Respectful Insolence

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This project is behind schedule. The reasons, I hope, are forgivable. First off, there was just too much other stuff going on last week, to the point where, even though I’ve read several chapters of Suzanne Somers’ new book (if you can call it that) Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer–And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place (Random House website), I couldn’t force myself to sit down in front of the computer, copy of Knockout in front of me in order to pick choice brain-necrosing quotes from. Besides, the whole issue of Desiree Jennings came up, as well as a major anti-vaccine troll infestation in the comments that resulted in hundreds upon hundreds more comments than this blog normally gets. Now I’ve had a taste of what PZ has to deal with every week, and I wonder how the heck he does it.

Be that as it may, it’s time to move on from Chapter 1 of Knockout. When last we left Somers, she had described how she had been misdiagnosed with “full body cancer”‘; how oncologists, going against every oncologist I’ve ever worked with would do, allegedly tried to bully her into taking chemotherapy without a biopsy-proven tissue diagnosis of cancer (oncologists in general are very, very reluctant to treat a patient with cytotoxic chemotherapy unless they have a biopsy showing that the patient has cancer and what tissue type that cancer is); and, most hilariously of all, the story of how Somers got mad at her oncologist when he asked her why she hadn’t told him that she was on steroids. That last story revealed just how deep Somers’ pool of medical ignorance is, given that she denied being on steroids, even though right after that she pontificated about how the doctors were obviously “so out of touch with new medicine,” have “no clue,” and don’t “understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience.” I hadn’t been aware that cortisol (hydrocortisone when given as an evil “allopathic’ drug that is also, by the way, “bioidentical”) was in Somers’ witches’ brew of “bioidentical hormones” designed to give her body levels of estrogenic hormones equivalent to that of a 25-year-old. Never mind that estrogens are steroid hormones, and cortisol is a corticosteroid that can suppress the immune system, the latter simple fact meaning that it it is quite possible that it was Somers’ own fault that she got disseminated coccidioidomycosis (commonly known as Valley Fever) rather than a mild or asymptomatic version. I say that because, if Somers was taking large amounts of hydrocortisone–excuse me, cortisol–then she very well may have had steroid-induced immunosuppression that left her open to a disseminated infection when she happened to breathe in the fungus that causes the disease. True, she may have just been unlucky and aging (the latter of which is also a risk factor for disseminated disease) or breathed in a very large bolus (which is usually what happens when, for instance, there are outbreaks of valley fever in Army installations or among workers at large construction projects in areas where the fungus is endemic), but it was not at all unreasonable of her oncologist to link Somers’ ingestion of hydrocortisone to her having developed the most serious version of Valley Fever.

Naturally, Somers blamed the oncologist for “not understanding.” Arrogance of ignorance indeed!

With that background in mind, now it’s time to move on to more of the book. Originally, I had planned to blog it chapter by chapter, but now I’ll do it in multi-chapter chunks. The exceptions might be Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez and Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, both of whom probably deserve posts of their own.

I’ll start by going back to the book’s foreword, which was penned by one Dr. Julian Whitaker, who is apparently one of Somers’ doctors. Dr. Whitaker is clearly a physician who’s fallen for the whole “integrative” experience. His website is loaded with the promotion of his multiple books, “alternative medicine” products, and supplements. He appears to have made a name for himself by claiming that diabetes can be reversed without drugs or insulin:

This is the classic example of taking something that’s true (namely that type II diabetes can often be kept under control through diet, exercise, and weight loss) and going right off the rails through exaggeration and distortion. Dr. Whitaker does this by saying that oral hypoglycemic drugs like metformin don’t work (they do) and that IV antibiotics don’t work (they do, but not always) and then taking a bunch of anecdotes to argue that “conventional medicine doesn’t work.” But it’s much worse than that. Acupuncture and chelation therapy for diabetes? Holy woo, Batman! As this video predicts, Dr. Whitaker’s foreword is chock full of woo-speak and conspiracy-mongering worthy of Mike Adams of the über-quack site NaturalNews.com or even John Scudamore of Whale.to. Get a load of this highly characteristic excerpt from the early part of Dr. Whitaker’s foreword:

Conventional medicine’s approach to cancer prevention and treatment is a debilitating, often deadly fraud. The physicians who perpetuate this fraud must bear some responsibility, but the problem runs much deeper than individual doctors. The underlying issue is that the entire cancer treatment “industry” has been following a faulty paradigm for close to a hundred years.

A paradigm is a belief system. For instance, for centuries it was widely believed that the earth was the center of the universe. This paradigm was so firmly entrenched that it was part and parcel of Church dogma of the time. When Galileo proved four hundred years ago that the earth revolved around the sun, he so threatened the existing order that he was tried by the Inquisition, threatened with torture until he recanted what he knew to be the truth, and spent the remainder of his life under house arrest. That’s an example of the power of a paradigm–wrong though it may be.

Can you count the logical fallacies and distortions in those two brief paragraphs? First, we have the typical “cancer industry” conspiracy mongering so beloved of Mike Adams. And, of course, there is the usual “faulty paradigm,” or, as many woo-meisters like to dismiss it as, “dogma.” He then wraps it up with a “Galileo gambit,” a self-aggrandizement beloved of quacks everywhere, in which they liken themselves to Galileo being shown the instruments of torture because their “science” (and, for anything in Knockout, I do use the term most loosely) conflicts with the “dogma” or “paradigm” of the day.

There’s only one problem with this. (Actually, there are a lot of problems.) As Michael Shermer has pointed out, “Heresy does not equal correctness.” It did in Galileo’s case, but far more often it does not, at least in science. Another point is that Galileo was not persecuted by the scientific establishment of the day. Not at all! He was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church, not his fellow scientists. Indeed, it was because his view went up against the dogma of the dominant religion of the time that he ended up facing the Inquisition, not because he went up against the dominant scientific paradigm of the time. If anything, Galileo’s persecution is far more like the reason the theory of evolution is constantly under attack. Religious fundamentalists view evolution as being against the Bible and the word of God, just as the Church viewed heliocentrism as being against the Bible and the word of God back in 1633, when Galileo was ordered to stand trial for heresy. Galileo is a very, very bad example to use if Whitaker wants to argue that those who buck the current scientific paradigm will suffer as a result.

Besides, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, for every Ignaz Semmelweis, Nicolaus Copernicus, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, etc., whose scientific ideas were either ignored, initially rejected, or vigorously attacked by the scientific community of his time and then later accepted, there are untold numbers of others whose ideas were either ignored or rejected initially and then were never accepted–and never will be accepted because they were wrong. The reason the ideas of Galileo, Semmelweis, Copernicus, Darwin, Pasteur, et al, were ultimately accepted as correct by the scientific community is because they turned out to be correct! Their observations and ideas stood up to repeated observation and scientific experimentation by many scientists in many places over many years. The weight of data supporting their ideas became so overwhelming that eventually even the most intransigent doubters could no longer stand. That’s the way science works. Indeed, scientists like Galileo, Semmelweis, and Pasteur didn’t end up in the history books by simply reconfirming and recapitulating the dominant “paradigm” or “dogma” of their times. I daresay that none of the Nobel Prize winners won that prestigious award by demonstrating something that the scientific establishment already believed. No! They won it by discovering something new and important!

Truly, Dr. Whitaker does not understand how science works. In fact, I wonder why, if he really believes that he can completely reverse type II diabetes through a woo-ful amalgamation of diet, exercise, supplements, chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen, acupuncture, and various other “treatments,” Dr. Whitaker hasn’t–oh, you know–published his results managing diabetes in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Indeed, he hasn’t even published a single case report, as far as I can tell! I wonder why not. After all, if his results are so fantastic, he should publish them somewhere else other than in his books, on his website, and in various newsletters. He doesn’t and hasn’t. The reason is obvious: He almost certainly doesn’t have the goods and can’t back up his claims with scientific and clinical trial evidence that would convince other physicians and scientists that he is on to something. And, no, testimonials such as the ones in the video above (and like the ones that litter Knockout like confetti liberally sprinkled through the various chapters) don’t count.

Dr. Whitaker then goes on and on about the current “paradigm” of cancer therapy, invoking Dr. William Halsted, the revered surgeon of the late 1800s who first codified so much of cancer surgery, as being wrong. Never mind that the reason Halsted came to the conclusion that radical surgery for cancer, such as the radical mastectomy, was the only hope for cure was because at the time there existed no adjuvant therapy, such as radiation or chemotherapy. Surgery was it. If surgery couldn’t cure a cancer arising from a solid organ back then, then nothing could. For solid tumors like breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and others, surgery really was all there was. Otherwise reasonable people frequently forget this when castigating the radical surgical extirpative approaches championed over 100 years ago (which were admittedly too slow to change in the 1960s through 1980s, when effective adjuvant therapies and a better understanding of cancer were developed). Not surprisingly, “alt-med” boosters like Dr. Whitaker are either too ignorant of the history medicine to know that or disingenuously forget to mention such extenuating bits of background history when holding up Halsted as a historical example of what’s “wrong” with the current “paradigm” for the surgical treatment of cancer.

