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Quackademic medicine versus cancer quackery: The central dogma of alternative medicine is questioned by an advocate of “integrative medicine”

Since I seem to be on a roll the last few days discussing cancer quackery, I thought I’d just go with it at least one more day. Frequently, when I get on these rolls laying down the Insolence, both Respectful and not-so-Respectful, over antivaccine quackery I start whining about how I need to change topics, but not this time around, not this topic. It takes a lot more than what I’ve posted lately to make me feel as though I need a change of pace. Besides, for whatever reason, the blog fodder is flying at me fast and furious, whether it be the dubious testimonial I discussed yesterday, yet another deconstruction of the moral bankruptcy that is Stanislaw Burzynski, or my take on the sheer quackery that is “naturopathic oncology.” The first rule of blogging is that you don’t talk about blogging. Oh, wait. That’s not it. I talk about blogging all the time. The first rule of blogging is: When the world is throwing easy blogging material at you, for cryin’ out loud, go for it. Yeah, that’s it.

So I’m going for it.

The blog fodder this time around comes in the form of three articles that appeared in ONCOLOGY: Perspectives on Best Practices, an open-access journal about…well, oncology. All three of them are about cancer quackery. Shockingly, in the first article, by Barrie Cassileth, director of all woo integrative oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and IIan R. Yarett, actually uses the word “quackery” in its title: Cancer Quackery: The Persistent Popularity of Useless, Irrational ‘Alternative’ Treatments. In it, Cassileth provides a rather standard discussion of bogus cancer treatments that almost could have been written by Orac, were it not for the complete and utter lack of snark, even the subtle snark that academics sneak into papers. She does, however, complain that quacks have appropriated the term “complementary” in order to “use it incorrectly.” This complaint derives from how many of these cancer quacks don’t actually advocate using their nostrums in addition to conventional therapy but rather in lieu of science-based medicine. Personally, I find this amusing, given that quackademics have no one to blame but themselves for this, given the specific modalities they have tried to “integrate” with science-based medicine. It rather reminds me of the “intelligent design” creationists, craving respectability and crowing to high heaven that they aren’t pseudoscientists but real “scientists,” taking umbrage at being lumped together with fundamentalist creationists who believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago with all animals in their current forms. No, Cassileth seems to be saying, we don’t associate with that riff-raff. They’re fundamentalist loons. We’re scientists!

I’ll give her some credit for this article, though, and why not? Cassileth lists a fairly standard bunch of quack treatments, the majority of which have been covered on this blog at one time or another, and rips into them. The litany should be familiar: laetrile, shark cartilage, Entelev/Cantron (which I recently discussed, with the comment thread afterward having swollen as of this writing to nearly 1,100 entries), various oxygen therapies (such as hyperbaric oxygen or various means of administering hydrogen peroxide, “energy therapies,” which Cassileth admits have no evidence to support them. Given that admission, one wonders why reiki, which is a form of “energy therapy,” is offered at MSKCC. Come to think of it, acupuncture is also a form of “energy healing” as well, given its claim to be able to manipulate the flow of qi through the body to healing intent, and MSKCC offers acupuncture as well. That doesn’t stop Cassileth from making the dubious claim that acupuncture and other woo have “been shown to be safe and effective as adjunctive treatments for managing pain, nausea, stress, and many other symptoms, and for supporting patient well-being in general,” whatever “supporting patient well-being in general” means.

There are other weaknesses. For instance, no mention is made of Gerson therapy, and it is that particular form of quackery, as well as its many variants (such as the Gonzalez protocol and other treatments that loosely fall under the rubric of “metabolic therapies” and often include such lovely interventions as coffee enemas), that is arguably the cancer quackery most heavily promoted right now; that is, unless high dose vitamin C, which never seems to stay dead no matter how many scientific stakes are driven into its heart, isn’t the most common quackery. One could only wish that, like the vampires on True Blood, such quackeries would explode into a disgusting blob of blood and tissue when the stake of science is driven through their hearts, but sadly this never seems to happen. Her omissions aside, I can’t be too hard on Cassileth. Her article is actually pretty good, by and large, if you can ignore that she is in charge of bringing quackademic medicine into one of the greatest cancer centers in the world. She also makes this statement:

Many alternative approaches to healing are premised on the concept of the mind/body connection, and specifically on the theory that patients can harness the power of their mind to heal their physical ills.[4] Many mind/body techniques, such as meditation and biofeedback, have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation, and are effectively and appropriately used as complementary therapies today. However, some proponents of these techniques overpromise, suggesting that emotional stress or other emotional issues can cause diseases like cancer and that correction of these deficiencies through mind-body therapies can effectively treat major illnesses. Such claims are unsupported.

Many of these ideas were promoted by a former Yale surgeon, a popular author who advocated special cancer patient support groups in his books. The importance of a positive attitude was stressed, as was the idea that disease could spring from unmet emotional needs. This belief anguished many cancer patients, who assumed responsibility for getting cancer because of an imperfect emotional status. Among alternative modalities, the mind/body approach has been especially persistent over time, possibly in part because it resonates with the American notion of rugged individualism.[4]

Of course, none of this stops MSKCC from offering “mind-body” services. I guess it’s OK to Cassileth because she doesn’t promise that such woo will cure the cancer. OK, I’ll stop with the snark (at least the snark directed at Cassileth). She’s basically correct that there is no evidence that these therapies can impact the natural history of cancer and produce a survival benefit, and I give her props for carpet-bombing the quackery that is the German New Medicine.

