Do We Need a New Approach to Cancer?
In 1971 Richard Nixon announced the War on Cancer, and promised a cure by the 1977 bicentennial.
In each of the 25 years since, more Americans have died of cancer than the year before.
The failure of chemotherapy to control cancer has become apparent even to the oncology establishment. Scientific American featured a recent cover story entitled: “The War on Cancer — It’s Being Lost.” In it, eminent epidemiologist John C. Bailar III, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University cited the relentless increase in cancer deaths in the face of growing use of toxic chemotherapy. He concluded that scientists must look in new directions if they are ever to make progress against this unremitting killer.
Adding its voice, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, decrying the failure of conventional therapy to stop the rise in breast cancer deaths, noted the discrepancy between public perception and reality. “If one were to believe all the media hype, the triumphalism of the [medical] profession in published research, and the almost weekly miracle breakthroughs trumpeted by the cancer charities, one might be surprised that women are dying at all from this cancer” it observed. Noting that conventional therapies — chemotherapy, radiation and surgery — had been pushed to their limits with dismal results, the editorial called on researchers to “challenge dogma and redirect research efforts along more fruitful lines.”
John Cairns, professor of microbiology at Harvard University, published a devastating 1985 critique in Scientific American. “Aside from certain rare cancers, it is not possible to detect any sudden changes in the death rates for any of the major cancers that could be credited to chemotherapy. Whether any of the common cancers can be cured by chemotherapy has yet to be established.”
In fact, chemotherapy is curative in very few cancers — testicular, Hodgkin’s, choriocarcinoma, childhood leukemia. In most common solid tumors — lung, colon, breast, etc. — chemotherapy is NOT curative.
In an article entitled “Chemotherapy: Snake-Oil Remedy?” that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of 1/9/87, Dr. Martin F. Shapiro explained that while “some oncologists inform their patients of the lack of evidence that treatments work…others may well be misled by scientific papers that express unwarranted optimism about chemotherapy. Still others respond to an economic incentive. Physicians can earn much more money running active chemotherapy practices than they can providing solace and relief.. to dying patients and their families.”
Dr. Shapiro is hardly alone. Alan C. Nixon, PhD, Past President of the American Chemical Society wrote that “As a chemist trained to interpret data, it is incomprehensible to me that physicians can ignore the clear evidence that chemotherapy does much, much more harm than good.”
In 1986, McGill Cancer Center scientists sent a questionnaire to 118 doctors who treated non-small-cell lung cancer. More than 3/4 of them recruited patients and carried out trials of toxic drugs for lung cancer. They were asked to imagine that they themselves had cancer, and were asked which of six current trials they themselves would choose. 64 of the 79 respondents would not consent to be in a trial containing cisplatin, a common chemotherapy drug. Fifty eight found all the trials unacceptable. Their reason? The ineffectiveness of chemotherapy and its unacceptable degree of toxicity.
Famed German biostatistician Ulrich Abel PhD also found in a similar 1989 study that “the personal views of many oncologists seem to be in striking contrast to communications intended for the public.”
Breast cancer activist Rose Kushner wrote that by 1981 “indiscriminate, automatic adjuvant chemotherapy was replacing the Halsted radical mastectomy as therapeutic overkill in the United States.” Thomas Nealon MD, Professor of Surgery at NYU School of Medicine, concluded in 1990 that “The treatment of this tumor now has slipped from too much surgery to too much adjuvant therapy.”
Why so much use of chemotherapy if it does so little good? Well for one thing, drug companies provide huge economic incentives
In 1990, $3.53 billion was spent on chemotherapy. By 1994 that figure had more than doubled to $7.51 billion. This relentless increase in chemo use was accompanied by a relentless increase in cancer deaths.
Oncologist Albert Braverman MD wrote in 1991 that “no disseminated neoplasm (cancer) incurable in 1975 is curable today…Many medical oncologists recommend chemotherapy for virtually any tumor, with a hopefulness undiscouraged by almost invariable failure.”
