Now lemons beat cancer

People come up to me (usually the moment I have finished a speech) and ask if I have heard about B-17, Shark Cartilage; Coral Calcium as a ‘cancer cure’. I sigh.

Recently I have received more than 20 copies of an e mail doing the rounds. It’s about lemons. It suggests that eating whole lemons is a cancer cure – all you have to do is freeze them and then you can eat them as some sort of delicacy. Job done. Now, it is true that lemon skins contain limonene (not mentioned in the article) and that does have an effect in research on cancers. It is a natural oil that seems to be able to detoxify the liver and parts of the intestine from certain carcinogens and animal studies show an effect with mammary tumours. And lemons are very alkalising and research shows alkaline bodies tend to stop metastases while acid bodies promote it. But eating a frozen lemon to cure a cancer? Oh dear.

I know of no single compound – drug, natural compound, vitamin, whatever – that is a cancer cure. If you push me I can think of a couple of treatments with potential for solid tumours like ablatherm; and I can think of some natural compounds like vitamin D and curcumin that can play an important part in an integrated treatment programme (which might include a drug or surgery too).

I find research; and it (via links to over 100 cancer centres around the world) finds me.

So let’s start:

Coral calcium: Your body does need calcium. If you have polyps in your intestine it seems to help reduce the risk of them becoming cancerous.
There is research showing that mass market calcium supplements can increase heart problems (see www.canceractive.com) but then I detest high street cheap supplements – they are usually synthetic, often deficient and poorly absorbed.

Which takes me to Coral Calcium. There is no research that I have come across that says it cures or helps cure cancer. Its proponents normally provide half a dozen pieces of random information and try to join the dots. Yes. Okinawans live a long time and much of this has been scientifically linked to calorie restriction and a diet high in natural minerals (they probably came late to mobile phones, EMF’s, and environmental toxins too). Some salts (rather than the refined table salt or sea salt) contain not just sodium chloride but up to 20 per cent as other minerals (like calcium, magnesium and other salts). All are essential to our health and, yes, research shows the general population to be deficient.

Then there’s the acid body argument. Let’s be clear. A normal healthy body is slightly alkaline. If it becomes slightly acid, if its oxygen levels are lowered, there will be a health risk. But just taking coral calcium is not going to change that dramatically. Inside the centre of a tumour the pH is about 6.2 caused by the inefficient energy production process. Research has shown that in more acidic conditions there is more metastases and the metastases tend to form new cancers more. Could coral calcium help? Possibly as a part of a total package of activities to correct your acid body, Yes. But is it a cure for cancer, No. There is also no research that shows lobbing in supplements or minerals on their own can alkalise the body sufficiently to stop the cancer reaction centre inside the tumour, although there are some clinical trials about to start with sodium bicarbonate.

So, is coral calcium a cure for cancer? No. It could play a small part in a much, much greater integrated package if you had a body deficient in calcium, and minerals in general, and you were acidic.

B-17: Let’s get a few things straight. There is research on B-17, but not much, and mostly with animals. And there are no phase III clinical trials; but then there aren’t for chemotherapy treatments for the under 12s, cyberknife or brachytherapy for breast cancer, but that doesn’t seem to stop orthodox medicine men using them.

Krebs did a research study claiming it cured people, which he presented to the Senate, but they were unimpressed. I know there are conspiracy theories over this and the Sloan-Kettering Trial.

Krebs called it a vitamin, but that’s debatable.

I have looked into B-17 in some depth. I have also spent a long time talking to people who use it, notably Contreras at the Oasis of Hope.

The biochemical logic is reasonably sound, that an enzyme unique to cancer cells (glucosidase) breaks down the molecule of B-17 to benzaldehyde and cyanide which promptly kills the cell. Looking for unique proteins and enzymes in a cancer cell is exactly what drug companies are doing right now.

The skeptic mantra (as trundled out by the fictitious Josephine Jones) of ‘it contains cyanide and kills people’ is ignorant. Run away, if someone says that to you. Many natural compounds could be equally said to contain cyanide in the plant world if you use their duff science. And we need these compounds for our health. Contreras has never heard of anyone dying of cyanide poisoning from B-17.

The other Skeptic point of ignorance is that none of them (the fictitious Josephine Jones and troll Guy Chapman) seems to have sufficient science knowledge to distinguish between natural B-17 (amygdalin) and synthetic (laetrile). The fact is that, correctly, the FDA has refused to pass/banned laetrile for general use because it is synthetic and is thus a drug. It ain’t got any research to support it, so it can’t be approved. Full stop.