Cassileth’s article was accompanied by not one, but two, additional commentaries, both of which didn’t take issue with the criticism of specific cancer quackeries, such as Entelev, but rather with her statement above about mind-body “healing.” Neither of the commentators were happy that Cassileth had questioned the central dogma of alternative medicine, which is what I’ve been discussing the last couple of days. That central dogma is that if you wish for it hard enough your mind can heal you of anything. The corollary of this central dogma is that if you are ill it is your fault for not having the right “intent,” attitude, and thoughts and therefore not doing the right things and/or not believing hard enough. It’s not for nothing that I have likened alternative medicine to religion or the New Age woo that is The Secret, and these authors simply reinforce that view. First up is radiation oncologist and practitioner of “integrative oncology” Brian D. Lawenda, MD, who pens Quackery, Placebos, and Other Thoughts: An Integrative Oncologist’s Perspective.

In the first part of his article, Lawenda protests loudly, arguing that “not all therapies categorized as ‘alternative,’ ‘nonconventional,’ or ‘unconventional’ are completely ineffective.” I suppose it depends on what you mean by “completely ineffective.” Personally, when I say “completely ineffective,” I mean “indistinguishable from placebo.” That’s the usual definition of “ineffective” in medical circles, and it is a description that applies to the vast majority of “integrative oncology,” including acupuncture, therapeutic touch, reiki, and the like. In the case of acupuncture, for instance, it doesn’t matter where you stick the needles or even if you stick the needles in at all (a toothpick twirled against the skin will do as well or better). In other words, in the case of acupuncture, the effects are entirely nonspecific. Indeed, Lawenda’s claim that these therapies are being used in an “evidence-based” manner is almost as overblown as the claims that quacks make; real “evidence-based” use of the vast majority of these modalities would be not to use them at all. They don’t work. That doesn’t stop Lawenda from advocating placebo medicine. But first he has to remonstrate with Cassileth over her characterization of “mind-body” medicine:

One area of controversy that comes up often in integrative oncology circles is whether or not there is an association between chronic stress and cancer-specific outcomes. Dr. Cassileth asserts that the association between chronic stress and cancer development, progression, and recurrence has not been definitively established. Those who support this view might categorize as quackery the claim that stress reduction (eg, through lifestyle changes, mind-body therapies, etc) can improve cancer-specific outcomes.

Those who believe that chronic stress and cancer are linked cite data that support this claim. In particular, there are clinical studies[7] that report improvements in cancer-specific outcomes in patients who are taught stress management techniques. Furthermore, researchers continue to identify chronic stress as a causative factor in numerous pathophysiologic processes that are known to be associated with the development, progression, and recurrence of various cancers (eg, stimulation of systemic inflammation and oxidation, impairment of immune function, increases in insulin resistance and weight gain, etc).[8]

Lawenda overstates his case massively. The evidence that improving “attitude” improves cancer-specific survival is of shockingly low quality. There’s just no “there” there. As I’ve said before, that’s not to say that psychotherapy and other modalities designed to improve a patient’s mood and mental state might not be useful. Certainly, they can improve quality of life, used in the proper situation. However, there just isn’t any evidence that is even mildly convincing that such modalities can improve a patient’s chances of surviving his cancer.

I also know that Lawenda is laying down pure, grade-A woo when I see him retreating into the favorite alt-med trope, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and claiming that “many alternative therapies, once believed by conventional medical practitioners to be merely placebos, have now been shown to have proven therapeutic value (eg, acupuncture, numerous botanical extracts, meditation).” Well, no. Acupuncture has not been convincingly shown to have therapeutic value for any condition, and it’s no surprise that botanical extracts might be effective for some things; they are, after all, drugs. Adulterated drugs with lots of impurities whose potency can vary widely from lot to lot, but drugs nonetheless. He even attacks antidepressants based on more recent evidence suggesting that they might not be as effective as previously thought and in some cases might not be better than placebo, an idea ably countered by James Coyne.

Lawenda’s rebuke, however, is nothing compared to what comes next. Remember Cassileth’s dismissal of the findings of a “Yale surgeon” who claimed that support groups improved cancer survival? Here comes that Yale surgeon! Yes, indeed. It’s Bernie Siegel, and he’s pissed, proclaiming that The Key to Reducing Quackery Lies in Healing Patients and Treating Their Experience. Of course, his carefully cultivated image of being the ultimate nice guy and caring physician can’t be endangered; I only infer his annoyance from the tone of his response. I also infer a lot from the fact that, unlike Lawenda and Cassileth, who at least include some references taken from the peer-reviewed scientific literature to support their points, Siegel cites exactly one reference, and one reference only, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward. Lawenda cites mostly poor quality studies, but at least he tries by citing studies. Siegel, on the other hand, seems to think he is the Great and Powerful Oz (Dr. Oz or the Wizard of Oz, take your pick) and that you should just take his pronouncements on faith because he is so awesome. I will admit that Siegel probably has a point when he says that better communication could potentially reduce the incidence of cancer patients turning to quackery, but even making this reasonable point he overstates his case when he says that quackery would “diminish greatly” if doctors would just learn to communicate better. There’s a lot more to the appeal of quackery than having a doctor who can’t communicate, much of which wouldn’t even come close to disappearing, even if every doctor turned into a Bernie Siegel clone with respect to showing incredible empathy to patients.

