Cancer

Category archives for Cancer

A conversation with a Rigvir flack

My skeptical analysis of Rigvir, a “Virotherapy” from Latvia being promoted by alternative medicine clinics as a cancer cure, caught the attention of the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). The result was a long and very telling e-mail exchange between its Assistant of Business Development and myself. I post it because the arguments used in the discussion are very telling about where the IVC is coming from when it comes to science. Hint: It’s not a good place.

it’s October, which means that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means that it’s time for dubious breast cancer case reports. Here’s one about ketogenic diets that doesn’t show that such diets cure cancer.

Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a “virotherapy” promoted by the International Virotherapy Center (IVC) in Latvia, which did not like what I had to say. When a representative called me to task for referring to the marketing of Rigvir using patient testimonials as irresponsbile, it prompted me to look at how Ty Bollinger’s The Truth About Cancer series promoted Rigvir through patient testimonials and how the IVC itself uses such testimonials. The word “irresponsible” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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.