What’s more annoying is when Whitaker boldly says what should replace it:

What paradigm will replace it? It’s obvious. All cancer cells, whether they’re in the breast, prostate, pancreas, brain, or other organs, engage in undisciplined, rapid cell devision. This is the basic defect, and this is where cancer treatment should be focused. You don’t need ot cut it out or otherwise purge it. All you need ot do is to stop the cells from dividing, and the cancer will disappear?

My God! Why didn’t we think of that before? I mean, holy crap! How could we cancer researchers have been so incredibly stupid? All we have to do is to stop the cancer cells from dividing and we can cure cancer! Brilliant! Thanks, Dr. Julian! We don’t know what we poor stupid morons laboring away like drones in pharma-funded, NIH-constrained laboratories under a useless paradigm, unable to think of anything new, would do without your ingenius insight! We never would have thought of that without you! Stop cancer cells from proliferating. Right!

Now I know what to research. I’ll abandon all my previous research and work towards trying to figure out what makes cancer cells proliferate uncontrollably and how to stop that proliferation. Oh, wait. I already do that! So do thousands upon thousands of cancer researchers throughout the world. Hmmm. There appears to be a problem there. Cancer researchers have been trying to figure out how to stop uncontrolled cancer cell proliferation for decades now. The problem is, as I’ve pointed out, that it’s damned hard. Tumor cells don’t just use one mechanism to grow unchecked; they use many, and different cancers use different combinations of these methods, each requiring different strategies to target. Moreover, Dr. Whitaker’s understanding of cancer biology is truly painfully simplistic–rather like Somers’ actually. Cancer is about far more than “uncontrolled proliferation.” In fact, let’s take a look at a figure that I’ve seen in many, many talks about cancer and, in fact, that I’ve used in many talks about cancer (click for a bigger version):

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That’s right, there are at least six key elements to cancer including:

  1. Self-sufficiency in growth signals. Normal cells need growth factors to proliferate. Cancer cells do not.
  2. Evading apoptosis. The proliferation of normal cells is kept in check by apoptosis (programmed cell death). Cancer cells are resistant to signals that cause apoptosis in normal cells.
  3. Sustained angiogenesis. I’ve written about this many times before. Tumor cells won’t grow beyond a ball of cells less than 1 mm in diameter unless they can induce the body to supply the developing tumor with a blood supply.
  4. Limitless replicative potential. Normal cells can only divide a limited number of times before becoming senescent and incapable of further growth. Cancer cells overcome this limit.
  5. Insensitivity to antigrowth signals. Normal cells are kept in check by a complex web of signals to keep them quiescent. Tumor cells can ignore those signals.
  6. Tissue invasion and metastasis. Growth is important, but metastasis is a complex, multistep process. Without invasion and metastasis what you have is a benign tumor that never invades or metastasizes to other organs, a tumor that can simply be removed surgically. Moreover, the processes governing metastasis are not the same as the processes regulating growth. There is overlap, sure, but they’re not the same.

Does Julian Whitaker even know what he is talking about when it comes to cancer? Nope. Just like Suzanne Somers. And just like the quacks that Suzanne Somers promotes in her book.

That brings us to chapters 2 and 3 of Suzanne Somers’ book. She spends most of chapter 2 touting the “brave maverick doctors,” although one thing she discusses is worth mentioning briefly is her promotion of Dr. Jonathan Wright, the doctor she called from her hospital in chapter 1. Basically, Dr. Wright apparently is a big booster of so-called “bioidentical hormones,” as Somers gushes:

Dr. Jonathan Wright is another of the pioneers you’ll meet here. His understanding of the hormonal system is mind-boggling. He was the first doctor to introduce bioidentical hormones to the United States over twenty years ago.

Now, what do bioidentical hormones have to do with a book about doctors curing cancer? Just about everything. You will be blown away when you read his explanations of the cancer-protective nature of natural hormones. When you consider that most women develop cancer when they go into hormonal decline, I believe you will be more than interested to read that proper replacement in the right ratios will protect you from getting cancer.

Oh, boy. I can hardly wait. I love this as yet another example of magical thinking and confusing correlation with causation. Women get cancer when they go into hormonal decline? No, they get cancer when they get old, just like men! Most cancers are a disease of aging. I’m not saying that hormones have nothing to do with them. After all, estrogen does drive the growth of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Do men get prostate cancer because their testosterone levels at age 70 are much lower than they were than at age 20? True, men don’t go through a hormonal “decline” as dramatic as women do with menopause, but one wonders why Somers seems to concentrate only on women. More importantly, I wondered if Dr. Wright had any scientific accomplishments to support his claims; so I took a look at his website:

Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. has degrees from both Harvard University (cum laude) and the University of Michigan. More than any other doctor, he practically invented the modern science of applied nutritional biochemistry and he has advanced nutritional medicine for nearly three decades. Thousands of doctors respect Dr. Wright as the author of the best-selling Book of Nutritional Therapy and Guide to Healing with Nutrition, as well as other classics in the field.

Millions of Americans first learned about natural medicine through Dr. Wright’s regular columns in Prevention (1976-1986) and Let’s Live (1986-1996) magazines.

In addition, for nearly 30 years, Dr. Wright and his colleague, Alan Gaby, M.D., have been building an archive of natural healing science unique in all the world. Today it includes nearly every major study on the subject ever published in over 350 medical journals over the past 35 years…plus every pertinent study published in 50 major journals since 1920.

Dr. Wright is also credited with introducing the nutritional remedy for benign prostate disease (BPH)…the first successful treatment to reverse macular degeneration…the safe medical use of DHEA therapy…natural hormone replacement therapy for women…and many other revolutionary natural cures.

Hmmm. That’s not a good sign. Let’s look at his CV. There are some publications there. Some even look legitimate, although there are a lot of articles in “alternative” medicine journals. What I note is a glaring absence of any studies showing that his bioidentical hormone regimen does what he and Suzanne Somers say. The closest thing I see is a review published in 2005 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. I also notice something similar to what I’ve noted for Mark Geier. Dr. Wright appeared to have a reasonable scientific career until the late 1980s or early 1990s but after then his publications became more sparse and more concentrated in “alt-med” journals, with no publications in legitimate scientific journals since 2005. (No, I don’t consider Alternative Medicine Review to be a legitimate scientific journal.) As I say before, show me the science. Show me the well-controlled clinical studies. Show me the animal work. If there’s something to your claims, I’ll be persuaded.

Dr. Whitaker, Dr. Wright, and Dr. Gonzalez (you remember Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, don’t you?), such are Suzanne Somers’ brave maverick doctors.

No wonder she chose them, too! Chapter 3 reveals that Suzanne Somers is a full-bore conspiracy theorist whose ramblings would be right at home on NaturalNews.com or Whale.to. True, she spent considerable painfully inept verbiage in chapter 2 complaining about how some of her brave maverick doctors have been “persecuted” by their state medical boards and other law enforcement agencies, but in chapter 3, Somers lets her crank flag fly high, particularly in a section called “The Chemotherapy Racket.” Here are a a couple of choice excerpts:

How often is this happening on a daily basis in our country? [Orac asks: Doesn’t Somers have an editor?] How cavalier is it that chmotherapy is thrown about as though it is the viable solution. Not a cure, not even a promise, just an antidote for what is perceived as cancer. In my case, there was no metnion of a chemosensitivity test in either of my two diagnoses to find out whether I would even respond to chemotherapy.

This entire scenario got me thinking that perhaps chemotherapy is a racket. Chemosensitivity tests exist. They do them routinely in Germany. Burton Goldberg will tell you about them in his Chapter. Shockingly, Dr. Robert Nagourney in Long Beach, California, and Larry Weisenthal in Huntington Beach, California, are the two lone doctors in America doing these difficult chemosensitivity tests. They know the benefits.

The doctors in this book all make the claim that chemotherapy is for the most part a failed protocol–in fact, a dismal failure. Our oncologists are stuck with a protocol athat, with the exception of a few select cancers, doesn’t work. But they have no other ideas about what does work, as this is all that is taught in American medical schools (which are compromised by funding from the pharmaceutical companies).

And:

Chemotherapy is big business, and the business end has been thoroughly thought out. Our med students are taught the company line, and after years of being intensively taught how to administer poisons, the are then graduated to go out and give these lethal medicines. To question this would discourage financial grants, and no one wants to be cut loose from pharmaceutical funding: hospitals depend on it, universities depend on it, many doctors and Ph.D.’s depend on it. To admit that there might be another way could jeopardize the big hand that feeds them. And if they were to find another way it might indicate that their schooling and the study of cancer were still on the wrong track.

