Respectful Insolence

The other day, I came across an update on the Daniel Hauser saga. Specifically, I commented about how he is not only undergoing the chemotherapy ordered by his doctors. As you may recall, Hauser is a 13-year-old boy who, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and undergoing one round of chemotherapy, refused to undergo any more. His mother supported him, and ultimately a judge had to order Daniel’s parents to make sure that he underwent standard therapy for his very curable form of cancer. Daniel’s mother Colleen took off with him shortly afterward, rumored to be heading for Tijuana. Ultimately, Colleen Hauser turned herself and Daniel in, and Daniel started chemotherapy. What provoked my post was how Daniel’s tumor was shrinking in response to chemotherapy after having grown while he was off chemotherapy and relying on quackery, specifically Daniel and his family’s reaction. Consistent with the behavior of woo fans everywhere, Daniel and his family didn’t attribute his tumor’s response to the chemotherapy, but rather to the vitamins and other stuff in various “alternative” concoctions Daniel was taking in addition to chemotherapy.

In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.

Be that as it may, there was also a court hearing for an update on Daniel’s condition in which Daniel’s parents requested that the court rescind the child protection order governing Daniel’s medical care and giving Judge John Rodenberg jurisdiction over his care. Given that the last time Judge Rodenberg gave the Hausers too much leeway Colleen Hauser bolted and ran with Daniel to keep him from chemotherapy, the judge’s ruling was about what you would expect:

NEW ULM, MINN. – Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old cancer patient from Sleepy Eye, Minn., is making “better-than-satisfactory progress” in his medical treatment but still needs to remain under court supervision, a Brown County judge said Tuesday.

At a court hearing in New Ulm, Judge John Rodenberg rejected a request by the Hauser family to rescind a child-protection order governing the boy’s medical care. Even though the family has complied with court-ordered chemotherapy, he said, he wants to maintain supervision of the case.

A wise decision. I highly doubt that Daniel’s chemotherapy would continue for long if Judge Rodenberg were to rescind the child protection order and stop overseeing his progress. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Daniel’s chemotherapy would stop immediately after the Hausers walked out of the courtroom. He’d go straight back to the ionized water quackery and multiple supplements that he was taking before, and we all know how that worked out.

Not surprisingly, Daniel is angry about having to continue his therapy, and, consistent with the rule I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t think it’s the chemotherapy that’s shrinking his tumors:

I get really sick when I do it,” the teen said during an interview at his family’s farm in Sleepy Eye. “You get so dizzy and I get a headache right away.”

Daniel said he believes the improvement in his condition is being caused by his alternative treatments, which include vitamin supplements, ionized water and organic foods and other dietary restrictions.

Because, you know, those treatments worked so well before, leading his tumor to regrow from the size to which it had shrunk after his first round of chemotherapy to being even bigger than it was when he was diagnosed. Of course, Daniel is only 13 and learning disabled. He can’t really be blamed for his behavior that much; he clearly lacks the maturity to see the long view. The problem is that his mother appears to think the same way:

Colleen Hauser told the AP at her home that doctors said it would take six months to treat her son’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was first diagnosed, but they’ve seen improvement in the past few weeks.

“Wow,” she said. “Something’s working.”

But when asked if she credits the chemotherapy, she said, “I’m not going to say it’s not, but I just want to make it clear that I would like a better plan, a better treatment plan, for Danny.”

Believe it or not, so would oncologists. Research is constantly ongoing for newer, less harsh chemotherapy regimens that produce equivalent survival rates. Pediatric oncologists don’t like making children feel sick. That’s not why they went into pediatric oncology. They went into pediatric oncology to save children’s lives. Unfortunately, with our current therapies, that requires medications with serious side effects. There seems to be an attitude among the woo-friendly that somehow oncologists get a kick out of “poisoning” cancer patients with chemotherapy, as if they are all a bunch of sadists. Believe it or not, they take the attitude of the judge, who said:

The judge earlier assured Colleen and Anthony Hauser they can continue looking for other ways to treat their son.

“If at the end of the day Daniel lives through this, I am not going to care … what cures him,” the judge said. “I want Daniel to be well, and I know you do too.”

