Combatting the alt-med stereotype of oncologists anxious to administer toxic chemotherapy

It is an article of faith among believers in alternative cancer cures that conventional oncology consists mainly of a bunch of money-hungry surgeons and oncologists who want nothing more than to cut, poison, and burn patients with cancer and charge them enormous sums of money to do so for as long as they can until the poisonous chemotherapy finally kills them. It is an evil and malicious caricature, of course. People don’t endure four years of medical school, three to five years of residency, and three years of fellowship in order to be able to cut, poison, and burn without regard for whether it’s actually helping patients. If making money is what you want to do, there are strategies far less long and brutal to accomplish that end. Moreover, even physicians who are into the money perhaps more than they should be generally still went into medicine to help people and still do want to help people. One really has to wonder what sort of sick, twisted mind can imagine that so many other human beings would be so willing to intentionally harm people. Yes, there does exist the occasional evil doctor. (Dr. Farid Fata, who administered chemotherapy far longer than patients needed in order to defraud Medicare, comes to mind.)

It is also an article of faith among these people who believe in alternative cancer cures that chemotherapy does not work. Well, they might concede that it saves 2% of patients with cancer based on an old, poorly analyzed study from Australia, in a gambit I like to refer to as the “2% gambit.” It’s BS, of course. Chemotherapy does work, and can in some cases works really well. They also routinely confuse adjuvant chemotherapy, which is chemotherapy administered after curative surgery for cancer to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence, with primary chemotherapy, which is when chemotherapy is used as a primary treatment for cancer. This leads to a great many alternative cancer cure testimonials in which the patient underwent surgery but refused adjuvant chemotherapy and now attributes his or her survival to “natural” or “alternative” cancer treatments. In fact it was the surgery that cured the cancer, and these patients were just lucky not to have had a recurrence. The testimonials of Suzanne Somers and Hollie Quinn are examples of this form of testimonial. So is the cancer cure testimonial of Chris Wark, of Chris Beat Cancer.

Wark was unfortunate enough to develop colon cancer as a young man and underwent surgery for it. Because his tumor had spread to his lymph nodes, he was at a high risk of recurrence, and chemotherapy was recommended. Wark refused in favor of naturopathic quackery. Fortunately, he lucked out and survived. Unfortunately, he’s now so convinced of the efficacy of alternative medical therapies that he’s now promoting them and the myths I mention above. It’s belief in those myths that allow him cite something like Groundbreaking study finds half of breast cancer patients don’t need chemo with a snarky “Sorry, big pharma”):

The shocking results of the long awaited MINDACT clinical trial are in. Many breast cancer patients have been receiving chemotherapy treatments they didn’t need, and that made no difference in their survival.

This is thanks to a genetic test called MammaPrint, which determined that nearly half the women slated for chemotherapy based on standard clinical recommendations didn’t need it.

After surgery to remove their tumors, early-stage breast cancer patients (0-3 positive nodes) with a MammaPrint score recommending against chemotherapy had a 95% survival rate, said co-researcher Laura van ‘t Veer, the test’s inventor.
“That’s very high, and we showed that it doesn’t differ between those who are treated and those who are not treated by chemotherapy,” said van ‘t Veer, leader of the breast oncology program at the University of California, San Francisco Diller Family Cancer Center.

Mr. Wark is rather behind the times. The development of genetic tests that predict benefit from chemotherapy is very much a hot area of research right now. Indeed, in breast cancer, we’ve been using just such a test for several years now: The OncoType DX test, which was intended for patients with cancers that have not spread to the axillary lymph nodes yet, have the estrogen and/or progesterone receptor (i.e., are hormone receptor-positive), and are negative for the HER2 protein. While this might sound like a small subset of cancers, it’s actually the most common variety of breast cancer. The Oncotype is a 21-gene test in which—yes—21 genes are measured by PCR and a recurrence score calculated. High recurrence scores definitely benefit from chemotherapy, and low recurrence scores definitely do not. Unfortunately, there is an intermediate range of scores for which the benefit (or lack thereof) from chemotherapy benefit is uncertain, and we expect the results of a clinical trial testing whether there is benefit in chemotherapy for intermediate scores to be reported soon. We also soon expect to know whether the OncoType recurrence score is useful in patients with cancer and 1-3 positive lymph nodes, patients who now routinely receive chemotherapy. The point is, this test is already in use in routine clinical practice; indeed its use is recommended in national guidelines. Until recently, it was by far the most favored test in the US because it could be performed on paraffin-embedded tissue.

