Book Review: A New Strategy for the War On Cancer

 

 

by Terry Thompson. His wife died of breast cancer, his eldest brother died of lung cancer and another brother died of a rare cancer that attacked his heart. Thompson is a retired colonel in the US Air Force. He was also a staff pastor of a large church. Later he became the GM of a nationally syndicated outdoor sports TV program. He is professor of John Brown University, a private, Christian liberal arts college in Arkansas, USA.

Why Write This Book

…at the time she (Connie, wife) was first diagnosed with breast cancer … We assumed that the narrow application of conventional treatment prescribed by our oncologist was the only option. In fact, this assumption drove our approach to her treatment for almost three years. Until just prior to her death, we continued to believe that conventional medicine alone was the only choice we had. There was never any advice offered concerning CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine). We were not advised about diet, immune system enhancement, supplemental vitamins and herbs, … etc. We had been prescribed the traditional standard treatment of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and we never considered that there could be other therapy options or complements.

Cancer will touch your life – hopefully indirectly, but likely directly. The knowledge you gain about it, and what you choose to do with that knowledge, will make a huge difference in your response to the disease. It will make a difference in your personal life and in the lives of your closest loved ones. Your knowledge and actions can save or enhance the lives of present and future generations.

Statistics

  • According to the World Health Organization, about 12.3 million people worldwide will develop cancer this year. Of those, 7.6 million will die from the disease – more than 20,000 each day.
  • In the US, over 1,500 cancer victims die each day from the disease. That is over 560,000 cancer deaths per year.
  • In America 140,000 people die each year from FDA approved drugs.
  • It takes an average of about 12 years and costs over $800 million to process one drug through America’s new medicines approval system.
  • Over 18 million people have died of cancer since 1971 (when the war on cancer was declared by US President Nixon). That is 16 times more cancer deaths than the number of deaths from all of our nation’s wars combined.

Reality of the War on Cancer Today

We are in a war that has been waged for nearly a half century at immeasurable cost … and lives with seemingly little hope for victory. A battle is won here, and some ground is gained there, but, by-and-large, we’re mired down in a war that has been going on since before most of us were born …we are in a seemingly endless marathon, and the enemy is winning.

The plan depends on a trilogy of conventional medicine: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery… my position is that the traditional strategy to defeat cancer … is powerless. It is ineffective. Conventional oncologists must stop limiting their methodologies repertoire to those of the last century… we absolutely must – find a more promising way to wage this war… We cannot just keep fighting a losing battle… It is time to deploy the unconventional forces.

The unbearable pain and morbid bodily disfigurement made the treatment much worse than the disease in many cases.

Aggressive Medical Treatment

Philosophy of the United States’ medical culture: aggressive, “if in doubt, do a lot.” But aggressiveness is not always a good thing, especially in conventional cancer treatment … European doctors will almost always opt for a gentler approach.  The differences are because of their national culture, history and medical training. American medicine is aggressive partly because doctors are trained to be aggressive but also because many patients equate aggressive with better.

Most medical practices are reflections of culture – culture of the physicians and culture of the patients.

The Public Spin

…There is a need to put the best face on a war … the leadership hierarchy purposely avoids  stating the obvious, choosing instead to focus on the incremental advances that are taking place.  The major institutions and organization of the medical community regularly make celebrative announcements about new positive cancer findings and statistics.

…the fact that a few more people are surviving cancer has little to do with treatment breakthroughs and everything to do with earlier diagnosis and a healthier lifestyle… exercise, better nutrition, and ending bad habits prevent the occurrence of cancer.

Root of the Problem – Resistance to Change

A quagmire is ground that is mushy causing anyone attempting to pass over it to sink into it. It renders the person almost unable to move if not completely stuck. I believe the quagmire … applies to the war on cancer. What seemed promising decades ago has not materialised as the ultimate solution, yet the medical community continues, to pursue the course with limited results.

We are in a quagmire in the war against cancer. We are slipping, spinning around, and bogging down. Yet, many call it progress …It is time for a strategy change.

To rescue ourselves from a quagmire, we must understand what got us to that point, then try to determine why we’re still there.

Conventional thinking in medical world seems to be extremely difficult to change, regardless of the evidence. The syndrome tends to prevail that, if we have been doing it this way for years, it can’t be wrong. The status quo is usually the easiest course, but seldom the best.

Genuine progress in medicine, particularly cancer treatment, is being restrained by old thinking about new strategies. The established practitioners generally stand in staunch defenses of their methodologies.

We have to conclude that the lack of progress in cancer treatment is not a capability issue, not a motivational issue, not a science issue, and not a resources issue. Then what is it? In a word: it is politics. It is quite a paradox that a nation founded on the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness finds little of the three reflected in its approach to health care. Regarding liberty, it controls its doctors’ practices and prescriptions, by legislation, policy, or culture more restrictively than most other places in the world. Regarding the pursuit of happiness, its citizens have less control over their treatment choices than almost anyone anywhere else.

