Aspirin and cancer trial doomed to failure?

Hailing it as the “world’s largest clinical trial to investigate whether taking aspirin every day stops the recurrence of some of the most common cancers”, the NHS and Cancer Research UK are taking more than 11,000 patients from 100 centres across the UK.

The study will run for 12 years and involves different groups taking different doses of aspirin

Somewhat bizarrely, the dosages will be 100 and/or 300 mgs.

What is odd about this is that the original discovery of the aspirin effect, John Vane (who won a Nobel Prize and a Knighthood for his efforts, showed clearly that the dose need be no more than 75 mgs. This research was confirmed by the Mayo clinic who felt the benefit came from a small dose (81 mgs).

Further large studies from Oxford University and The Radcliffe Hospital, and from the Francis Crick Institute in London have confirmed that aspirin can reduce inflammation throughout the body (a precursor to cancer), can greatly reduce cancer spread and increase survival times, and can even prevent the cancer from hiding from the immune system.

Prof Ruth Langley, the chief investigator at the Medical Research Council’s clinical trials unit at University College London, said: “There has been some interesting research suggesting that aspirin could delay or stop early-stage cancers coming back, but there has been no randomised trial to give clear proof. This trial aims to answer this question once and for all.

“If we find that aspirin does stop these cancers returning, it could change future treatment – providing a cheap and simple way to help stop cancer coming back and helping more people survive.

“But, unless you are on the trial, it’s important not to start taking aspirin until we have the full results, as aspirin isn’t suitable for everyone, and it can have serious side-effects.”

And this is a real problem. CANCERactive has consistently informed of the increasing research on the benefits of aspirin, but in the small dose size. Even then we have known patients develop serious side-effects like stomach ulcers.

We are extremely concerned that patients taking the higher 300 mgs dose especially will show a greatly increased risk of stomach ulcers, with the whole trial having to be curtailed.

We predict high levels of side-effects and publicity saying aspirin is dangerous, when at the smaller dosage it has already-proven significant benefits.

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Johns Hopkins: cancer is primarily ‘bad luck’

Two scientists at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Dr. Bert Vogelstein, the Clayton Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and ‘bio-mathematician’ and assistant Professor, Cristian Tomasetti, Ph.D. published a study on January 2nd in the journal Science, which concluded that two-thirds of adult cancer incidence across tissues can be explained primarily by ‘bad luck’.

The scientists created a mathematical model by searching the scientific literature for information on the cumulative number of divisions of stem cells among 31 tissue types during an average individual’s lifetime. They then charted the number of stem cell divisions in these tissues and plotted them against the incidence of cancer. For example, in colon tissue there are 4 times more cell divisions than occur in the small intestine, and cancer is more prevalent in the former. QED.

“It was well-known that cancer arises when tissue specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations during cell replication”, said Vogelstein.

Let’s get real

1. Firstly, neither prostate nor breast cancer were covered in the research since the researchers could not obtain reliable data on stem cell divisions. So that would rule out almost one third of all cancers in the UK. And we are always being told by the UK ‘Brand leader’ Cancer Research, that these are largely hormonally driven, with factors such as oestrogen, lack of exercise and obesity playing a big part. If the new research is correct, and it were to apply to breast and prostate cancers as well, how has CRUK made such a big error? Just bad luck, perhaps?

2. Secondly, I will hazard a guess that the number of stem cell divisions in a tissue occurs in line with the number of overall cell divisions. And what the scientists actually showed was that there was a link between more cell divisions in a tissue and an increased risk of cancer. Hardly, new thinking really.

3. But if it is all about stem cells do the conclusions mean that someone in New York has many more stem cell divisions in their lungs than someone in China, or Kenya, where cancer incidence is considerably lower? The UK population must have 4 times the stem cell division of Thais; with almost exactly the same population we get four times the number of cancers they do. Why would that be?? Would the increased rate of stem cell division in New York or London not constitute a cause? Or are Thais just four times luckier than Londoners?

4. Next, having shown a link between cell division volumes and cancer volumes, our plucky duo made a mental jump: “It was well-known that cancer arises when tissue specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations during cell replication”, Well known to whom? In 2012 scientists were still arguing whether there was such a thing as a cancer stem cell.

And the idea that cancer is caused by mutations to the core DNA is quaintly old fashioned. Indeed the modern theory of cancer (being confirmed by scientists week in, week out) is that not much happens to the core DNA (and when it does the immune system easily spots it as rogue). Instead, chemicals like homocysteine build up in the blood stream and cause more methylation around the DNA coil. This holds histones in place, which in turn hold the integrity and shape of the DNA in the nucleus.

