Respectful Insolence

The “wisdom” of cancer cells?

I was perusing my newsfeeds last night looking for topics for Your Friday Dose of Woo this week when I came across what, initially at least, I considered to be primo material for my weekly bit of fun at the expense of the more far out excursions into woo. Then I thought about it some more. Early in the history of YFDoW, I admit that I did a couple of misfires. Perhaps the most notorious misfire was when I decided to take on the German New Medicine. Certainly the woo was there and it was good, but I quickly regretted taking such a lighthearted approach to this topic because it quickly became apparent that this particular form of quackery was claiming real victims, at least one of whom suffered a horrific death.

That’s why I’m not going to use Andreas Moritz’s woo as an installment of YFDoW. Doing so would just be too wrong. Anyone who claims that cancer is not a disease and really believes it is just too much of a danger to credulous patients to be dealt with lightly. No, Moritz desperately needs a taste of not-so-Respectful Insolence™.

First, let’s get an idea of where Moritz is coming from. Not surprisingly, his article is published on Mike Adam‘s Natural News (formerly known as NewsTarget). Adams’ site is one of the web’s foremost repositories of nonscience- and non-evidence-based modalities, leavened with a heapin’ helping of anti-big pharma conspiracy mongering and an even bigger portion of pseudoscience and antiscience–in other words, just the place for a “medical intuitive” making bold pronouncements:

What you are about to read may rock or even dismantle the very foundation of your beliefs about your body, health and healing. The title, “Cancer Is Not a Disease” may be unsettling for many, provocative to some, but encouraging for all. This book will serve as a revelation for those who are sufficiently open-minded to consider the possibility that cancer and other debilitating illnesses are not actual diseases, but desperate and final attempts by the body to stay alive for as long as circumstances permit.

It will perhaps astound you to learn that a person who is afflicted with the main causes of cancer (which constitute the real illness) would most likely die quickly unless he actually grew cancer cells. In this work, I provide evidence to this effect.

I further claim that cancer will only occur after all other defense or healing mechanisms in the body have failed. In extreme circumstances, exposure to large amounts of cancer-producing agents (carcinogens) can bring about a collapse of the body’s defenses within several weeks or months and allow for rapid and aggressive growth of a cancerous tumor. Usually, though, it takes many years, or even decades, for these so-called “malignant” tumors to form.

About the only thing Mortiz gets right is that it usually takes many years or decades for cancer to develop. The rest is the purest woo of the most malignant type. It goes beyond burning stupid into the realm of truly malignant stupid. Here’s what Moritz claims that he will tell you and me in his book:

  • What reasons coerce your body into developing cancer cells?

    Orac says: “Coerce? what do you mean “coerce”? Tumorigenesis is a function of biology, not “reason” or intent. Although there are interventions one can undertake to lower one’s risk of developing cancer, once cancer has developed already these strategies will not eliminate it.

  • Once you have identified these reasons, will you be able to change them? What determines the type and severity of cancer with which you are afflicted?

    Orac says: I shudder to think what Moritz will tell me here. Once again, once cancer has developed, all the contemplation of “reasons” or interventions to ameliorate those reasons in the world will not cure the cancer.

  • If cancer is a survival mechanism, what needs to be done to prevent the body from taking recourse to such drastic defense measures?

    Orac says: Cancer is not a “survival mechanism” for anything other that cancer cells. It is not the body’s attempt to alter “reasons” for disease. It is the uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells whose only purpose is to keep proliferating, invading, and metastasizing.

  • Since the body’s original genetic design always favors the preservation of life and protection against adversities of any kind, why would the body permit self-destruction?

    Orac says: Now this is an interesting one. For one thing, the body’s original genetic design does not favor the preservation of life. By the principles of evolution, it favors the ability of the body to find a mate and reproduce. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, with influences like sexual selection and genetic drift coming into play, but that only serves all the more to show just how full of crap Moritz is here. There are lots of aspects of the body that are not necessarily designed to preserve life–certainly not past reproductive age, when diseases like cancer become most prevalent.

