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Complete Cancer Quackery Resource

One of the recurring themes of Science-based medicine is that we live in the age of misinformation. The internet and social networking have made everyone their own expert – by democratizing information (which I favor, as it has many benefits to society) the field has been leveled for various types and sources of information. But this has the very negative effect of equalizing information in terms of quality as well – so low quality and even outright incorrect or fraudulent information can compete on equal footing with more reliable, vetted, and professionally sourced material. That is exactly why one of the primary goals of SBM is to be a resource for consumers and professionals to help sort through it all.

Recently David Gorski sent around a link to an e-book, Natural Cancer Treatments, that epitomizes the dark underbelly of health misinformation on the internet.

The book opens up with the standard disclaimer that ostensibly is to protect the public but in reality is simply legal cover for the purveyors of misinformation – it says to seek the advice of your physician and that this book is not meant to discourage anyone from seeking standard therapy for cancer. This is boiler plate CYA for quacks. It is also utter hypocrisy as it is placed immediately below two quotations that set the tone for the book:

“It should be forbidden and severely punished to remove cancer by cutting, burning, cautery, and other fiendish tortures. It is from nature that the disease comes, and from nature comes the cure, not from physicians.”
Paracelsus, (1493-1541 AD)

“…. never take defeat. When all is lost, try something new. Life is too precious to let it slip away from lack of initiative or plain inertia.”
Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D.,N.D. “The Cure for All Advanced Cancers”

The Paracelsus quote essentially says to forgo standard therapy, and don’t trust your doctor – in direct contradiction to the disclaimer. I would also point out that, while Paracelsus was an interesting figure in the history of medicine, he did practice in an essentially pre-scientific era. He fought with the establishment medicine of his time, but this was a fight between two pre-scientific systems. He was criticizing Galenic medicine – which bears no resemblance to modern medicine. The medicine of his time was largely worse than doing nothing, and so the often magical interventions of Paracelsus (he was first and foremost an alchemist) were an improvement. He is also an ironic person to quote, as he focused his attention on using toxic minerals to treat disease. The “natural” cures he was talking about were horrible toxins long out of favor as part of medicine.  For example he favored the use of mercury to treat syphilis.

The second quote essentially encourages acting out of desperation. There is, of course, a kernel of reasonable advice in the notion of not giving up. But it must be tempered by reality – whereas Hulda Clark and other cancer quacks take these words of encouragement to their absurd extreme – try anything, especially the implausible treatment that they are trying to sell. Clark, who recently died of cancer, believed that all cancer, and in fact all disease, is caused by a liver fluke.

The introduction is far worse, in which the authors state:

The consensus of the majority of alternative cancer therapists is that, the chance of full recovery using alternative therapies is almost 100%. with a newly diagnosed condition of early cancer, before any traumatic or toxic treatments have been received. Unfortunately, by the time most patients consider alternative treatments, they have already undergone other treatments.

The consensus of practitioners of X is that X works. Well that’s comforting. The notion that “alternative” treatments are almost 100% effective for cancer is a great example of telling a lie so great that people will tend to believe it – because no one could be that bold and outrageous a liar. No evidence, of course, is presented to back up this absurd claim. But further, this claim directly contradicts their disclaimer – essentially they are saying that you need to consult an alternative practitioner before you subject yourself to standard (i.e. evidence-based) treatment. This is also another attempt at preemptively blaming the patient for treatment failures. If your goal were to kill and harm as many cancer sufferers as possible, you could give no more effective advice than what is found in this book.

The book itself, while selling itself as a source of “natural cancer cures that work” – is really a collection of cancer cures that do not work. The term “natural” is there purely for marketing, as the book contains disproved and implausible treatments of every type, to the point that the vague concept of “natural” loses all meaning.

You can go to just about any page on the book and find gems like this one, under the entry for colloidal silver:

“Naturopathic Medicine regards Cancer as a viral and fungal [candida septicemia] process. Microorganisms depend on a specific enzyme to breathe. Colloidal Silver is a
catalyst that disables these enzymes, and as a result they die. To this day, there has been no recorded case of adverse effects from it when it is properly prepared. There also has been no recorded case of drug interaction with any other medication. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics which destroy beneficial enzymes, Colloidal Silver leaves the tissue-cell enzymes intact.”