I can’t point a finger at any individual, or any group of individuals and say that is why we are not making headway against cancer. The problem is much larger than that. It is an institutional culture that has been building for many decades… products of an environment that has standards and strategies established by the most powerful secular influences on earth. The institutions of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and government form a train that is seemingly unstoppable… This express train that moves the largest industry in America has reached cruise speed, everyone on it – practitioners and patients alike – are just going along for the ride.

A major political paradigm shift is critical to winning the cancer war. Congress, the FDA (Food and Drug Administratioin), the AMA (American Medical Association), the NIH / NCI (National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute), the ACS (American Cancer Society) as well as prominent cancer centers and medical schools must accept natural , non-pharmacological cancer treatment options. They must be convinced that these options are a necessary and integral part of the overall war strategy. They need to take a hard, honest look at the lack of progress in our ability to overcome the disease over the past several decades. Such a shift would begin with the medical establishment acknowledging the slow progress of the last half-century and that headway could be gained by looking beyond the traditional, conventional treatment options.

Hope for Success

Real hope must lie in more than the limited successes that conventional treatment has produced. Real hope will come with substantially more resources directed toward Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) research, and that isn’t happening. My best estimate is that CAM cancer research receives only about 1% of all cancer research grants … our nation allocate about 99% to conventional (medicine).

It is time for the established medical community to look outside the conventional medicine box to explore the vast realm of integrative possibilities… Nutrition for cancer patients is criitical. Yet, nutrition seldom receives high priority in conventional cancer treatment. Many oncologists remain skeptical about the efficacy of a particular diet in relation to treatment. Unfortunately, too frequently, conventional medical advice suggests that patients eat whatever they want. Acting on this advice can actually feed the patient’s cancer, promote their malnutrition, and contribute to the patient’s inability to tolerate treatment.

How Much Evidence Is Enough?

Shouldn’t acceptable evidence include both modern scientific research AND the experience of hundreds of years of practice? I submit that anecdotal or testimonial, justification for the use of a product or procedure should be a consideration. Granted, anecdotal data alone should not be the sole basis for agency approval, but it should be a major factor.

If enough people get the same results from a particular practice, it works! The evidence is not in the means; it is in the end – the person.

Obviously, no provider or patient wants to use medicine without evidence of efficacy. The question is what is acceptable evidence? The mantra of conventional medicine is “evidence-base practice.”  However, the new cancer strategy should also consider “practice-base evidence.” There are many practices that have been effective for thousands of years but are not practised today simply because medical science has “insufficient evidence” of their validity… Sometimes, perfect medicine can be the enemy of good medicine.

The Cold Hard Facts About the US Cancer Program: Misguided and Ineffective

Townsend Letter, the Examiner of Alternative Medicine, is a magazine published in Washington, USA. It is written by researchers, health practitioners and patients. Its editorial staff is headed by Jonathan Collin, a medical doctor. The aim of this magazine is to provide a forum for discussion on the pros and cons of alternative medicine.

In October 2010 and August /September 2011 issues of The Townsend Letter are two interesting articles, The US Cancer Program and Specific Types of Cancer, 1975–2007: A Failure (Part 1 and 2) by Anthony D. Apostolides, PhD, and Ipatia K. Apostolides, BA.

Dr. Anthony D. Apostolides is a researcher and teacher of health-care economics. He received a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Oxford, UK, and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Ipatia K. Apostolides has more than 15 years of experience in the cancer field (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati). She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Case Western Reserve University.

You can read their papers by clicking this link:  Part 2:  http://www.townsendletter.com/Oct2010/cancerprogram1010.html

and Part 1:  http://www.townsendletter.com/AugSept2011/uscancer0811.html#.Tmh2rd1WYAs.email

  1. The authors examined cancer statistics over a span of 32 years, from 1975 to 2007. Studying data over a long-term period like this provides a more accurate and reliable evaluation. The authors wrote:  “Public announcements are typically made by government agencies and presented in the news media, by using cancer statistics that cover only a short period – for example, 2 to 3 years. In such cases, the public can easily be misled, since a short time period conceals the more comprehensive, long-term picture of the disease.”
  2. The data they used for their studies are from SEER-9 (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results). Cancer statistics review 1975–2007 [online document]. Available at: www.seer.cancer.gov/statistics.
  3. With regard to assessing the treatment … the criteria used were the mortality rate and the numbers of Americans who died from a cancer.
  • A constant or increasing mortality rate of a cancer over time, along with increased number of deaths, indicates a failure … in the treatment of that cancer.
  • If the mortality rate declines over time but the number of deaths increases, then the program for the treatment side is shown to be a failure.
  • If the mortality rate declines over time and the number of deaths decline, this indicates success in the treatment of a cancer.

Here are some of the cold, hard facts about cancer today.