Siegel then dives right in, relying on the sheer force of that awesome empathy of his to rip Cassileth a new one for daring to criticize his work:

Our emotions govern our internal chemistry, and hope is therapeutic. We know that laughter enhances survival time in cancer patients, while loneliness has a negative effect. When a Yale graduate student did a study on our support group members and it showed increased survival time for the group’s members, his professor told him that couldn’t be true and made him change the control group so that everything came out equal. Doctors don’t study survival and the power of the mind.

Which is, of course, utter nonsense, leavened with more than a little conspiracy mongering. Doctors have been studying the “power of the mind” and survival for a very long time. What Siegel doesn’t like is that they haven’t found that the mind is nearly as powerful as Siegel would like to believe. It’s a topic I’ve been writing about since the very beginning. There’s a reason for the central dogma of alternative medicine; it’s very appealing to believe that sheer force of will or thinking happy thoughts can heal us of serious diseases. Talk about the ultimate form of “empowerment”!

Siegel then goes completely off the deep end:

The mind and energy will be therapies of the future. I know of patients who were not irradiated because the therapy machine was being repaired and no radioactive material was reinserted. The radiation therapist told me about it because he was feeling terrible. I told him he didn’t know what he was saying to me. “You’d have to be an idiot to not know you weren’t treating people for a month—so obviously they had side effects and shrinking tumors, which was why you assumed they were being treated.” He said, “Oh my God, you’re right.” I couldn’t get him to write an article about it. I also have patients who have no side effects because they get out of the way and let the radiation go to their tumor.

Yes, an unsubstantiated anecdote about an apparently incompetent radiation oncology tech who didn’t notice that his radiation machine wasn’t actually delivering radiation trumps evidence, apparently. (One wonders how the machine still functioned if its source wasn’t re-inserted. Most such machines have a warning light or won’t turn on if the source isn’t properly in place.) Siegel’s article is so full of alt-med tropes and a heaping’ helpin’ of what can best be described as pure woo. Besides recommending his own books (one of which I actually have on my shelf but have not gotten around to reading), Siegel recommends The Energy Cure: Unraveling the Mystery of Hands-On Healing by William Bengston, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles by Bruce Lipton, and The Psychobiology of Gene Expression by Ernest Rossi. Lipton, as you recall, is a cell biologist who abandoned “conventional” biology after having some sort of mystical revelation about cells that led him to conclude that God must exist and that “holistic” therapies work. I hadn’t heard of the other two, but Siegel describes Bengston thusly:

Bengston cured mice of cancer in a controlled study with the energy conducted through his hands. I was healed of an injury in the same way by healer Olga Worral many years ago. We definitely need to test potential therapies to verify whether or not they are useful, but we also have to keep an open mind to what might be possible, and we must understand that we are treating a patient’s experience and not just a disease.

It turns out that Bengston preaches exactly the sort of quackery that Cassileth quite correctly castigated, namely that energy healing can cure cancer! From his own website:

Can energy healing really cure cancer? Is it possible for you to heal someone’s terminal illness with your bare hands? Is the Western medical community ready for a fundamental change in its approach to treatment?…Dr. William Bengston invites you to decide by taking a journey with him into the mystery and power of hands-on healing. Drawing on his 30 years of rigorous research, unbelievable results, and mind-bending questions, Bengston challenges us to totally rethink what we believe about our ability to heal.

As there so frequently is after a book advertisement, there are blurbs with people saying how great Bengston’s book is. Guess who gave Bengston a plug. Yes, Bernie Siegel. I must say, I had no idea that Siegel was so deep into woo. Elsewhere in his article he says he had chronic Lyme disease and was helped by homeopathic remedies. He even says that he “knows they work” because of his “experience of having the symptoms of the disease alleviated.” It doesn’t get much quackier than energy healing and homeopathy. They are the two most ridiculous quackeries out there, and Bernie Siegel is promoting them both.

Siegel concludes:

I was a pediatric surgeon and a general surgeon, and I know how powerful my words were to the children—and adults—who believed in me. I had no problem deceiving children into health by labeling vitamin pills as medications to prevent nausea and hair loss, or telling them the alcohol (Drug information on alcohol) sponge would numb their skin (and of course, sharing this with their parents, who helped empower their child’s belief). The mind and attitude are powerful healing forces. The mind and body do communicate, so I work with patients’ dreams and drawings and have diagnosed illnesses from them. I have yet to meet a physician who was told in medical school that Carl Jung correctly diagnosed a brain tumor by interpreting a patient’s dream.

This may not seem related to the subject of quackery, but it is—because it is about how to train doctors so that they know how to provide hope and potential to patients and how to use the mind and placebo effects. Doctors’ “wordswordswords” can become “swordswordswords” and kill or cure patients. I know a man who had cancer and needed cataract surgery so he could enjoy the life that remained to him with restored vision. His health plan denied the surgery because they expected him to die within 6 months and didn’t want to spend the money. He died in a week. The Lockerbie Bomber was released by the Scottish authorities because he was dying of cancer. He went back home to the Middle East and survived for over 3 years— and that is no coincidence.