Because if the quacks could produce evidence that their “cancer cures” can do what they claim they can do, they wouldn’t be quacks, and their “alternative medicine” would cease to be “alternative” and become just medicine. Oncologists would add it to their armamentarium and treat patients with it.

Perhaps the saddest thing about the Hauser case is just how badly his parents let him down. After all, Daniel’s only 13, and any 13-year-old would hate feeling sick after chemotherapy, most not understanding the concept of enduring some discomfort now for a huge payoff later. To them, what matters is the now. That’s why children need parents, but, instead of putting their foot down and telling Daniel that the chemotherapy is for his own good, that it would save his life, instead they catered to his short-term thinking and fed his delusion that he could be cured without side effects.

But that’s what “alternative” medicine tends to appeal to: people’s childish nature. It promises all benefit and no risk, all cures and no failures, treatment of the deadliest diseases without side effects or pain. Who wouldn’t think that’s appealing? However, these promises are the very embodiment of the maxim that says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”

Comments

  1. #1 Monado
    June 25, 2009

    So true.

    Insulin. Insulin, insulin, insulin. All the prayer and pseudoscience in the world wouldn’t keep children alive until they had insulin, too.

  2. #2 Melissa (oddharmonic)
    June 25, 2009

    If vitamins and ionized water would cure my husband’s brain injury, I would feed him vitamins until his liver and kidneys cried uncle. Fortunately insulin (hear hear, Monado) stabilized his blood sugar regulation issues enough that now we can focus on treating his brain injury without him acting like a recalcitrant child.

    I hope that young Mr. Hauser continues on his court-ordered treatment and goes into remission.

  3. #3 Andrew Cooper
    June 25, 2009

    “In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.”

    We may as well bow to the inevitable and call it Orac’s Law.

  4. #4 Andrew Cooper
    June 25, 2009

    “In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.”

    We may as well bow to the inevitable and call it Orac’s Law.

  5. #5 Andrew Cooper
    June 25, 2009

    “In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.”

    We may as well bow to the inevitable and call it Orac’s Law.

  6. #6 Clay
    June 25, 2009

    All right! Orac’s Law it is, then. ;-)

  7. #7 Donna B.
    June 25, 2009

    Even the educated and intelligent people get taken in by “woo” sometimes. This is why I hate that Daniel Hauser’s case is being presented as the uneducated, unintelligent as being the ones exploited.

    There are health problems that are simply not curable. Brain damage (whether due to stroke or accident) is one. While Daniel’s cancer may be “curable” other cancers are not.

    My father was recently diagnosed with stage I NSCLC. He’s 86 years old and had he not presented himself to a team of physicians to find out if back surgery would somehow help him deal with his arthritic pain, the lung cancer would probably not have been diagnosed for several years.

    My father chose radiation to treat his cancer because it offered less severe side effects. Had he been even 10 years younger he might have chosen a more aggressive treatment.

    Daniel Hauser has the possibility of a cure with aggressive treatment. He is young! He has time to recover from the side effects. My father figured that he did not have that time — that at his age, aggressive chemotherapy or major surgery might shorten his life more than the cancer.

    Though cancer was not involved, I’ve spent two years of my life in hospital rooms with ill or seriously injured children and… I have suffered the pain of witnessing them undergo painful treatments that ultimately resulted in their survival and/or greatly increased function of various body parts.

    Even though the reasons behind these treatments were explained to me and I understood them… my instincts as a mother wanted to stop them. To hear and see my children suffer FOR THEIR OWN GOOD was one of the hardest things I have ever had to bear.

    So…I can sympathize with Daniel’s mother to some degree. And I’m sure my son can sympathize with Daniel. However, now that my son is in his 30s, he would likely tell Daniel to suck it up and take it like a man…

    Life ain’t easy.

  8. #8 Johannes9126
    June 25, 2009

    @ Clay:

    There already is an Orac’s Law:
    “I hereby declare Orac’s Law:

    In any discussion involving science or medicine–and especially vaccines–citing any material published by Generation Rescue or Age of Autism as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed right out of the room.”

    Maybe Hauser’s Law?

  9. #9 David
    June 25, 2009

    Classic confirmation bias. What I believe is working, is working. What I believe doesn’t work, doesn’t. The fact that they are contemporaneous is irrelevant. :-)

    @Johannes9126 – What about Orac’s Corollary?