  • Why do almost all cancers disappear by themselves, without medical intervention?

    Orac says: It’ a huge stretch to claim that “almost all” cancers disappear by themselves without medial intervention. It depends a lot on what you mean by a “cancer.” If you mean any collection of tumor cells, then it is true that most people have cancerous cells somewhere in their body during their lifetime. I’ve written about this before, particularly how 75% of men over age 80 have evidence of prostate cancer but most die of something else. It’s true that many of these tumors will never cause a problem. The problem is that we don’t know which ones will and will not continue to grow. It’s the reason that using ever more sensitive screening tests is not an unalloyed good. On the other hand, if we’re talking about a clinically detectable tumor that is causing symptoms, well, sorry Moritz, but it’s pretty rare for such tumors to go away on their own.

  • Do radiation, chemotherapy and surgery actually cure cancer, or do cancer survivors heal due to other reasons, despite these radical, side-effect-loaded treatments?

    Orac says: Yes, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can cure cancer. Yes, they have side effects, but in most cases it’s better than dying and we are constantly trying to find therapies that are less toxic.

  • What roles do fear, frustration, low self-worth and repressed anger play in the origination and outcome of cancer?

    Orac says: Not enough to make the difference between life and death, unless we’re talking about a depression that leads a patient to refuse or forego effective treatment.

  • What is the spiritual growth lesson behind cancer?

    Orac says: This is where Moritz goes off the deep end. What “spiritual growth lesson” does any life-threatening disease provide? Spiritual growth isn’t going to stop a tumor.

Moritz then goes on to make an utterly ludicrous statement that, if you’re a cancer patient and take it seriously, could definitely lead to your death:

To deal with the root causes of cancer, you must find satisfying and practical answers to the above questions. If you feel the inner urge to make sense of this life-changing event, (cancer that is), you most likely will recover from it. Cancer can be your greatest opportunity to help restore balance to all aspects of your life, but it can also be the harbinger of severe trauma and suffering. Either way you are always in control of your body.

You know, this is sounding very familiar. Very, very familiar. In fact, I think I may have written about this very sort of an idea before. Let’s keep looking:

Cancer has always been an extremely rare illness, except in industrialized nations during the past 40-50 years. Human genes have not significantly changed for thousands of years. Why would they change so drastically now, and suddenly decide to kill scores of people? The answer to this question is amazingly simple: Damaged or faulty genes do not kill anyone. Cancer does not kill a person afflicted with it! What kills a cancer patient is not the tumor, but the numerous reasons behind cell mutation and tumor growth. These root causes should be the focus of every cancer treatment, yet most oncologists typically ignore them. Constant conflicts, guilt and shame, for example, can easily paralyze the body’s most basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.

No, the reason cancer has been a rare illness in the past is because it’s a disease of old age primarily. Childhood malignancies are rare, and the incidence of cancer increases as we age. One hundred years ago, when life expectancies were much lower, fewer people were living to an old enough age to reach the peak cancer-prone years. Now that life expectancies are in the 70s and approaching 80, many more people live to be old enough to be at high risk for cancer. But something still sounds familiar here. Let’s look a little more:

After having seen thousands of cancer patients over a period of three decades, I began to recognize a certain pattern of thinking, believing and feeling that was common to most of them. To be more specific, I have yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious. Cancer, the physical disease, cannot occur unless there is a strong undercurrent of emotional uneasiness and deep-seated frustration.

Cancer patients typically suffer from lack of self-respect or worthiness, and often have what I call an “unfinished business” in their life. Cancer can actually be a way of revealing the source of such inner conflict. Furthermore, cancer can help them come to terms with such a conflict, and even heal it altogether. The way to take out weeds is to pull them out along with their roots. This is how we must treat cancer; otherwise, it may recur eventually.