I like that – “Naturopathic Medicine regards.”  What does that mean, exactly – that they just made it up?  It’s a clever way to make a claim without making a claim – no appeal to scientific evidence, plausibility, or basic science. Naturopaths just choose to believe that cancer is really a viral or fungal infection – despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that cancer is a category of disease caused by various mutations that cause cells to grow unrestrained by the usual mechanisms that limit cell growth. Some viral infections may increase the risk of developing certain cancers (like HPV and cervical cancer), but the cancer itself is not an infection. So of course, treating it like an infection is useless.

Further, colloidal silver is not a safe or effective treatment for infections. Silver can be used as a bacteriostatic compound to prevent contamination of equipment, but it is not safe and effective when used internally. It is also highly misleading to say that there are no recorded adverse effects “when it is properly prepared.” This is a lie – there are numerous case reports of argyria, a permanent skin disease resulting from use of colloidal silver. Developing argyria also has nothing to do with how the colloidal silver is prepared – it is a matter of dose. But what they are trying to do is dismiss adverse effects as being due to improper use. This is like saying that there are no adverse effects to any surgical procedure properly performed, because all adverse effects from surgery were due to improper technique. It’s a semantic game meant to mislead.

Finally the quote takes a swipe at standard antibiotics (again betraying the lie that the authors do not intend to discourage standard therapy). Antibiotics are designed to affect bacterial enzymes, proteins, or structures without affecting Eukaryotic cells – they do not disrupt “beneficial enzymes”.

We could spend a year and write an encyclopedia examining every claim collected in the book, but let me just give one more example. I literally flipped to a random page and found:

In Japan, Dr. Hasumi claims outstanding success in curing cancer with a vaccine made from the patient’s own urine; however, it works only if the immune system is still
sufficiently strong.

Here we see the common strategy of preparing an excuse for failure – if the treatment does not work, it is the patient’s fault because their immune system was not strong enough. Dr. Hasumi’s treatment is over 50 years old. He is a typical guru running his own clinic, claiming that science is behind his genius. The book also offers this quote from Dr. Hasumi’s website:

“To date, more than 130,000 people have been treated with the Hasumi Vaccine and today approximately 16,000 people in Japan and 6,000 people overseas are continuing treatment with the vaccine. The therapeutic advantage of the Hasumi Vaccine has been demonstrated to prevent recurrence after cancer surgery.”

What does that mean? Did the other 108,000 patients die? Are the 22,000 people still being treated cured or improved in any way by the treatment? Those figures are entirely unhelpful, except, perhaps to potential investors. The book provides only one reference to back up the claim that the treatment prevents recurrence – Hasumi’s website from which the claim was taken, and which itself contains no reference.

Hasumi has only two publications, in 2003 and 2008. The first one is simply an examination of T-cell function, and has nothing to do with any intervention. The second only demonstrates that T-cell activity is increased in response to “anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 coated beads.” Essentially, if you stimulate the immune system, the immune system is stimulated. This is typical quack cancer pseudoscience – trump up some sciencey sounding results by looking at some marker of immune function, which always seem to be elevated in response to any intervention. These results say absolutely nothing about the plausibility of the Hasumi vaccine and of course they do not provide any clinical data to show that the vaccine is safe and effective for anything. These types of studies are for marketing – to provide a patina of science to bamboozle the innocent and desperate.

Conclusion

The people at Natural Health International who published this e-book have, at least, provided a resource by putting just about every form of cancer quackery in one place. They just need to change the title of their book to “Dangerous Cancer Quackery to Avoid.”

Posted in: Cancer, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (25) ↓

25 thoughts on “Complete Cancer Quackery Resource

  1. BobbyG says:

    I fended off all this crap from 1996 to 1998 during the course of my late daughter’s cancer battle. http://www.bgladd.com/1in3

    Diff’rent day, same [bleep].

  2. hat_eater says:

    They are rather explicit in recommending against conventional treatment. Page 9, Purpose:
    “Please do not delay in consulting a licensed physician for an opinion if you suspect you have cancer.
    [...]
    The consensus of the majority of alternative cancer therapists is that, the chance of full recovery using alternative therapies is almost 100%. with a newly diagnosed condition of early cancer, before any traumatic or toxic treatments have been received.
    Unfortunately, by the time most patients consider alternative treatments, they have already undergone other treatments.”