  10. #10 BB
    June 25, 2009

    “In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.”
    It’s so damn true. A friend of mine had cysts in her knee, needed surgery but had to postpone it until she recuperated from another unrelated surgery. To bear the pain, she was on painkillers (do not know which) and had acupuncture. She swears by the acupuncture, never for a moment thinking that her pain went away from the meds she was on. Delusional.

  11. #11 Mu
    June 25, 2009

    Orac’s second law of woo

    If several explanation for a cure are possible, the least likely one will be declared effective.

  12. #12 Dianne
    June 25, 2009

    Even the educated and intelligent people get taken in by “woo” sometimes.

    I agree. In fact, I would say that people who are intelligent and educated but not medically or scientifically sophisticated are at higher risk of being taken in by woo: they’re used to being “in charge”, to being the ones who know what’s going on, and they know how to use the internet effectively. Perfect candidates for a Google U degree and a drop into woodom.

  13. #13 Mojo
    June 25, 2009

    In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.

    It’s not so much a law as it is the whole raison d’être of “integrative medicine”. Dead clients can’t provide testimonials.

  14. #14 Djlawman
    June 25, 2009

    As I have said before on this topic, Failing to treat this kid’s Hodgkins is child abuse. Hodgkins is eminently treatable.

    I know what this is all about, having spent 3 1/2 years of chemotherapy with our son for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It’s not fun, watching your son throw up a few thousand times. It’s not fun watching him lose 28 pounds. It’s not fun watching him lose his hair, blow up like a blimp from high-dose steroid treatment. It’s not fun having to sign informed consent forms about the possibility of heart damage, damage to the bones, possible future cancer, and all of the other possible side effects that come with this kind of chemotherapy.

    But sticking your head in the sand and wishing it would all go away if he would just eat mandarin oranges, or lots of nuts and grains, or XXXXX, or YYYYY, or ZZZZZ is simply ridiculous. It’s not parenting — it’s abdicating.

    The judge is doing the right thing. At least these parents will likely get to enjoy having their child around in the future. I know a lot of parents whose children did not make it, who would trade places in an instant, and would have done everything possible to get their child cured.

    Stopping chemotherapy is not the answer. These quack remedies have not cured any kids with cancer. They just result in kids dying.

  15. #15 GDad
    June 25, 2009

    Orac-Hauser Effect?

  16. #16 LC
    June 25, 2009

    I know a lot of parents whose children did not make it, who would trade places in an instant, and would have done everything possible to get their child cured.

    This is the bit which gets to me the most over this whole case. There are parents out there who would sell their souls just to be put on a waiting list to recieve the treatment this kid is getting. And these cretins are sooking and moaning about it when others would happily take their place in an instant.

  17. #17 GregV
    June 25, 2009

    Orac’s Law:
    When a metaphysical variable is confounded with a scientific one, humans will tend to credit the metaphysical rather than the scientific.

    For example, PZ’s recent post on parallel chains of events after an accident: people busying themselves with helping the victim, another set of people busying themselves praying, and ultimately the prayer group claiming the victory for themselves.

  18. #18 kneil
    June 25, 2009

    How about this for Orac’s second law:

    The chance that a patient being treated with both woo and medicine will ascribe their recovery to a given therapy is inversely proportional to that therapy’s biologic plausibility.

    Although I think that human nature is to give the credit to the treatment that is some combination of: the most recent, most impressive and least unpleasant (either to the patient’s body or philosophy).

  19. #19 dan
    June 25, 2009

    Re: #17

    The prayer is useful in this case in that it keeps unneeded people busy and out of the way, leaving the scene free for rescuers to get on with what needs doing.

  20. #20 Grendel
    June 25, 2009

    I like this paragraph:

    “Because if the quacks could produce evidence that their “cancer cures” can do what they claim they can do, they wouldn’t be quacks, and their “alternative medicine” would cease to be “alternative” and become just medicine. Oncologists would add it to their armamentarium and treat patients with it.”

    because it can so easily be altered to encompass most alt-med aspects:

    “If quacks could produce evidence that their “cures” can do what they claim they can do, they wouldn’t be quacks, and their “alternative medicine” would cease to be “alternative” and become just medicine.”