You know, I have to wonder if Mike Adams or John Scudamore ghostwrote those two excerpts. I was curious, however, about these chemosensitivity tests of which Somers writes. At first, I assumed that she was referring to tests where cultured cells from the patient were exposed to chemotherapeutic agents to try to identify what chemotherapies would work. There’s a reason that oncologists don’t do this; it doesn’t work very well. Depending on the cancer, culturing cells from a tumor is fraught with difficulty, and how they behave in vitro doesn’t necessarily correlate with how they behave in vivo. Such techniques were, for the most part, abandoned years ago. Now, that’s not to say that we don’t test tumors for chemosensitivity. We do. Routinely. For instance, there is the Oncotype DX, which I’ve mentioned before. There are other similar tests for other tumors. The reason no one tested Somers’ tumor when she was first diagnosed was because these tests didn’t exist in 2000. They are products of science-based medicine that have proliferated dramatically in the last decade with the explosion in genomic knowledge that has occurred. I would also add that the reason Somers wasn’t offered such tests the second time around when she was misdiagnosed with “full body cancer” is because there was no cancer tissue to test and she didn’t have a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

That’s why I couldn’t resist skipping ahead to the chapter on Burton Goldberg (who isn’t even a physician or Ph.D.!). I’ll discuss this more later, but suffice it to say that he appears to mix a lot of some possibly useful tests (the Biofocus, although the claim that it can “determine the DNA of the patient’s cancer cells” from a blood test (unless the cancer is a lymphoma or leukemia it appears unlikely that they would be able to do that) and “find which chemo or natural substance will target the primary and floating cancer cells throughout the body” is rather dubious. My guess is that it’s an experimental technique that hasn’t been adequately validated in clinical trials yet and thus isn’t ready for prime time. He also claims to use autologous vaccines, which is nothing that science-based medicine isn’t studying. Then there’s serious woo, such as the Ondamed machine, which is described as a biofeedback device that can somehow tell a patient how to “restore homeostasis” using language that sounds a lot like “unblocking qi.” Then there’s Asyrus devices, which supposedly use “resonance” from quantum physics to measure “organ efficacy,” whatever that is.

Of course, the best quackery is always quantum quackery, isn’t it?

Then there’s some seriously dangerous quackery advocated by Goldberg, namely insulin potentiation therapy coupled with whole body hyperthermia, an experimental technique that has, quite simply, shown little promise, although regional hyperthermia can potentiate the efficacy of certain chemotherapies, and is used, for example to treat limb sarcomas or melanomas by perfusing hyperthermic chemotherapy into the limb, whose circulation is isolated from the rest of the circulation. This allows very high concentrations of chemotherapy in the limb at hyperthermic temperatures.

I’m not impressed.

The bottom line is that I’m starting to wonder how much of Somers’ vapid writing, full of the arrogance of ignorance and burning stupid, I can take. When I say that Somers comes across as Mike Adam’s dumber sister, I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I’m being kind. And the panoply of cranks and quacks she lionizes will likely cause me intense pain before this is over. On the other hand, I consider this the advanced course in quackery. True, I’ve been studying quackery for nearly a decade now, but Somers has clearly found some pseudoscience and anti-science that I’ve never heard of before. It’s an educational experience and will broaden my knowledge of unscientific medical practices, while at the same time allowing me to provide a handy-dandy resource to refute the mountain of misinformation packed into a mere 300 pages with large type. Truly, it’s like packing the woo down to a black hole density–nay, a singularity–that sucks all science-based medical proclivities into its unquenchable black maw. It may even provide me some amusement, as I can already see that a lot of these brave maverick doctors hold beliefs about cancer that are mutually contradictory and can’t all be true; yet they are all in Somers’ book just the same, all presented equally, all presented as though they are equally plausible.

Truly, Somers’ crank magnetism is strong. It’s probably strong enough to power a MRI machine. God, I need a beer now.

Comments

  1. #1 anthony
    November 9, 2009

    You, or someone with your knowledge, should go on one of these “talk shows” (like Oprah, or Larry King) and challenge Somers, point by point. Instead they let her drone on and many laypersons will just assume this is true and not get the care they need to save their lives. More high profile investigative reporters need to step up.

  2. #2 James
    November 9, 2009

    From The Daily Beast:

    The former actress has one of the nation’s top books, touting secret cancer cures. But these methods, reports Gerald Posner, may actually increase the disease risk

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-09/does-suzanne-somers-cause-cancer/?cid=sexybeast:mainpromo1

  3. #3 Aftercancer
    November 9, 2009

    I just want to thank you again for doing this. I am terribly curious to see what is in this book but will not contribute a dime to her profits. The terrifying thing is that people have asked me, as a 42 year old breast cancer survivor, what I think of “her work”. I try to be polite and explain that I follow scientific research as that is what has helped me so far, even when I want to scream.

    Anyway, thanks again. Kate @ http://www.aftercancernowwhat.com

  4. #4 DrFrank
    November 9, 2009

    Anthony, I believe that if such a debate did go ahead it would almost certainly be advertised under the title: “loving mother of mercury-crippled child courageously battles unfeeling ivory-tower doctor.”

    Every emotionally-charged fallacy she shouted would be cheered by the audience and the doctor in question would be booed as they patiently tried to explain the actual state of evidence.

    Or perhaps I’m just feeling particularly cynical today.

  5. #5 superdave
    November 9, 2009

    Hormonal decline as a cause of cancer is certainly not a crazy hypothesis but of course the alt med movement doesn’t have time to bother with testing, or evidence. If they can sell stuff based on totally implausible science, then it should only sell that much better when there is a shred of legitimacy.

  6. #6 DrFrank
    November 9, 2009

    Oops, I was briefly confusing one madly anti-science blonde actress (Jenny McCarthy) with another (Suzanne Somers).

    In which case, the title should have been “Beloved actress abused by Western medicine confronts unrepentant ivory-tower doctors who tried to kill her”, but everything else would be pretty much identical.

  7. #7 ENT-TT
    November 9, 2009

    Good work, man. Funny how conspiracies seem to take a lot less effort to cobble together and proliferate than they do to debunk. I mean yeah, Somers and Mr. Whitaker practically handed it to you on a platter, but still…
    Anthony, you’re right of course, yet I have a bad feeling that such a plan might devolve into a press battle, a high-school popularity contest where these people fight vehemently for their right to die as stupidly as possible. I would maybe recommend Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” instead. Hell, I hope they take a whack at the “other issue” as well. Let’s not name it, lest the trolls return to feed.

  8. #8 Pablo
    November 9, 2009

    I’m wondering, after setting everyone up in the intro with the whole “the way to stop cancer is to prevent the cells from dividing” thing, does she address in any of the chapters how any of these “cures” actually stop the cells from dividing?

    “Bioidentical hormones stop cancer because it makes XXX happen, which prevents the cells from dividing because of YYY”?

    Because whenever I read about putative chemotherapy agents, they are always described like this.

    How are Gonzalez’s coffee enemas stopping cells from dividing?

  9. #9 Sam
    November 9, 2009

    Um, a black hole is a singularity, easy mistake to make after subjecting yourself to Somers.

    I would say “I can’t wait” for the next one but I’m not sure my synapses will weather too much exposure to Somers, even at a vastly reduced dose.

    oh and for those of you who take pleasure in it enjoy hunting all my abuses of grammar and spelling!

  10. #10 sirhcton
    November 9, 2009

    . . . a lot of these brave maverick doctors hold beliefs about cancer that are mutually contradictory and can’t all be true.

    This alone might present its own opportunity for the Superior Spreader of Science Sense or his “friend” at SBM. Indeed, presuming these mavericks had some input and control concerning their individual sections of Ms. Somers’ book, such an opportunity might be the occasion for a “perfect storm” of collaboration of such intensity that it sets them against one another, arguing whose woo is right. (I will leave others to their own fantasies).

  11. #11 Dangerous Bacon
    November 9, 2009

    I’d mentioned this in another discussion here, but Quackwatch identifies Dr. Jonathan V. Wright as the president and co-founder of the American Quack Association (a group of which existed in the ’80s to provide support for alt med practitioners and attack critics). According to Quackwatch, Dr. Wright ran afoul of the FDA when he continued to prescribe L-trytophan sold at a pharmacy affiliated with his clinic, after the supplement had been implicated in eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome:

    “Further investigation indicated that Wright and the pharmacist were co-owners of the laboratory and clinic and that a clandestine manufacturing facility was being constructed in a vacant business next to the pharmacy. When the investigators went to the laboratory, Wright would not permit them to conduct a full inspection. During the next few months, however, illegally marketed products were identified by inspecting trash from the clinic and pharmacy.

    In December 1991, an FDA inspector posed as a patient and was diagnosed with an Interro device, a computerized galvanometer that measures changes in the skin’s electrical resistance and depicts them on the screen of a monitor. (The reading on the screen is determined by how hard the probe is pressed against the patient’s finger; the harder the pressure, the less skin resistance and the higher the reading. The FDA Center for Devices and Radiologic Health has said that such devices are “adulterated and misbranded” and can have no legal medical use…After the test was completed, a printer next to the monitor printed a list of foods, chemicals, and other substances, with numerical values corresponding to readings on the Interro screen. Then he was given several homeopathic medicines, instructions for using them, and an article saying that they would result in dramatic relief of his allergic symptoms.”