Ding ding ding ding! I know where I’ve seen this before! It really is the German New Medicine. Compare what Moritz says above to what Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, creator of the deadly woo that is the German New Medicine, teaches:

  1. Every cancer or cancer-equivalent disease originates from a DHS (Dirk Hamer Syndrome), which is a serious, highly acute, dramatic and isolating shock that catches an individual completely off guard. The conflict shock occurs simultaneously in the psyche, the brain and the corresponding organ.
  2. At the moment of the DHS, the content(s) of the conflict determine the location of the Hamer Focus in the brain and the location of the cancer or cancer-equivalent disease in the organ.
  3. The development of the conflict determines the exact development of the Hamer Focus in the brain as well as the exact development of the cancer or cancer-equivalent disease in the organ.

Now listen to Moritz again:

We all know that if the foundation of a house is strong, the house can easily withstand external challenges, such as a violent storm. As we will see, cancer is merely an indication that there is something missing in our body and in life as a whole. Cancer shows that life as a whole (physical, mental and spiritual) stands on shaky grounds and is quite fragile, to say the least. It would be foolish for a gardener to water the withering leaves of a tree when he knows so well that the real problem is not where it appears to be, namely, on the symptomatic level (of withered leaves). By watering the roots of the plant, he naturally attends to the causative level, and consequently, the plant regenerates itself swiftly and automatically.

Of course, there are violent storms that will level houses even with a strong foundation.

In any case, clearly, Moritz is a follower of German New Medicine, or at least a form of it. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the case after reading his rhetoric. But he goes even deeper into the woo, perhaps, than Hamer ever did. Indeed, he thinks cancer cells are wise. He states that they are a defense mechanism against whatever this psychic insult happens to be. Of course, when someone like me counters his claim that cancer is not fatal, he claims that it’s the psychic insult that’s fatal and that the cancer couldn’t defend the body. It’s a load of the stinkiest, vilest bullshit, but that’s what he seems to claim. Worse, he even gets all “science-y” on us, even going so far as to invoke one of my areas of research interest, tumor angiogenesis:

The body sees the cancer as being such an important defense mechanism that it even causes the growth of new blood vessels to guarantee the much-needed supply of glucose and, therefore, survival and spreading of the cancer cells. It knows that cancer cells do not cause but, prevent death; at least for a while, until the wasting away of an organ leads to the demise of the entire organism. If the trigger mechanisms for cancer (causal factors) are properly taken care of, such an outcome can be avoided.

Ack! Judah Folkman is rolling over in his grave, and he’s only been dead three weeks!

Moritz even thinks tumor cells “know” that destroying the host destroys them:

Cancer cells are not part of a malicious disease process. When cancer cells spread (metastasize) throughout the body, it is not their purpose or goal to disrupt the body’s vitals functions, infect healthy cells and obliterate their host (the body). Self-destruction is not the theme of any cell unless, of course, it is old and worn-out and ready to be turned-over and replaced. Cancer cells, like all other cells, know that if the body dies, they will die as well. Just because some people assume that cancer cells are there to destroy the body does not mean cancer cells have such a purpose or ability.

Agh! This stupid doesn’t just burn! It scalds, it tears, it rips, it destroys every neuron that is exposed to the sheer, unadulterated ignorance of Mortiz’s statement. I found myself clawing my eyeballs after that, just so that I’d never have to read something that idiotic again, as my brain revolted at being subjected to such nonsense, particularly the part where Moritz claims that “there is no scientific proof whatsoever that cancer is a disease (versus a survival mechanism)” and that “most people will insist that it is a disease because this is what they were told to believe.” Fortunately, my thick glasses blocked me long enough to regain sufficient composure to realize that the price of clawing my eyes out not to have to read tripe like Moritz’s claims again would be way too high.