  21. #21 Johannes9126
    June 26, 2009

    @ David and Mu:

    I second this:
    “Orac’s second law of woo

    If several explanation for a cure are possible, the least likely one will be declared effective.”

  22. #22 Yisroel Feldman
    June 26, 2009

    I am totally sick at the countless outright lies being expressed in this case; however, I cannot blame most people for making these expressions.

    The modern medical establishment shrewdly used its prestige and power so that IT will be viewed as THE only legitimate health care. It did this by heavily defaming the natural healing professions, saying they were old fashioned unscientific superstitions and thus called them “quacks ” and “voodoo doctors.”

    So everyone was taught to believe that modern medical treatments are “real” medicine, while any natural things are worthless garbage.

    THE TRUTH THOUGH IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE!!

    Almost all of the modern pharmaceutical drugs are artificial poisonous substances which do not belong inside a human body. When ingested, they may push down certain illness mechanisms, but they also push the rest of the body into unnatural states and thus cause the development of other injuries. The modern medical world openly admits this, and says that these are “side effects” of the medications.

    The modern conventional chemotherapy drugs are severely toxic items. How much they effectively stop the cancerous growths is often questionable. What is not questionable about them are their extremely terrible well known side effects: horrific pain, unstoppable vomiting, total loss of hair, massive weight gain or severe weight loss, damage to heart and lungs (in some rare cases), destruction of red blood cells, destruction of memory, destruction of reproductive ability, and destruction of immunity with possible death. I repeat, chemo, with its destruction of the immune system, can actually, yes, CAUSE DEATH to happen from even a small infection!

    Furthermore, besides this long list of immediate chemotherapy reactions, there is a long term effect that it itself causes more cancer! That’s right! Whatever benefit there is in a chemo pushing down one form of cancer, that chemo now gives the patient a much higher risk of getting other more serious forms of cancer!

    So on the contrary! Mrs. Coleen Hauser was trying to save her son’s life; I repeat, Mrs. Hauser was trying to, yes, SAVE her son’s life — from, Lord Forbid, either outright death, or being turned into a deformed invalid!

    By sharp contrast, the techniques of the natural healing fields are not injurious to the body; instead, they are geared to support and help the body reset and reactivate its proper functioning, and the “medicines” used are mostly natural materials that the body needs as “food” to fuel these functions. Many scientific studies have thus verified the numerous benefits to many areas of health of various natural remedies. For examples of specific nutrients in cancer treatment, see:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8971064

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9634050

    http://uimc.discoveryhospital.com/main.php?t=symptom&p=selenium_seen_as_prostate_prot

    http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/reprint/8/11/3579.pdf

    http://www.creighton.edu/publicrelations/newscenter/news/2007/june2007/june82007/vitamind_cancer_nr060807/index.php

    At the same time, the natural professions do not completely reject the work of modern medicine. On the contrary, they greatly appreciate and admire modern medicine’s discoveries and accomplishments and openly declare that there are numerous situations where modern surgery and drugs — including chemotherapy and radiation — are what is needed.

    What they do say though is that there are numerous conditions that can be effectively taken care of with appropriate natural techniques with minimal side effects. Therefore, in those cases, they strongly condemn the standard world for unnecessarily subjecting patients to harmful drugs or dangerous operations. Furthermore, even where standard work is needed, natural work can still help in two ways: 1. It can cause some improvement so that less medication or less invasive surgery is needed. 2. It can help repair the side effect damage from the harsh drug or surgery.

    Therefore, the natural professions call what they do “Complementary Medicine” or “Integrated Medicine.” One of the top holistic doctors told me: “We try to take the best of both worlds.”

    And this is what Mrs. Hauser wanted! She openly said that she was not against chemotherapy; because of its severe problems though, she understandably wanted it only as a last resort. She further wanted that any chemo work should be complemented with natural work to lessen the terrible pain her son would have.

    She thus wanted to go to one of the many holistic cancer centers in Mexico where they specialize in these techniques of combining needed chemo/radiation therapy with appropriate natural therapies. Now, exactly what formulation of treatment they would have given Daniel, we will never know! For Mrs. Hauser and her son were not allowed to do any of this!

    WHY?? YES, WHY???

    Now, of course, the media and numerous internet pages are loudly trumpeting that when the Hausers were out doing the “voodoo” stuff, the tumor got worse.

