his article, chemo would have increased his chances of survival by an additional 16%, from 64% to 80%. Oddly, however, Mr. Wark chose to forfeit that bonus in favour of drinking carrot juice.

    … and why did his oncologist insist that he sign documents exempting him from chemo if chemo wasn’t necessary?

    Huh? The only person who believed chemo to be unnecessary was Mr. Wark himself. But his believing this did not make it true, as Dr. Gorsky demonstrates.

    Equally, are you saying that all stage 3 colon cancers can be cured by surgery alone?

    No.
    I suggest you re-read Dr. Gorsky’s article.

    –Roman

    1. David Gorski says:

      Heh. Roman beat me to it. I’m afraid Atticus’ reading comprehension is lacking. :-)

  23. Rolando T. Fontanilla says:

    Sir, I hope you can help me answer some of my querries about my wife’s pancreatic cancer case. We had a surgery just this week and found out that my wife’s pancreas is on stge3C. now , that we have to wait for 4-6 weeks of wound healing before chemotheraphy ( I have no objection with this scientific method ) Iwould like to know if you have any idea of how to prevent the tumor in increasing while waiting for the time of chemo. And what are the best way to choose a good oncologist.

    Thank you & God bless

    Rolan Fontanilla
    Filipino

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “3C” is not standard terminology, so I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think there is any way to “prevent” tumor growth or any way to slow progression while waiting to start chemotherapy. We can’t offer personal medical advice on this blog. I’d suggest asking your surgeon to recommend an oncologist and following his advice.

  24. Dave says:

    Referable to the effects of CAM treatment of cancer and their aversion to chemo, I saw a fellow a couple of days ago for a respiratory infection. His past history was that several years ago he presented to our facility with severe back pain due to a pathologic fracture of the first lumbar vertebra and lytic lesions elsewhere. He was flown to a hospital where a neurosurgeon could stabilize his spine. The path report showed a diffuse large B cell lymphoma and he received R-CHOP for this. For lay readers, this type of lymphoma is an aggressive and fairly common form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that 80 years ago was always fatal. The history of this disease is instructive.

    In the 1950′s and 60′s chemotherapy was developed and this condition was treated with 4 drugs, the regimen being called CHOP. In the 1980′s attempts were made to improve survival with more extensive and aggressive chemo regimens. However, randomized studies (felt to be so worthless by some of the CAM proponents here) showed these regimens to be more toxic and no more effective than CHOP, so they were abandoned. About 20 years ago Big Pharma (so reviled by all, but who are our main hope for relief from the terrible diseases which afflict us) developed rituximab, a mouse-human chimeric antibody directed against CD20, a molecular marker on these lymphoma cells. This drug latches onto the CD20 molecule and causes immunologocally mediated destruction of the cell. With this added to CHOP cure rates improved. My patient, who presented with advanced disease, has a better than 50% chance of being cured. In limited disease in younger patients the cure rate is more than 90%. Truly a success story of modern medicine.

    I have followed other patients with this condition who refused chemo and subsequently died. Here we have a treatment worth more to them than if they won the powerball lottery, but they refuse it because some naturopath has convinced them chemo is poison.Very sad.

    1. windriven says:

      @Dave

      “[T]hey refuse [chemotherapy] because some naturopath has convinced them chemo is poison. Very sad.”

      In my humble opinion sCAM artists who do that should be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter.

  25. Tomash says:

    In my opinion, the problem with conventional medicine is that it is too formal, based on a statistical data which can be completely misguiding and use toxic chemicals – often proven to do more harm than good to the patient (usually these chemicals are very harmful to the body, but everyone is aware). First of all, I think that for a healing process to happen patient should be taken into consideration as a whole person, a body and mind, not only the body (as in conventional medicine). I know that recently thies field is starting to improve and conventional doctors are encouraging patients to try mindfulness/relaxation/guided imagery techniques beside the conventional body treatments. It is proven that these techniques may help the person to go through the ‘hard time’ with more ease, less fear and emotional overhelming. I’m almost sure that fear, anxiety (especially fear of death) which are induced by conventional doctors by telling the patient that he has for example a couple of months to live could be devastating and could influence the expectation of conventional treatment and these ‘non-conventional’ methods could help in this field. If I had cancer and statistics would show I have a month to live – I wouldn’t want to know that, you are not the god, and can never say when person would die. I can say you also will probably die tomorrow in a car accident, because statistics say so. I believe that any person can be healed of any disease, but this should be accomplished by integrated process which includes mind and body, nutrition, changing of the bad eating habits, etc. Not only by giving patient a toxic chemicals, burning his tumor with radiation and looking at the charts to see how long he is expected to survive. That’s my 5 cents.