    The FDA in 1992 conducted searches in a raid at Wright’s clinic and the adjacent pharmacy. “The warrants were based on affidavits which concluded that the clinic had been “receiving, using, and dispensing several unapproved and misbranded foreign-manufactured injectable drug products” and that the pharmacy had been dispensing them…Sherman L. Cox, Assistant Secretary for Licensing and Certification for the state of Washington, noted that the For Your Health pharmacy “was manufacturing a number of drugs and was distributing these drugs not only to patients on prescription but also to other doctors around the country for use in their offices. . . . In addition, the pharmacy was not properly licensed as a manufacturer and the drugs were being made under unsafe conditions.” The pharmacy subsequently gave up its license and operated as a health-food store.”

    The upshot of all this was that ““Wright signed an agreement consenting to the destruction of the 103 bottles of L-tryptophan that had been seized and agreeing to pay at least $850 to cover court costs and fees associated with the action [7]. A grand jury was convened to determine whether Wright should be criminally prosecuted for violating FDA drug laws, but he was not indicted.”

    Quite the brave health freedom fighter. This is the wonderful Harvard-trained doctor that Somers is touting as part of the brave maverick wave of physicians who are transforming medicine?

    Oh, and before someone jumps in to protest how Orac is fussing over some inconsequential celebrity’s embrace of toxic woo – just go to Somers’ website to see how far she’s going to establish marketing and publishing businesses to push and profit from her agenda. She has access to lots of publicity and can potentially lead many people into useless and potentially damaging forms of therapy.

    A worthy target.

  12. #12 Bodach
    November 9, 2009

    Wow: full body cancer! Fingernail cancer and everything? We’re lucky she’s still with us.

  13. #13 muteKi
    November 9, 2009

    “The doctors in this book all make the claim that chemotherapy is for the most part a failed protocol”

    All the doctors on this blog make the claim that the Gonzales protocol is failed. HMMMMMMMM…

  14. #14 IanW
    November 9, 2009

    Where’d that little Dalek come from in the photo? I want one!

  15. #15 Dan Weber
    November 9, 2009

    When Galileo proved four hundred years ago that the earth revolved around the sun

    Can’t even give credit where credit is due. Copernicus did that about a century earlier than that.

    Of course, people playing the Galileo Gambit probably don’t know about old Nick.

  16. #16 Boris
    November 9, 2009

    “[Orac asks: Doesn’t Somers have an editor?]”

    Editor, proofread thyself.

  17. #17 Orac
    November 9, 2009

    But I don’t have an editor. That’s part of the point. Somers did.

  18. #18 wfjag
    November 9, 2009

    Ian is correct. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalek

    Quite obviously Somers is an agent of extraterrestrial mutants from the planet Skaro, who desires purging the Universe of all non-Dalek life. Anyone familiar with Dr. Who knows that the best response is to hide behind a sofa whenever she appears.

  19. #19 Colin
    November 9, 2009

    Orac, what credence do you give to the claims that Somers’ ‘bioidentical’ HRT therapy could have caused her cancer?

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-09/does-suzanne-somers-cause-cancer/

    (sorry for re-posting the link but it’s quite a good article)

  20. #20 IBY
    November 9, 2009

    @wfjag
    Or throw spitballs to her eyes. :)

  21. #21 Rene Najera
    November 9, 2009

    I don’t see “brian” anywhere on here, so I’ll take his place and say that you’re all a bunch of cogs in the machine, working for the man, not realizing that your beloved doctors are quacks.
    Except, I don’t mean any of it, and my life does not involve going through it without questioning any of it.

  22. #22 James Sweet
    November 9, 2009

    Has anybody coined the phrase “argumentum ad Galileum” yet?

  23. #23 James Sweet
    November 9, 2009

    How often is this happening on a daily basis in our country?

    Oh man, that is too too funny…

  24. #24 Boris
    November 9, 2009

    “Has anybody coined the phrase ‘argumentum ad Galileum’ yet?”

    More urgently, how would Arg. Galile. be properly employed as a homeopathic nostrum?

  25. #25 Elmo
    November 9, 2009

    This “”determine the DNA of the patient’s cancer cells” from a blood test (unless the cancer is a lymphoma or leukemia it appears unlikely that they would be able to do that)” is actually not that bullshit. I do research on the bloodtype differences between the fetus and the mother, and we do real-time PCR on minute amounts of fetal DNA in the maternal bloodstream. The cell-free fetal DNA was found through cell-free DNA from cancercells (the placenta and cancer are too alike :). Now there are interesting new technologies comin, one of them is digital PCR (can be found from pubmed, Dennis Lo is the grand old man in the field), which basically is doing PCR on single molecules. This method makes it _maybe_ possible to discern the DNA from cancercells (at least from fetal tissue), and might even make it possible to sequence DNA from these sources. It bugs me because I just read the article on pubmed, but can’t find it anymore. It is almost midnight here, and I maybe need to go to sleep :). I do not mean that the quacks would use the same method, just saying that the _idea_ might not be BS :)

    G’night.

  26. #26 MitoScientist
    November 9, 2009

    A cold beer goes a long way towards soothing pseudoscience-related headaches!

  27. #27 Richard Smith
    November 9, 2009

    Just read some of the article linked to in #2, which led me to once again wish I could afford the $10,000 annually for daily growth hormone injections. Congenital hypopituitarism can get really frustrating at times. Maybe if all those anti-cancer and “Grow Young With Growth Hormone” types create enough of a demand, it’ll come down to the price of insulin… But I wouldn’t wish all that quackery on all those people just for a price cut. Damn my ethics!

  28. #28 Liz
    November 9, 2009

    I have a very rare, Stage IV cancer that chemo hasn’t helped. Plus, I felt like I wanted to die each day I took it.

    I read Somer’s book at the recommendation of a friend.

    Honestly, would you so attack these alternative therapies if it’s all you had – there was no other hope?

    I have to wonder…

  29. #29 Richard Smith
    November 9, 2009

    @Liz (#28):

    Honestly, would you so attack these alternative therapies if it’s all you had – there was no other hope?

    If a man was sinking, would it be wrong to offer to sell him a “magic” granite boulder with the assurance that it could very well help him stay afloat? Would it be worse if the boulder seller knew it wouldn’t work, or if they honestly believed it might help, contrary to all the physical laws regarding buoyancy? Should we not attack such transactions as the latter, merely because they believed in a different set of physical rules? But I bet they wouldn’t be plying their trade off of a concrete raft.

  30. #30 DLC
    November 9, 2009

    Liz : yes, I would. they’re unproven and some of them have actually been shown to be harmful. I know that nothing I tell you here will have much meaning to you, but I feel for your situation. But please realize that these alt-med people aren’t well-meaning “Brave Maverick Doctors”™. They’re scammers. People will pay them huge sums of money for treatments that simply have no basis in fact.

  31. #31 Liz
    November 9, 2009

    Thanks for your reasonable responses. I understand where you’re coming from. I have small kids and just want to live. I’m a skeptic about all of this- and don’t want to spend my kids’ college money. {Researching a treatment protocol I was told about today brought me to your site).

    Logic tells me that if there were answers to the war on cancer people like Ted Kennedy, Sam Walton and others with funds and influence would be alive today.

    My heart tells me I have to keep trying to find an answer. I hate cancer!

  32. #32 JustaTech
    November 9, 2009

    As a side note: Graduating undergrad from Harvard “Cum Laude” doesn’t mean much, at least not any more. They’ve had a terrible grade inflation problem, and at this point it pretty much means you didn’t sleep through your entire time there.

    All of these “doctors” selling this snake oil? “To smile and smile and be a villain still.”

  33. #33 Chris
    November 9, 2009

    Liz, a long time ago a friend of mine had a cousin who was being treated for melanoma by Jonathan Wright. Apparently instead of getting treatment with the evil conventional therapy, Dr. Wright treated him with the supplements. My friend’s cousin did not have to live very long with the cancer, because he died very soon.

  34. #34 Chris
    November 9, 2009

    Also, Liz, I am pretty much certain that one protocol is designed to actually torture cancer patients. The coffee enema puts strain on the liver, and prevents the patient from resting because of the intense infusion of caffeine.

  35. #35 gaiainc
    November 9, 2009

    Liz, I’m sorry about your cancer. That just sucks. Chemo is great when it works. I have patients who are stage IV and still alive 4+ years later because their chemo worked. I have patients that had everything thrown at them and they passed within a year. I’m not saying this to take away hope, but to say this is often the reality, as much as it sucks. Cancer is not a single entity and chemo (or any one treatment) is not going to work all the time for all cancers. I wish to the mighty powers that be that it did, but it doesn’t.

    However, what Somers and her Brave Maverick Doctors promote is all a large bunch of BS. What a bunch of callous idjits.