    Again, this is a fiendish twisting of the facts.

    DANIEL DID NOT GET WORSE BECAUSE HOLISTIC MEDICINE IS GARBAGE!!

    DANIEL WAS NOT GETTING ANY PROFESSIONAL HOLISTIC MEDICAL TREATMENT!! REMEMBER?? THE HOLY, HOLY MEDICAL POLICE WOULD NOT LET HIM DO THAT!!

    DANIEL GOT WORSE BECAUSE OF THE HORRIFIC TERROR THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT AND THE JUDGES AND THE POLICE AND THE MEDIA PUT ON HIM AND HIS MOTHER!!

    The standard people (along with their forced chemo thingy) have NOW allowed Daniel to have some complementary things. That is certainly very nice! And that he is thus, in some ways, doing a little better, is, again, certainly very nice! Of course, we will have to see how it all turns out.

  23. #23 Tristan
    June 27, 2009

    Because if the quacks could produce evidence that their “cancer cures” can do what they claim they can do, they wouldn’t be quacks, and their “alternative medicine” would cease to be “alternative” and become just medicine. Oncologists would add it to their armamentarium and treat patients with it.

    Case in point: my mother-in-law is currently undergoing chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer. Because she was in China when she first noticed it, and because she’s… well, a little bit silly, she held off going to the doctor until she came to Australia – about six months later, by which stage it was quite severely ulcerated, and had spread to the nearest lymph nodes.

    Due to its fairly advanced state, the doctors chose to go in fairly aggressively with chemotherapy before doing surgery. She’s just had her sixth dose, and I’m told the tumour has shrunk markedly (of course, I’m not allowed nor particularly want to see for myself). What was interesting to me was reading the information about one of the drugs they gave her in the last three doses: Docetaxel – a very slightly modified extract of the European Yew Tree, and the successor to Paclitaxel, a completely un-modified extract from the much more rare Pacific Yew Tree.

    So there you go – cancer doctors use at least one entirely natural plant extract in their treatment of certain cancers. Why? Because it works.

  24. #24 Another Greg
    July 6, 2009

    And here we see in adjacent comments the ultimate irony of the “natural=good / synthetic=bad” point of view: a significant proportion of modern drugs are extracts / modified extracts / derivatives of natural sources.

    In another blog or post on the Daniel Hauser issue, one of the commenters listed which chemo drugs are normally indicated for his type of lymphoma. Out of curiosity (since I knew beforehand that all the taxanes were extracts and modified extracts) I googled the 4 drugs he listed. Of the 4, three were modified extracts. Doesn’t that make them a natural product? Especially since in some cases (Aspirin, for example, and I suspect might be the case with Docetaxel listed by Tristan) the modifications are to make the natural product more palatable to our system, with lesser negative side effects.

  25. #25 Rogue Medic
    July 8, 2009

    @22 Yisroel Feldman,

    Again, this is a fiendish twisting of the facts.

    Sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face while reading your silliness. I did look at the PubMed citations you posted.

    Many scientific studies have thus verified the numerous benefits to many areas of health of various natural remedies. For examples of specific nutrients in cancer treatment, see:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8971064

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9634050

    I read these. The conclusions are not at all what you suggest. Why not let your conclusive proof speak for itself:

    Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. A randomized controlled trial. Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group.

    CONCLUSIONS: Selenium treatment did not protect against development of basal or squamous cell carcinomas of the skin. However, results from secondary end-point analyses support the hypothesis that supplemental selenium may reduce the incidence of, and mortality from, carcinomas of several sites. These effects of selenium require confirmation in an independent trial of appropriate design before new public health recommendations regarding selenium supplementation can be made.

    Decreased incidence of prostate cancer with selenium supplementation: results of a double-blind cancer prevention trial.

    CONCLUSIONS: Although selenium shows no protective effects against the primary endpoint of squamous and basal cell carcinomas of the skin, the selenium-treated group had substantial reductions in the incidence of prostate cancer, and total cancer incidence and mortality that demand further evaluation in well-controlled prevention trials.

    This is amazing. These effects of selenium require confirmation in an independent trial of appropriate design before new public health recommendations regarding selenium supplementation can be made. The other study states essentially the same thing.