The natural compound is called amygdalin. I have talked to loads of people who eat apricot kernels – I take 6 a day with my breakfast. We need nitrilosides in our diet. And there is some very general evidence that they are helpful.

Contreras uses B-17 but as a part of a ‘Metabolic Therapy’ package. This is a bit like chucking the alternative therapy kitchen sink at a cancer, and can include B-17, Intravenous vitamin C, pancreatic enzymes, oxygen therapy and more. Which bit works (there is little doubt that they do have satisfied customers) – no one seems to know! But Contreras himself says that B-17 has no effect with brain tumours, liver cancer or sarcomas.

I have had grown men come up to me who were visibly yellow/grey – they were trying to consume 50 apricot kernels for breakfast as they had prostate cancers. The problem is that you need a healthy liver to detoxify the by-products of B-17 and cancer patients don’t have a healthy liver. Also Nutrition Almanac recommends no more than 35 a day, nor 5/6 in a 90 minute period.

So does B-17 cure cancer? No sorry. No evidence to support it at all. Could it play a role in your anti-cancer programme? Yes, a small role but be very, very careful. Heed the Nutrition Almanac advice and have someone qualified watch over you.

Shark Cartilage: There was research done using a ground concentrate of shark cartilage that showed some evidence of preventing blood supplies forming in cancer tumours. BUT. The guy who did the research had a TV documentary made on his work, and this prompted a hundred supplement companies to turn out shark cartilage tablets. But ‘Sharks don’t get cancer’ – who says? And they don’t use toxic toothpaste and carry mobile phones either.

One report I read was that, if the shark cartilage was ground to the original standards, you would anyway have to consume three bottles or more of the pills a day just to come close to the original research. And anyway, it could be the calcium levels in the cartilage. Didn’t that shark just swim past some coral?

The American Cancer Society States: One shark cartilage product, called AE-941, was studied as an investigational new drug. Although some laboratory and animal studies have shown that some components in shark cartilage have the ability to slow the growth of new blood vessels, these effects have not been proven in humans. The clinical studies of shark cartilage products published to date have not proven any benefit against cancer.
I could talk about zeolite, vitamin C, and acai berries but I’d get bored. And so would you.

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By BECKY SIMPSON

Last week I was on a panel at Dartington Hall, Devon, debating the rather strange question, ‘Does integrated medicine make sense?’  I say strange because in my world I thought we were way beyond that and the question would be, ‘How can people build a more integrated approach to their treatment?’

Apparently not everyone lives in my world.  My fellow panellists were Sarah Woollaston the MP for the South Hams and a former GP, she is sceptical but well informed, intelligent, articulate and open to discussion. Simon Mills, a Cambridge graduate, herbalist and founder of the complementary medicine department at Exeter University. He was measured, equally articulate and exuded  intelligence and knowledge. There was me who has had an ‘on-off’ battle with cancer for the past six years and who believes passionately that by using everything available to me I have not only survived but am enjoying life to the full. And then there was a man called Andy Lewis who runs a web site called the Quackometre that basically rubbishes anything that isn’t pharmaceutically-led. He apparently isn’t in the pay of ‘big Pharma’ but is just a very nice chap who is trying to protect me and all my fellow vulnerable patients from all those nasty people who are trying to make money out of my illness. Apparently he won’t tell us why he is qualified to set himself up as my champion because this would take away focus from his arguments.

Frustratingly at the start we debated what ‘integrated’ actually means, the accusation coming from the anti-group in the audience was that it is just yet another marketing term by the CAM lobby to make it more acceptable to mainstream medicine and patients.  However once we had established that integrated medicine was a way a patient could use everything available to them to increase their survival odds and quality of life, we belatedly moved on.

Sarah Woollaston talked a lot about patient choice. My point was that a patient doesn’t have a choice if they don’t have access to all the information; I believe that  on diagnosis  a cancer patient should  be put in touch with places like The Penny Brohn Centre and ‘integrated’ charities like CANCERactive, two sites I have found invaluable during my journey. My frustration is that often patients don’t find them until they are quite far into their treatment. Andy Lewis accused icon, the magazine of CANCERactive, (which last time out featured the latest work of half a dozen oncology professors and doctors, with assorted pieces on diet, exercise and supplements included) of advertising cancer treatments and of preying on us vulnerable patients.  Personally I find the magazine extremely interesting and enlightening but what should I know, I’m just the patient.

Next came the question of boosting the Immune System. Dr Stephen Hopwood asked what Western Medicine does to boost the immune system. Bizarrely the only thing either Andy or Sarah could come up with was vaccines and then Andy even came up with the ‘theory’ that if we boost our immune system too much it will go into overdrive and start attacking us! Fortunately Simon in his very measured calm way explained that if it happened at all that was a completely different disease.

