A fungus among us in oncology?

I don’t much like Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com (formerly NewsTarget.com). Indeed, I haven’t yet been able to find a more blatant purveyor of the worst kind of quackery and paranoid anti-physician and anti-medicine conspiracy theories anywhere on the Internet, with the possible exception of Whale.to. However, Whale.to is so utterly, outrageously, incoherently full of not just quackery but paranoid New World Order conspiracy theories and other paranormal silliness that any but the most deluded can easily see it for what it is with just a cursory reading of a few of its many, many pages. It’s just that crazy.

It occurs to me, though, that in focusing my not-so-Respectful™ Insolence mainly on Mike Adams that I may have allowed a certain, perhaps equally bizarre purveyor of quackery to escape unscathed. We just can’t have that. I’m talking about Dr. Joseph Mercola, of course. I’ve seen something now being pushed by Dr. Mercola that is truly disgusting. Indeed, it’s some incredible woo, so much so that I briefly considered prematurely resurrecting Your Friday Dose of Woo to take it on. But then I remembered my experience taking on the German New Medicine, and this new woo on Mercola.com is such despicable cancer quackery that I couldn’t do it. Indeed, it’s some of the most concentrated pseudoscience I’ve ever seen. What am I talking about?

Did you know that cancer is really a fungus? Dr. Tullio Simoncini tells us so.

It starts with this video. Watch it if you dare.

I couldn’t actually watch the whole thing, so great was my desire to retch. It shows an interview with Dr. Tullio Simoncini, billed as an oncologist from Italy, who, while hawking his book Cancer Is A Fungus, makes the argument that fungus is the One True Cause of Cancer and that the medical establishment is Too Deluded or Too Blind to realize it. Worse, he proposes a treatment that, even if cancer were a fungus, is completely implausible and wouldn’t work. Indeed, we don’t treat fungal infections that way even when we are treating a diagnosed fungal infection.

You can get an idea of just how dumb this video is by listening to Dr. Simoncini opine in the first couple of minutes of the vide that whenever he sees a cancerous tumor in the body, the lumps are “always white.” He emphasizes this amazing observation several times, so apparently important is it. Yes, that was the observation that supposedly led him to his idea (I refuse to dignify it with the term “hypothesis”) that tumors are in fact due to fungus. In response, the host gushes about how brilliant that is and how obvious it is. Just crush up a mushroom! Of course, it would be a major blow to Dr. Simoncini’s idea, would it not, if not all mushrooms are white/. I suppose that neither he nor the interviewer would be happy to know that a lot of them are brightly colored, which makes their stupid truly burn ever more hot with a bright fungal yellow. Dr. Simonici has shown me the the ultimate in taking a flawed observation and running with it straight off the cliff, as this description of his book shows:

The book “Cancer is a fungus” describes how a fungous infection always forms the basis of every neoplastic formation, and this formation tries to spread within the whole organism without stopping.

I have to wonder what kind of oncologist he is if that’s all he’s seen. I can tell you that not all tumors are white. Many are, but a lot of them are brownish-colored, tan, or even greenish-colored. (Uh-oh, better not let Dr. Simoncini know that; that’s fungus-color we’re talking!) And what about leukemias and other blood cancers? Dr. Simoncini then shows a bronchoscopy and thoracoscopy demonstrating white tumors. I’m supposed to be impressed by this? He even claims that the reason all those oncological surgeons miss the fungus is because when they biopsy the tumor they only take the surface. Indeed, he likens a tumor to a “solid abscess” that has to be opened. This conveniently neglects the combined experience of every cancer surgeon who ever took out whole tumors and submitted them for analysis by pathologists. Oddly enough, we don’t see fungus in the center of all these tumors.

It is true that the centers of tumors are often soft and mushy, but that’s because the tumor has grown faster than its blood supply has, leaving dead cells in the middle and an active, growing front of malignant cells on the edges. There’s no real mystery as to why tumors appear this way. (On the other hand, why and how tumors induce their own blood supply through angiogenesis and why they often outstrip it, now there‘s an area where some interesting science is being done and interesting insights into the biology of cancer are to be had.) Sometimes the center of tumors becomes secondarily infected because it’s dead tissue. Uncommonly, that infection can even include fungus, because a patient is immunosuppressed. Even in tumors that are white are not white because they are made up of fungus. They are white because that’s the color of its main consituents, in particular the reactive connective tissue. The whole concept that tumors are caused by fungus because they’re white is just plain silly.

