Book Review: Beyond the Magic Bullet – the Anti-cancer Cocktail



This is book is written by Dr. Raymond Chang, M.D. Dr. Chang received his medical degree from Brown University. After completing his post-doctoral work, he joined the staff of Memorial-Slone Kettering Cancer Centre. Dr. Chang also served on the faculty of Weill Cornell Medical College. In addition, Dr. Chang found the Institute of East-West Medicine, an organization focused on integrating Eastern and Western healing systems.

  • Over the last several decades, billions of dollars have been poured into stopping cancer in its tracks … Yet, a cure has yet to be found… the simple “hit or miss” strategy persisted and dominated cancer treatment philosophy. I believe that a radically different strategy is needed. The time has come to think beyond the magic bullet.
  • The limitations of the conventional cancer treatments – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and newer targeted therapies – may largely result from one-dimensional and simplistic strategy that is usually followed to the exclusion of other approaches… a disease like cancer should not – and cannot – be treated using the same simplistic strategy of applying one drug at a time, one punch after another.
  • … it is clear that we need a new and improved strategy that reflects and addresses the complexity of the disease. It would be naive to imagine a complex problem to be solvable in simplistic terms. Current treatment methods … applied one after another reflect such naivety.


  • In many cancer cases, surgery still offers the best chance for survival – especially for early-stage cancer – and is a key aspect of cancer management.


  • Radiation may reduce the growth of cancer or lessen its symptoms, but it does not necessarily eliminate the disease completely.


  • The practice of chemotherapy is problematic because, like radiation, the treatment may damage healthy cells, causing serious and even fatal side effects such as anemia, bleeding and suppressed immunity, with consequent risk of infection, nausea, hair loss and fatigue.
  • Chemotherapy is also imperfect in other ways. Frequently, cancer is able to build resistance to the treatment and eventually return.
  • Even worse, some cancer cells (so-called cancer stem cells) are completely immune to the treatment.
  • Therefore, in practice, chemotherapy does not lead to a cure for most cancers. Rather, it provides a temporary reprieve or period of stability for the patient.

Hormonal Therapy

  • Today, hormone therapy remains the mainstay of breast and prostate cancer management, as well as a treatment for rare gynecologic and endocrine cancers. Unfortunately, hormone therapy is not effective for the majority of cancers.

Inadequate and Misguided Strategy

  • We are not lacking in cancer therapies. Although these “weapons” may assist us in fighting the war on cancer, they do not necessarily guarantee a victory. Could it be that we are losing the war on cancer not because of inferior weaponry, but because of an inadequate and misguided strategy?
  •  The current treatment strategy of cancer is based on the early, simplistic understanding of the disease as unabated cell growth, and is modeled after the successful treatment of infectious diseases.
  • Modern science and medicine is guided largely by reductionism, a philosophy based on the idea of trimming a complex “whole” down to its simpler individual parts in order to understand it. This mode of thinking is entrenched in classical scientific thought in the Western world…. Individual parts do not necessarily provide or allow knowledge of the whole.

Cocktail Therapy

  • Cancer biology is complex … Based on what we know about the multifaceted, multi-pathway biology of cancer, a better strategy is one based on the dynamic and simultaneous use of diverse agents, including drugs, vitamins, herbs, and diet, in order to overwhelm the disease. The logic underlying this approach may yield better results.
  • Although it has yet to be used widely in Western medicine, cocktail therapy is a major component of non-Western medical traditions such as the Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • The idea of the “medical cocktail” is not new. For over a thousand years, traditional medical systems throughout the world have effectively used the multi-agent approach to restore health.

Embracing Alternative Medicine Therapies

  • Many conventional doctors may still be suspicious or disregard the use of alternative treatments for cancer, mainly because of their concerns about possible negative interactions and the lack of scientific proof of its effectiveness.
  • Also so-called alternative medicine therapies such as herbs, vitamins, supplements, meditation, acupuncture and diets are unconventional in the sense that they are generally not prescribed by mainstream cancer doctors, sanctioned by the FDA or covered by health insurance.
  • Yet, just because a therapy is not officially considered a cancer treatment does not mean that it lacks scientific or clinical validity.
  • The word “alternative” can have a negative connotation because it implies that a treatment is untested, unscientific and an alternative to mainstream medicine.


  • Modern pharmaceuticals have their origins in crude herbal medicines, and many drugs to this day are extracted from raw herbs and then purified to meet pharmaceutical standards. Today, there are approximately 7,000 compounds in the pharmacopeia that are derived from plants.


  • The relationship between nutrition and disease is a vast topic. Diet undoubtedly plays a huge role in human health. It also goes without saying that dietary factors have greatly contributed to the modern-day cancer epidemic.
  • Some scientists estimate that 30 to 40 percent of cancers and 35 percent of cancer deaths can be linked to dietary factors.
  • It is common knowledge that some foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can prevent certain types of cancer, whereas foods like red meat and alcoholic beverages may increase the risk. It follows, therefore, that diet should be integral to cancer prevention and treatment.
  • Cancer doctors tended to tell patients that they could eat what they wanted.
  • A diet is appropriate when it is a component of an overall strategy and treatment plan that includes both conventional and unconventional therapies.
  • Diets should not be used as stand-alone cancer treatments.

Mental and Spiritual Approaches

  • Although often overlooked, mental and spiritual health is an important aspect of cancer therapy. With cancer comes the possibility of death, causing mental suffering in addition to physical suffering.
  • the disease depends not only on medical interventions, but also the patient’s will to live and survive. Recent studies have also confirmed that psychological intervention may actually reduce the risk of cancer recurrence as well as prolong cancer survival. As such, a positive attitude and a will to overcome the disease form a vital cornerstone of cocktail therapy for cancer.

Conventional treatments (like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, etc.) should then be complemented by and combined with unconventional treatments in order to reduce side effects and/or improve the outcome. Embracing unconventional treatments like herbs, vitamins  …  does not mean forsaking surgery or chemotherapy.

This book does not endorse only alternative cancer treatment, but rather the integrative and complementary use of non-standard approaches… (it) envisions a comprehensive cocktail approach that includes all potentially effective treatments – it does not promote alternative medicine to the exclusion of conventional therapy.

The Foreword of the book was written by Dr. Ben Williams, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of California, San Diego. In 1995, Dr. Williams was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme a deadly brain tumour, and using a cocktail of conventional and alternative therapies, he has become cancer-free.

Dr.  Ben Williams wrote:

  • When diseases have been persistently intractable to the best standard of care, as defined by conventional medical standards, common sense dictates that we enlist all possible treatment resources, not just those that have passed the test of trials  ~ Dr. Ben Williams. 
  • Doctors who use cocktail treatments in their clinical practice do so under the cloud of being unscientific and at risk of being labeled proponents of alternative medicine, which carries a significant stigma among the conventional medicine camp. But such concerns say more about maintaining hegemony by the professional guild than concern for patient welfare. This is especially true when dealing with diseases for which conventional medicine concedes that it offers no effective treatment ~ Dr. Ben Williams.


In 1995, when we started CA Care, we also adopted similar philosophy and approaches as Dr. Chang’s “cocktail” therapy. Perhaps, there is only one minor difference – Dr. Chang approaches cancer treatment as an oncologist and a medical doctor, while at CA Care our view on cancer management is based on herbs and diet with medical treatment as an absolute essential complement whenever  and wherever appropriate. As Dr. David Agus, M.D., another outstanding oncologist of America said: Don’t put blind faith and trust in your doctor. Be your own doctor first! (in The End of Illness, pg. 66).