Cancer Under an Integrative Lens

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Conventional Cancer Therapies

Cancer continues to pervade, manipulate, and destroy lives as much today as it did thirty years ago. The long-term survival rates for people with advanced lung, colon, rectal, breast, and prostate cancer have hardly changed since war on the disease was declared in 1971. Worse yet, the incidence of, and death toll from, these cancers have skyrocketed. It has been predicted that in the next several years, cancer will probably become the leading cause of death in the United States. In spite of the billions of dollars spent on clinical research, victory against this silent predator is far from being detected in the foreseeable future.

The only visibly consistent breakthroughs in cancer research in recent years have been the steadily increased costs of widely used conventional treatments. Recent “targeted” chemotherapy drugs, medicines designed to affect chemical processes unique to certain types of cancer, are a major reason for the exponential increase in treatment costs. Such cutting edge drugs may possibly extend one’s life span by several weeks or months, but at what expense? Many conventional therapies often have devastating side effects which can be life-debilitating as well as life-threatening. Although it is encouraging that doctors’ abilities to identify and diagnose cancer have advanced greatly over the past 40 years, it is unfortunate that the courses of treatment have not followed suit. Little has significantly improved in the effectiveness of conventional treatments despite billions of dollars spent on research and ongoing clinical activity.

Ralph Moss, PhD, an internationally respected medical author of numerous books about cancer research and treatment, has dedicated much of his life to studying and documenting the best conventional and alternative treatment options currently available for cancer patients. Through his work experiences, Moss discovered that the directors of some cancer facilities were not only influenced, but dominated by pharmaceutical executives whose primary interest was in promoting their chemotherapy medications. In recognizing the failure of this system, Moss committed himself to highlighting and publishing significant information regarding new and exciting advances in natural healing remedies.

Although there has been significant progress in the conventional treatment of some cancers, specifically childhood leukemia, some lymphomas, and testicular cancer, chemotherapy, in many instances, has reached its limits. Because “targeted” chemotherapeutic agents indiscriminately work on both healthy and cancerous cells, they often generate considerable adverse effects. The unfortunate and continual pushing of chemotherapy drugs by the pharmaceutical industry results in doctors promoting them, and perpetuates the myth that drugs are the end-all-be-all cure for cancer. The accomplished marketing and public relations efforts encompassing these drugs perpetuate a hype that is far greater than any real benefits.

Because cancer drug manufacturers can’t prove that their agents prolong survival, they emphasize changes in substitute measurements like the rate at which the cancer progresses, tumor size, or variations in biochemical substances which may affect diagnosis. Fluctuation of tumor size is not evidence of a drug’s efficacy, and often does not correlate with actual recovery. Conventional cancer treatment is founded upon a “cut, burn, and poison” philosophy, and translates into surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. While surgical procedures which remove structured tumors that have not metastasized can save lives, radiation therapies are suspect.

Most people currently believe that the latest radiation procedures are relatively easy to tolerate and that side effects are confined to the area treated. A popular web site for information on breast cancer ( states that with these new radiation methods, doctors are able to employ the lowest possible amount of radiation, as well as precisely target breast tissue so that the heart is exposed to a minimal amount of radiation only. However, recent research demonstrates women who receive radiation treatment following surgery actually increase their risk of cardiac abnormalities and resulting cardiovascular disease.

The standard operating protocol for most cancer research and development has been to invent unique chemicals that will combat the disease in a novel way. The problem, however, lies in the synthetic nature of these substances, which are not time-tested, and can result in detrimental side effects. Natural remedies, which are often overlooked as viable sources of treatment, don’t gain support from business or government because they do not provide substantial economic gain. Naturally occurring substances, which are in the public domain, cannot be patented, and therefore cannot rival the monetary fortunes created by synthetic medications. As things stand today, pharmaceutical companies will never invest in the development of natural remedies because it is not in their best interest to do so. Why challenge the drugs that are already earning them billions of dollars? Clearly, the rules of economics dominate the decisions by which viable treatments are promoted and used in the combative cancer field.