Note the mind-body dualism (“the mind and body do communicate”). Of course they do, because the mind is the brain, and the brain is in constant communication with the body! That doesn’t mean you can think yourself healthy. Remember how I discussed some time ago the way that this increasing emphasis on placebo medicine among promoters of “integrative medicine.” As I’ve said so many times before, the reason IM fans have taken this position is because they’re finally being forced to accept that high quality evidence shows that most alt-med nostrums rebranded as “CAM” or “integrative medicine” produce nonspecific effects no better than placebo. So these nonspecific effects get relabeled as the “powerful placebo,” as proponents of “integrating” quackery into real medicine pivot on the proverbial dime and say that’s how their favored therapies worked all along, by firing up placebo effects! It’s pure paternalism, as well, as I have discussed multiple times.

Siegel claims he’s “unleashing the healing power” in each of us, but what he is really doing is advocating a return to the paternalistic, unquestioned, shaman-healer so common in so many societies in pre-scientific times. In ancient Egypt, physicians were also priests; both functions were one, which made sense given how little effective medicine there was. Praying to the gods for patients to get better was in most cases as good as anything those ancient physicians could do. Also notice how, to Siegel, apparently the end justifies the means. Siegel can deceive patients about vitamins and alcohol sponges because he thinks it’s all for a greater good, really believing that he is so all-powerful a shaman-healer that his words alone can have a huge effect in curing or killing patients. That’s how he appears to be justifying the deception. He needs to get a clue (and some humility) and realize that, although placebo effects are important confounders in clinical trials, it’s a huge stretch to ascribe such awesome power to their effects. What Siegel is describing is magic, not science; religion, not medicine. Thinking does not make it so.

Unfortunately, Cassileth doesn’t seem to realize that, at their core, the “unconventional” aspects of the “integrative medicine” that she is promoting are little or no different than what Siegel promotes. In essence, “integrative medicine” is all about “integrating” magical thinking into scientific medicine. Acupuncture, “mind-body” interventions, reiki, and all the various quackademic medicine that has infiltrated medical academia relies on the same ideas, the same magical thinking, that we see on display from Bernie Siegel. Cassileth might think herself so much more rational and “evidence-based” by attacking the most egregrious cancer quackery, but she’s only fooling herself.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

1,996 replies on “Quackademic medicine versus cancer quackery: The central dogma of alternative medicine is questioned by an advocate of “integrative medicine””

I had a thought when you were talking about the issue of “communication” and alternative practice, and you got to it later.

Remember, the one aspect of communicatin commonly used by quacks that is not used by actual doctors is that they LIE to their patients.

So when I hear Seigel claiming that traditional doctors need to improve their communication to get rid of quackery, what I hear him saying is that doctors need to lie to their patients.

Like he does.

This is absolutely fabulous woo, Orac, thanks much.

So, Bengston healed mice of cancer with energy transmitted through his hands? I myself once cured a mouse problem with the power of my hands, though the energies were transmitted via a heavy book that squashed a mouse that was lurking on my living room bookshelf.

Bernie Siegel, you’re too much! The healing power of laughter in cancer patients can easily be trialed – just let them read Siegel’s articles.

Side note: now that Ebay has banned sale of reiki services, I wondered if bereft patients could still turn to other forms of woo, such as oxygen therapy for their diseases. Might Ebay have banned “food grade” hydrogen peroxide, too?

Nope.

ht_p://www.ebay.com/sch/sis.html?_kw=1+gallon+3+H2O2+Hydrogen+Peroxide+w+John+Ellis+Water

Is Chronic Lyme even a recognised diagnosis, or is it one that could be real but potentially overapplied, such as CFS and some depression/anxiety types.

Before I comment on the post, I’d like to mention that a few weeks ago, in the wee hours, I chanced upon a documentary on television about Bob Marley- by pure happenstance, I tuned into the last days: seems he had consulted with a Dr Issels in Germany after receiving a poor prognosis from oncologists. It was terribly pathetic to see poor, emaciated Bob, weakly making his way through the snow, wearing a woolen hat, probably freezing. He stayed for months and felt he was improving but died upon his return to IIRC Miami.
Wouldn’t he have better spent his last days surrounded by family, friends, music and his drug of choice at home?

Bengston cured mice of cancer in a controlled study with the energy conducted through his hands. [Siegel] was healed of an injury in the same way by healer Olga Worral many years ago. We definitely need to test potential therapies to verify whether or not they are useful, but we also have to keep an open mind to what might be possible

Laying on hands may be an effective treatment in fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, but here in the real world that treatment method was debunked by a fourth-grade science fair project. So this particular treatment method actually has been tested, and found not to work. It’s all well and good to have an open mind, but not so open that it falls out.

Bengston and his amazing healing abilities (so powerful that they even healed the control group of mice) were discussed at some length in a recent comment thread. Anyone interested in reading more might find his article in Issue 2 of Edge Science of interest. BTW there is plenty of woo in those Edge Science magazines, varying from the intriguing to the ridiculous; a goldmine for those with a taste for such material.

Unfortunately, I am dreadfully familiar with most of this, courtesy of the Progressive Radio Network, where Bengtson, Siegal, energy healing and stress-as-causation are frequent topics; Lipton has appeared on various shows at the aforementioned festering sinkhole of un-reason. That ‘words/swords’ meme sounds awfully like the AIDS denialism belief that stress and fear following the diagnosis *kills* people, not HIV.

Recently, PRN’s head honcho has been lovingly recounting his storied history as a researcher and intuitive healer: seems that he did both anti-aging ( nutrition) and *psi* research at the Institute for Applied Biology with the blessing of Pauling himself.

