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Another cancer tragedy in the making

I despise cancer quacks.

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

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

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

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

The diagnosis and the prognosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the quack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will receive regular tests and monitor my progress.

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

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

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

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

The following is a summary of understanding cancerous tissues:

Cancer is not a cell but a poisonous acidic liquid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do cancer patients fall for this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Cancer, Health Fraud, Science and Medicine

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