    That is the proof you offer? Next you will have some sure fire, can’t miss way to win millions of dollars at the casinos. Pardon me if I don’t believe anything you write.

    PS Stop trying to encourage the people trying to kill Daniel Hauser with unicorn medicine.

  26. #26 Jill
    September 11, 2009

    Have any of you ever had chemotherapy??? If you did, you would not speak so highly of it…. Yikes!
    There has to be something better… Why can’t alternative methods be tested??? The research for natural medicine needs to be as intense as chemical research. There NEEDS to be a balance. Why can’t this happen? Why would someone hold back a cure for cancer? Don’t criticize this mom until you have had chemo for yourself. It is aweful. It is demoralizing. It is inhumane.

  27. #27 Jill
    September 11, 2009

    The smell, the nausea, losing your beautiful hair… No one will tell you if it works. No one knows!
    I ran up five flights of stairs before chemo, now I cannot run up one.
    Natural medicine needs to be researched. It is NOT fair.

    No one knows what it will do to your body, chemo; it is so frightening and inhumane…. And no one knows if it will be a benefit or not.

    Science is supposed to be exact… Why doesn’t anyone know?

  28. #28 Chris
    September 11, 2009

    Jill, the writer of this blog, Orac, is a breast cancer specialist. Perhaps you might want to peruse the archives for a while ( http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/medicine/cancer/ ), or at least read up on the most recent posting on the subject:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/09/daniel_hauser_continues_to_do_well.php

  29. #29 Todd W.
    September 11, 2009

    @Jill

    No one will deny that chemo is rough and that it can be very painful and demoralizing. However, it, along with radiation and certain surgeries, are the only things with scientific evidence to back up that they have at least some measure of efficacy.

    Why can’t alternative methods be tested??? The research for natural medicine needs to be as intense as chemical research. There NEEDS to be a balance. Why can’t this happen?

    Some of them have been tested and been found to have no basis. Some practitioners or promoters of “alternative” treatments simply refuse to subject their ideas to testing, probably because they know there isn’t anything to them, or because they fear that it will turn out they do not work, thus costing them business.

    I, for one, am all for testing new ideas. However, the onus for testing them is on the people claiming that they work.

    Science is supposed to be exact… Why doesn’t anyone know?

    Because when it comes to medicine, every individual is different. We know that for a majority of patients, a given tested and approved treatment will be X% effective. Some patients may respond better, some worse, all due to individual physiology. Added onto that are the variables of the type of cancer (some respond better to chemo than others) and how far along it is, not to mention any other underlying conditions that may dictate just how much chemo may be used.

    It may be a brutal reality, but it is, at least, real. When dealing with alt-med, particularly where adherents refuse testing or deny the results, all that is typically there is fantasy and false hopes.

  30. #30 Jill
    September 11, 2009

    “It may be a brutal reality, but it is, at least, real. When dealing with alt-med, particularly where adherents refuse testing or deny the results, all that is typically there is fantasy and false hopes.”

    But it is the same in both worlds – alternative and conventional – no one knows?
    Can’t research be done, so that someone knows?
    I walked into a room filled with bald, sick people. Then became one myself. I was so healthy.
    Why won’t someone do something about this?

    I am soooo glad Daniel is doing better, but there are so many people who are not. This needs to change…. Thanks for listening…

  31. #31 Prometheus
    September 11, 2009

    Jill comments:

    But it is the same in both worlds – alternative and conventional – no one knows?
    Can’t research be done, so that someone knows?

    Actually, it’s not the same in “both worlds”.

    In the world of real medicine, chemotherapy has been tested on large numbers of people with identical cancers. Because of the inherent randomness (or diversity, if you like) of biology, cancers that cannot be distinguished from each other by any available test will often respond differently to identical chemotherapy treatments. We acknowledge this by describing the results in terms of percent survival and percent recurrence.

    It may seem a bit like rolling the dice, but in reality the dice have already been rolled – your cancer’s genetic makeup and diversity is already there; you can only hope that you got one that is susceptible to treatment. Since there is no way to tell the “winners” from the “losers”, the best recommendation is for everyone to give it a go.

    This is not unique to cancer. I work with bacteria and even bacteria that are “sensitive” to a given antibiotic are not all killed by it. Even at ridiculously high concentrations of antibiotic, some bacteria will survive. This is due to the essential randomness of life (see: persistence in bacteria).

