Integrative oncology "integrates" quackery with oncology. Its practitioners, however, frequently delude themselves that their specialty is science-based. A recent review article by two integrative oncologists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center expresses that delusion perfectly.
Annabelle Potts was a girl with the deadly brain cancer known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) whose family was victimized by quacks. Unfortunately, that's not how the media is reporting it. As is frequently the case, Annabelle's story is being presented as one of triumph, and the quacks who treated her as legitimate experimental therapy.
New York State Senator José Peralta died after a brief illness in November, and antivaxers blamed the flu vaccine. Later, it was learned that Sen. Peralta died of sepsis, leading to claims that the flu vaccine predisposed him to sepsis. Now the autopsy report is out, and we know why Sen Peralta was prone to sepsis or a sepsis-like syndrome. Hint: It had nothing to do with the flu vaccine.
Roxli Doss is an 11-year-old girl from Texas diagnosed with the deadly brain cancer DIPG. After radiation therapy, her deadly cancer is undetectable, no alternative cancer cures sought or used. What happened?
Last year, Fikreta Ibrisevic chose a naturopathic quack named Juan Gonzalez to treat her cancer. She had been planning on conventional therapy, but Gonzalez convinced her that "chemo is for losers" and that he could cure her without the toxicity of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. As a result, she died. Her distraught husband Omer Ahmetovic killed the quack. Here's an update on a truly tragic case that shows why cancer patients should never rely on naturopaths.
Robert O. Young is a cancer quack who claims to be a naturopath who promotes what he calls “pH Miracle Living.” He claims that cancer is caused by excess acid and that the way to prevent and cure cancer is to “alkalinize the blood.” Two and a half years ago, he was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. A week and a half ago, a woman whose breast cancer progressed to incurable while being treated by Young won a $105 million settlement in a lawsuit against him. Maybe civil suits can succeed where state medical boards have failed.
Last week, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center issued a press releast touting its integrative oncology program. It's a perfect example to demonstrate the formulaic nature of such press releases and the distortions behind them used to sell the "integration" of quackery into medicine.
Earlier this week, a new survey from the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that belief in alternative cancer cures is common, with roughly four out of ten Americans believing that "natural" alternative treatments alone can cure cancer, without any conventional oncologic therapies, like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. This survey points to just how ingrained misinformation about cancer is in our society and how much work advocates of science-based oncology have ahead of them to combat it.
“Integrative oncology” involves “integrating” pseudoscience, mysticism, and quackery with science-based oncology and co-opting science-based lifestyle modalities as “alternative” in order to provide cover for the quackery. Unfortunately, my alma mater, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is running a course to indoctrinate 100 health care professionals in the ways of “integrative oncology.” The Trojan horse of “lifestyle interventions” and “nonpharmacologic treatments for pain” is at the gates. The quackery will leap out as soon as it’s in the fortress.