He had a group of healers pray for cancer-ridden mice and *Voila!*- they were cured. Of course, there is much more drivel along these lines that I won’t trouble you with: it all boils down to the remarkable powers of the mind and spirit.
Gag.

Woo-meisters spread these ridiculous ideas in order to trump the scientific community- which they are not a part of and barely comprehend- at least in their audience’s minds. I believe that often both the proselytiser and the proselytised harbour a barely concealed hatred and envy of the more educated because they are not part of that *elitist* group, as they label them reproachfully. Read Natural News article by MIke and you’ll see what I mean. This animosity accounts for much of the venom we encounter: they reject the standard and conjure up a new aristocracy of pseudo-intellectual poppycock purveyors who enthrall their un-suspecting followers whose adulation fills in the missing ego- enhancement that rightly should have been supplied by the entire world’s respect. Fame, fame, fame** continually evades them so they seek out followers instead.

Yes, their research is rejected because it is truly *independent* and free of entrenched interests- and INDEPENDENT of sense, ethics and utility as well.

** my apologies to DB

There was a lot of discussion about Bengston and his followers right here on RI recently. Check the thread on using reiki on dogs–several reiki “masters” wrote in to defend and extoll Bengston, and of course the RI regulars ripped them to shreds.

By the way, Bengston holds seminars across the US and can teach anyone to cure cancer using energy healing in a weekend for a few thousand dollars. He also teaches “distance energy healing.” On the reiki thread someone in Toronto claimed she can do the same thing.

Partway through the article, going through that central dogma, I remembered a post of mine on Bruce Lipton, then I saw you mention his last name. He’s definitely into the positive thinking, and has some weird leaps in how he tries to justify it.

Bengston and his amazing healing abilities (so powerful that they even healed the control group of mice) were discussed at some length in a recent comment thread.

To wit.

Given that Bengston’s somehow able to cure subjects he isn’t even treating, aren’t we all under his care right now?

“many alternative therapies, once believed by conventional medical practitioners to be merely placebos, have now been shown to have proven therapeutic value (eg, acupuncture, numerous botanical extracts, meditation).”

It seems to me that the various plant-inspired chemo drugs (taxol, vincristine) were discovered without any help at all from alt-med. Unless there are *specific* botanical extracts from the alt-med pharmacopeia that later entered mainstream cancer treatment, this is like arguing that
(1) Ayurvedic concoctions contain heavy metals like lead
(2) the cis-platin drugs are platinum compounds
(3) Therefore conventional medicine recognises the basical validity of Ayurveda.

Given that Bengston’s somehow able to cure subjects he isn’t even treating, aren’t we all under his care right now?

If you’ve *read his papers*, you’ve probably undergone the requisite quantum entanglement to come under his healing umbrella.

The Lockerbie Bomber was released by the Scottish authorities because he was dying of cancer. He went back home to the Middle East and survived for over 3 years— and that is no coincidence.

It is certainly no coincidence that the Lockerbie bomber claimed to have only weeks to live when he was applying for compassionate release.

Libya is not the ‘Middle East’.

Unless there are *specific* botanical extracts from the alt-med pharmacopeia that later entered mainstream cancer treatment

AND that they did so because CAM practitioners demonstrated their effectiveness.

Also worth noting that the bit you quoted is straight-up false. Nobody actually says that herbs are “merely placebos.” It’s a pure straw man.

If you’ve *read his papers*, you’ve probably undergone the requisite quantum entanglement to come under his healing umbrella.

“So, Dirac called me the other day with the usual sales pitch. I had to tell him, ‘Paul, my wavefunction is so collapsed that the bras are all imaginary anyway.'” [/phyllisdiller]

I, for one, am perfectly willing to believe that chronic stress leads to some diseases, and that techniques like meditation can help remove stress and reduce the risk or impact of those diseases. Hypertension might be one such disease.

Naturally, this would need to be verified on a disease-by-disease basis. While I suspect that chronic stress could cause, say, back pain, TMJ, and various sleep disorders, I’ve yet to hear adequate evidence that it leads to influenza, type 1 diabetes, or cancer just to name a few.

“Can energy healing really cure cancer?” sure its even got a name. Radiationtherapy. Conventional medicine 1, quackery 0

Dokter bimler, to be fair, some people consider Libya part of the Middle East and some don’t.

The first rule of blogging is that you don’t talk about blogging. Oh, wait. That’s not it. I talk about blogging all the time. The first rule of blogging is: When the world is throwing easy blogging material at you, for cryin’ out loud, go for it. Yeah, that’s it.

I literally LOL’d at this. 🙂 Ah Orac, always enjoyable to read even when I get so angry at some of the antics you blog about.

whatever “supporting patient well-being in general” means.

Supporting positive thinking and calmness. But then, why not just meditate or read a book?

Seriously she’s for biofeedback… sigh.. that was debunked in my high school psych class.

Can energy healing really cure cancer? Is it possible for you to heal someone’s terminal illness with your bare hands? Is the Western medical community ready for a fundamental change in its approach to treatment?…Dr. William Bengston invites you to decide by taking a journey with him into the mystery and power of hands-on healing. Drawing on his 30 years of rigorous research, unbelievable results, and mind-bending questions, Bengston challenges us to totally rethink what we believe about our ability to heal.

This sounds like an intro to some sort of psychic reading TV show… or a magic show. Either way.

Regarding the alleged effects on patients of doctors giving them a poor prognosis, here’s a counter-anecdote.