There was one well-intentioned young man who did get quite emotional about chemicals in food. All I can say is the only way the forces of light are going to win these arguments is by being calm and measured with research behind us, rather than making emotional and random accusations about big Pharma multinationals trying to poison us or keep us sick for their own purposes.

Next we talked about Sodium Bicarbonate and the whole body acid /alkaline thing. Apparently, Andy believes that if I change my body pH I will die! All I can say is now I am following a largely alkaline diet and drink my bi-carb daily; I have changed my pH and I’m certainly not dead yet!

One big issue for him was that many of these so called alternatives haven’t been tested or researched. When I bought up the National Health Institute in America which research these complementary and newer treatments, he said it was a complete waste of money; they’ve come up with nothing and the money should be spent elsewhere.  Which begs the question, ‘So does he want them researched or not?’

Acupuncture came under fire next. A favourite of mine. Andy said it was invented only fifty years ago, something Simon who has researched acupuncture for many years was intrigued by. He added he was fascinated by the books Andy must be reading. It’s off the point anyway, it works and the Cancer Research web site backs me on that!!

One thing that became very depressing to me was that Sarah Woollaston came back again and again saying that if things hadn’t been through a double blind, placebo-controlled trial they weren’t worth using. Depressing and frustrating   , because for many causes and complimentary therapies epidemiology has shown the issue clearly. In other cases these double blind trials simply won’t work – how could you research yoga or meditation. You have either done it or you haven’t. You can’t fool half the trial group into thinking they did it. But all this doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of research to back them up. Double blind trials have also proven to be flawed in the biased way some Pharma companies recruit people anyway and most drugs in Britain today have not been through this supposed Gold Standard of tests.

The closing question was one that is very close to my heart: ‘When can we stop all the mud slinging and start working together to stop human suffering?’ Well, it seems there are still a lot of people out there driven by something that doesn’t put the patients’ best interests at the centre of their motivation.  There seems to be an awful lot of egos, politics and money getting in the way of really trying to find the best way of helping cancer patients.

Andy Lewis, the Quackometer chap, was a very pleasant man to talk to; even if slightly nervous. For some reason, he has set himself up to protect me and my fellow patients against people who are going to take us for a ride, give us false hope and strip us of our money. All I can say is, Andy if you’re reading this, thanks; but just because I have cancer doesn’t mean I have lost the use of my brain or my judgement. I am more than aware of the people who genuinely want to help me and the people who through ignorance, self-benefit or some other more strange motive are really attempting to gain out of my misfortune.

‘Does integrated medicine make sense?’ With survival rates in this country being some of the lowest in Europe, with conventional medicine bringing such horrible side-effects and so often only offering ‘management’ not ‘cure’ of the cancer, with an ‘explosion’ in research showing that complementary therapies can increase my survival time, it not only makes sense, it is essential.

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Having read a report of the Dartington Debate which took place recently on the subject of Integrated Medicine, I was interested to read that some of the assembled gathering concluded that the only treatments that they would consider were those that had passed the ultimate medical gold standard test: The randomised, double blind, placebo controlled Clinical Trial. These people are sadly living in cloud cuckoo land.

First, for those of you that don’t know the term let me explain. This Clinical Trial involves two identical groups of people, one group taking the test treatment, the other taking a ‘placebo’ – an identical injection or pill just containing sugar. It is blind, because the recipients don’t know which they are receiving.

The test is double blind because the scientist doesn’t know which he is giving to whom either. And finally, it is randomised because a computer has assigned the people to each group in a matched way, but randomly.

An unequal playing field

This sort of test, according to Pharmaceutical companies, is very, very expensive to run. And thus it is very, very unlikely that any purveyor of a herb or vitamin would ever have the money to run such a test. Last year Astra Zeneca made over $8.6 billion in profit. The entire supplements industry in the UK was worth peanuts compared to that figure. I know of only one such UK ‘supplements’ test in the last year or so – A Leeds University Clinical Trial on concentrated fish oil omega 3 with pre-cancerous colon polyps (it worked and reduced the size of the polyps). This level of Clinical Trial demands serious funding, something simply beyond the means of the supplements companies – face facts!