When the histones cover a gene responsible for, say, controlled cellular division, it cannot send out its messages, it is silenced, and the cell starts dividing randomly. It is important to note that this methylation and acetylation is believed to be reversible by literally thousands of scientists currently working for drugs companies and University Medical Schools. The science is called Epigenetics (Epi=around, the gene). Drugs companies believe they can affect the methylation and acetylation directly; or indirectly via the enzymes that cause it.

Other scientists believe that there are a host of natural compounds (from sulphoraphanes to carotenoids) that can do this, as can exercise hormones. Indeed, Epigeneticists argue that there are clearly 4 causes of DNA blockages – environmental toxins, stress, poor diet and hormones such as oestrogen.

So, are these epigenetic scientists all wrong?

Where hypotheses and statistics meet

A statistician is someone who will tell you that it’s better to have a watch that is broken (it is right twice a day), than one that loses 7 minutes a day (it is right once every thirteen days).

I have decided to look at road accidents in Britain (London and Manchester were excluded because there were no reliable statistics). Now, it is widely accepted that council road administrators allow too many non-UK-qualified lorry drivers to drive on the roads. And sure enough, we have found that the number of road deaths is proportional to the increases in foreign lorries on our roads. It doesn’t fit exactly (but to about an 80% level) and it differs by the 31 regions we looked at. So if you die in a road accident it has little to do with your skills as a driver, or how fast you were going, or the weather conditions. The number of foreign lorry drivers being allowed on our roads by a lack of legislation is behind it. Just bad luck really.

What is odd though is that this conclusion doesn’t hold true in Africa or China. So I’ll leave that out of my model.

Implications

So, thanks to Johns Hopkins, science has a new bed fellow: Bad luck. It’s the devil’s work. No need to feel guilty about your gluttony and sloth – just ‘eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye may die’.

No need for CRUK or the Government to feel guilty about failing to do anything serious in the way of Cancer Prevention Programmes in the community. You can’t legislate for bad luck. It would be pointless spending billions of pounds telling people to eat healthily, exercise and give up smoking if cancer occurs ‘for no particular reason other than randomness’ (according to Tomasetti).

If 65% of cancers are just bad luck, and we add on the 20% known to be caused by parasites and viruses (according to the WHO), then we certainly aren’t left with much that is to do with our sloth and gluttony. ‘50% of cancers are your own fault’ said CRUK 5 years ago. ‘30-50% of cancers are due to your poor diets’ said the WHO. ‘At least half of all cancers are preventable’. Oh no they’re not says a mathematical model (that left two of the biggest out).

Food companies that sell junk, have no case to answer. Lucky for them. What of the legal cases in the USA where people sue cigarette companies or mobile phone companies for not warning them that their products cause cancer? Presumably your bad luck is now lucky for these companies.

At CANCERactive we were helping a patient with oesophageal cancer. She had had bad acid reflux for ten years and been on a drug the whole time. A trip to the manufacturer’s website said that ‘on no account should the drug be prescribed for more than six months’. The woman asked her doctor what he thought caused her cancer. ‘Just bad luck’ was his reply. Johns Hopkins have vindicated him. His mis-prescription of the drug was irrelevant.

But there’s a get out clause in the model: “We found that the types of cancer that had a higher risk than predicted by the number of cell divisions, were precisely the one’s you’d expect” (lung cancer – linked to smoking; skin cancer – linked to sun exposure). So, other factors do cause deviation from their model. Lucky, I spotted that.

Junk science

The new science of ‘Bad luck’ is a dangerous concept. It removes the need for people to exert any self-control. The implication is that you can make little difference to prevent your cancer (and thus can make little difference to prevent it returning – so it is pointless doing anything to help treat your condition). Self-empowerment for patients goes out of the window. You might as well stay fat, not exercise, carry on smoking and just place your total faith in your good doctor’s hands. And luck.

Except, isn’t it lucky for us that The American Cancer Society have produced a 2012 report saying that since 2006 there has been an ‘explosion’ in research, and ‘overwhelming’ evidence that good diet, weight control and exercise can increase survival and even prevent a cancer returning.

Except, isn’t it lucky for us that the Karolinska Institute has produced straight line graphs on the links between cows’ dairy consumption and prostate, breast and ovarian cancers; or that Bristol University produced a meta-study on 52 research reports concluding that people who exercised regularly developed less cancers, and that those with cancer who exercised regularly, survived longer.