    This is even more true with cancer, where cancer cells that look and behave alike may have significant genetic differences – even within a single person. Some of these differences are known, others remain to be discovered. The research continues – “someone” is doing something about it.

    The number of tumor markers that can be used to distinguish cancers that will respond from those that won’t (or those that will respond to “X” from those that will respond to “Y”) is growing nearly every day. This is reflected in the growing effectiveness of cancer therapies (not all of which are “chemotherapy”) and increasing survival times and even “cure” rates.

    On the other hand, the “alternative” cancer “cures” have not been tested on a large number of people with identical cancers. Most haven’t been tested at all. Most of the “practitioners” who peddle these “cures” appear uninterested in testing their remedies. It may be due to their unquestioning faith in their therapies or it may be because they don’t want to find out if they work or no.

    This lack of research is reflected in the absolute absence of any meaningful information on survival time or “cure” rate (other than the obligatory “It worked for me!” testimonials). There is no way to know if the testimonials represent better or worse outcomes than either “standard” cancer therapy or no treatment at all (some of the people writing testimonials never actually had cancer, they were misdiagnosed initially).

    To be sure, the “alternative” world is offering “remedies” that are probably less “toxic” than chemotherapy (not always, though), but they are also likely to be ineffective. Chemotherapy is harsh, unpleasant, debilitating, exhausting, etc., but it also based on the best information we have at this time.

    The “alternative”? Less “toxic” treatment now and a much greater chance of dying from your cancer later.

    Prometheus

  32. #32 Jill
    September 11, 2009

    Not enough is being done. I don’t believe someone ‘is’ doing something about it. Someone would know by now: billions of dollars of research, 30+ years of research, the history of chemotherapy…. Cancer treatment should not STILL be a roll of the dice – and the price of treatment????
    Someone should know…

  33. #33 Ramel
    September 11, 2009

    @Jill, I sorry to hear about your illness and I do hope you’ll get better. Chemo sucks big time but the doctors use it for a reason, if they had a better way to save lives they’d use it. Always remember that when someone proves that an aternative medicine works everyone stops calling it alternative.

  34. #34 Chris
    September 11, 2009

    Jill:

    Can’t research be done, so that someone knows?

    Research has been done, and research is continuing!

    In the 1970s there were tests done on laetrile, unfortunately the patients had to quit because of problems with cyanide toxicity (it turns out that the guy promoting it was committing fraud). More recently a study was published on the Gonzalez Regimen, and the results were not good.

    You also need to understand that cancer is not just one disease, it is several. Each one is different, and requires different approaches, which is explained in this comic: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1162

    But please go over the past blog posts, including the more recent one where a young lady was doing the Gerson therapy (The Price of Quackery), and do a search of Orac’s posting on the “Orange Man” (sorry, we are limited to two URL links per comment, but the first post is still listed on this page, and there is a search box just above the post listings).

  35. #35 Teresa
    September 11, 2009

    My mom had surgery/chemo/rad and died, my aunt..chemo and died, my other aunt…chemo and radiation and died, my older sister..died, my younger sister…died, now Me…they want me to have chemo. All my relatives died in terrible discomfort and that is putting mildly. I want to try alternative treatments. I dont mind being a guinea pig. If there is anything out there in this world that could possibly help, I want them to find it now. I have 4 daughters, and I want to find a cure. Please give me hope that there is possibly some other treatment besides chemo and radiation that might cure cancer? please

  36. #36 Chris
    September 11, 2009

    Oh, Teresa, you really have been dealt a bad blow, and have suffered so much already. (and it does look like you lost the genetic dice)

    I hope you find what you need. There have been improvements in cancer treatments, and research continues, and this includes pain management. I encourage you to read the links on this blog tagged with cancer (by the way Orac is a surgeon, you left out surgery as a cancer treatment).

  37. #37 Todd W.
    September 11, 2009

    @Teresa

    Wow. I’m truly sorry to hear about your and your family’s experience.

    As far as the scientific evidence goes, chemo, radiation and surgery are the only options shown to have any effect, as far as I know. I’m not a doctor, though, so it would be best to talk to physicians that specialize in this. Have you gotten any second opinions?

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