Another reason that natural compounds and supplements are ruled out is because the drug companies are unlikely to help. The Leeds University trial prepared the omega-3 as if it were a drug, but others aren’t so fortunate. Professor Robert Thomas of Addenbrooks has been working with newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients and noted that those who followed a programme of broccoli and tomato consumption plus daily exercise pushed the evil date for surgery further into the future. To make any claims he needed to prove this observation scientifically and so he started to dry his broccoli and tomatoes. Ah, but if you want to do a proper trial you need to prepare them in pill form, so they are now classified as drugs and require a drugs company to prepare them. How easy do you think it is to get a drugs company to help with a test on natural compounds which can reduce the usage of their profitable drugs?

These anomalies would only be resolved in the UK if we had a properly Government-funded Institute of Complementary Health as they do in the USA. This needs to include someone responsible collating the information and providing guidelines.

Dubious selection criteria

You may feel that the ‘randomised’ selection process in the randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled test is fool-proof. You’d be completely wrong. New drugs tend to be compared against existing treatments which are used by the sick in all shapes, sizes, ages, smokers and non-smokers and so on. For the new Clinical Trials however, the participating company may well insist that the scientist rule out anybody who may have had a negative reaction in a previous trial, obese people, people with heart problems or anything that might jeopardise a good result. Thus the Clinical Trial can be a random sample chosen from a selected sample. Often a drug trial is conducted with young, healthy people (you’ve probably heard the radio ads recruiting volunteers) with 75 per cent of the volume of the resultant drug used by sick over 65 year olds, who will have a significantly different biochemical profile.

So let’s rule out all those treatments that haven’t passed this gold standard

Well of course curcumin as a preventative cancer treatment is ruled out. But then so are most statins – including those for the seemingly healthy to avoid unexpected heart attacks. But Doctors recommend the statins, don’t they?

Actually, come to mention it, about 95 per cent of drugs in use today would be ruled out, not just complementary and alternative therapies.

Two thirds of cancer patients have surgery but there has never been a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled Clinical Trial on any of it. And increasingly there is evidence that surgery may even spread cancer (See: http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=2976)

Next time your Doctor offers you a drug, ask him if it has been through a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled Clinical Trial and see what he says. If it is a serious condition it is very likely that he will want to give you three or four drugs. Don’t even bother asking about whether the combination has passed the gold standard test. As a cocktail it is almost certain not to have done, which may explain, in part, why prescription drugs are now the highest cause of death in states like Florida with a higher incidence of older people.

Level of evidence?

If, like me you believe that ‘research is for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools’, you may consider that there is actually enough evidence to warrant all of the over-50’s in the UK being offered statins along with overweight kids too. As a doctor you may feel the evidence is enough, even if all the Dartington audience using their gold standard filter may not have agreed.

But if you feel it is enough and you offer statins to all, why not consider telling people with pre-cancerous colon conditions about fish oils or curcumin? Both are known to help prevent colon cancer – the former also has Clinical Trials, the latter has a stack of evidence on its side and is even being used as a treatment in some US cancer hospitals.

Why do oncologists offer surgery at the outset of cancer yet they don’t think to offer immune boosting herbs like astragalus or supplements like resveratrol and grape seed extract, which do have good supporting evidence behind them?

Why do some oncologists even criticise cancer patients when they correct their diets? The research is quite clear; ‘overwhelming’ according to the American Cancer Society. Diet and exercise can increase survival times.

A clear legal duty

Only recently we had two women in a week tell us that their oncologist had refused to discuss complementary therapies with them as ‘He may get struck off’. Actually the opposite is true. Your oncologist has a legal duty to inform you fully of all your treatment options. Omitting treatments deliberately is illegal. Ignorance is no defence. Oncologists had better start wising up on complementary and alternative therapies fast. The patient backlash is just around the corner.

The sting?

As part of my preparation for this article, I looked up the ‘randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled Clinical Trial’ on my Internet search engine. Five of the top six listings were definitions but one was actually a trial for a treatment. Here it is. Unfortunately I think some of the ‘skeptic’ attackers of complementary medicine at Dartington might find it a little embarrassing:

Efficacy of a complex homeopathic medication (Sinfrontal) in patients with acute maxillary sinusitis: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial.

 

Zabolotnyi DI, Kneis KC, Richardson A, Rettenberger R, Heger M, Kaszkin-Bettag M, Heger PW.
Source
Research Institute for Ear, Nose, and Throat Diseases, Kiev, Ukraine.
 