Here’s how it’s described on Mercola.com:

Dr. Simoncini’s research has led him to believe that something as simple as a fungus, Candida, is the leading cause of cancer; that cancer itself is in fact a fungus. What we refer to as a tumor, is nothing more than your body’s attempt at protecting itself from that fungus.

He brings up an analogy between psoriasis – an “incurable” disease of the skin that many treat as a fungus – and tumors, which are also an “incurable” disease of your body. Several studies have linked the presence of Candida with cancer, showing that anywhere between 79 to 97 percent of all cancer patients also have Candida.

Actually, if you look closely enough, most, if not all, healthy people are colonized with candida. It’s part of the normal flora that lives on and in us all. Normally our immune systems keep it in check so that it doesn’t cause problems, but when patients become immunosuppressed for whatever reason, cancer included, it can cause problems.

Now here’s the “rationale” behind this whole dubious idea:

Dr. Simoncini’s explanation for how this phenomenon works – how Candida leads to deadly cancer – is that it’s a consequence of the weakening and exhaustion of your organs, and eventually your entire body, in the following stages: 

  1. Candida roots itself in your deep connective tissue in various organs
  2. As a result, this evokes an organic defensive reaction as the connective tissue of your invaded organ attempts to encyst the fungin colonies through cellular hyper-production, which results in the formation of tumors
  3. Growths continue as the fungi spreads, both in your surrounding tissue, and remotely (aka “metastatis”). It is still always the same Candida attacking different tissues, but due to its highly adaptive qualities it is able to mutate to adapt itself to whatever environment it finds itself in, hence the various types of tumors
  4. Your body becomes progressively more exhausted, which allows the fungi to spread and take over more rapidly
  5. You die from “cancer”

Yes, it’s the favorite “alt-med” trope that cancer isn’t really the disease but rather a manifestation of “something else,” which is the true disease. In that, the whole “cancer is really a fungus” thing really is just like the German New Medicine or Robert O. Young‘s cancer quackery. The only difference is the One True Cause of Cancer that is being sold, which is in this case fungus, rather than a secret conflict, acid-base imbalance, or even a liver fluke.

So what is the answer, according to Dr. Simoncini? Baking soda. Yes, baking soda, a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate. Dr. Simoncini injects sodium bicarbonate into tumors and claims to be able to cure any cancer using these injections. One thought that immediately comes to mind whenever I see a claim like this is: If Dr. Simoncini can actually do what he claims he can do, where are his publications? Where is his Nobel Prize? To be able to cure cancer by something as simple as injections of sodium bicarbonate directly into tumors would be such an incredible breakthrough that there’s no way it could be kept quiet. Yet somehow only Dr. Simoncini knows this remedy, which is not only physiologically incredibly implausible and isn’t even used to treat real, biopsy- or culture-proven fungal infections but has no evidence to support it.

Naturally, Dr. Simoncini has been “persecuted” by the medical authorities in Italy:

Unfortunately, Dr. Simoncini is yet another brilliant doctor who has been ousted from the medical community due to his revolutionary simple ideas of how to cure profit-making diseases.

So many people refuse to believe that this is true and that it’s happening to good doctors, since “everyone knows” you must be a liability to human life if you’re stripped of your medical license.

But the reason why Dr. Simoncini was kicked out is because as an oncologist – a cancer specialist — he refused to use conventional cancer treatment methods, choosing instead to administer sodium bicarbonate, which is HARMLESS, as opposed to the often lethal use of chemotherapy.

Gee, you don’t think it has anything to do with Dr. Simoncini being a quack and his claims about the causes and treatment of all cancers being nothing more than the rankest and most despicable form of quackery, do you? Perish the thought! It has to be that evil “allopathic” medical establishment trying to protect their turf and inject cancer patients with that horrible, nasty poison (a.k.a. chemotherapy). I tried to find out more about Dr. Simoncini, but there was precious little I could find that didn’t consist of glowing testimonials and websites promoting his “cure.” All I could find was this thread on the JREF forums. According to various commenters, not only was Dr. Simoncini expelled from the Italian Medical Order (Ordine dei Medici e Chirurghi) but he was condemned in the first degree by an Italian court for cheating and homicide. Here’s one report from a woman by the ‘nym of JennyJo:

I live in the Netherlands.