Watch out for the follow up study: ‘It is just bad luck that the chemotherapy didn’t work for you’. (Well it wouldn’t anyway because there is no drug available today that tackles cancer stem cells.)

What bad luck.

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Health providers encouraging death by sugar

The recent research on ‘Added Sugar’ (Ref: Cardiovascular disease JAMA Feb, 2014) was very clear. The higher the added sugar content of your daily calories consumed, the greater your risk of dying from Heart Disease.

As Dr. Chauncey Crandall, one of America’s top cardiologists, covered in his recent ‘Heart Health’ newsletter, glucose (along with e numbers in prepared and packaged foods), causes chronic inflammation in the arteries and this causes the fat to ‘take hold’.

Heart disease and cancer are now equal first in America as causes of death, comprising over 50 per cent of the total.

The most common sources of ‘added glucose’ are soft drinks, from Coca Cola to Ribena (37%), grain deserts (puddings) at about 13.7% and categories such as ice cream and dairy desserts (6.1%), smoothies and supermarket fruit juices (8.9%), and chocolate and biscuits (5.8%) following well back.

But it doesn’t stop there. Such ‘added sugar’ feeds cancer cells, which (unlike healthy cells) are inflexible. They need glucose, without which they wither and die (although there is some evidence that an amino acid, glutamine, in protein may be used sometimes as a fallback).

Chronic inflammation is also a factor in cancer, both in cause and in metastases and, as with Heart Disease, insulin lies behind these as it affects COX-2 which drives bad localized hormones called eicosanoids. In 2010 Tian Xu of Yale concluded these localized hormones turned on two cancer-causing genes.

What is also apparent is that people with the highest levels of plasma glucose develop more cancers; while those people with cancer that do not control their plasma glucose levels, survive least.

In the face of all the mounting evidence on the damage glucose causes, is it not time to ask why hospitals continue to serve sugar-ladened ice cream, have drinks machines selling the leading culprits outside every ward, and even supply patients having chemotherapy with booklets on diet suggesting they eat cheeseburgers, doughnuts, milkshakes and sugary drinks?

Of course, no one wants patients dying of cachexia – but this affects only 7% of the total at most. Should the other cancer patients be exposed to the risks inherent in encouraging them to eat cancer-stimulating foods? And why not follow Professor Seyfried of Boston, and others, who point out that there is clear research that omega-3 in fish oils can dramatically reduce the risk of cachexia.

Glucose is a dangerous chemical toxin that pervades our lives and damages our health. It is time Governments, and especially our health service providers, got a grip on the reality.

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Chemotherapy doesn’t work very well because you’re fat!

No, seriously. It’s your own fault your chemotherapy didn’t work very well. According to a September research study in the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Journal of Clinical Oncology, the amount of chemotherapy drugs should increase with body weight.

The fatter you are, the more drugs you will need. At least that’s what Big Pharma is now saying ably supported by a number of top oncologists in America. Apparently, their concern is that as waistlines increase, people are being ‘under-treated’ by as much as 85 per cent!! No wonder the drugs didn’t work.

There’s a slight biochemical hic-cough with this view. You may be fatter, but it is unlikely that your tumour will be much bigger than a thin person’s, nor that it is growing any faster, and the organ it has attacked may be no bigger either. If it is growing faster, all the recent research suggests that this is because a fat person’s blood glucose levels are likely to be higher than those of a thin person – but that’s a different issue requiring a different solution. Conversely, Calorie Restriction seems to make chemo more effective as we covered earlier in 2013. But there again, as CANCERactive covered at the time, Big Pharma thinks doses of chemo should be higher with Calorie Restriction too (?).

So, what the heck?! Fat and high blood glucose, or, thin and low blood glucose? ‘Supersize’ them now’ is the cry from Big Pharma.

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Polio Vaccine, Simian Monkey Virus and cancer links

Some 9 years ago CANCERactive covered several research studies from Japan on the higher incidence of Simian Monkey Virus (SV40) in people diagnosed with cancer.

The background to this is the Salk polio vaccine which, at the outset, used Simian Monkeys as the developing ground for the vaccine. Too late and after over 98 million vaccine doses had been prepared and over 30 million people had been inoculated, it was found that the Simian monkeys had a virus which was thus contained in the vaccine. The Salk vaccine then changed to use another animal source as its development host.