Be that as it may, Moritz takes one of the most ubiquitous “tricks” tumor cells use to get the body to supply them with the blood, oxygen, and nutrients they need to grow, namely tumor angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels). Tumors secrete factors normally made by the body to induce angiogenesis when physiologically appropriate and by doing so hijack the body’s normal growth mechanisms for their own use. That the body must respond has nothing to do with its desire to keep the tumor growing and everything to do with the way it’s programmed to respond to pro-angiogenic vactors like vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

After reading this remarkably painful article, I wondered just who Andreas Moritz is. Fortunately, there was a handy-dandy link to his website, Ener-Chi Wellness Center. As bad as it is, German New Medicine is not the only woo Moritz is into, not by a long shot. He’s into claims of cures for heart disease and diabetes; he’s into liver flushes (discussed by yours truly here); and he’s an HIV/AIDS denialist to boot. Truly, when it comes to woo, being a medical intuitive is the gift that keeps on giving–until you’re dead.

Comments

  1. #1 tim gueguen
    February 7, 2008

    Right, cancer only occurs in people who are “burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious.” Is there a person alive who doesn’t in some way suffer from such things?

  2. #2 Badger3k
    February 7, 2008

    Why does so much woo have the “blame the victim mentality” – is it just that, if they can say the cause is your own attitude, it gives the claim that there is something you can do about the situation instead of relying on forces beyond your control? Of course, how many of us have complete control over our thoughts and emotions? It also lets the woomeisters have a “get out of jail free” card, since they can claim any failure to be the fault of the victim.

  3. #3 Amy
    February 7, 2008

    Great. Let’s reinforce the notion, secretly held by many people not burdened by cancer, that it is the cancer patient’s fault that he/she has the disease. That if we were somehow better, happier or more optimistic people, this wouldn’t have happened to us. I only hope that when cancer finds Moritz, or someone close to him, he will realize the harm his rantings have caused. But I’m not holding my breath…

  4. #4 DonZilla
    February 7, 2008

    I just read that one of the two remaining American WWI vets has died, at 108 (!) years of age. Obviously no one told him that trauma causes cancer.

    Meanwhile, my crazy raw food vegetarian friend is getting published in this Sunday’s paper. She’s never seen combat, but undoubtedly will live forever due to her raw food diet, her divinely-inspired life, and her belief that God helped her buy her new car.

    No, I didn’t make up the part about the new car…

  5. #5 Beach Bum
    February 7, 2008

    I am interested in the idea that chronic emotional stress can have a negative influence on immune system function. It’s an idea that I think needs some looking into. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those things that is difficult to design experiments to test, because of the very subjective nature of psychology. It’s that subjectivity that leads to this sort of nonsense. It’s a very wide, dangerous leap from an idea about emotional patterns and immune system function to the picture of happy, helpful cancer cells. Ugh.

    Thanks for this post.

  6. #6 daedalus2u
    February 7, 2008

    Why does so much woo have the “blame the victim mentality”

    Because victims who buy into the victim mindset are better “marks”. They are easier to defraud of money. They don’t mind paying for woo because they “deserve it”.

  7. #7 Elf M. Sternberg
    February 7, 2008

    Buddhists with good health care don’t get cancer? Wo0t!

    Grief, Orac, just looking at the “[disease] No More!” collection made me feel the persistent itching and burning of too much woo. I feel all dizzy now. I can’t help but wonder when this guy’s gonna be up in front of a judge.

  8. #8 Matt M
    February 7, 2008

    Mortiz is anthropomorphizing cancer cells. He should not do this, as they do not like it.

  9. #9 Size
    February 7, 2008

    So the real cure for cancer is antidepressant medication?

  10. #10 Abel Pharmboy
    February 7, 2008

    I don’t even know where to begin. There is so much from which to choose. I like this one:

    To be more specific, I have yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious.

    Cancer creates worries and emotional trauma – not the reverse. When my MD colleagues have taken me on rounds, I’ve been continually amazed at the resilience, pride, and confidence of so many cancer patients. Cancer strikes equally across society but I seem to always remember those who were most positive about their disease, who were highly accomplished in the rest of their lives and who longed to suck the marrow (as it were) of the time they had remaining.

    Poor self-image? Yeah. . .Lance Armstrong, perhaps?