  36. #36 not a gator
    November 9, 2009

    “Heresy does not equal correctness.” It did in Galileo’s case, but far more often it does not. Another point is that Galileo was not persecuted by the scientific establishment of the day. He was persecuted by the Church, not his fellow scientists. Indeed, it was because his view went up against the dogma of the dominant religion […] more like the reason the theory of evolution is not accepted and is constantly under attack. […] It’s a very, very bad example.

    Thank you! My thoughts exactly. There’s a world of difference between being attacked for being factually wrong and attacked for being a threat to an entrenched power. Woo-sters always try to pretend it’s the latter, but the only thing they are a threat to is the health and wellbeing (and pocketbooks) of their marks.

  37. #37 Ian
    November 9, 2009

    Posner’s article was an excellent read. In regard to the believers of Somers’ claims it is hard to debate science with the misinformed and desperate.

    Perhaps a different approach could be more effective. Somers’ credibility should be the issue. I think we all would like to see her audited financial records to see just how much she generates from promoting this, but I can only imagine this going nowhere.

    Posner quotes plastic surgeons who, after studying her pictures over time, are convinced that despite her denials she has had plastic surgery. She claims her youthful appearance is due to her use of bio-identical hormones and perhaps an enema or two. Well here is a claim she should be more than happy to put to the test. Give her a list of 10 credible plastic surgeons from which to choose 3 and let them examine her to determine the truth. Her refusal would do more to protect people from her dangerous claims than all the science the true experts can throw at her.

  38. #38 evilnala
    November 10, 2009

    “I have a very rare, Stage IV cancer that chemo hasn’t helped. Plus, I felt like I wanted to die each day I took it.

    I read Somer’s book at the recommendation of a friend.

    Honestly, would you so attack these alternative therapies if it’s all you had – there was no other hope?

    I have to wonder…”

    Liz,

    Just to be clear, I don’t think anyone here wants you to give up hope. If you want to fight, then fight. No matter the odds, keep fighting, but don’t waste one second of your precious time or one cent of your money on people who are just trying to scam you.

    If you want to fight, then fight. But fight with real weapons. If you tell your oncologist your intentions, I am sure that he or she will help you evaluate all the information at your disposal, and allow you to make the best decision for your circumstances. In my experience, every doctor I have ever met is thrilled to have patients who want to be truly informed and participate in their treatment.

    Your comments that these “alternatives” are “all you [have]” and that “there [is] no other hope” are particularly telling. This is the scam which is used time and again to swindle cancer patients out of time and money with unproven, and sometimes harmful, “treatments.” Be careful, because it indicates you are possibly being targeted for just such a scam. There is a ton of research and evidence available about these fake “cancer cures.” Educate yourself fully and be careful.

  39. #39 kepler_fan
    November 10, 2009

    I know that this comment is a little “off topic”, but I always feel that Johannes Kepler is unjustifiably neglected in comparison to Galileo. Although Copernicus was the first to provide a sun-centred model of the solar system that was as successful as the earth-centred model of the day, he certainly did not establish that the Earth orbited the Sun. Neither did Galileo: he was never interested in the details of planetary motion, and one of the Church’s arguments against him was that he did not have any conclusive evidence for his claim that the Earth did move. Indeed, his use of the tides (one high tide per 24 hours, according to Galileo) as evidence for the Earth’s motion around the Sun is simply wrong.

    But Kepler (working before Galileo’s difficulty with the authorities) analyzed Brahe’s planetary observations in tremendous detail and so determined that planets (including the Earth) move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus. I’m not denying the importance of Galileo’s contributions to astronomy or to science, but so far as the motion of the Earth is concerned Kepler got there first and far more convincingly than Galileo ever managed.

    One other point, even less relevant: Galileo made enemies in the Church at least as much for opposing Aristotelian “science” as for any religious reasons. The cosmology of the time was that of Ptolemy – a spherical Earth, with planets orbiting it in a complex combination of circles. In no sense is this Biblical – to the extent that there is any cosmology in the Bible, it is the flat-Earth model of the Babylonians. At the time of Galileo this had not been the “official” church position for centuries – I’m not sure that it ever was.

  40. #40 attack_laurel
    November 10, 2009

    1. Go to fridge.
    2. Pull out frosty, cold beer of choice.
    3. Hold cool, cool beer to fevered forehead.
    4. Chug beer.

    Repeat as necessary, until the pain is gone.

  41. #41 Dianne
    November 10, 2009

    Liz: I’m sorry about your cancer and absolutely agree that current cancer care is inadequate in many situations. However, rather than wasting time and money on quack cures that don’t work, I would suggest that you consider joining a clinical trial. The treatment you would get would at least have a rational basis for being used (aka it worked in mice or cells or in earlier clinical trials) and you’d be helping advance the state of the art and therefore helping future cancer patients live longer and feel better. Not all chemotherapeutics are the same and maybe you could find one that helped you and didn’t make you feel lousy. I wish you all the best!

  42. #42 James Sweet
    November 10, 2009

    Liz, thank you for sharing your story and for your even-handed comments.

    I think Liz’s desperation and willingness to turn to anything that might offer even false hope is quite understandable. I cannot say with certainty that I would not act similarly in her shoes. In a way, the “try anything” strategy could even be viewed as rational in such a situation (though Dianne rightly points out that a much better last-ditch long shot would be a clinical trial for an experimental treatment)

    This is what makes the cancer quacks so despicable, even more despicable than your run-of-the-mill scam artists. They are preying on people who are so desperate that of course they will try anything, and it would be difficult to expect them not to. That’s an easy way to make a buck…

  43. #43 Calli Arcale
    November 10, 2009

    Thank you, kepler_fan! Kepler does get disregarded often. Of course, he had his own flaky side, as does pretty much everybody, but his realization that orbits were *elliptical* rather than circular was the breakthrough that celestial mechanics vitally needed in order to progress. (Well, one breakthrough. The next breakthrough would come courtesy of Isaac Newton.)

    When I was a kid, I made a teddy bear. I named him after Kepler. ;-)

    Another point that is often overlooked in the Galileo Gambit is that heliocentrism wasn’t the only thing that troubled the authorities. They were more disturbed by his premise that heavenly bodies might be imperfect (mountains on the Moon, sunspots, the phases of Mercury and Venus), and that there were objects not visible to human eyes. Both strongly contradicted the general philosophy of the day. Also, Galileo’s problems stemmed at least as much from his tendency to speak his mind in the wrong settings. ;-)

  44. #44 Calli Arcale
    November 10, 2009

    Thank you, kepler_fan! Kepler does get disregarded often. Of course, he had his own flaky side, as does pretty much everybody, but his realization that orbits were *elliptical* rather than circular was the breakthrough that celestial mechanics vitally needed in order to progress. (Well, one breakthrough. The next breakthrough would come courtesy of Isaac Newton.)

    When I was a kid, I made a teddy bear. I named him after Kepler. ;-)

    Another point that is often overlooked in the Galileo Gambit is that heliocentrism wasn’t the only thing that troubled the authorities. They were more disturbed by his premise that heavenly bodies might be imperfect (mountains on the Moon, sunspots, the phases of Mercury and Venus), and that there were objects not visible to human eyes. Both strongly contradicted the general philosophy of the day. Also, Galileo’s problems stemmed at least as much from his tendency to speak his mind in the wrong settings. ;-)

  45. #45 Pablo
    November 10, 2009

    When I was in college, I came across a great anecdote about Kepler, attributed to an apprentice. Kepler apparently had an esteemed visitor, who said he was thinking about the shapes of the orbits, and Kepler said simply, “They are elliptical.” Then came the best part:

    “The doctor, struck with joy and amazement, asked how he knew such a thing? ‘Why,’ saith he, ‘I have calculated it.'”

  46. #46 Shahana Faridi
    November 10, 2009

    After reading your load of crap about Dr. Whitaker and Suzanne Somers, I’d like to give you a little piece of knowledge that you seem to be lacking, to say the least. Dr. Whitaker has built an empire at his medical clinic and if it was all “woo”, there wouldn’t be thousands of patients that have been cured from diseases that conventional Dr’s have said would not be possible. Your article disgusts me as does the Dr.s that are making millions by putting poison into the bodies of people that would be much better off with the natural therapies that Dr. Whitaker puts in these peoples bodies everyday. So before you go bashing Suzanne and Dr. Whitaker, maybe you should do a little more research because to me you sound like an ignorant idiot. Keep your false accusations to yourself!

  47. #47 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    Shahana Faridi:

    Dr. Whitaker has built an empire at his medical clinic and if it was all “woo”, there wouldn’t be thousands of patients that have been cured from diseases that conventional Dr’s have said would not be possible.

    Argument from popularity is not valid evidence that it works. Now if you can produce actual papers with scientific evidence produced by Dr. Whitaker, then your comments would have some actual credence.