But. At the time we expressed great concern following the Japanese research revelations. One study looked at brain tumours where people who developed gliomas had much higher levels of SM40 than the population at large, and another study looked at cancers overall, with the same result. In 1961, the American National Institute of Health (NIH) stated that SV40 was ‘directly linked to causing tumor formation’.

It seems our fears were justified: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently posted a fact sheet entitled Cancer, Simian Virus 40 and Polio Vaccine outlining the links between the virus and cancer. However, this was removed hastily as controversy flared in America – but too late. RealFarmacy.com had already taken a copy of the damning report.

As you will see (original CDC page link http://www.cdc.gov and full archived page link: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com) the SV40 virus, has been linked to causing a variety of human cancers, including childhood leukemia, lung cancer, bone cancer, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

The CDC denies a definitive causal link between SV40 and cancer but implies it was problematic in relation to cancer development. Problematic is some sort of euphemism.

“Like other polyomaviruses, SV40 is a DNA virus that has been found to cause tumors and cancer,” explains RealFarmacy.com. “SV40 is believed to suppress the transcriptional properties of the tumor-suppressing genes in humans through the SV40 Large T-antigen and SV40 Small T-antigen. Mutated genes may contribute to uncontrolled cellular proliferation, leading to cancer.”

Michele Carbone, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Loyola University in Chicago, has found that the virus is present in many cases of both osteosarcoma bone cancer and the increasingly prevalent lung cancer variety known as mesothelioma. As it turns out, Carbone identified SV40 in about one-third of all osteosarcoma cases studied, and in 40 percent of other bone cancers. The same was true for 60 percent of all cases of mesothelioma. Obviously this conflicts with the accepted view that all mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure.

“Many authorities now admit much, possibly most, of the world’s cancers came from the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, and hepatitis B vaccines, produced in monkeys and chimps,” adds RealFarmacy.com (http://www.realfarmacy.com).

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Glyphosphate in Roundup and very disturbing research about Parkinson’s, cancer and other chronic diseases.

A new research report by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has some very disturbing conclusions for the weed killer Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosphate, widely used on GMO products which have been engineered to withstand the large doses that are used to kill the weeds.

In April, the weedkiller was linked to Parkinson’s with an article in the Daily Mail covering the research in the UK (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2315057/Is-worlds-popular-weed-killer-causing-Parkinsons-New-study-shows-Roundup-herbicide-linked-cancer-infertility.html#ixzz2WjxIGpZV).

‘Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,’ the study says.

‘We have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated,’ Seneff said.

The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a standard registration review of glyphosate and has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if glyphosate use should be limited. The study is among many comments submitted to the agency.

Manufacturer Monsanto has always argued that Roundup is safe and “minimally toxic” to humans. But the research report in the journal Entropy, tells a different story:

i. Glyphosphate residues, found in many everyday foods due to its use with GM sugar, corn, wheat and soy, ‘enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease’. “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

ii. Glyphosphate greatly affects CYP proteins (for example, cytochrome P450). These were, for example, the focus of attention for Professors Potter and Burke in their work on Salvestrols.

CYP proteins can perform many functions, for example detoxifying ‘foreign’ chemical compounds in your body.

CYP1B1 is directly linked to cancer; even being used as a marker for the disease.

iii. Glyphosphate also destroys gut bacteria and thus the important bioactive products they release from the foods you eat or, indeed, make themselves. With glyphosphate poisoning the bacteria make reduced supplies of amino acids and this plus the glyphosphate interferes with the sulphur system in the body – essential in the fight against cancer and many diseases from gastro-intestinal diseases to MS.

‘Glyphosphate’s claimed mechanism of action in plants is the disruption of the shikimate pathway, which is involved with the synthesis of the essential aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. The currently accepted dogma is that glyphosphate is not harmful to humans or to any mammals because the shikimate pathway is absent in all animals.

However, this pathway is present in gut bacteria, which play an important and heretofore largely overlooked role in human physiology’, said the authors.

Readers should look at the CANCERactive article on The Microbiome and its importance to your good health (Link: http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=3431).

Readers might also like to read about Salvestrols. (Link: http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=3205)

Sources:
1. Green Media info: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/lethality-roundup-weedkiller-may-extend-beyond-plants-humans-study-shows
2. Nation of Change: http://www.nationofchange.org/monsanto-s-roundup-herbicide-may-be-most-important-factor-development-autism-and-other-chronic-disea
3. Mercola: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

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Breast cancer screening useless

I hate to say ‘I told you so’. I hate to say it about so many things I have said since I started this ‘mission’ in cancer 10 years ago. The problem is that when you come afresh, with no baggage, no vested interests, no politics, you see things more clearly.