Even more shocking is that many oncologists directly sell for a profit treatments administered to patients as well as collecting monetary kickbacks from drug manufacturers as for prescribing their drugs. These monetary awards provide a powerful incentive for doctors to use chemotherapy, even when the data fails to indicate that this method of treatment will prolong survival or enhance quality of life. It is perhaps saddest for the patient who has no way of knowing  whether the treatment being prescribed is, indeed, the best course of action or whether it is, instead, in the best economic interest of the doctor. Most physicians work in the best interest of patient welfare, though; they truly believe that their treatment works despite failure after failure. Thus, they unknowingly collude with the myth that conventional pharmaceutical treatments are the therapy of choice.

When Conventional and Alternative Therapies Converge

There is hope, however, that conventional medicine will soon converge with alternative cancer therapies which, up to this point, have routinely been dismissed as viable treatment options. It is clear that new and innovative natural healing remedies have not been aggressively pursued by doctors and pharmaceutical companies alike because of inadequate economic potential, rather any lack of scientific validity.

Revolutionary scientists like John Beard and Otto Warburg have challenged the annals of contemporary medicine for almost a century, risking their credibility and acceptance amidst peers who often rejected and ridiculed scientific findings based on alternative practices. Their work, however, has opened new worlds of possibility where the promise of a cure potentially exists. Warburg’s theory that cancer thrives on sugar and languishes with oxygen was dismissed in the 1950’s, but has earned some degree of credibility today.  New technological findings have revealed that, when producing (the same amount of) cellular energy molecules, cancer cells metabolize up to 19 times more glucose than healthy cells, which primarily use oxygen for this process.  It also has been found that consuming sugar will lower pH levels around tumors; an acidic environment encourages tumor growth. Furthermore, we have learned that excess insulin release may also trigger tumor production. Clearly, if cancer is present, processed and/or sugary foods such as candy, alcohol, and even fruit must be completely avoided.

When determining the proper course of action with any cancer, it perhaps is most critical to understand as much as possible about the malignancy (the type of cancer and the stage at which it is). If it is determined that the cancer has not spread and the tumor can be removed, it is important that this be done in the least invasive way possible. High-intensity focused ultrasound and radio frequency ablation are two nonsurgical procedures that use heat to destroy cancer cells. If surgery is necessary, it is important that the cancerous tissue be sent for laboratory chemo testing to identify which specific agents, or combination of drugs, would be most capable of destroying that particular kind of cancer. Dr. Moss believes that custom-formulating treatments is a superior alternative to performing uniformly set standard procedures, and may yield a better than average statistical result.

Not all oncologists are willing to do this test. Due to the cost and pressure from large pharmaceutical companies to use specific drugs, it may be necessary to work outside of any insurance plans and find an independent doctor that will perform with this kind of testing.

Locating an oncologist who participates in alternative therapies may be difficult, but as one’s own best advocate, it is critical that every cancer patient investigate and weigh possible and available opportunities, even if they conflict with opinions of residing doctors. Cancer specialists willing to use a combination of conventional and alternative therapies offer patients the most comprehensive treatments which can yield the best outcomes.

Several facilities provide integrated cancer therapies which incorporate nutrition and mind-body work with conventional treatment options. The various Cancer Treatment Centers of America, for example, offer integrated inpatient treatment which combines conventional therapies with nutritional methods, acupuncture, and mind-body healing techniques. The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care is another treatment facility grounded in integrative philosophy. The basic premise in which the Block Center abides is “disciplined gradualism”: start all treatments with the least invasive and least damaging techniques possible per individual diagnosis. If necessary, more aggressive options may be considered, only with patient agreement.

There are also many facilities with integrative programs for acute cancer patients in Germany, Northern Europe, and even Mexico. The Dieter Hager’s BioMed Clinic, near Frankfort, Germany, for example, combines conventional medicine with complementary biological, psychological, physical, and naturopathic therapies.