  48. #48 Dianne
    November 10, 2009

    Dr. Whitaker has built an empire at his medical clinic and if it was all “woo”, there wouldn’t be thousands of patients that have been cured from diseases that conventional Dr’s have said would not be possible

    And if he were to present any evidence that he’d actually cured any of them he’d be considered a roll model and great scientist instead of a woomeister. Where are the publications demonstrating that his methods work? If he hasn’t published, it’s either because he doesn’t have the evidence or he’s a greedy little twit who’d rather keep the cure a secret in order to force everyone to come to him for treatment. Not very admirable, even in the best case scenario.

  49. #49 James Sweet
    November 10, 2009

    So before you go bashing Suzanne and Dr. Whitaker, maybe you should do a little more research because to me you sound like an ignorant idiot.

    Out of all the things those who have drunk the Kool-Aid like to say, perhaps the one that irritates me the most is “You should have done more research!” Do they really think we haven’t heard these arguments before??? It’s baffling. They just assume that if someone believes in “Western” (i.e. real) medicine, it must be because they are unaware of all the other bullshit, and if they just point out a few anecdotes to Orac, then we’ll all come around. WTF??

    It’s like when people find out I’m an atheist and recite Pascal’s Wager. PLEASE. Go ahead and disagree with me, tell me everything I think is wrong… but assuming like I’ve never heard that sorry little fallacy before??? What planet do these people come from?!?!??

  50. #50 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    Dianne:

    Where are the publications demonstrating that his methods work?

    Out of curiosity I went to PubMed and plugged in the name of our kind host (whose real name is the worst kept secret on the internet!), and found 21 papers between 1989 and 2008.

  51. #51 T.Bruce McNeely
    November 10, 2009

    Shahana Faridi:
    Let’s play a game of name substitution, okay?

    (L. Ron Hubbard) has built an empire at his (church) and if it was all “woo”, there wouldn’t be thousands of patients that have been cured from diseases that conventional (therapists) have said would not be possible

    See what the problem is?

  52. #52 Shahanafaridi
    November 10, 2009

    Dr. Whitaker’s therapies, methods, newsletter articles etc. ARE backed by solid science in respected medical journals such as JAMA, BMJ, The Lancet, etc. Visit his clinic website, read the articles, and check out the references for yourself.

  53. #53 JohnV
    November 10, 2009

    Amusingly enough, pubmed returns 341 results for orac!

  54. #54 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    Shahana Faridi, then post the PubMed number of at least one of his papers. A sample is PMID: 12575775.

  55. #55 Scott
    November 10, 2009

    Dr. Whitaker’s therapies, methods, newsletter articles etc. ARE backed by solid science in respected medical journals such as JAMA, BMJ, The Lancet, etc. Visit his clinic website, read the articles, and check out the references for yourself.

    You should have no trouble providing relevant citations, then. Of course, given that half an hour perusing his site turned up not a single reference to a single journal, I kind of suspect you’re spouting unsupported nonsense.

  56. #56 Orac
    November 10, 2009

    Dr. Whitaker’s therapies, methods, newsletter articles etc. ARE backed by solid science in respected medical journals such as JAMA, BMJ, The Lancet, etc. Visit his clinic website, read the articles, and check out the references for yourself.

    Actually, I did look at Dr. Whitaker’s website. I also searched PubMed for peer-reviewed articles by him in the scientific and medical literature. I came up empty. Not even a case report!

    Sorry, if Whitaker wants to convince me, he has to have the science to back him up and to show that his treatment of patients with whatever protocol he’s been using actually results in superior outcomes. That’s not so much to ask. It’s all we ask any other physician. Dr. Whitaker doesn’t get to play by a different set of rules.

  57. #57 Vicki
    November 10, 2009

    Liz,

    I’m sorry. Cancer sucks.

    If your oncologist says there’s no hope, maybe call Memorial Sloan-Kettering and ask if they have any clinical trials that might help you. It’s not a guarantee, of course, but it might work. And either your oncologist or your GP might be able to help with things that will make your days a bit easier: not woo, but a painkiller or massage.

    The other reason not to waste your money on the scams and woo-woo is that they also waste your time. Time you spend going to the woo clinic is time you aren’t spending with your kids, or on other things that are important to you. If you have some money to spare, spend it getting someone else to do the housework, paperwork, and other routine things that are necessary but not satisfying. That’s another way to get a bit more time for what matters. (I know, this isn’t much, but it’s something, and the woo is useless if not worse.)

  58. #58 James Sweet
    November 10, 2009

    I was initially quite puzzled by Faridi’s most recent comment, since it is quite trivial to demonstrate that Whitaker has not been published in JAMA, BMJ, or Lancet… But now I see what he/she was trying to say: That Whitaker’s website contains links to JAMA, BMJ, etc.!

    Indeed, that is quite “a different set of rules”, if that counts as evidence. I mean, holy shit…

    I have discovered a revolutionary new treatment for cancer. See, you simple deposit $1000 in my PayPal account, and your cancer will be magically cured! It works via induction of the Epo-Egr-TNF-alpha-plasmid[1], which is catalyzed by the electrical charge of the PayPal transmission.

    Citations:

    [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12575775

    I can haz thouzind dollers now?

  59. #59 Todd W.
    November 10, 2009

    @Orac

    Sorry, if Whitaker wants to convince me, he has to have the science to back him up and to show that his treatment of patients with whatever protocol he’s been using actually results in superior outcomes. That’s not so much to ask. It’s all we ask any other physician. Dr. Whitaker doesn’t get to play by a different set of rules.

    Well, in order to do that, he’d need to run clinical trials, and in order to publish in JAMA or NEJM or one of the other ICMJE journals, he’d need to register the trial on clinicaltrials.gov, which, if it’s bunk, he wouldn’t want to do, I’m sure.

  60. #60 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    Shahana, the most interesting thing that I noticed at Dr. Whitaker’s website was the big “Shop Now” tab, and the shopping cart button.

    Uh, yeah… he runs a store, he does not do research.

  61. #61 Pablo
    November 10, 2009

    So marginally related, I see a lot of commercials on TV these days for the “Cancer Treatment Centers of America,” which is a chain of apparently caring doctors, who never give up hope and stuff. For the most part, their claims aren’t too crazy, and they do have a “results not typical” disclaimer in very tiny print, but the other day, something caught my attention. There was a guy who claimed he had pancreatic cancer, and his regular doctor told him he had 6 mos to live (although I question whether the doctor really told him HE had 6 mos, or that the expected survival for people with this type of cancer is 6 mos, which is exactly right), and now here he was 2 years later happy as a clam.

    So I’m wondering, is the Cancer Research Centers of America really implying that they can prolong pancreatic cancer for 2 years? If so, that is a HUGE improvement on normal pancreatic cancer treatment. Or are they relying on their “results not typical” disclaimer?

    Anyone know anything about them? Are they on the up-and-up?

  62. #62 James Sweet
    November 10, 2009

    @Pablo: They appear to be “integrative” based on Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_Treatment_Centers_of_America

    Throw in the trouble they had with the FTC, and it looks like they are quack-“ish”, at the very least. One might make the argument that a place like this, which at least makes sure that people get standard of care treatment in addition to whatever woo they might be conned into, could be a force for good, i.e. if people are going to fall for this shit anyway, at least make them safe.

    One might make that argument. I don’t think I would. But at least they aren’t condemning people to death, eh?

  63. #63 a-non
    November 10, 2009

    Well, in order to do that, he’d need to run clinical trials, and in order to publish in JAMA or NEJM or one of the other ICMJE journals, he’d need to register the trial on clinicaltrials.gov, which, if it’s bunk, he wouldn’t want to do, I’m sure.

    I’m sure he’ll never do that. Gonzalez did that with his wacky pancreatic cancer protocol, and all the trials showed was that his methods were useless.

  64. #64 AnnieB
    November 10, 2009

    Do you have any real proof that her bioidentical hormones caused her cancer? NO. Is there any real proof that using bioidentical hormones will cause cancer? NO They only things they have found are that many prescription drugs WILL cause cancer! What Suzanne Somers is doing is showing that by having more concern for our bodies and not just following the typical eat healthy and exercise routine we can avoid one of the largest killers of our times.
    Bioidentical Hormones may not cure cancer but it’s helped thousands of people get relief from other ailments.
    http://www.stayyoungandsexy.com

  65. #65 AnnieB
    November 10, 2009

    Do you have any real proof that her bioidentical hormones caused her cancer? NO. Is there any real proof that using bioidentical hormones will cause cancer? NO They only things they have found are that many prescription drugs WILL cause cancer! What Suzanne Somers is doing is showing that by having more concern for our bodies and not just following the typical eat healthy and exercise routine we can avoid one of the largest killers of our times.
    Bioidentical Hormones may not cure cancer but it’s helped thousands of people get relief from other ailments.
    http://www.stayyoungandsexy.com

  66. #66 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    AnnieB, do you have any proof you are not a clueless spamming troll? No!

    Do you have any proof you actually read both articles about the book? No!

    Do you have any proof that many of those “bioidentical hormones” are not steroids? No!