Abstract
BACKGROUND:
There is a demand for clinical trials that demonstrate homeopathic medications to be effective and safe in the treatment of acute maxillary sinusitis (AMS).
OBJECTIVE:
The objective of this clinical trial was to demonstrate the efficacy of a complex homeopathic medication (Sinfrontal) compared with placebo in patients with AMS confirmed by sinus radiography.
DESIGN:
A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase III clinical trial was conducted for a treatment period of 22 days, followed by an eight-week post treatment observational phase.
INTERVENTIONS:
Fifty-seven patients received Sinfrontal and 56 patients received placebo. Additionally, patients were allowed saline inhalations, paracetamol, and over-the-counter medications, but treatment with antibiotics or other treatment for sinusitis was not permitted.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Primary outcome criterion was change of the sinusitis severity score (SSS) from day zero to day seven. Other efficacy assessments included radiographic and clinical cure, improvement in health state, ability to work or to follow usual activities, and treatment outcome.
RESULTS:
From day zero to day seven, Sinfrontal caused a significant reduction in the SSS total score compared with placebo (5.8 +/- 2.3 [6.0] points vs 2.3 +/- 1.8 [2.0] points; P < .0001). On day 21, 39 (68.4%) patients on active medication had a complete remission of AMS symptoms compared with five (8.9%) placebo patients. All secondary outcome criteria displayed similar trends. Eight adverse events were reported that were assessed as being mild or moderate in intensity. No recurrence of AMS symptoms occurred by the end of the eight-week post treatment observational phase.
CONCLUSION:
This complex homeopathic medication is safe and appears to be an effective treatment for acute maxillary sinusitis.
PMID:
17362845
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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Junk Science Number 15 (revised) : The 1939 Cancer Advertising Act is being regularly abused

Decent, honest, truthful

I spent 22 years of my life in Advertising; 14 years at the very top, both running other people’s Advertising agencies and Communication groups and then my own. With every TV commercial created, approval was sought from the Advertising Standards Authority at script stage and again in advance of first airing. Any claim had to be justified in advance. Press control was a little less formal but this has been tightened up over the years. Messages such as ‘Guinness is good for you’, ‘a Mars a day helps you work rest and play’ and ‘Maltesers, with the less fattening centre’ all bit the dust as the justification of claims became more stringent. Every advertiser had to prove their claim was correct.

Of course this is a totally proper goal for any advertiser, be they purveyors of cars, washing machines, drugs or vitamins. In a professional advertising agency, this is firmly established in stone.

Unfortunately, advertising is no longer confined to TV and press and with the newer media many advertisers do not use professional advertising agencies. Radio, skywriting, posters and now ‘new media’ like the internet all seek to persuade you to do something. And that is what advertising is: The provision of information in a way relevant to you and your needs/lifestyle so that you change your attitudes, and take action. That action might be anything from visiting a Renault dealership, to buying a pint of Heineken, to taking sensible steps to ensure you do not develop AIDS. The biggest advertiser in Britain is not a car company or a beer, it is the Government.

Creating advertising is rather like managing a football team or running a Government: Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they could do it just as well. So for 22 years I struggled (along with my agency teams) with advertisers who wanted to say on TV that they made ‘authentic German beer’ when it was brewed in Mortlake; or that ‘nothing worked faster than their analgesic’, when all the new brands, in fact, did!

‘Decent, honest, truthful’ were the three watch words.

 A World Wide Issue

When Catherine, my 22 year old daughter developed her brain tumour, she was told she had, at most, 6 months to live. The drugs did not cure; the orthodox offerings could not save her life. So we set out to find alternatives.

Both Catherine and I had science degrees (Chemistry and Biochemistry respectively) and to our surprise we found so much research and information in other countries about brain tumours and what compounds and treatments may help. Now, some of you may know that there exists a blood/brain barrier designed to keep nasties out of the brain. Not surprisingly, a big problem for drugs is getting across this barrier. Not surprisingly too, is the fact that a number of natural compounds do get across this barrier as one of their properties can be to nourish the brain.

The issue was simple: Why wasn’t anyone in the UK telling us about natural compounds that had shown promise in research?

Of course, the World Wide Web is also a mine field of dodgy explosives – it was staggering. Shark cartilage, B-17, coral calcium and more. Did you know they each cure cancer? I can assure you they don’t.

All over the web there are advertisements for everything from allicin to zeolite. Every week to this day someone sends me an e mail which starts, ‘Have you heard of…’, or, ‘Why don’t you cover this amazing new cancer cure …….’

There is little or no regulation on health claims on the web, and the majority of this starts in the USA, whether it be chiropractors (I was treated once in Barbados and, as with Sharon Stone, he nearly killed me), or coral calcium. In my opinion there is no reason why the purveyors of health services, be they practitioners or supplements should not conform to best advertising practices. But they don’t. For this reason I applaud some of the things the Nightingale Collaboration are trying to do. (I covered them 6 months ago in an e-news.) But I think they have their work cut out. How do you stop a UK chiropractor when it is essentially an American health concept and various exaggerated claims can be found on an adjacent site? How do you stop the over-claims of the UK sellers of shark cartilage when the compound and argument originated in the USA? How do you police the World Wide Web, but just in the UK?