  1. Lifetime Probability of Americans Getting Cancer
  • During 1975 to 1977 – probably of male was 33%, i.e., 1 in 3 males would get cancer.
  • During 1990 to 1992, the probably for male climbed to a shocking 46% to 50%, almost 1 out of 2.
  • During 1975 to 1977 – probably of a woman was 34%.
  • During 1990 to 1992, the probably for a woman climbed to 42%, very close to 1 out of 2.

          2. Mortality or Death due to Cancer

  • From 1975 to 2000 – more Americans per 100,000 died from cancer than in 1975.
  • More died from cancer in 2006 than in 1975.
  • The number of Americans who died of cancer in the 1990s and 2000s translates into 63 deaths every hour of the day, or 1 every minute of each hour.

           3.       The US Cancer Program: Misguided and Ineffective

Cancer death or mortality relates to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of treatments. An increasing mortality rate shows lack of effectiveness of the cancer treatment.

  • Death rate increased from 1975to 2000. It did not decrease nor did it even stay the same as in 1975.
  • From 2000 to 2006 death rate was virtually zero decrease.
  • For every year following 1975, the number of Americans dying from cancer rose annually until 2000. If the cancer treatment program of the US had been successful, there would have been declines in the cancer mortality rate after 1975 instead of increases. This indicates an inefficiency in the treatment of cancer patients.
  • From 2000 to 2006 death rate may well have been affected by the increasing use of alternative or integrative treatments for cancer. People have increasingly become discouraged with and weary of traditional cancer treatments (chemotherapy, etc.), and more would have chosen to use either an integrative approach (combining an alternative approach with conventional treatment) or solely alternative treatments.

The authors wrote:

  • The American people have been paying too high a price – with their lives – for a misguided and ineffective cancer program.
  • In a proper framework of providing treatment, cancer patients would be given the choice of approach to pursue – based on currently available information. They could then choose and accept their preferred method of treatment. There could be at least three choices: (1) conventional approaches (surgery, etc.); (2) integrative approaches; and (3) alternative approaches.
  • It is a sad and incredible fact that presently Americans do not have such a freedom of choice in cancer treatment.
  • The NCI (National Cancer Institute) should be radically revamped, to include much more work on alternative treatments for cancer. This is unlikely to happen with the current structure of the NCI. There are many vested interests there in maintaining the status quo, and a substantial change in its program would indicate acceptance of the fact that its treatment programs did not work.
  •  It seems unthinkable that the US, which professes to champion freedom around the world, does not offer that same freedom to its people in their choice of cancer treatment. That is the mark of a totalitarian regime.
  • Consequently, the last hope of a change in cancer prevention and treatment remains on the shoulders of the American people. They need to be informed and convinced of the need for change. Then, they need to organize and act, at the political level, to transform the cancer program.

The authors, Dr Anthony  and Ipatia Apostolides are not alone in calling for a radical change in the way we handle cancer today. Over the past years, many other brave souls have spoken up but unfortunately nothing had changed or are going to change!

Other Experts Echoed A Similar Message

  1. In the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (8 May 1986; 314:1226-1232) Harvard professors, John Bailar III and Elaine Smith, wrote an article, Progress against cancer? The authors assessed the overall progress against cancer during the years 1950 to 1982 and concluded that there is “no evidence that some 35 years of intense and growing efforts to improve the treatment of cancer have had much overall effect on the most fundamental measure of clinical outcome—death… We are losing the war against cancer”.
  2. In Fortune Magazine, 22 March 2004, Clifton Leaf, the Executive Editor of the magazine and also a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, wrote an article, Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer [And How To Win It] [Avastin, Erbitux, Gleevec … The new wonder drugs might make you think we’re finally beating this dreaded scourge. We’re not. Here’s how to turn the fight around.] http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/03/22/365076/index.htm The author asked, “Why have we made so little progress in the War on Cancer? The question may come as a shock to anyone … we are far from winning the war. So far away, in fact, that it looks like losing… Just count the bodies on the battlefield. In 2004, cancer will claim some 563,700 of your family, friends, co-workers, and countrymen. More Americans will die of cancer in the next 14 months than have perished in every war the nation has ever fought … combined. Even as research and treatment efforts have intensified over the past three decades and funding has soared dramatically, the annual death toll has risen 73%”.
  3. Dr. Guy Faguet received his M.D. degree in Bogota, Colombia. He pursued postgraduate studies in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas, and in Hematology/Oncology at Ohio State University, leading to an academic career at the Medical College of Georgia. He has published more than 140 peer-reviewed articles. In his book, The War on Cancer – an anatomy of failure and a blueprint for the future, Dr. Faquet wrote, “The message of this book is that, contrary to recurrent announcements of breakthroughs in the War on Cancer designated to influence policy makers and impress the public, little progress has been made in the treatment of cancer since the enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1971.  An objective analysis of cancer chemotherapy outcomes over the last three decades reveals that, despite vast human and financial expenditures, the cell-killing paradigm has failed to achieve its objective … and the conquest of cancer remains a distant and elusive goal … the three crucial measures of progress in the War on Cancer, cure rates, prolongation of survival, and quality of life, remain stagnant despite enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1971″.