    (oh, this is a fun game… but I have work to do)

  67. #67 James Sweet
    November 10, 2009

    Uh, AnnieB, where did Orac assert that “bioidentical” hormones caused Somers’ cancer? He speculated that it seemed likely the cortisol in her “bioidentical” hormone regimen led to a nasty case of valley fever, but even this is speculative, as Orac made quite clear. He never even speculates that they caused her cancer though. He does point out that it is insane for someone with a past history of breast cancer — many of which are estrogen-receptive — to be pumping themselves full of estrogen. But she hasn’t had a recurrence (yet) so there’s no way anybody could blame this non-existent recurrence on her dangerous quackery.

  68. #68 Scott
    November 10, 2009

    Do you have any real proof that her bioidentical hormones caused her cancer? NO.

    Indeed, in an individual case such things can never be proven. Which is why nobody’s made that claim. See: Straw Man.

    Is there any real proof that using bioidentical hormones will cause cancer?

    YES. They’re estrogen, plain and simple. Estrogen has been thoroughly proven to promote some types of breast cancer. QED. The “bioidentical” bit is completely meaningless window dressing.

    They only things they have found are that many prescription drugs WILL cause cancer!

    Irrelevant.

    What Suzanne Somers is doing is showing that by having more concern for our bodies and not just following the typical eat healthy and exercise routine we can avoid one of the largest killers of our times.

    It would be quite nice if that were true. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

    Bioidentical Hormones may not cure cancer but it’s helped thousands of people get relief from other ailments.

    Sure, they do just the same thing for menopause as standard HRT – since they ARE just standard hormones with nothing special about them! If you care to claim that they’ve helped anyone else with anything else, you’re welcome to present the evidence for that claim. But I’m sure you’ll pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.

  69. #69 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 10, 2009

    AnnieB:
    No, there is no “proof” that hormone administration caused Somers’ cancer. However, postmenopausal use of estrogen and progesterone supplements ARE associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t matter whether they are “bioidentical” or not, they carry the same risk.
    In addition, Somers,AFAIK, required a hysterectomy for endometrial hyperplasia, which is a precancerous overgrowth of the endometrium related to high estrogen levels (especially if progesterone is not given). Incidentally, she was also taking “bioidentical” corticosteroids, which would have rendered her more vulnerable to the systemic fungus infection she suffered.

    Somers’ schtick appears to be:
    1) Destroy your health with quackery
    2) Get your butt saved by modern medicine
    3) Write and sell books about how harmful modern medicine is
    4) Profit!!!

  70. #70 Andreas Johansson
    November 10, 2009

    Suzanne Somers wrote:

    His understanding of the hormonal system is mind-boggling.

    This would appear to be a fancy way of saying “I’m not qualified to judge his expertise”.

  71. #71 Dianne
    November 10, 2009

    Out of curiosity I went to PubMed and plugged in the name of our kind host (whose real name is the worst kept secret on the internet!), and found 21 papers between 1989 and 2008.

    For follow up fun, put his name into Google Scholar and see the number of cites he has. Some of his papers are extremely well cited and therefore well regarded.

  72. #72 Natalie
    November 10, 2009

    Liz, if you’re still reading – aside from the other good advice people have given, you may find a support group or a counselor helpful. I can’t imagine facing my own mortality in the way you are doing, but I can imagine needing the support of either a group that’s going through the same experience or a trained professional. Your children may also find talking to someone beneficial – they must be frightened.

    I extra like the suggestion of hiring a housekeeper/gardener/etc, assuming you have the extra money. If hired help isn’t an option, maybe your (adult) family and friends could pool their time to take care of the mucky every day stuff, so you can focus on your treatment and your children. Good luck to you and your family.

  73. #73 D. C. Sessions
    November 10, 2009

    Liz:

    Cancer indeed sucks — I lost my best friend from childhood to it when he’d just turned 50 and taken a seat on the appellate bench. Life was looking up, and then the diagnosis. A year later, one widow and two young kids.

    However he left those two kids with a year’s extra memories of time with their father, playing jazz with them; he wrote appellate opinions which his colleagues admired, etc.

    To me the most offensive thing that quacks steal from their victims isn’t money (although it’s certainly tragic when they suck the education and retirement savings dry), it’s time. Whatever you do, don’t shortchange your family the time that you can give them. Don’t shortchange yourself the time they can give you.

  74. #74 gaiainc
    November 10, 2009

    Not all celebrities are idjits. Kareen Abdul-Jabbar has CML and plans to work with Norvatis on raising awareness and getting people to treatment.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/11/10/abdul.jabbar.cancer/index.html

  75. #75 Jeffrey
    November 10, 2009

    Very detailed article, and quite helpful on the topic. I have also read Somers book on Bioidentical hormone therapy and have found it to be informative. I have undergone hormone therapy for a couple months now and have felt better each month. Just do your research and I am positive you will see the benefits of this treatment.

  76. #76 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    No, you did not read this article. And your anecdote is worthless. Also, are you really a guy pumping yourself with bioidentical estrogen?

  77. #77 Pablo
    November 10, 2009

    Kareen Abdul-Jabbar has CML and plans to work with Norvatis on raising awareness and getting people to treatment.

    CML is the version that responds to Gleevec, right?

  78. #78 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 10, 2009

    Jeffrey:
    What hormones are you taking, and why?

    The problem with taking exogenous hormones (whether or not they are bioidentical) is not only the considerable undesired side effects, but also that the normal body regulation of these hormones get suppressed. This can be deadly, especially with the adrenal cortical steroids. It seems odd to be taking these agents, which are more dangerous than most prescription drugs, while denouncing modern medicine and the “Big Pharma” bogeyman.

  79. #79 Militant Agnostic
    November 11, 2009

    I suspect Jeffrey is taking DHEA. Apparently the logic is because DHEA decreases with age, supplementing with it must be a good thing. Causation is assumed from correlation in typical altie fashion. There is a strong possibility it may increase the risk of prostate cancer although as far as I know, the evidence for this is as weak as is the evidence that it does any good.

  80. #80 Richard Eis
    November 11, 2009

    I wonder where Jeffrey gets his stuff from?

    Jeffrey, are you buying stuff manufactured by big-pharma?

  81. #81 DrFrank
    November 11, 2009

    It does seem slightly ironic that on this matter the wooists are recommending synthesising oestrogens in a lab, while evil western medicine extracts them from horse piss.

    Whatever happened to the need for everything to be “natural”?

  82. #82 Antiquated Tory
    November 11, 2009

    Regarding “Jeffrey”: Estrogen may not do much for men, but it does even less for software scripts, if you catch my drift. Look at his phrasing. Note how non-specific he is and that he’s writing as if Orac said something nice about Somer’s book. Also, yeah, male name, female hormone treatment.

  83. #83 Dangerous Bacon
    November 11, 2009

    In Suzanne Somers’ case, “arrogance of ignorance” is not the best term for her state of mind. More accurately it should be referred to as the “vanity of ignorance”.

    Poster AnnieB demonstrates similar motivations for supporting “bioidentical” hormone treatment. Supposedly preventing cancer and other diseases is not the big factor, despite protestations to the contrary (note the link she provides):

    “Bioidentical Hormones may not cure cancer but it’s helped thousands of people get relief from other ailments.”
    http://www.stayyoungandsexy.com

    Yep, Suzanne Somers is still a “Knockout” – at least in the carefully posed/groomed/?image manipulated photos that we get to see. Suzanne’s own blog (she’s not a very prolific blogger, this post from July is still up on her website) makes it clear how important the illusion of “young and sexy” despite advancing age is. In this example she is outraged over a Newsweek spread on Oprah and her*:

    First of all, how dare they alter Oprah’s image for that cover! It’s out of focus, and they have obviously added bags and shadowing under her eyes to make her look crazed and scary.”

    If you want to make Suzanne really mad, don’t just question her goofy medical advice – publish a less than flattering photo of her (like the more reality-based shot that wound up in this otherwise gushing article).

    *one suspects that she’s at least equally pissed that Oprah made the cover and not her.

  84. #84 sophia8
    November 11, 2009

    I suspect that both AnnieB and Jeffrey are spawns of the same robo-script – Stay Young and Sexy is the tile of Dr Wright’s forthcoming book (which has a forward by the very lovely S Somers).
    So expect a lot more advertising by drive-by trolls.

  85. #85 Beth
    November 11, 2009

    Eh, on Cancer Treatment Centers of America:

    I know a bit about the one in Tulsa by virtue of having lived there. Don’t know about the treatments given there, but I know a bit about the “hospital” itself.

    One might recall a time in the mid-’90s that Oral Roberts claimed that God told him that if he didn’t get such-and-such much money to use to build a hospital, God would take him (that is, he’d die). People’s gullibility overcame them (possibly it was their good will, but remember the goal here wasn’t expressed as the goodness of building a medical facility but rather preventing God from “taking” Roberts) and the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa is the result. Sort of.

    The building itself is essentially a sham. The entire building was billed from the beginning as a hospital. I’m not certain about now, but as of 2003 or so, never had as much as half of the place been used for medical treatment or anything related. During the early 2000s, only couple of floors of one tower was medical. The rest was office space for other businesses or was rented out for events. (My high school held prom there many times.) To bill the building as a hospital is like billing an office complex as a doctor’s office because there’s a doctor’s office in it though it may mainly be occupied by, say, lawyers.