  11. #11 AnnR
    February 7, 2008

    The notion that your cancer has a spiritual growth lesson for you ticks me off.

    I’m content to think that spiritual growth can stem from life experiences. Unfortunately cancer is a life experience for some.

    If someone with cancer wants to think they’ve been enriched spiritually by the experience that’s fine, but there are plenty of other life experiences that are spiritually enriching and most of us would prefer to have them than cancer.

  12. #12 DonZilla
    February 7, 2008

    “If someone with cancer wants to think they’ve been enriched spiritually by the experience that’s fine, but there are plenty of other life experiences that are spiritually enriching and most of us would prefer to have them than cancer.”

    You’ve got that right, AnnR. The entire notion that people automatically gain strength and wisdom through adversity is a stereotype. I’ve known people who’ve gone through life-threatening health crises and come out of them just the same as they were before. No change! They were perfect to begin with.

    For me, visiting Alaska or the Grand Tetons was more spiritually enriching than having Hodgkin’s.

  13. #13 Chris Noble
    February 7, 2008

    Moritz is anthropomorphizing cancer cells. He should not do this, as they do not like it.

    Don’t worry. Malignant tumours regard Moritz as one of their own.
    Is that carcinomorphizing?

  14. #14 Chris Noble
    February 7, 2008

    To be more specific, I have yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious.

    Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t have unresolved conflicts, worries or past emotional trauma?

    This one sounds like it comes out of a tabloid horoscope page.

  15. #15 Cayte
    February 7, 2008

    The Moritz article shows a fundamental lack of understanding of evolution. Natursl selection could explain the angiogenesis and “wisdom” of cancer cells. Its the “wisdom” of a predator. The public bias against evolution makes the cancer is not a disease message easy to sell.

    I check out Mike’s column because sometimes the alties get it right ( on brightly colored veggies etc ) but not this time.

  16. #16 Chris Noble
    February 8, 2008

    The Moritz article shows a fundamental lack of understanding of evolution. Natursl selection could explain the angiogenesis and “wisdom” of cancer cells. Its the “wisdom” of a predator. The public bias against evolution makes the cancer is not a disease message easy to sell.

    The same misconceptions about cancer and evolution are seen coming from creationists.

    I’m just a rube, not a Darwinist from Yale. But I’ve never seen cancer make a brain better.

    The best real biological test of “shuffling around information, duplicating, and altering the information” is cancer. According to Dr. Novella’s reasoning, brain tumors ought to be generating quite a bit of “meaningful and even useful new information.” Better neuroanatomy and better neurophysiology ought to be popping up “easily.” Better frontal lobes and cognition, from cancer. Better temporal lobes and memory, from cancer. Better cerebellums and coordination, from cancer. If random mutations and natural selection–Dr. Novella’s “two stroke engine”–is the source of all functional integrated biological complexity, brain tumors ought to help our brains evolve in some way.

    Synchrocrankicity in action.

  17. #17 Vjatcheslav
    February 8, 2008

    I would suggest a correction to this phrase:
    “[people that] are sufficiently open-minded to consider the possibility that cancer and other debilitating illnesses are not actual diseases[.]”

    Corrected version:
    “[people that] are sufficiently open-minded to [let their brains fall out] while considering the possibility that cancer and other debilitating illnesses (!) are not actual diseases.”

  18. #18 longsmith
    February 8, 2008

    For the record: I had stage Ia ovarian cancer 4 years ago. No chemo, no radiation, “just” a hysterectomy at the age of 44.
    I don’t feel “empowered” “spiritual” or “balanced”.
    I feel grateful to a good surgeon.

  19. #19 Laser Potato
    February 8, 2008

    “Cancer, the physical disease, cannot occur unless there is a strong undercurrent of emotional uneasiness and deep-seated frustration.”
    Oh yeah, that *really* explains how ANIMALS THAT ARE NOT CAPABLE OF THAT LEVEL OF SELF-CONCIOUSNESS get cancer.
    Goldfish, for instance.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.