Now here’s another. I told you so. ‘Breast cancer screening fails to cut deaths from breast cancer’. I have been absolutely consistent about this. Why? Because research has been saying this for nearly 10 years and I read and use research. But for some reason the powers that be have consistently ignored it.

Be clear: This is not my conclusion but that that of a ‘landmark study’. To quote: ‘25 years of breast cancer screening has failed to significantly reduce deaths from the disease, according to a landmark study’

While the number of women who die from breast cancer has decreased over the last 20 years, there is “no evidence” to suggest this is because of screening programmes according to researchers from Oxford University (Journal Royal Society of Medicine).

After research from America and the Nordic Cochrane Centre showed that screening mammograms caused more harm than good, we also presented research that if women had DNA mutations the last thing they should have was an annual mammogram. Several months ago, the Department of Health review also found that for every case of breast cancer ‘diagnosed’ at least three women underwent treatment for cancer which would never have harmed or killed them!

Despite all this Cancer Research UK and the powers that be have been insisting in recent months that screening mammograms save roughly 1500 lives a year. There is simply no evidence for this. It borders on quackery.

The new study even showed that the largest drop in mortality has been in women under the age of 40, who are not routinely screened for the disease.

Toqir Mukhtar, of the Department of Public Health (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_137712.html), who led the latest study said, “We found in our study that the unscreened age group had the greatest reduction in breast cancer mortality, which shows you that screening has not delivered the desired effect at a population level.”
About 1.6 million women are tested each year under the NHS breast screening programme, with women aged 50 to 70 automatically invited for screening every three years by their GP. The programme, which cost £75 million in 2011, is being extended and will apply to all women aged 47 to 73 by 2016.

The new study examined 39 years’ worth of data on breast cancer deaths for different age groups. 20,000 medical records from Oxford were studied, with each listing breast cancer on the death certificate. This was then compared with general data for England on deaths where breast cancer was specifically marked as the underlying cause.

If the screening programme had been responsible for lowering death rates, the scientists explained, they would expect to see the largest decrease among women who would have been offered at least one screening test. They did not.

At the national level it seems better treatment from drugs and complementary therapies are likely to be contributing to the better survival rate. 20 years ago hardly any women used a complementary therapy. Now almost two thirds use one or more.

To read the sorry ten year tale click on http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=1420

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Yet another study casts doubts, this time, on ‘landmark’ cancer drug clinical trials

The recent study from researchers C. Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis is the third study in as many years to question the validity of some drug clinical trials. These researchers found that a mere 11 percent of 53 papers on cancer published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals was solid, while the other 89 percent could not be reproduced, implying that it may be false or at the very least misleading.

“The scientific community assumes that the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value – that although there might be some errors in detail, the main message of the paper can be relied on and the data will, for the most part, stand the test of time,” wrote the authors about their findings. “Unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

Worse, the 53 published papers on cancer were all considered to be ‘Landmark’ studies yet Begley and Ellis discovered that only six of them could be reproduced and confirmed in a clinical setting.

“[I]t looks like the scientific literature is contaminated with a growing number of tainted studies, which may reach 89 percent, the results of which are not reproducible by any means,” writes Eleni Roumeliotou for GreenMedInfo.com about the shocking findings. “This means that to an extent, we have based our healthcare and clinical guidelines on fake studies that reported untruthful results in order to accommodate the interests of industrial corporations.”

In a second study, this time by University of Michigan Dr. Reshma Jagsi, M.D,at least 17 per cent of research studies had serious conflicts of interest – they were not independent but following Pharmaceutical Company funding, research results were influenced in a pre-determined direction.

“Given the frequency we observed for conflicts of interest and the fact that conflicts were associated with study outcomes, I would suggest that merely disclosing conflicts is probably not enough,” said Dr Jagsi. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to look more at how we can disentangle cancer research from industry ties.”

For the full story, go to

http://www.naturalnews.com/040230_cancer_research_false_conclusions.html#ixzz2Sb6y1AUs

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New blood test tracks cancer development

Scientists at the CRUK Institute at Cambridge University have managed to follow the progress of cancer in people by following traces of tumour DNA circulating in patients’ blood (ctDNA).