    So that place (in Tulsa) was created on what presumably were lies and the building itself is a lie (in that it’s not mainly a medical facility though it claims to be). Given such an inauspicious background, even before I saw the woo-ful commercials with dubious anecdotes, I would have been surprised if most of their treatments were valid. I also wonder, if they were really so good as they obliquely claim, would they have ads on national television? Really good specialists and really good facilities tend to be inundated with patients because word gets around about how good they are. Since they’re taking such ads, I presume word-of-mouth isn’t doing enough for them. That could be a bad sign. The content of the ads, I think, is an even worse sign.

  86. #86 E
    November 11, 2009

    My wife briefly worked at Meridian Valley labs as a chemist, and has a number of stories about Dr. Wright. When she was there he was big into ozone therapy, along with a lot of other woo. She left quickly because of what was going on there.

    He got nailed by the FDA for what they could get him for – prescription violations – but there was a ton of other stuff going on.

    You can find his “thoughts” at http://www.wrightnewsletter.com. The archives are password-protected, but google gave me one hit and the naming pattern is pretty obvious:

    http://www.wrightnewsletter.com/archives/pdfs/nah_05/nah_200512.pdf

  87. #87 gaiainc
    November 11, 2009

    Pablo, yes, I believe that CML is treated with Gleevec.

  88. #88 Xplodyncow
    November 11, 2009

    I’m sure I am giving her far too much credit, but I wonder whether by “chemosensitivity tests” Somers meant, for example, testing to discover whether an mCRC patient has mutated or wild-type K-ras?

    Pablo — as far as I know (which is not far at all), imatinib (Gleevec) is first-line treatment for CML.

  89. #89 Kathryn
    November 11, 2009

    Here’s a press release from UW-Madison about REAL RESEARCHERS curing cervical cancer (well, ok, in mice).

    http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/News-researchers-erase-cervical-cancer-mice-111109.aspx?xmlmenuid=51

    Yay science-based medicine! People actually work at improving it and make sure it works before marketing a treatment.

  90. #90 anthony
    November 12, 2009

    Wow, Somers was on another talk show this week talking about her “full body cancer” misdiagnosis. First of all, can someone please tell her that there is no such diagnosis. If she had extensive metastatic disease, wouldn’t any board certified oncologist wait until a cell biopsy confirmation before making that diagnosis (let alone the “six” doctors she claims who confirmed this)? She is clearly spinning the story here. I am 44 years old and a 23 year survivor of Ewing’s Sarcoma, you know, one of those nasty solid cell tumors that Somers will tell you chemotherapy has no effect upon. Well, in my case, if it weren’t for chemotherapy shrinking my tumor down to a point where it was operable, I would be dead today. Chemotherapy absolutely saved my life, yes cured my cancer. Frankly, her lies, not only traumatize current cancer patients, but also we survivors who did our research and developed healthy working relationships with the doctors and nurses providing competent care. I really wish there was an organization out there I could team up with and take some kind of legal action against her for the trauma she inflicts on people and the potential lives that are going to be literally lost because of her lies, deceptions, and use of a deadly disease like cancer as a marketing tool for her own financial gain. How does this despicable woman sleep at night?

  91. #91 Luna_the_cat
    November 12, 2009

    anthony:
    Congratulations on your prolonged survival — that is fantastic.
    How does this despicable woman sleep at night?
    Presumably by being shallow, venal and self-centered, and simply not caring.

  92. #92 Dianne
    November 13, 2009

    How does this despicable woman sleep at night?

    Ambien? Xanax?

  93. #93 The Blind Watchmaker
    November 13, 2009

    At least on “Three’s Company” she didn’t pretend to be smart.

  94. #94 Adrian
    November 16, 2009

    @Pablo
    Glivec is also a 1st line treatment for GISTs (gastro-intestinal stromal tumours) and I am involved in a trial comparing it with a 2nd gen version (Nilotinib), also for GISTs. I saw a patient presented last week who, when diagnosed 6 years ago, had a tumour 30x20cm. With Glivec, this reduced to 7x4cm and he is still going strong now. It has even kept his liver mets under control all this time!

  95. #95 gumuldur
    December 7, 2009

    Excellent take-apart of Begley. The truths of being science-based while at the same time not being true science need to be effectively passed along to as many who will listen as possible.

  96. #96 Ray Montesino
    May 17, 2010

    You stated above:”The reason the ideas of Galileo, Semmelweis, Copernicus, Darwin, Pasteur, et al, were ultimately accepted as correct by the scientific community is because they turned out to be correct!”

    I find it surprising that a scientist like you should lump Darwin with all those scientists and astronomers you mentioned? Do you consider Darwin’s theory of evolution scientific fact? His theory no longer a theory? Has somebody replicated his experiments? Where can I find proofs for his theory? Has his theory been already confirmed by fossil records? I would appreciate your enlightening ignorant me. Thank you.

  97. #97 Chris
    May 17, 2010

    Ray, there is a big difference in how a “theory” is defined in science. You can get the answer to your questions in a first year biology book.

  98. #98 JohnV
    May 17, 2010

    What are the odds that someone would reply to a 7 month old thread to lay that turd on us?

    Also, ray, perhaps you should look up Pasteur with respect to the germ THEORY of disease not the germ LAW of disease.

  99. #99 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 17, 2010

    I would appreciate your enlightening ignorant me.

    I shall take you at your word, sir.

    Your questions are founded on the false idea that the word “theory” as used in “theory of evolution” means the same thing as “theory” does in colloquial conversation: a tentative, speculative explanation which we suspect might be correct.

    Now, I am going to open an imaginary economics textbook and quote the first paragraph:

    In basic economic theory, the active participants are either producers, those who provide goods or services to others in exchange for money, or consumers, those who give money to the producers in exchange for the good or service.

    Now, let me ask you this: Does the use of the word ‘theory’ in that sentence create in your mind the impression that everything so described is wholly tentative and speculative? Do you think the idea that people pay money in order to obtain goods and services is an extremely tentative idea? Speculative? Likely to be overturned by further research? One which is, in the colloquial sense of the word, “theoretical”?

    Obviously not; the statements which are described here as part of “basic economic theory” are emphatically not tentative; indeed, one would have to be deeply in denial to assert that people do not ever exchange money for goods and services or vice-versa.

    Do we consider the described economic theory to be verified fact? Yes we do. The described economic theory no longer a ‘theory’ in the colloquial sense? Please tell me when it was ever considered such. Has somebody replicated the experiments which support the described economic theory? Oh, only several trillion times a day all over the globe. Where can you find proofs for the described economic theory? Amazon.com, eBay, Overstock.com, any of the commercials and infomercials playing on your TV — I’m just naming the ones you can verify without leaving your armchair, here.

    In short, the word “theory”, as found in “basic economic theory” and “theory of evolution” and “germ theory” and “theoretical yield” and countless other familiar usages, has nothing to do with the colloquial use of “theory.” In this context, “theory” means instead “a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena”. Questions such as “[do you consider the referenced] theory no longer a theory?” show a lack of understanding of this terminology, especially since the general propositions in this specific instance (organisms inherit traits from their progenitors; organisms who inherit traits adaptive to their environment will survive longer and reproduce more) are in fact those it would be difficult for anyone to deny.

    But now you have been enlightened.

  100. #100 Giulia Quintarelli
    December 15, 2010

    I wonder with all this slagging that you do if you have ever had conventional medicine fail you completely just like many of us have, and ever tried any “non-conventional” treatment yourself. Granted, there are a lot of quacks about in this profession, just like in many others, but there is nothing like personal experience to bring a sense of perspective to it all. While I do not wish for you to get cancer so you can find out for yourself, I find your arrogance in this dismissal of other approaches to making cancer a disease that can be survived and managed rather than a death sentence extremely dangerous and harmful. Somers went out and – in her wisdom or lack of, depending on the point of view – found practitioners who are trying to rethink the problem and offer less debilitating alternatives than high dose chemo and radiotherapy, which no-one in their sane mind would choose to undergo if they were not being threatened with death scenarios. I am not saying they are all bona fide and they all work, but good scientists never dismiss anything that they have not experienced or seen for themselves first. Just a thought.

  101. #101 Chris
    December 15, 2010

    Some basic rules before commenting on a blog or forum:

    1) If you find an article through Google, before commenting go to the first page and see what is under discussion.

    2) Get to know the place, lurk for a while.

    3) Become familiar with the writing style, especially in how issues are discussed. Anecdotes are not considered data.

    4) Actually read the article and comments before commenting.

    5) Try to proof read your comments (okay, we don’t all do that).

    6) If you think you want to bring a subject up to the participants’ attention, please use the search box on the upper left side of this page to see if it has been discussed before.

    7) If you get an error when posting a comment, before posting again… open another window to see if it was actually posted.

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