Why the growth in chemotherapy in the face of such failure? A look at the financial interrelationships between a large cancer center such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the companies that make billions selling chemo drugs is revealing. James Robinson III, Chairman of the MSKCC Board of Overseers and Managers, is a director of Bristol-Myers Squibb, the world’s largest producer of chemotherapy drugs. Richard Gelb, Vice-Chairman of the MSKCC board is Bristol-Myers Chairman of the Board. Richard Furlaud, another MSKCC board member, recently retired as Bristol Myers’ president. Paul Marks MD, MSKCC’s President and CEO, is a director of Pfizer.
There are more and more reports by establishment oncologists doubting the value of chemotherapy, even to the point of rejecting it outright. One of these, cancer biostatistician Dr. Ulrich Abel, of Heidelberg, Germany, issued a monograph titled Chemotherapy of Advanced Epithelial Cancer in 1990. (See Healing Journal, No. 1-2, Vol.7 of the Gerson Institute.) Epithelial cancers comprise the most common forms of adenocarcinoma: lung, breast, prostate, colon, etc. After ten years as a statistician in clinical oncology, Abel became increasingly uneasy. “A sober and unprejudiced analysis of the literature,” he wrote, “has rarely revealed any therapeutic success by the regimens in question in treating advanced epithelial cancer.” While chemotherapy is being used more and more extensively, more than a million people die worldwide of these cancers annually – and a majority have received some form of chemotherapy before dying. Abel further concluded, after polling hundreds of cancer doctors, “The personal view of many oncologists seems to be in striking contrast to communications intended for the public.” Abel cited studies that have shown “that many oncologists would not take chemotherapy themselves if they had cancer.” (The Cancer Chronicles, December, 1990.) “Even though toxic drugs often do effect a response, a partial or complete shrinkage of the tumor, this reduction does not prolong expected survival,” Abel finds. “Sometimes, in fact, the cancer returns more aggressively than before, since the chemo fosters the growth of resistant cell lines.” Besides, the chemo has severely damaged the body’s own defenses, the immune system and often the kidneys as well as the liver.
In an especially dramatic table, Dr. Abel displays the results of chemotherapy in patients with various types of cancers, as the improvement of survival rates, compared to untreated patients. This table shows:
- In colorectal cancer: no evidence survival is improved.
- Gastric cancer: no clear evidence.
- Pancreatic cancer: Study completely negative. Longer survival in control (untreated) group.[emphasis mine:rsc]
- Bladder: no clinical trial done.
- Breast cancer: No direct evidence that chemotherapy prolongs survival; its use is “ethically questionable.” (That is particularly newsworthy, since all breast cancer patients, before or after surgery, are given chemotherapy drugs.)
- Ovarian cancer: no direct evidence.
- Cervix and uterus: No improved survival.
- Head and neck: no survival benefit but occasional shrinkage of tumors.
More recently, the Nov. 17, 1994 Wall Street Journal, in a front page article on political pressure being exerted for insurance companies to pay for bone marrow transplants in advanced breast cancer, experts give a totally negative report on this approach. The procedure, called ABMT (Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant) involves temporarily removing some of the patient’s bone marrow, applying a potentially lethal dose of chemotherapy, then returning the marrow to the patient’s body. The cost of this procedure is in excess of $100,000.00 .
The University of Colorado’s Dr. Jones, continues the Journal, claims that, with conventional chemotherapy, not more than 2% of patients with spreading breast cancer get a positive response. A non-profit independent technology assessment agency, the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI), says that for the average woman with the most advanced form of breast cancer, the high dose ABMT procedure is not only worthless, but also likely to shorten her life. This report by the ECRI is based on an analysis of 40 studies of ABMT and similar procedures involving a total of 1,017 patients, and 61 studies covering 4,852 patients who had conventional chemotherapy Dr. Nelson Erlick, the project’s lead analyst, concluded that “many patients are led to believe that this (ABMT) is a successful therapy. We found no evidence whatsoever that it provides any benefit.”
Since the Gerson Therapy is often described by orthodox oncologists as ‘quackery’, we’d like our readers to consider this: If quackery describes an expensive treatment that the technician knows ahead of time to be ineffective (or even harmful), what is ABMT (bone marrow transplant)? Yet Health Plan providers are being ordered to pay for it by the Office of Personnel Management, a federal agency.