My mother had been ill for years, and in 1981 her sister finally talked her into going to a doctor. The doctor was surprised she could walk into the office because her congestive heart failure was quite severe. He warned her that she had no more than 6 months to live. There was little they could do but prescribe diuretics (or at least that’s what I recall as a teen going off to college a long time ago).

Every time she went to the doctor, she was in worse shape than the last, and they estimated she’d die within 6 months. This went on for nearly two decades, and after the first few years she stopped paying attention to their prediction. The last few years, she was looking forward to an end to her suffering from peripheral neuropathy, arthritis, kidney disease, post-polio syndrome, etc. She was not fighting to live, though I think she mainly just took things day by day.

I know anecdotes aren’t data, but this is a pretty good counter to people who say that doctors kill people by saying have only so much time to live, and that people die because they don’t think positive thoughts. (Yes, I’m sure people will say she was in pain because of negative thoughts. But she kept as active as she could, despite the pain, and was a voracious reader who sewed most of her own clothing.)

some people consider Libya part of the Middle East and some don’t.
Some people are WRONG. Harrumph.

@Orac

whatever “supporting patient well-being in general” means.

I believe it means making it easier for the patient to move about by lightening their wallet.

Added to Kathryn – a wonderful man at my church was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive prostate cancer at stage IV (he had had a clean PSA only two months early, suddenly got very sick and a scan found prostate cancer with bone mets and I think the others were liver and lung). There were several times he himself swore he was going to die and would be sick for several weeks until new treatment would restabilize him.

He actually lived just over two years after diagnosis. He was always on the edge with chemo doing its best to just give him more time. Though it wasn’t the same life he had before, it gave him peace to get as much time as possible with his wife, manage and plan his own funeral, spend time with my husband and I after our marriage, etc.

@ Militant Agnostic:

I venture that it might also include helping them to get in touch with their own ‘spirituality’, to become less materialistic..
so they won’t be too upset by the wallet -lightenong process.

Marg, what part of that paper indicates that chemotherapy promotes the spread of cancer? I’d wager you haven’t even read it.

@marg

Have you even read the paper? Do you know what the results mean?

Judging by your ignorant comments, probably not.

This is being bandied about here and on other sites to prove that chemo is evil. I would suggest that anyone that thinks that is what is says should read the whole study and not just press releases.

What part of “promoting tumor cell survival and disease progression” is unclear? Chemo interacted with the existing microenvironment in a way that was harmful.

“The expression of WNT16B in the prostate tumor microenvironment attenuated the effects of cytotoxic chemotherapy in vivo, promoting tumor cell survival and disease progression. These results delineate a mechanism by which genotoxic therapies given in a cyclical manner can enhance subsequent treatment resistance through cell nonautonomous effects that are contributed by the tumor microenvironment.”

If one were to read the entire quoted bit of abstract, let alone the full paper, it would become clear that it’s describing the chemotherapy being less effective than otherwise.

Apologies; hit Submit accidentally before I was done.

One would also notice that the thing which was “promoting tumor cell survival and disease progression” was “the expression of WNT16B,” not the chemotherapy.

But I guess basic reading comprehension isn’t some peoples’ strong suit.

Marg, you do understand that there is a difference between “promoting tumor cell survival and disease progression” and “promoting the spread of cancer,” right?

@AdamG

If anything else, it highlights a process that certain tumor cells can use to become resistant to chemotherapy,k a process that, since it is more fully understood, can now be better researched and used to develop more effective therapies to stop this process.

But of course, ignorant individuals like marg cannot understand this. Of course,, reading comprehension was never a strong suit for him/her.

If anything else, it highlights a process that certain tumor cells can use to become resistant to chemotherapy,k a process that, since it is more fully understood, can now be better researched and used to develop more effective therapies to stop this process.

Yes, absolutely. The authors of the study are actually affiliated with my department, and I’m friendly with several of them. I can’t wait to show them how the woo-peddlers are twisting their research, I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of that.

Could someone please enlighten me on the criteria for successful chemotherapy. My understanding is that a drug is deemed successful if it shrinks a tumor by a certain percentage for a certain period of time. I would like to know by what percentage and for what period of time. I would also like to know the correlation between shrinking tumors and long-term survival.

@AdamG
I would say that “promoting disease progression” would mean promoting the growth of cancer.

I knew a man who grew a large inoperable tumor WHILE receiving aggressive chemotherapy for bladder cancer. After this tumor was discovered he was given an aggressive last ditch combination of chemotherapy and radiation which essentially killed him. I also know two women with supposedly aggressive cancers, one of them breast cancer, who said no to conventional treatment and are still alive 15 years later with the cancer still in their bodies. While you call me an ignoramus there are things about cancer that you do not know that would fill several encyclopedias. And trust me, the day is coming when pharmaceutical companies will be looking at multi-billion dollar class-action suits for promoting cancer drugs which they knew to be deadly and ineffective, and oncologists will be lucky if they don’t get dragged into it.

@Rose

Answer my questions about what the criteria for a successful chemotherapy drug are and then we can talk.

@ Rose
Furthermore, I don’t think the anecdote of the man who grew a large tumor while undergoing chemotherapy and died while receiving further treatment is the least bit heartwarming.

Alrighty then, the majority of your anecdotes are heartwarming and still not backed up by studies. i am sad when anyone dies of cancer but what do you have to offer that is proven to work better than chemo?.