    So, consult your physician, then refuse the treatment.
    I wonder what I’d do if someone I love died after following that advice.

  3. Professor Tom says:

    Wow… page after page is just riddled with scientific inaccuracies. I went to the index just to find some topics I knew inside and out, to see what he had to say.

    One example is on page 140: ” Lactic acid…Interestingly, it is not found in the tissues of people with cancer, and its lack has been established as indicating susceptibility to cancer.”

    Ummm… In 1930 Otto Warburg won a Nobel Prize for describing the Warburg Effect, in which the environment of tumors have abnormally low pH. It is well-established that this is due to cancer cells being glycolytic- burning glucose to make ATP and ultimately producing lots of LACTIC ACID but not shunting it to the Kreb’s cycle. Rather, tumor cells export the lactatic acid, making the fluid surrounding tumors have a low pH. This is used in tumor imaging. Look for lactic acid and you can often find a tumor!

    This is a case where the facts are 180 degrees from what he states.

  4. daijiyobu says:

    What’s wrong with naturopathic oncology? They are board certified: FANBO.

    (see http://www.seattlecancerwellness.com/naturopathic_oncologists.html )

    There’s just that little issue wherein naturopathy labels the profoundly science-ejected falsely as science!

    (see http://www.cancercenter.com/vulvar-cancer/naturopathic-medicine.cfm ).

    Another mechanism you’ll see naturopaths espouse is that CA is due to inflammation and parasites (see http://www.doctorajadams.com/Cancer.html ):

    “naturopathic medicine believes that cancer results from a weakened immune system and documentation shows that all cancer is either viral [or] fungal [...] and/or parasitic in origin [...] therefore, the first approach should be aimed at eliminating the infection and/or inflammatory process. I strongly suggest both the Oil Of Oregano P73 Physician’s Strength and the Colloidal Silver 500ppm.”

    I think quackery is due to parasites too.

    -r.c.

  5. aeauooo says:

    Hulda Clark claimed “The cause of all malignancies is a common parasite, the human intestinal fluke. Its scientific name is Fasciolopsis buski.”
    http://www.drclark.net/en/drclark_protocol/cancer/advanced_cancer.php

    I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people with malignancies have never eaten raw aquatic vegetables in Asia or the Indian subcontinent.
    http://www.dpd.cdc.gov/dpdx/HTML/Fasciolopsiasis.htm

  6. hat – that is a great quote. I am going to add that to the body of my post. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. Dpeabody says:

    These people disgust me. What they do and say is criminal. They embody a debased reminant of what it is to be human.

  8. tanha says:

    Steven,
    With all due respect, shouldn’t it matter who wrote this e-book?
    I agree with all the comments regarding how disgusting it is, but I believe you are wasting your time writing about a ridiculous book some random lady wrote expressing how naturopathic medicine regards cancers. Who is she? I find it more useful and less sensationalist when the SBM bloggers discuss the scientific inaccuracies of various medical practices (CAM or not CAM). It just seems like you are being deliberately controversial here.

  9. Maz says:

    When I read things like this, it makes me wonder what the authors would do if they found themselves afflicted with MRSA or TB.

    Hopefully, they would take a ton of silver and turn themselves blue. That way, no one would listen to them anymore.

  10. tanha – I disagree. This book is being distributed by a company, Natural Healing International. Further, the claims made in this book are not the isolated claims of a lone crank – they are representative of the alternative cancer world. As evidence of this, the book quotes as sources clinics, publications, and websites from naturopathic organizations and other recognized “authorities” in these treatments.

    This book just brings it together in one place. So far I have not read any claims in that book that I have not heard at least dozens of times from CAM proponents. The claims are more important than the source.

  11. Molly, NYC says:

    It’s sort of the flip side of what naturopaths’ usual practice–”treating” diseases that get better by themselves (so it doesn’t matter what they do).

    Here, they’re “treating” diseases that NDs et al. probably figure will be fatal in all cases (so it doesn’t matter what they do).

  12. pmoran says:

    “The consensus of the majority of alternative cancer therapists is that, the chance of full recovery using alternative therapies is almost 100%. with a newly diagnosed condition of early cancer, before any traumatic or toxic treatments have been received. Unfortunately, by the time most patients consider alternative treatments, they have already undergone other treatments.”

