Cancer

Category archives for Cancer

Recently, the Hope4Cancer Institute, a quack clinic in Mexico has added a treatment known as Rigvir to its other offerings. But what is Rigvir? It turns out that it’s an import from Latvia with a mysterious history. Its proponents claim that it targets cancer specifically. Unfortunately, there is a profound paucity of evidence for its efficacy. The story of Rigvir is the story of an unproven treatment that, because of its origin in a small country, has flown mostly under the radar. Until now, that is.

Five years ago, IBM announced that its supercomputer Watson would revolutionize cancer treatment by using its artificial intelligence to digest and distill the thousands of oncology studies published every year plus patient-level data and expert recommendations into treatment recommendation. Last week, a report published by STAT News shows that, years later, IBM’s hubris and hype have crashed into reality.

Britt Hermes is an ex-naturopath who realized that she had become a quack and had the bravery to quit and study to become a real scientist. Because she is an apostate, the church of naturopathy has a special antipathy reserved for her, which is why a “naturopathic oncologist” named Colleen Huber has engaged in legal thuggery to silence her. Not-a-Dr. Huber has apparently never heard of the Streisand Effect, because a look at her website and her incredibly badly done and incompetent clinical study claiming that her treatments plus eliminating processed sugar results in much better cancer survival would be very embarrassing…to her.

By definition, alternative medicine has not been shown to be effective or has been shown to be ineffective. Thus, alternative medicine is ineffective against cancer and can best be represented as either no treatment at all or potentially harmful treatment. It is thus not surprising that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer. A new study confirms this conclusion yet again.

Eleven years ago, Abraham Cherrix and his parents chose quackery over science-based medicine to treat his cancer, and Cherrix was one of the earliest cases of teens who chose quackery to treat a life-threatening disease that I discussed in depth. Recently, I learned that Cherrix is still alive. The reason? He finally realized the error of his original decision and underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

So-called “right-to-try” is a cruel sham that holds out the mostly false hope of survival to terminally ill patients and their families. In return, all they have to give up is patient protections and agree to pay to be guinea pigs to test a drug company’s product. The product of an ideology that uses the terminally ill as shields to hide the ideological motives behind the law, which are to hobble the FDA, right-to-try is a terrible idea. It’s bad for patients, but it just passed the Senate and could well become the law of the land when the House reconvenes in September if it isn’t stopped.

Many are the stories of those who have embraced quackery to treat their cancer. Few are followup stories when such a person realizes she’s made a mistake and returns to conventional therapy. This is one such story, but you’re unlikely ever to see the media outlets that touted Carissa Gleeson’s choice of quackery to treat her cancer run the story of her having changed her mind and saved her life with real medicine.

I recently took a review course in general surgery to prepare for my board recertification examination in December and realized just how much the standard of care had changed in the decade since I last recertified. Then I learned that laetrile is still a thing. If there’s one thing that demonstrates the difference between alternative medicine and real medicine, it’s how no alternative medicine treatment ever goes away, no matter how often it’s shown not to work. Ever.

Earlier this month, cancer quacks everywhere were touting a study that suggests that chemotherapy administered before breast cancer treatment can stimulate the spread of cancer, pointing to it as evidence that chemotherapy doesn’t work and even makes cancer worse. In reality, the study was far more nuanced. It didn’t show that chemotherapy doesn’t work (quite the contrary) but does point to ways we can make chemotherapy more effective.

Paul Davies is a physicist turned Brave Maverick Cancer Researcher who thinks that, as an outsider, he’s had an insight to the origin of cancer. The problem is that his “insight” is 100 years old. Scientists rejected it long ago because it doesn’t fit with the evidence and produces no promising strategies to improve cancer care. Naturally, Davies cries “Big pharma!”

“Right-to-try” laws claim to help terminally patients by allowing them access to experimental drugs before they are approved, when, in fact, their purpose is to undermine and weaken the FDA and such laws strip legal and regulatory protections from patients using such drugs. Now advocates are making a new push to pass right-to-try by embedding it in the very law that funds the FDA. They might succeed if they encounter no opposition from constituents.

Cassandra Callender made national news a couple of years ago when at age 17 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and refused chemotherapy. The court ordered that she undergo appropriate treatment, but unfortunately she relapsed and chose treatment at a quack clinic in Mexico. Continuing to progress, she finally chose real medicine to treat her cancer. Let’s hope that it’s not too late to save her.

Since being given a slap on the wrist by the Texas Medical Board for his many years of peddling his antineoplastons, a treatment that’s never been shown to have significant anticancer activity, Stanislaw Burzynski is back in action again, preying on desperate cancer patients like it’s 1999.

Just over two years ago, the Society for Integrative Medicine issued clinical guidelines for breast cancer care. Now it’s updated them. Unfortunately, mixing cow pie with apple pie for a little longer doesn’t make the cow pie any better than it was last time.

This week, the FDA sent warning letters to 14 companies making unsupported claims that their products can treat cancer. Given the new administration’s determination to deregulate almost everything, but especially the FDA, is this the last time in the foreseeable future that such a crackdown will occur?

Last month, the Texas Medical Board fined Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and placed his practice under supervision. It did not strip him of his medical license, as he deserves. The result is that families of children with terminal cancer are once again raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to follow his siren song of false hope.

Ill-advised right-to-try bills are spreading like kudzu through state legislatures. Now federal legislators want to insert right-to-try language into the bill that funds FDA drug approval. Given the support of powerful Republicans for right-to-try, is it too late to stop this juggernaut and protect patients?

Orac contemplates a reason why doctors become antivaccine that he missed the last time he discussed this topic.

In less than two weeks, the Trump administration will have passed that magical “first 100 days” marker. Let’s check in and see how Donald Trump is shaping federal biomedical policy thus far. Hint: It’s deregulation über alles.

If you were to rely on much of what you see in the mainstream media and on social media, you probably have the impression that we are not doing very well against cancer. Indeed, a common trope I see in a lot of articles is that we are somehow “losing” the war on cancer. Just…

Cancer huckster Belle Gibson was recently fined for deceiving the public by claiming that she had brain cancer, a story that she used to sell all manner of dubious treatments. Was she delusional or a run-of-the-mill con artist? Does it matter?

In a forthcoming book The Boy in 7 Billion, Callie Blackwell claims that cannabis oil, which she had started giving her son Deryn to relieve his symptoms during a bone marrow transplant for two cancers, actually saved his life when the bone marrow transplant appeared to be failing. Unfortunately, her story appears to be another testimonial that confuses correlation with causation.

Out of southern California, comes a lesson that something as seemingly benign as turmeric can kill when weaponized in the hands of a quack.

I’ve been blogging fairly regularly about Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski since 2011, and now the story is over…sort of. Unfortunately, as you will see, the ending is far from ideal. It is, however, somewhat better than I had feared it might be. What I’m referring to, of course, is the final ruling of…

I like to refer to homeopathy as The One Quackery To Rule Them All, so much so that I almost always call it that within the first two paragraphs of any post I write about some tasty bit of homeopathy pseudoscience. It’s also a wonderful tool for teaching critical thinking because it’s easy to explain…