If you are unable to travel to receive treatment, you can access nutritional medicines online and in local health food stores. Nutrients can work as primary treatments or supplemental therapies which enhance the efficacy of conventional therapies while helping to lesson unpleasant side effects. One supplement that is approved as a dietary food for special medical purposes is Avemar (Ave), a fermented wheat germ extract. Recent studies have demonstrated that this supplement can potentially improve the quality of life and rate of survival, as well as slow the progression of disease, for a large range of cancer patients. Avemar has also been shown to hinder cancer cell reproduction and to improve the efficacy of Tamoxifen, a conventional breast cancer chemotherapy agent. Avemar has had some great success especially with tumors of the oral cavity and neck.

Another supplement that has shown promise as a natural weapon against cancer is Vitamin C, particularly when administered in high doses intravenously. Studies have confirmed that pharmacological-strength intravenous doses of Vitamin C produce hydrogen peroxide in the body that destroys cancer cells without hurting normal cells. In addition to working as a cancer-combatant, intravenous Vitamin C facilitates quicker healing and endurance of side effects associated with conventional treatment, as well as helps patients resist infection, maintain activity, and gather an appetite. Some cancer patients have also reported less fatigue, for which there is no conventional remedy.

Poly-MVA, a non-toxic agent which contains alpha lipoic acid and palladium, has also demonstrated positive results regarding reversal and remissions of cancer. Poly-MVA not only changes the electrical potential of cancer cells, but also boosts the energy of normal cells. Its antioxidant properties help protect the body against side effects caused by radiation and chemotherapy. Much need controlled clinical research studies of Poly-MVA are hopefully on the horizon, as none have been published to date. Although this supplement is proving to be more effective for some more than others, it has the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of many cancer patients.

Melatonin, also a well-known sleep aid, is another supplement that has repeatedly shown to have slowed growth of various cancers when used in conjunction with conventional therapies. When used in conjunction with chemotherapy, melatonin proved more helpful in tumor regression than when chemotherapy was used alone. It should be noted, however, that some patients with depression found that their condition worsened when taking this supplement.

Asian mushrooms have also been highlighted in medical literature as cancer-fighting agents. As well as bettering the quality of life for people with advanced stage cancers, medicinal mushrooms help boost immune systems exhausted by radiation and chemotherapy, and spark the generation of immune warriors like macrophages, T cells and natural killer cells.  Numerous mushrooms, including shiitake, maitake, and coriolus contain medicinal-strength compounds that can serve as additional combatants to conventional cancer treatments.

Inositol and inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) are compounds abundantly present in most plants, vegetables and mammalian cells. They have been around for twenty years with proven efficacy in several tumors, such as prostate, breast and colon to mention a few. They not only help to regulate vital cellular functions, especially signal transduction and cell proliferation, but also facilitate the activity of natural killer cells. Studies in humans also demonstrate that inositol and IP6 help enhance conventional chemotherapy and improve quality of life. Inositol and IP6 also show great promise in cancer therapy, as well as prevention.

Never Underestimate Your Power to Kick Cancer

Because of the wide range of treatment options that are available to cancer patients today, people with cancer need to educate themselves, study the published research, and find doctors that will guide and support individual decisions, even when in conflict with mainstream medical practices. People with cancer can and should challenge long-standing medical beliefs and investigate alternative protocols, as well as recognize that qualities of courage and vigilance prove indispensable when advocating against long-standing institutional practices. Unfortunately one may have to simultaneously battle for one’s life while combating a resistance to new ideas that is firmly rooted within the medical community itself. However, this is a war that can and should be waged.

Beyond medical interventions, it is crucial that one adopt healthy lifestyle practices, especially with respect to dietary choices, and commit to a way of living that enhances both quality and richness. Fostering inner strength and believing in the potential to cure oneself are as critical to healing as any medicinal treatment. Positive affirmations, prayer, and meditation can release healing energy which can pervade the mind, body, and spirit, and provide empowerment as well as peace. The healing power such life affirming actions can invoke is far greater than any drug or therapy, for the universal, limitless, and all-encompassing powers of love, faith, and hope extend way beyond modern medicine.

© 2009 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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