    The “big lie”, for sure. Actually alternative cancer therapists quite regularly get to treat cancer patients first***. They are nevertheless collectively unable to produce even a handful of cases where established cancer unequivocally recovered with their ministrations, as we can with many cancers with convenitonal methods.

    *** We know this from seeing their failures in our own practices, and on deep, dark “alternative” cancer sites.

  13. Nescio says:

    These ideas are certainly very widely believed. I have spent a lot of time lurking around alternative health forums of one sort or another, and have had many arguments about this sort of dangerous nonsense.

    I would like to put in a plug for Dr. Moran’s excellent site, which has served me well in the past when trying to point out the lack of evidence of efficacy of alternative treatments for cancer.

  14. wertys says:

    The greatest use of this book is for SBM professionals to be able to look up the summarized claims of the various kooks and charlatans that infest cancer care. It is by far the most comprehensive book of its kind I have seen.

    To our esteemed editors…could we perhaps start a Codex of Prohibited Books in the style of the Vatican to enable rational people who are given this stuff to quickly find out its true value?

    This steaming pile of ordure is my opening nomination for inclusion

  15. Marc says:

    The Paracelsus quote essentially says …….., and don’t trust your doctor

    The latter part of that quote is what I believe has a great deal of validity.

    It is important that we all understand the perverse nature of the US health care system when seeking any medical advice.

    “Fee for service” medicine, as practiced in the US actually encourages treatment. Doctors don’t get paid for not treating you, so the incentive is to treat [always] whether it is necessary or not.

    And as long as we continue on the current path of providing health care, trying to squeeze health care providers, in an attempt to reduce the cost of health care, the problem will only get worse.

    Always take you doctors recommendation with a grain of salt, and do your own research.

  16. Marc – there is some truth to what you say, but it is not entirely accurate. Many doctors practice primarily E&M – evaluation and management. That is the primary source of their reimbursement. They get paid for spending time evaluating a patient and deciding on and discussing management – regardless of what that management is – even if it is nothing.

    What you are talking about applies mostly to procedure-based practices. This is a legitimate point, and we need to have better systems in place to ensure quality control when deciding on procedures. This is where I would generally recommend a second opinion before agreeing to a medical procedure.

    There are also many physicians working under salary – for hospitals, universities, HMO’s etc. where their salary if fixed and reimbursement is not dependent upon treatment decisions. HMOs, in fact, have the reverse incentive – not to treat.

    So the story is much more complex than you suggest.

  17. Werdna says:

    @Marc – I’d disagree especially with regard to Emergency and General practise.

    For example here is a list of the compensation for Emerge in Canada: http://www.emlondon.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=43

    As you can see just doing an evaluation nets the doc $15. Now let’s assume that you’re correct that the doc is out to make extra money and decides to add a “harmless” procedure that, if someone was auditing people wouldn’t look twice at. Say running a saline IV. That gives him/her an extra $10 and if we assume that no procedure is without risk then you might assume that there is a conflict here.

    However, even if we assume a “cheating doc”. He/she is much better off labeling the exam as “comprehensive” which allows the attending to “double their money” without taking any extra time.

    Point being is that if there is sufficient compensation for consultation and given the workload of most ER and GP docs there is a law of diminishing returns in giving unnecessary procedures.

    That said, I fully confess my ignorance of specialist practices and also would state that a significant number of hospitalist (GPs attached to a hospital) and Emergency Docs use alternative compensation (i.e. hourly rate) which avoids this question altogether.

  18. Werdna says:

    Just noticed that a IV is only $6 for an adult. So if one is willing to “juggle the books” so to speak. It’s far more profitable and far safer to code an H102 rather than a H101 + some unnecessary procedure. I mean would you do a thoracentisis for the lousy $25 bucks?

  19. Zetetic says:

    MARC SEZ:

    “Fee for service” medicine, as practiced in the US actually encourages treatment. Doctors don’t get paid for not treating you, so the incentive is to treat [always] whether it is necessary or not.

    I must disagree… Many insurance companies pay MORE if data analysis reveals that preventive measures are a significant part of a provider’s practice. Healthier patients are seen less often.