Game Playing

But then, ‘mischievous imps’ play games. It must, for example, be galling for MacMillan Cancer Support who a few years back ‘took over’ Cancer Backup, to find the old web site www.cancerbackup.com (not org) covers a multitude of links, some of which offer cosmetic surgery, and others ‘Innovative cancer treatments that may extend your life’ (Champions Oncology Inc – offering those well known cancer treatments called ‘tumor grafts’). 

But there is a further complication in the UK: The 1939 Advertising Act. This was originally designed to stop the purveyors of potions, over-claiming their wares in a sensitive area called cancer.

The law is still on the statute books but is blatantly out of date. Herceptin, Temozolomide and Tamoxifen were unheard of in 1939, and many vitamins had not even been named. In some cases research on compounds such as vitamin K, resveratrol and curcumin is even now still in its infancy and benefits in the fight against cancer are only just becoming clear.

The law covers the paid-for advertising of cancer treatments and treaters. This is also a confused area. At the CANCERactive 2004 Cancer Prevention Conference, Professor Tony Howell of Christies, Manchester confused many people in the room by saying that once you have had breast cancer, medicine now had the weapons to prevent it returning and promptly listed a variety of drugs! One man’s treatment is another man’s prevention, it seems.

Double Standards

In 1939 there was only just Television and certainly no Television Advertising. Today, in the USA you can advertise drugs on TV. In the UK you can advertise some drugs (like cough mixtures) and some vitamins (as long as you don’t make any efficacy claims apart from the usual blah about pregnant women and children). You can advertise that something treats a hay fever (even though the key ingredient might affect your DNA) but you cannot advertise that something might treat cancer even though MD Anderson in Texas might be using it right now to do just that. It’s a mess.

The law says basically (yes, I know 4 of my immediate family were/are lawyers but I write to be understood) that you cannot advertise to Joe Public that anything in whole or in part can be used as a cancer treatment. And also (to stop the potion sellers), no one can claim that they treat cancer.

Clearly, this UK law is being broken all over the place; and it is encouraging mischief and double standards.

A) Doctors: In 1939 there were just ‘Doctors’ – no distinction between GP’s and oncologists. But now it seems OK for an oncologist to tell you he treats cancer by definition of his title and also to send you across the car park to the hospital nutritionist and Tai Chi teacher. But a GP who has specialised in helping cancer patients for 25 years and has the same counselors, dieticians, yoga teachers and whatever on staff cannot even have a leaflet telling you of his experience or his personal, independent clinic. We can’t have a two-tier law. Either they both break the law, or neither does.

B) Complementary Centres: And what about complementary cancer centres – some independent, others run by existing cancer hospitals – Maggie’s, The Butterfly, The Rainbow, The Haven, Penny Brohn? They can talk about cancer support. But don’t yoga classes reduce cortisol levels and isn’t there a recent US study that shows people who go for ‘Stress management’ survive twice as long? One lady’s support is another lady’s treatment. Some support centres even talk about advice and treatment. Are they breaking the law?

C) Charities? Cancer Research UK, MacMillan/Cancer Backup, Breast Cancer Care, CANCERactive and so on all have web sections entitled ‘Treatment’. Ah, but we are not advertising, we are merely informing. No one is paying for any communicated message – or are they? We wrote to Cancer Research asking if they received royalties for all the hard work they put in to the development of new drugs. Sure enough, they hand over the idea and drugs companies take the drug through Clinical Trials and on to market. When that happens, came the reply, is we receive a royalty which goes into a special fund to be used for more CRUK work. I’m not against CRUK, they do a fine job. But if they communicate the benefits of a drug on their web site and in Press Releases and then receive money, isn’t there a danger that this could be construed as funded communication, however it is wrapped up?

D) Treatments: Next, this 1939 law makes no differentiation between a drug, a synthetic supplement or a natural compound nor of research standards, which anyway have changed considerably.

To some people there is only one proof of efficacy, and that is a double blind, placebo controlled, Clinical Trial. But this ‘stringency’ is used selectively. If every treatment had to go through it, 90 per cent of all drugs currently on the market would have to be withdrawn.

A lack of such a Clinical Trial will see some people criticising any claims for curcumin or any diet therapy as potential cancer treatments.

Yet Hospitals in America are using curcumin in the treatment of colorectal cancer. There are currently no Clinical Trials for Virotherapy or Dendritic Cell Therapy either, but MD Anderson and Dukes openly tell of their use and anecdotal ‘research’ successes.