Last year, tullio simoncini was giving his treatments with sodium bicarbonate in a private clinic for alternative ‘medicine’ in Bilthoven in the Netherlands.

October 2007, a woman with curable breast cancer, who was afraid of operation and chemo therapy, came into contact with simoncini and was treated by him. He injected large doses of baking soda into her breast.

On the fourth day of the therapy, the woman became very ill and was transported to a university hospital in Amsterdam, where she died the following day.

The matter is since under investigation by the Dutch Justice Department. Simoncini denies he ever treated the woman, although various staff members have seen him administering injections. The clinic maintains the woman died of dehydration (sic).

In other words, if true this account is very much like other accounts of alternative medical cures leading women to forego effective conventional treatment, and Dr. Mercola is promoting this utter quackery. There’s also the question of whether there have been “clean kills” by this quack:

On the 7th of Feb 2002 T. Simoncini injected SB on a 34 y. old male patient with an intestinal carcinoma (diagnosed as terminal by other oncologists) which perforated his intestine and died the day after. Moreover he treated 2 other women which died in the same year. On May 2006 he was convicted to 3 y. for manslaughter of the first patient and 16 months for having charged 7.500 EUR each to the other 2 patients. He brought to his defence about 20 of his patients claiming that their carcinomas have “disappeared” thanks to him. None of these patients were charged with false testimony.

Again, I can’t find verification in English of these stories, given that the only English language websites that describe Dr. Simoncini appear to be either his or “alternative” medicine sites sympathetic to anything that is not “allopathic” medicine. So take them for what they’re worth. However, given how utterly ridiculous Dr. Simoncini’s claims are, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the above stories are accurate.

Finally, Dr. Mercola can’t resist taking the usual slam at chemotherapy:

In the U.S., chemo was most successful in treating testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s disease, where its success rate fell just below 38 percent and slightly over 40 percent respectively.

As opposed, I guess, to a virtually 100% chance of death without treatment.

There is at least one study that I know of that addresses this very question. Published in the journal Clinical Oncology in December 2004, the results of this study were astounding, showing that chemotherapy has an average 5-year survival success rate of just over 2 percent for all cancers!

I’m familiar with that study, which can be found here. There are a number of serious problems with it. Indeed, it seemed custom-designed to underestimate the effect of chemotherapy. For example, it used all newly diagnosed adult patients with cancer as its denominator even though not all cancers are treated with chemotherapy. This alone tends to obscure the magnitude of the benefit in many of the subgroups. It also only follows five year survivals, which for some cancers will also underestimate the benefit of chemotherapy. For example, breast cancer can have late recurrences, and the magnitude of benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy is greater at ten years than it is at five years, because the control and chemotherapy survival curves keep separating beyond five years.

There are also some oddities that all serve to underestimate the benefit of chemotherapy in cancer. The most glaring of these was the failure to include leukemias, which, when they are cured, are always cured with chemotherapy. They also ignore benefits of chemotherapy other than cure in terms of improved median survival in many advanced cancers that, while chemotherapy may not represent a cure, is nonetheless important to cancer patients. Moreover, there is also benefit in terms of improved quality of life and alleviation of symptoms–even in advanced disease. Of course, it comes as no surprise that purveyors of dubious “alternative” medicine therapies love this study and cite it endlessly. Don’t get me wrong. There are legitimate criticisms of how we as oncologists use chemotherapy and just how much benefit (or additional benefit when used in the adjuvant setting) chemotherapy really provides, but this study doesn’t provide a good evidence-based list of them, and the quotes that Dr. Mercola cites from others are even worse.

It would appear that I’ve ignored for far too long one big fat, fungus-filled pustule of an “alternative” medicine website. I had mostly ignored Mercola.com, having concluded, erroneously as it turns out, that it wasn’t as bad as NaturalNews.com. That was a mistake on my part. I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on Dr. Mercola’s website from now on.