    1. Chris says:

      Have you tried reading the above article?

      If you had, you would have learned that Mr. Wark had surgery that removed his cancer, refused some chemo and is not charging a bunch of money for phone consultations about nonsense!

      1. Chris says:

        Stupid typo:

        If you had, you would have learned that Mr. Wark had surgery that removed his cancer, refused some chemo and is now charging a bunch of money for phone consultations about nonsense!

        1. Tomash says:

          Yes I’ve read, I only state that neither path alone is good. I don’t say that he choose the good way, maybe just statistically he got into the % which would be healed, maybe it was his positive attitude, luck or he never had cancer in the first place (I didn’t see any documents confirming he have cancer, so reading a cancer testimonials on the web is always tricky part, I can also say that I had a cancer and healed myself, and a lot of people would probably believe). If you do your research, you will see that SCIENCE confirm that the MIND-BODY connection is very strong, and even people which have a multi-personality disorder can have a different PHYSICAL health issues for their different personalities – and these are all scientific facts. Here an interesting scientific study on Placebo effect: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/pre/1/2/2a/ – which state that placebo (will power, positive expectation) is half of success in treatment. Taking this into consideration this would answer the question on why coventional doctors, who induce fear in their patients on how short they life expectancy is, ‘poisoning’ their cancer along with them afterwards with the chemotherapy have such small rate of success (saw statistics on this and the success rate was similiar to the alternative ways or no-therapy at all, but the quality of life was usually worse because of side effects of chemo, sometimes on the other hand, cancers gave very bad side effects which chemo helped to relieve, so that depends on individual case). Conventional medicine as alternative medicine always blame each other for the death of the patient, but these be always be mere speculations, as you cannot confirm that if patient choose different way that would heal him, in my opinion if patient did his research and conciously choose his way he’s good to go. I’ve heard of cases that conventional doctors almost blackmailed patient to choose chemo, because if not he will die in couple of months which was not the case of course as the time showed – maybe they get money for this ? Who knows, chemo is very expensive, so probably doctors have a lot % for each patient and $100 given to Chris is nothing in comparision to these amounts of money. Charging $100 for his advice, that’s ok with me, if someone needs his advice and want’s to pay, thats their choice, they will, and if it help them to feel better it could be worth it. It’s not that much, I know a lot of people earning a lot more for an hour working in a corporations, no big deal and everyone needs money to live. Organic carrots are not that cheap as you may think ! :-) Wish you health.

          1. Chris says:

            “Here an interesting scientific study on Placebo effect: ”

            Um, Prozac is not a chemotherapy. Do you understand there is a basic biological difference between colon cancer and psychiatric issues? You are comparing apples with aircraft.

            “Who knows, chemo is very expensive, so probably doctors have a lot % for each patient and $100 given to Chris is nothing in comparision to these amounts of money. Charging $100 for his advice, that’s ok with me,”

            So you are okay with someone charging hundreds of dollars because he knows nothing, compared thousands of dollars… that are often covered by insurance… by folks who know what they are talking about.

            So, instead of getting my son surgery for his genetic heart condition that employer health insurance paid $84,000 for, we would have better off paying several hundred dollars to a “consultant” who has no medical education.

            How does that work? Would that have stopped the 911 calls to our house, or the resultant visits to the emergency department?

          2. Chris says:

            Oh, I forgot to add: paragraphs are your friends. Please use the enter key between trains of reasoning.

          3. Dave says:

            Tomash, re-read the article.

            I knew of a doctor who would explain adjuvant chemo (and some other risk-benefit scenarios) in a very graphic way. He would compare the patient’s situation to playing Russian roulette with a revolver which had 10 chambers. In this situation, with surgery alone, 4 of the chambers would be loaded with bullets, 6 would be empty. With surgery plus adjuvant chemo, three of the chambers would have bullets, though they may have some side effects (which he would elaborate on) if they pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Which of the guns would they want to point to their heads? Of his patients who opted against chemo, nobody ever later complained they were not informed of the consequences of their decision. I’ve never used this analogy but understand why he did. The difference of course is that the results of the patient’s decision may take a while to become evident, with Russian roulotte it’s immediate.

            Mr Wark is telling people that with or without chemo, the revolvers have the same number of loaded chambers. This advice is not accurate and is resulting some people dying, who would otherwise opt for chemo if they did not have this misinformation. That’s what’s wrong with this scenario. It’s ok to refuse chemo if you understand the risks and benefits, it’s not ok if you made a choice because you were not informed.

          4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Here an interesting scientific study on Placebo effect: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/pre/1/2/2a/ – which state that placebo (will power, positive expectation) is half of success in treatment.