So are we to conclude that anecdotal evidence is fine as an evidence for an ‘alternative’ treatment if you are a Hospital, but not if you are anybody else? So if UCL talk of Photodynamic Therapy as a potential treatment, that’s OK, but if a Doctor specialising in cancer at his UK Private Clinic does the same, he is a quack and breaking the 1939 Act?

Helping the cancer patient?

E) The curbing of knowledge and information: Joe Public can, of course, go to the Internet. He/she can find out that there is research from Memorial Sloane-Kettering showing curcumin reduces cellular inflammation; or from H. Lee Moffitt that sodium bicarbonate reduces metastases. They can find out about mistletoe therapy, photodynamic therapy and hyperthermia and where to go in America or Germany to receive treatment.

But, under the 1939 Cancer Advertising Act, it is illegal for a Doctor in the UK to say he has specialised in treating cancer for 20 years and that he too offers hyperthermia (which actually has good Clinical Trials to support it), mistletoe treatment or PDT (a therapy that Cancer Tsar Mike Richards is now putting some force behind). Worse, ‘mischievous elves’, sometimes claiming to work with The Nightingale Collaboration, are running round ‘tipping off’ Trading Standards to chase these UK Doctors and practitioners and telling them not to tell anybody that they treat cancer or have anything that might improve the immune system, or slow down metastases.

How does this help a 70 year old Londoner with breast cancer, who has been told by her UK oncologist that he has nothing more that can help her?

F) Increasing patient costs: Of course, she and her buddies can still read the American Hospital, German and Swiss Clinic websites and may try to raise the money to head off abroad for Photo Dynamic Therapy, when she could have got it cheaper and just as good just down the road – if only she had known!

G) Funding overseas Centres: The net result of that can mean that American Hospitals, German and Swiss Clinics simply generate more funds and grow their presence. Ring up a US Cancer Hospital and ask about PDT or Virotherapy; they will tell you all and invite you over – it is big money for them. Make no mistake. These ‘authoritative’ web sites are advertisements for ‘Alternative’ Cancer Treatments’ and big money is made by Americans, Germans and the rest.

Isn’t there a danger of merely increasing the costs of our lady being treated and, indirectly, helping the business at these overseas cancer centres grow at the expense of the cancer industry in the UK?

 Back to double standards – are these self-styled ‘Health Vigilantes’ next going to stop the American Hospitals web sites running in the UK? There is a new law planned in America which allows the US Government to turn off web sites which conflict with ‘Official’ Goverenment views on Healthcare (think fluoridation, vaccination, GM Foods). So in the interest of fairness, are these self-styled ‘health vigilantes’ going to lobby David Cameron to turn off all US web sites that ‘advertise’ that they treat cancer with alternative treatments that have no Clinical Trials behind them? Then where do you draw the line. Is someone going to tell UCL or Christies that they can’t offer virotherapy as a last resort?

H) Personal Choice: The UK is out of step; The NHS openly states that it wants patients to have more choice but here is a law actually restricting choice by actively limiting advertising treatments and independent cancer centres in the UK. In America Doctors can set up ‘Integrative cancer centres’; there’s one in every town. 37 per cent of mainstream hospitals already have the phrase ‘Treating Mind, body and soul’ in their mission statements and the likes of MD Anderson conclude from their research that vitamin C improves the performance of bladder cancer drugs and astragalus improves the performance of radiotherapy. Sloan-Kettering has Clinical Trials on several natural compounds, Harvard on acupuncture and Presbyterian New York on Meditation cutting blood loss if used prior to surgery. The National Cancer Institute has 36 pages covering Energy Therapies on its web site; the American Cancer Society has just issued a report reviewing more than 100 research studies since 2006 and concluded that there is ‘overwhelming’ evidence that three complementary therapies in particular can result in ‘longer survival’ and the cancer not returning.

But what do cancer patients find in the UK? Answer – an ever more myopic ‘orthodoxy’ where surgery, radiotherapy and drugs are increasingly the norm, little learning from overseas research is encouraged and indeed most is actually ignored.

Back in the 1990s the American Government brought in the National Institute of Complementary Health to provide funds to properly study complementary and new therapies. At the same time they banned subjective claims about ‘Integrative’ or ‘Complementary’ medicine. Skeptics cannot simply say ‘It’s all a load of rubbish’ or ‘There’s no evidence’. They’ve been driven underground and also hit by law suits when they libel or get their facts wrong.

 Health freedom is now understood to be allowing the patient access to sensible potential treatments in a localised environment, whilst (of course) taking action against the real quacks. 