And trust me, the day is coming when pharmaceutical companies will be looking at multi-billion dollar class-action suits for promoting cancer drugs which they knew to be deadly and ineffective

Tell it to Burzynski.

@beamup
What is meaningless about a question asking what the criteria for a successful cancer drug are? I would think that is a crucial question for cancer research. If there are different criteria for different cancers, I would like to know that too. There are people on this discussion board who have the answers to this question.

Don’t bother to respond if all you have to offer is innuendo and ignorance.

Could someone please enlighten me on the criteria for successful chemotherapy. My understanding is that a drug is deemed successful if it shrinks a tumor by a certain percentage for a certain period of time. I would like to know by what percentage and for what period of time. I would also like to know the correlation between shrinking tumors and long-term survival.

Goalpost shift much? Or could it be that you simply have no response to the fact that you’ve conclusively been shown to simply be making up lies with no basis in reality?

I’m pretty sure that your questions are quite meaningless, too, though this isn’t my field. I don’t believe that any hard-and-fast rule such as you demand exists. It’s all relative to what kind of cancer, how advanced, what other options are available, etc. And tumor shrinkage isn’t necessarily the endpoint being used – survival times are more often the metric.

I would say that “promoting disease progression” would mean promoting the growth of cancer.

Pop quiz – what was promoting it, and relative to what baseline? The answers do not support your claims.

@marg

Since when is “promoting tumor cell survival and disease progression” and “promoting the spread of cancer”, which you seem to keep dodging, marg.

Change goalposts much?

And my anecdote. I had a friend of mine whose father had colon adneocarcinoma. An aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy was able to get his cancer into remission, and he was able to see his son graduate high school.

So my anecdote trumps your anecdote.

Either way, you maliciously assume that since chemo didn’t work on your so-called “friend”, it must be totally ineffective, which is a logical fallacy.

And of course, the old “pharma shill” gambit, which is a classic sign of a troll quack.

No one has yet answered my question about what the criteria for a successful chemotherapy drug are.

“Disease progression” in cancer usually leads to metastases. To suggest otherwise is to split hairs.

Insults don’t answer questions and don’t constitute meaningful discussion.

You got an answer. And you have signally refused to even acknowledge any of the questions you have been asked, or detailed explanations of why you are completely wrong.

At this point you’re approaching the level of a three-year-old sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

“Disease progression” in cancer usually leads to metastases. To suggest otherwise is to split hairs.

Yet you stand up for Gonzalez, whose idiocy demonstrably worsens outcomes.

The point you’re missing, Marg, is that this article’s findings don’t argue against the use of chemotherapy. They argue for better chemotherapy. The authors themselves acknowledge this when they state

However, the complexity of the damage response program also supports strategies that are focused on inhibiting upstream master regulators, such as NF-κB45, that may be more efficient and effective adjuncts to cytotoxic therapies, provided their side effects are tolerable.

No treatment is 100% effective. That there are researchers working to improve the treatment’s efficacy is not an indictment of the entire treatment.

@beamup
You are still resorting to insults without providing a single meaningful criterion.

@Narad
I am not acquainted with Jonathan Chamberlain. I also don’t know what bringing up Gonzalez has to do with the statement that disease progression in cancer usually leads to metastases. Agree with the statement or disagree. Don’t sidetrack.

Quoth Marg:

You are still resorting to insults without providing a single meaningful criterion.

Quoth Beamup:

I’m pretty sure that your questions are quite meaningless, too, though this isn’t my field. I don’t believe that any hard-and-fast rule such as you demand exists. It’s all relative to what kind of cancer, how advanced, what other options are available, etc. And tumor shrinkage isn’t necessarily the endpoint being used – survival times are more often the metric.

Yes or no – do you admit that you were completely wrong about that paper claiming that chemo promoted the spread of cancer?

So Marg, do you see now why your statement

The biggest group perpetrating quackery against cancer patients is oncologists promoting chemotherapy, which has now been shown to promote the spread of cancer.

is a baseless swipe based on a complete misinterpretation of a high-profile study?

I also don’t know what bringing up Gonzalez has to do with the statement that disease progression in cancer usually leads to metastases. Agree with the statement or disagree. Don’t sidetrack.

It isn’t sidetracking: supporting Gonzalez is advocating disease progression.

@AdamG
I stand by the first half of the statement and amend the second to “which has now been shown as potentially ineffective or detrimental depending on the surrounding microenvironment”. I don’t see how any chemotherapy can now be administered without further studies on how each and every drug affects/is affected by this microenvironment.

@Beamup
There may be no hard and fast rule, but there have to be guidelines for particular cancers. I would like to hear from someone who is familiar with these guidelines and can give examples.

how each and every drug affects/is affected by this microenvironment

Marg, which drug(s) were used in this study?
Can you summarize the authors findings regarding how these drugs “affect/are affected by this microenvironment?”

I stand by the first half of the statement

Your grounds for which are?

and amend the second to “which has now been shown as potentially ineffective or detrimental depending on the surrounding microenvironment”.

Still false; a correct statement would be “the effectiveness of which varies depending on the surrounding microenvironment.” Chemotherapy works. This enhances our understanding of the factors contributing to how well it works, nothing more.

I don’t see how any chemotherapy can now be administered without further studies on how each and every drug affects/is affected by this microenvironment.

When we already know that they are effective, it’s perfectly reasonable to continue to administer them while further research progresses on how to make them even more effective.

