Cancer quackery promoted on Fox News

I’ve always known that FOX News has a tendency to go for the sensationalistic story. I’ve also known that, given Rupert Murdoch’s political leanings, politically motivated pseudoscience like anthropogenic global warming denialism is the order of the day on FOX. I’ve even noticed a disturbing tendency on FOX to promote antivaccine views, for example, when a FOX interviewer tried to blame a case of dystonia on the flu vaccine or when the infotainment drones on Fox and Friends let The Donald (a.k.a. Donald Trump) blather ignorantly about vaccines and autism. I knew all that. However, I didn’t know that FOX News had decided to air a regular show that, among other woo, promotes cancer quackery, but apparently it had. I’m referring to A Healthy You & Carol Alt, a new show that just hit the air this month.

I became aware of Alt’s new project when a Google Alert popped up about a show she did on Saturday that included a segment An All-Natural Cure for Cancer? Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about any news show or editorial, it’s this: Whenever the title of a news segment or an article is presented in the form of a question, the answer to that question is almost always “no.” This segment is no exception. The reason is that, in it, Carol Alt interviews Nicholas Gonzalez.

You remember Nicholas Gonzalez, don’t you? Maybe not. It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed him. Basically, he is a doctor in New York City who has made a name for himself (if you can call it that) by treating cancer with pancreatic enzymes. His protocol to treat cancer involves various vegetable and fruit juices, meat extracts, supplement pills by the handful, and, to top it all off, at least daily coffee enemas. The meat extracts include organ extracts, specifically pancreatic extracts, that contain, of course, pancreatic enzymes. Gonzalez first attracted my attention through his claims that he can do so much better treating advanced pancreatic cancer, his evidence being a case series of about a dozen patients who, according to him, did so much better than historical controls. Alas, for Gonzalez, when his protocol was tested in a controlled clinical trial of pancreatic cancer patients, what happened is that patients undergoing his treatment actually did significantly worse than patients who received standard of care therapy. Naturally, Gonzalez whined and had many excuses about the failure of his protocol, a failure that was entirely predictable given the complete lack of scientific prior plausibility of his therapy. Naturally, none of his complaints had any merit. (Not that any of this stopped him from claiming that if only Steve Jobs had undergone the Gonzalez protocol he might still be alive today.)

The segment on Alt’s show is truly painful to behold. It begins with Alt (and, gee, is her name appropriate for promoting this sort of quackery) talking about how surgery and chemotherapy “may extend the lifespan of a cancer patient” and “in some cases even completely rid the patient of the disease.” Of course, depending on the cancer, it does this very thing far more than “in some cases.” Of course, to Alt, the price is horrific, with the pumping of “massive amounts of chemicals”—gasp!—into the body. We then learn that Alt was a cancer patient and that, more specifically, she was one of Dr. Gonzalez’s patients, and she touts her decision to choose Gonzalez as choosing “quality of life.”

It was at this point that curiosity almost got the better of me. I was going to stop watching the video segment and do a bit of Googling to find out what kind of cancer Alt had and what sorts of treatments he had. I resisted and watched the whole video and was disappointed to find that she never said exactly what kind of cancer she had, although she was effusive in her praise for Dr. Gonzalez and repeatedly said that she though he had saved her life. So before I wrote this post I Googled “Carol Alt cancer,” and what I found was surprisingly thin. There’s this article from 2008 in which Alt is quoted as blaming cervical and uterine cancer for the failure of her marriage to Ron Greschner because she had been rendered unable to have children and Greschner very much wanted to have children. This happened back in 1997; so her cancer diagnosis must have occurred before that. There was also this article, which said basically the same thing but also revealed that Alt is very much into raw food woo. This article reinforces the same points, but doesn’t mention Alt’s battle with cervical cancer and instead attributes her adopting a raw vegan diet to feeling run down and larger as she got older. In the article, she also spews many of the tropes and bits of misinformation about raw vegan diets. She even blathers on about “acid diets” and how the body likes to be “alkaline.” Holy Robert O. Young, Batman!

Here’s the interesting thing. Alt takes a lot of supplements. A lot of supplements. Back in 2007, she was described thusly:

If a raw food diet provides perfect nutrition, why does Alt also take supplements, sometimes close to 200 pills a day? With regular hair and blood tests, Alt has discovered her genetic body type (a moderate vegetarian, with some fish and occasional meat), and exactly what nutrients she needs at any given time.

In addition to modeling, Alt has been an actress for many years, appearing in over 60 films, often shot abroad. Depending on what she eats, especially when traveling, and her stress level, Alt’s supplement regimen changes, all under the guidance of her physician.

“I take supplements,” explains Alt, “because I believe that even raw foods today may not have everything we need. We live in the real world, and farmers may grow their food on land where they grew the same food last year and the years before that, or they may rotate the crops, but it’s very rare that land gets to rest and rejuvenate itself.” The result, says Alt, is soil depletion and food that may not have all the nutrients it was meant to have if grown in rich soil.