  20. Adam_Y says:

    . The notion that “alternative” treatments are almost 100% effective for cancer is a great example of telling a lie so great that people will tend to believe it – because no one could be that bold and outrageous a liar.

    Actually, its such a horribly dumb lie because if you read on to 10 pages later that number gets knocked down to less than 100%.

    Dr. Rosy Daniel’s integrated self-help approach (reported 30-40% success rate)
    involving carctol, a low-acid diet, dietary inclusions such as Chinese mushrooms (or
    Biobran/ MGN-3) and tumeric, coriander, cumin seed, other supplements such as Vitamin
    B17 and shark liver oil, and a mind/ body approach such as spiritual healing. See Dr. Rosy
    Daniel’ Health Creation website at http://www.healthcreation.co.uk/. Outside the UK,
    carctol can be ordered at http://www.herbscancure.com/carcorder.htm or Tel: (+91) 981
    8181405 (India). Testimonials at the Health Creation website include:
    “Pancreatic cancer — alive 4 years on. Astounding since this is one of the most
    aggressive cancers”
    “Secondary melanoma – alive 2 years on. This case has shocked the medical world”
    “Grade 4 brain tumor – alive 2 years on. Doctors are gobsmacked “

  21. Adam_Y says:

    Does anyone find it ironic that if you read on the cure rate actually drops from 100% to as low as 30%. Not even the cranks mentioned in this book are that insanely optimistic.

  22. Adam_Y says:

    Sorry for the double post. I don’t know why the first post took so long to appear. I think its because of the links in my post.

  23. Werdna says:

    I thought it would be interesting to look at the across the board published rate of effectiveness. I only took those figures which used the “%” sign (since it’s easy to search for) and only those which used a human “trial”.

    Dr. Clarks: 95% (advanced cancer)
    Dr. Budwig (flaxseed oil): 90%
    Dr. Rosy Daniels: 30-40%
    Dr. Gerson: 90% (Early cancer)
    Wortman/Brant: 100% (Wortman 100% all cancers, Brant 100% of terminal cases)
    Dr. Kelly: 7% (malignancy)
    CARESING: 70-80% (tumor inhibition)

    That’s about 100 pages in…and then I got bored…however it raises an interesting question. Based on these studies…

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20336329
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19865579

    A sizable percentage of cancer patients use CAM. Most don’t tell their docs. However this is at odds with the survival rates of many cancers. If most CAM treatments are as effective as they say and many or most people use them then why do we have things like lung cancer with a 15% 0-5 year survival rate?

    Also it’s worth noting that depending what the mix of cancers the patients had some of these values are close (i.e. within chance assuming the sample is small), match or are actually lower than the survival rates for the diseases themselves (based on the chart published in the Lancet in 2002)….So even if these numbers are correct. If there’s no information as to the type of cancer being treated or if the treatment was done independent of science-based treatments. Then it’s hard to know if there’s anything exciting here at all – repeating for effect: EVEN IF THE NUMBERS ARE RIGHT!

    Heck, considering that I would expect the samples here to be on the small side it’s even conceivable that some of these treatments are harmful.

  24. Calli Arcale says:

    Marc:

    Doctors don’t get paid for not treating you, so the incentive is to treat [always] whether it is necessary or not.

    Last time I saw a doctor and wound up not getting treated, $250 was billed to my insurance company. I don’t think that constitutes “not getting paid”.

    Also, more and more physicians are moving to a salary system as health care corporations buy up private practice clinics. My doctor works for such a clinic. She is salaried; she receives the same pay each year regardless of how many patients she sees or what procedures are performed on them.

  25. I haven’t read all of the posts and I hope that I am not repeating old material. The entire parasite/cancer connection thing really annoys me. I have been a practicing pathologist for 16 years and have examined (grossly and microscopically) thousands of cancerous tumors from every system in the body. I have not seen even one tumor with any portion of a parasite in it. I am still flabbergasted that people can fall for this nonsense.

    Werdna–concerning fee-for-service–you mention getting a lousy $25 bucks for a thoracentesis. For performing a frozen section (examining the specimen, choosing the appropriate portion(s) for evaluation, freezing the tissue, making the slide, and examining it all within about 20 minutes, to give an immediate report to the surgeon)–Medicare generously gives me about $84, which is split with my practice partners and taxed at about 35%. Thus I end up with less than $20. Yippee.

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