There may be no hard and fast rule, but there have to be guidelines for particular cancers. I would like to hear from someone who is familiar with these guidelines and can give examples.

As a pure diversion from the complete and utter failure of your claims, I gather.

I don’t see how any chemotherapy can now be administered without further studies on how each and every drug affects/is affected by this microenvironment.

What do you recommend instead?

@Beamup
“When we already know that they are effective”. These would be criteria for which I am asking. By what criteria do we deem them effective?

@Narad
A groundbreaking 14 year study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in December 2004 called “The Contribution of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy to 5-year Survival in Adult Malignancies”.

Researchers at the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre studied the 5-year survival rates of chemotherapy on 22 types of cancers in the US and Australia.

They studied 154,971 Americans and Australians with cancer, age 20 and older, that were treated with conventional treatments, including chemotherapy.
Only 3,306 had survival that could be credited to chemotherapy.

Study Results: “The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1 % in The USA”

Study Conclusion: “As the 5-year survival rate in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.”

Only 3,306 had survival that could be credited to chemotherapy.

Hey, who am I?

I don’t see how any chemotherapy can now be administered without further studies on how each and every drug affects/is affected by this microenvironment.

What do you recommend instead? A cost-effectiveness study?

@AdamG
Read it. To change the percentage of effectiveness from 2% to 8 or 10% does not make chemotherapy much more impressive. In no other avenue of life would we consider that kind of success rate acceptable.

I am still waiting for someone who knows to give me examples of what some of the criteria for effectiveness are.

@AdamG
If the pharmaceutical industry were not barking up the wrong tree, we would have had better results by now, considering that they’ve been barking up this particular tree for at least half a century.

In no other avenue of life would we consider that kind of success rate acceptable.

What’s the alternative, Marg? 10% doesn’t seem so bad when the alternative is 0%.

Still waiting on these:
Which drug(s) were used in this study?
Can you summarize the authors findings regarding how these drugs “affect/are affected by this microenvironment?”

If the pharmaceutical industry were not barking up the wrong tree, we would have had better results by now, considering that they’ve been barking up this particular tree for at least half a century.

Try jumping off a cliff and flying. If you don’t fly, then clearly you weren’t trying hard enough.

Marg,

If the pharmaceutical industry were not barking up the wrong tree, we would have had better results by now, considering that they’ve been barking up this particular tree for at least half a century.

After only 70 years we have effective treatments for some types of leukemia, improved 5 year survival of breast cancer patients to over 90% and cure more than 85% of testicular cancer, to name but a few successes. By comparison, herbalism and other traditional approaches have been trying to find a cure for cancer for thousands of years with absolutely dismal results.

A groundbreaking 14 year study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in December 2004 called “The Contribution of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy to 5-year Survival in Adult Malignancies”.

As pointed out by AdamG above, a systematic rebuttal of that study is available to anyone who bothers to search the R.I. archives.

One crucial point being that the ‘ground-breaking’ study somehow left off *all the varieties of cancer* for which chemotherapy is most effective. Another point being that ‘5-year survival’ is simply not appropriate for breast cancer (among others) where delayed relapse is the rule rather than the exception, and adjuvant chemotherapy produces a greater survival-rate improvement *after five years*.

Marg, let’s pretend for a moment that you are a grade school teacher. Teaching, say, math. Got that?

Okay, let’s move on with this thought experiment. Suppose you have a particular analogy that you teach all your students which is meant to help them understand fractions. And for most of your students, the analogy does indeed work, and most of those students “get it.”

Okay. Now suppose you find out that for some students, maybe 1 in every 1000, the analogy doesn’t work. Those rare students just don’t understand the analogy and as a result, they are actually worse at fractions after you’ve presented them with this analogy.

Okay. Now, with those as the facts in place, how fair is it for someone to ignore the 999 out of 1000 students that are helped by your analogy, focus on the 1 out of 1000 that your analogy confuses, and characterize you on that basis as “promoting the spread of ignorance”?

Now you might protest, “wait a minute! We have discussed no data on how these recently-discovered side effects of chemotherapy compare in strength to the cancer-killing effects of the chemotherapy – how can you compare it to the specific figure of ‘helps 999, harms 1’?” That’s a very good point! Except that you, by bringing it up, show yourself to be a big hypocrite. Because you showed NO interest in “how do the side-effects compare to the cancer-killing effects in strength?”; you talked about these side-effects as if they were the ONLY effects. Whether that was deliberate deception on your part or merely ignorance, it fatally undermines your credibility.

Read it.

Really?

To change the percentage of effectiveness from 2% to 8 or 10% does not make chemotherapy much more impressive.

So where did you pull that number from? It’s not in the link.

In no other avenue of life would we consider that kind of success rate acceptable.

Say we have a treatment that results in 80% of patients surviving a disease with high mortality. Say we have a second treatment that, in conjunction with the first, results in 90% of patients surviving. According to you, we would reject the second treatment because the success rate is an “unacceptable” 10%.

I can’t see what Marg is on about… whether the available chemotherapy options are actually counterproductive (as she first claimed) or simply not good enough (as she’s claiming now), the answer is the same. No-one is forcing her to take them. If she develops cancer, she is free to die with as little therapy as she likes.

If the problem is that medical researchers are wasting their money by barking up the wrong tree, all she has to do is prove them wrong by producing the better chemotherapy herself.

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