Alternative Cancer Therapies
Radiation Can't Hack It
When Ruth developed breast cancer in 1981, I learned to my horror that, with a few rare exceptions such as Wilms Tumor and testicular cancer, chemotherapy and radiation cannot cure solid tumors. There are a few non-solid tumors such as lymphoma and juvenile leukemia, that can frequently be cured with chemotherapy and radiation, but the common tumors cannot be eliminated this way. Surgery was, and continues to be our only curative agent in dealing with common cancers. If you catch cancer early enough, you may be able to cure it. Many people are cured of cancer, and others die of something else before their cancer can take them out. In the case of Ruth's sister, the tumor was well-encapsulated. In Ruth's friend's situation, the tumor was still small, and hadn't gone into her ascending nodes.
Otherwise, it's simply delaying the inevitable.
How soon will we have a cure for cancer? When I was a child, we thought there would be a cure (or cures) for most cancers by 1950. New chemotherapy drugs made possible the cure of some lymphoma and leukemia cases starting in 1960. Otherwise, "progress" has been minimal, with an endless stream of cancer "breakthroughs" that you hear much about anymore. For example, there were the interferons and interleukin 2. There were monoclonal antibodies. There were the natural killer cells. And there have been new chemotherapy agents. But magic bullets have yet to appear.
One of the problems during the 80's, although I don't hear it as much these days, was cancer hype. Cancer cures were just around the corner. In the early 80's, Dr. Vincent de Vita, the Director of the National Cancer Institute made a statement that reached our newspaper that said that by the end of the 80's, cancer wouldn't be the dreaded word it was in the early 80's. Yeah. Sure.
I believe that sizable cancer treatment progress has been made over the past 20 years. A breakthrough seems to have occurred with multiple myeloma, which has been a bad trip.
Today, the buzz is genetic research. I hope it will bring some dramatic improvements, but I'm not holding my breath. Cancer prevention is your best bet.
Looking over the situation, I can't tell you how important cancer prevention and early cancer detection is to us. I'm realizing again how bad cancer is, and how important it is to me personally to embrace cancer tests, even when they're uncomfortable.
Does the Medical Industry Want to Block a Cure for Cancer So It Can Make More Money?
You hear this accusation a lot, but I don't see how it could be true. The medically trained get cancer at the same rate as the rest of us. The same goes for everyone else in the medical industry, not to mention their sisters and their brothers and their cousins and their aunts. Also, you certainly aren't going to have one single drug that will cure all cancers. Looking at situations like testicular cancer where there is a 90%+ cure rate, you'd still like to be able to save the other 10%. In fact, several alternative, curative drugs would be desirable if they existed. With respect to revenue, you can only use a given chemotherapy agent for one course of cancer treatments, so from the perspective of the drug company that manufactured it, it would be no different than a drug that could cure cancer.. I think there's no shortage of money to be made if drug companies can develop much, much better chemo- or biotherapy agents. I think cancer researchers are trying as hard as they can.
Curing cancer is probably the toughest research problem humanity has ever had to solve. The body can't do it by itself, or it would have been bred out of existence.
Alternative Cancer Therapies
When Ruth's breast cancer was first discovered, in 1981, I plunged into a frantic investigation of alternate cancer therapies. Most of the alternate cancer therapies urge patients to avoid conventional therapy because, supposedly, it compromised their abilities to respond to unorthodox cancer treatments, so I had to hurry before she committed to one kind of therapy or another.
The leading offbeat cancer treatments of that time were
(1) Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT), administered by Dr. Larry Burton in the Bahamas, and
(2) "anti-neoplastons", discovered by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, in Houston, Texas. (Brain tumors seem to be a specialty with Dr. Burzynski, followed by prostate cancer.)
It happened that several people in Huntsville were patients at Dr. Burton's clinic in the Bahamas. Furthermore, a friend of mine, Wally Kirkpatrick, had been an AIAA Congressional Interne in Senator Howell Heflin's office when a woman from Huntsville, Betty Abernathy, contacted Senator Heflin's office seeking help with her brain tumor. Wally called someone at the National Cancer Institute, who told Wally very unofficially that Betty Abernathy might want to try the IAT clinic in the Bahamas. Ms. Abernathy did, and ended up marrying Dr. Burton.
The crux of it was that we had local connections with the IAT Clinic.
I also talked with Dr. Craig Whitfield, a veterinary researcher at the University of Arkansas, who told me about Dr. Burzynski.
I investigated a welter of cancer research programs. I was already conversant with some other alternative cancer treatments such as laetrile, and with Dr. Donald Kelly's pancreatic program.
(To Be Continued)
Before closing this tonight, I'll simply cut to the chase and say that
(1) not all these cancer therapies can be the answer,,
(2) these therapies don't often cure histologically confirmed cancers,
(3) they may increase survival times and improve patient experience,
(4) it's usually impossible to get reliable statistics concerning cure rates,
(5) it's very difficult to find out whether these alternate therapies work at all, and
(6) some alternate cancer therapies are criminally fraudulent..
To return to the story, I set about to find out whether Dr. Burton's Immuno-Augmentative Therapy really worked. That wasn't easy. Dr. Burton kept no records.
Many alternative approaches have been explored