“Right now,” says Alt, “I take 192 pills a day. But that can change, according to my next hair test.” At the time of this exclusive interview for Life Extension magazine, Alt was taking a dehydrated fruit and vegetable juice powder supplement, systemic and digestive enzymes, vitamins A, C, D, and E, kelp, chlorophyll, sea algae, amino acids, selenium, magnesium citrate, calcium, vegetarian vitamins and minerals, and potassium, among others.

And she still is taking 192 pills a day or thereabouts if this segment on her FOX News show. Near the end of the segment, she proudly shows off a multiple boxes of her supplements, all arranged by breakfast, lunch, and dinner to Dr. Gonzalez and her audience. From the look of it, she takes a couple of fistfuls of supplements with each meal. Not only that, she’s proud of it! (Conspicuously absent, though, was any mention of coffee enemas, even though they are integral to the Gonzalez protocol.) Indeed, if you find this particular article from a few years ago, the woo and quackery flow in huge quantities, including acid-base quackery, supplements, claims that a friend of his cured his girlfriend’s cancer with a raw food diet, and the like:

And I swear to God that he answers whenever you do that. I got a phone call from a friend of mine, and I write about it in my book (Eating in the Raw), at my mother-in-law’s house. Now how many friends of yours have your mother-in-law’s number? None! I Go, “How did you get this number?” and he said, “I have no clue. I just have this number for you.” He goes, “I have to tell you this…you’re the healthiest person I know, so you’ll appreciate this…” And I’m thinking, “Holy cow, if I’m the healthiest person this guy knows my PR is doing a very good job, because I personally am feeling like garbage.” He goes, “My girlfriend is 22 years old and they wanted to do a radical hysterectomy on her. She was full of cancer. I took her to this doctor. Everybody was saying [we were] crazy. We went against every doctor, but I’m telling you, he will make you look at food like you’ve never looked at food before. He will change your life! You will not be able to eat with friends and watch what they put in their mouth, because you will know they are poisoning themselves. In six months, he cured my girlfriend of cancer. She just got a negative biopsy.”

This doctor was apparently Dr. Timothy Brantley. I briefly checked out his website, and let’s just say that he looks as though he might one day be deserving of some not-so-Respectful Insolence of his own in a post of his very own. Let’s just say that Brantley (who appears to be a naturopath—it’s not clear) is very much into digestive enzymes, just as much, apparently, as Dr. Gonzalez is.

Let’s get back to the interview, though. Apparently Dr. Gonzalez has a book out entitled What Went Wrong: The Truth Behind the Clinical Trial of the Enzyme Treatment of Cancer, in which he repeats the same whines he whined so loudly back in 2009 about how horrifically he was treated by the NCI (he wasn’t) and how badly designed the clinical trial was (it wasn’t perfect, but it certainly wasn’t really badly designed). Basically, read this post by me, and you’ll see pretty much every argument that is certainly in Gonzalez’s latest book shot down in flames as disingenuous nonsense. Just remember: Gonzalez’s protocol was tested, and it was worse than the standard of care, and that’ saying something, given how ineffective the current standard of care for advanced pancreatic cancer is. Oddly enough, even though Gonzalez’s book was mentioned, he said very little about it and almost nothing was said about his failed clinical trial. One would have thought he would have been dying to lambaste big pharma and make excuses for the failure of his clinical trial. Instead, he blathered on about John Beard’s trophoblastic “theory” of cancer, which was adopted by William Donald Kelly, a dentist, and then later by Nicholas Gonzalez. It’s a “theory” that was discarded nearly 100 years ago because it explained nothing, predicted nothing, and did not describe biology well. Indeed, whenever I read about the “trophoblastic theory of cancer,” to this day I still have a hard time figuring out how this “theory” leads to the use of digestive enzymes to treat cancer, particularly given that only very tiny amounts of proteins like digestive enzymes can find their way into the bloodstream after passing through the GI tract. The vast majority of such proteins are completely broken down to amino acids and very small peptides.

So what happened to Carol Alt? After this segment and my Googling, I have a hard time figuring it out. Apparently sometime in the 1990s she had a bunch of chronic health problems, placing a key incident in her life as happening around age 34 when she was confronted with a younger, perkier, more energetic model who upstaged her at a photo shoot and realized that she was getting old. (Sadly, age 34 is old for a model.) What the circumstances were regarding her diagnosis of cervical and uterine cancer, what her treatments were, how she ended up with Gonzalez, all are unknown, at least from online searches. If previous testimonials are any indication, I bet I can make a reasonable guess as to what happened. Most likely, Alt had an early stage cancer that could be treated with a cone biopsy (which removes part of the cervix) and a dilatation and curettage (a.k.a., a D & C). As can happen with these procedures, her cervix and uterus were affected such that she could not carry a pregnancy to term anymore. In any case, most likely the surgery “cured” her, and all the supplements and coffee enemas did nothing. I could be wrong, but I bet I’m probably not. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say without more information.

In any case, one wonders about one thing. Why is Carol Alt taking hundreds of supplements nearly 20 years after being treated for cancer? Dr. Gonzalez claims that he’s taking his own protocol to prevent cancer. Maybe Alt thinks she’s doing the same thing. Either way, she’s fallen for quackery, and it’s depressing. Even worse, she’s using her new show to promote it. We can only hope the ratings are such that the show is not on the air long.