            Are you illiterate? That’s a meta-analysis, from 1998, on depression. Not cancer. SCIENCE is about SPECIFICS of DISEASE and TREATMENT. Antidepressants won’t cure cancer.

            Curing cancer and quality of life are two completely different issues, and often they are at odds with each other. Sadly, our current treatments are limited and often have powerful, unpleasant side effects. It would be nice if we could cure cancer simply, easily, and without side effects. That’s not the case, and death by |untreated cancer is an ugly and unpleasant (and often inevitable) thing.

            Conventional medicine as alternative medicine always blame each other for the death of the patient, but these be always be mere speculations, as you cannot confirm that if patient choose different way that would heal him, in my opinion if patient did his research and conciously choose his way he’s good to go.

            Um, actually it’s not mere speculation. Scientific medicine tests its interventions and notes those that improve survival. Alternative medicine does not, it relies on the assertions of the person selling you the juicer (or raw calf liver, or sugar pills, or whatever quackery you like) and usually studiously avoids testing. And we know what the results look like. A fast, painful death.

            Seriously, do you know what science is? Do you know why it works? Do you know why it’s better than gut checks and personal experience?

            I’ve heard of cases that conventional doctors almost blackmailed patient to choose chemo, because if not he will die in couple of months which was not the case of course as the time showed – maybe they get money for this ? Who knows, chemo is very expensive, so probably doctors have a lot % for each patient and $100 given to Chris is nothing in comparision to these amounts of money. Charging $100 for his advice, that’s ok with me, if someone needs his advice and want’s to pay, thats their choice, they will, and if it help them to feel better it could be worth it.

            Gee, why would doctors urge patients to get chemotherapy? Oh yeah, because they know what death due to untreated cancer looks like. They know how painful metastases are, what it looks like for a tumor to erode its way through the bowel so it empties directly into the peritoneal space. They know what cancer-based wasting looks like. They know what a horrible way to die it is. Your simple “It’s the greed, stupid” solution is a horrible insult to doctors who spend their lives trying to save lives, and completely ignores the fact that quacks charge for their services – without any proof that they lengthen lives.

            Charging $100 for a consultation to spend what could be the remainder of your very short life eating nothing but carrots in the vain hope of a cure seems like insult to injury. Chris is taking advantage of desperate patients, squeezing money out of them with false hope and lies. I find it contemptible.

            Wish you health.

            I wish you health too, because it looks like if you did develop cancer, you would die a rather painful, possibly unnecessary death, and be much poorer in the process.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Tomash, they’ve researched mind/body interventions for cancer. They don’t help. There’s even a post about it here. Actually, there are several. Now, perhaps you’re not saying “positive thinking can cure cancer”, perhaps you’re just saying “positive thinking can make a patient feel better about their inevitable death”. Sure, that’s fine. In some cases you might be right. Whether it’s a worthwhile investment of insurance or tax dollars is an open, and complicated, fraught question. Whether it’s better for a doctor to spend their time on counseling rather than, say, treating another patient, is another fraught question. Though personally I would rather they spend their time on other patients with cancer. But then again, I trust doctors to do what they can to make sure the meat sack that carries my brain around survives to the best of their ability, I’ll look after the brain on my own.

      And if you’ve got a better option for treating cancer than “toxic chemicals”, please present it. Cancer treatment is sub-optimal for many reasons, but mostly because it’s hard to kill cancer cells without killing noncancer cells. It’s easy to kill both, but selectivity is more difficult. Until we figure out a better option, unfortunately we’re stuck with toxic chemicals. The nice thing is, chemotherapy treatments have become a lot less toxic in recent years when it was realized that you don’t have to make the patient horribly sick (for most cancers) in order to shrink the tumor.

      If you had cancer and were told you had a month to live, and you don’t want to know this, you’re living in the past when medical paternalism was the rule. And your personal desire isn’t what everyone would necessarily want. Some people want that month, to visit Disneyland, or eat all the ice cream they can, or spend it with their family, or put a bullet in their head.

      Your belief that any person can be healed of a disease is, put simply, wrong. Flat-out wrong. Currently death is inevitable to all people, and many people with cancer will never get better. This is sad, but throwing out a whole bunch of spurious wish-list like “thinking yourself better” and “eating your fruits and vegetables” doesn’t make it so. Nutrition is vital in preventing certain types of cancers. But once the cancer has started, bar frank starvation, food will not do a damned thing to help you. Quacks promise you that their proprietary intervention of smoothies and enemas will cure your cancer. They are lying to you, and taking your money. They should be beaten with rubber hoses and slowly gnawed to death by rats. Right now toxic chemicals, radiation and surgery are all we have to effectively treat cancer. It’s unfortunate, but reality is a honey badger, it don’t give a shit about what we want.

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