More and more US Doctors are encouraged to ‘Think Integrative’ – there are now medical degrees in Integrative Medicine.In the UK, you simply cannot have an Integrative Cancer Centre. Doesn’t this just make Joe’s fight against cancer harder? Doesn’t it just restrict personal choice.  

Some people choose to be vegetarians; some people choose not to have treatments that burn, cut or damage their immune systems when trying to fight off cancer. This outdated law – and its one-sided enfocement – actually stops them exerting their right to choose non-invasive therapies in the UK. Many patients would dearly love to talk to an independent doctor who could devote time to discussing possible causes and non-invasive treatments, or complementary therapies that could increase survival times, but this law stops Doctors and Clinics telling people they exist.

 I) Curbing Medical width: The law also makes it far less likely that ‘Integrative’ or ‘Holistic’ medicine will ever grow in the UK – who would want to spend seven years learning medicine and complementary therapies if they could not tell patients exactly what they could do for them?

Of course ‘orthodoxy’ loves this thought. It helps the drugs companies and the oncologist control the whole process.

J) Curbing possible increases in survival times: Survival times in America are considerably better than in the UK. Do you think that all their open-mindedness has nothing to do with that? Do you think that a UK oncologist who pooh-poohs his patient’s attempts at changing her diet is helping? Or articles in the BMJ by leading oncology Professors that ‘changing your diet doesn’t make a jot of difference to your survival outcome’ actually help? Especially when they are not true and the American Cancer Society is talking about an ‘explosion of research’ over the last 5 years showing that complementary therapies like diet ‘increase survival times and can stop cancer returning’.

K) The most flagrant breach of the law? But there is one area in which the 1939 Cancer Advertising Act is flagrantly broken. The 1939 Act stated that the only ‘advertising’ allowed was from pharmaceutical companies directly to doctors. In my former life as an advertising man, I worked on two pharmaceutical companies’ businesses. You may ask yourself why, when the 1939 Act was in place at the time, did they need an advertising agency? No, you don’t really need me to answer. Nowadays they have all manner of professional Communications companies working for them – from lobbyists to PR agencies.

I am now a part-time journalist, just like the guys at the Daily Mail and the other newspapers. We regularly receive PR releases from Pharmaceutical Companies about new drugs. It is clearly paid for communication to people who are not doctors.

Worse, when the scientists have finished their research report it is handed over to the Pharmaceutical Company who funded the research. The marketing, communication, PR people then massage the results to produce a Press Release and Doctor Sales Aids that will communicate the benefits in the best possible light, whilst limiting communication of less flattering matters like side-effects. Those will be contained in the full research report out more than 6 weeks later. 

But how many journalists wait the six weeks? No, they work straight from the PR release and get the ‘Great new life saving Drug’ story out urgently, today. Only a few months ago I received a press release direct from a drugs company talking of a ‘Wonder Drug’ in the headline; and I am not a Doctor. Nor are at least 95 per cent of ‘health’ journalists.Then there is the pressure sale: When Herceptin was first launched in the UK, NICE decided it was not worth the cost for certain patients; the same logic applied a couple of years later to four new kidney drugs. Within days a member of the public with breast cancer, or someone with kidney cancer was telling their story in the press and saying how bad/sad it was that NICE was denying them these ‘life saving drugs’. Do you really believe a journalist went scouting round the country and found the lady in Wigan? 

Do you think that when a cancer charity issues a press release they are not influenced one jot by their involvement with the drug companies? Only a few years ago, investigative journalists from the Times found ‘slush fund payments’ (their words) to certain charities by drugs companies and posed the question, ‘How unbiased is their advice?’The drug companies and their communication agencies can be in flagrant breach of the 1939 Act. Are the ‘health vigilantes’ worried about this in their aim to protect the patient?  Are they going to move to stop this breach of the law too? 

Overhaul this outdated law 

The 1939 Cancer Advertising Act should be completely overhauled. At the moment it is standing in the way of developing the most effective cancer care services for patients in the UK. It is standing in the way of increased knowledge and choice for patients. And it is in danger of inhibiting cancer treatment in the UK whilst being abused in a way that restricts patient choice and self-empowerment. It may well help fund overseas clinics and it is being one-sidedly enforced to protect  drug company profits.It also stops any challenge to current medical thinking, which is hardly in the interests of developing improvements in medicine or patient survival.

Meanwhle leave the policing part to the ASA. Admittedly they might need some more funding and more people. But ‘Decent, Honest, Truthful as a rule is just as applicable to an internet ad from a herbal supplier as it is to Guiness or Ford.

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