Importantly this also allows scientists to identify tumour changes and chemotherapy drug resistance (Nature).

The scientists followed 6 patients with advanced breast, ovarian and lung cancers over two years taking blood samples at regular points, and by looking for changes in the tumour ctDNA before and after each course of treatment, they were able to identify which changes in the tumour’s DNA were linked to drug resistance following each treatment session.

Using this new method they were able to identify several changes linked to drug-resistance in response to chemotherapy drugs such as paclitaxel (taxol) which is used to treat ovarian, breast and lung cancers, tamoxifen which is used to treat oestrogen-positive breast cancers and trastuzumab (Herceptin) which is used to treat HER2 positive breast cancers.

Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld one of the study authors, said: “Tumours are constantly changing and evolving which helps them develop a resistance to many of the drugs we currently give patients to treat their disease”.

“We’ve shown that a very simple blood test can be used to collect enough tumour DNA to suggest to us what parts of the cancer’s genetic code is changing and creating tumour resistance to chemotherapy or biologically-targeted therapies”.

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Beating cancer with chemotherapy and better drugs

The mythology of cancer sees many claims. One of which is that we are beating cancer due to earlier diagnosis and better drugs. Let us consider the available research on chemotherapy – for almost every cancer patient treated with drugs is still, inevitably, given at least one round of good old chemotherapy.

Available research evidence does indeed point to chemotherapy having a positive effect for some cancer patients.

Let’s start here:

(1) The Department of Oncology at North Sydney Cancer Centre in 2004 published a report evaluating chemotherapy over the years and concluded that ‘it only made a minor contribution to survival’. The figures they came up with were 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in America. In Britain there are 320,000 people diagnosed with cancer a year. About 60 per cent have chemo (although some of these people do not actually have cancer and were misdiagnosed by mammograms etc). Being generous and assuming no misdiagnoses, that would mean that chemotherapy had an effect on about 3,600 people. I cannot tell you from the research whether ‘effect’ means they were cured or whether they reached 5-year survival, or what. Sorry, I didn’t find the research very clear on that point.

(2) Somewhat alarmingly, last year we had the report from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle that concluded ‘Chemotherapy can cause cancer to return’. Note that they did not say, ‘we know cancer can return after chemo’, which is how Cancer Research responded to this study. They said CAUSE – apparently chemotherapy can cause healthy cells to produce a protein WNT16B and this is taken up by cancer cells – it helps them re-grow and even protects them from the next round of chemotherapy.

You may feel that all this misses an important point and that drugs have moved on – chemo is past it; old hat: Drugs like Tamoxifen, Aromatase Inhibitors and Herceptin are not really chemotherapy agents, and you’d be right. In 2012 a couple of reports shed some light on the current state of play.

(3) Firstly, one study (lead by Professor Carlos Caldas – reported in Nature) had Cancer Research all excited. A ‘landmark study’ from their Cambridge Institute showed there were 10 different ‘clusters’ of breast cancer types. ‘No longer does one size fit all’ they cried at CRUK. (It would be churlish of me to mention that CANCERactive have been saying that for ten years, but what the heck). In the future CRUK are suggesting they can more accurately develop treatments for each cluster. The problem at the moment is that there are only treatments for two of the clusters, the Tamoxifen/AIs one and the ‘HER-2 targeted therapy using Herceptin’ cluster. So here’s a real improvement: 2 out of 10 is better that 2.3 per cent.

(4) Unfortunately, the excitement was crushed somewhat when three research studies reported on the existence of Cancer Stem Cells at the heart of tumours. A couple of UK cancer centres (Bart’s Hospital and the Blizzard Institute, London) have even isolated these nasty little cells. Apparently, if you don’t kill them off, they can re-grow.

In one of the three studies (from the University of Texas South Western Medical Centre), there were statements such as ‘Cancer Stem cells are in charge of tumours’, and the lead researcher, Dr Louis Parada and the other researchers added, ‘In the past we have tried to get rid of the entire stew of cancer cells. But shrinking a tumour by 50% is irrelevant. No current drugs tackle cancer stem cells – but at least we now know what to go after’.

(5) We are by no means ‘against chemotherapy’ at Junk Science UK, we just think the mythology and the hype needs to be calmed down. Perhaps the final words should therefore go to Duke’s University Medical Centre in Carolina who in their 2012 report concluded that ‘Patients with cancer are largely being mislead into believing that the drug they are being offered is somehow going to cure them’.

Oh dear.

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