The MammaPrint test is similar to the OncoType, except that it uses 70 genes to generate a recurrence score. Now, 70 genes are not necessarily better than 21. Be that as it may, though, the main reason MammaPrint was not favored in the US was because it required fresh tissue, which made it a lot less convenient. Since the test was updated to be used with paraffin-embedded tissue it appears to be gaining popularity. MammaPrint has an advantage over OncoType in that it can be used in cancers that are hormone receptor-positive or -negative.

Now, the MINDACT (Microarray In Node negative and 1-3 positive lymph node Disease may Avoid ChemoTherapy) clinical trial is a multi-center, prospective, phase III randomized study comparing the MammaPrint gene expression signature with a common clinical-pathological prognostic tool that I’ve discussed many time before while discussing alternative cancer cure testimonials (Adjuvant! Online) in selecting patients with negative or 1-3 positive nodes for adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer. The trial was set up this way (note that “C” = clinicopathological criteria and “G” = MammaPrint gene test):

The participants were then divided into four groups: 2,745 were categorized as having low risk of recurrence by both risk-assessment methods (G-low/C-low), 1,806 were categorized as having high risk of recurrence by both risk-assessment methods (G-high/C-high), 592 were categorized as having high risk of recurrence by MammaPrint and low risk of recurrence by Adjuvant! Online (G-high/C-low), and 1,550 were categorized as having low risk of recurrence by MammaPrint and high risk of recurrence by Adjuvant! Online (G-low/C-high).

Patients categorized as G-low/C-low were assigned to no adjuvant chemotherapy while those categorized as G-high/C-high were assigned to adjuvant chemotherapy. Patients categorized as G-high/C-low or G-low/C-high were randomly assigned adjuvant chemotherapy or no adjuvant chemotherapy.

If you look at the abstract, you’ll see that use of the of the MammaPrint led to a 14% absolute reduction in chemotherapy use and patients with unfavorable looking tumors but low G-scores treated without chemotherapy exhibited a 94.7% survival. In other words, this is high level evidence that this predictive gene test recurrence score works and treatment can be guided based on its use.

So, yes, a significant percentage of women who are normally be recommended to undergo adjuvant chemotherapy based solely on clinicopathologic criteria could do just as well without it. This is indeed a great result, and I look forward to the publication of the full paper given that, since I didn’t attend the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting this year I didn’t see the original presentation of the MINDACT results and only read about them later.

So what is the point? To Chris Wark, this is:

However, even if this test says you will benefit from chemotherapy, you should know that the word “benefit” rarely means cure. It typically just means temporary tumor shrinkage. After which, the cancer often grows and spreads much more aggressively. To further educate yourself in order to make an informed decision, I suggest you read these posts about chemo, and download my free guide 20 Questions For Your Oncologist.

Come to think of it, one of these days I’m going to have to examine Wark’s “20 questions.” In the meantime, however, I can say that Mr. Wark is truly clueless here. His gloating reveals a profound misunderstanding of the MINDACT trial and its very intent. For early stage breast cancer, the primary treatment is surgery. There is no tumor left to shrink with chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is administered to “mop up” microscopic tumor deposits that might remain, and it is very good at that, which is why the multimodality chemotherapy regimens have contributed to a decrease in mortality from breast cancer of close to 25% over the last 25 years.

But here’s the real reason why I mentioned Wark’s reporting of the MINDACT trial. What this trial shows is exactly the opposite of the alt-med “alternative cancer cure” view that oncologists exist only to administer chemotherapy. While it is true that there are a lot of women who receive chemotherapy who probably didn’t need it, it’s not because oncologists want to give lots of chemotherapy. It’s because we couldn’t predict which of these women will benefit from chemotherapy. We just knew what percentage of a group of women treated with chemotherapy would survive who would otherwise have died. We couldn’t predict which individuals would benefit or not. Gene tests like the OncoType and MammaPrint are now changing that. We now can predict, albeit not 100% by any means, which individual women are likely to benefit from chemotherapy and which are not. And guess what? Oncologists love it! Fewer women with cancer receive chemotherapy, and chemotherapy use declines. And guess what else? I myself have worked with investigators right here in Michigan to document that the OncoType DX test has led to a decrease in chemotherapy use. We’re working on the manuscript now and hope to publish it by the end of the year.

It turns out that we cancer doctors don’t like the status quo, in which chemotherapy is administered to many more women than benefit from it and are working to figure out ways to reduce that number and make sure only the women who are likely to benefit from chemotherapy receive it. Breast cancer isn’t the only cancer for which we are seeking ways to do this, either.

Imagine that. Certainly, people like Chris Wark can’t.

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As a breast cancer patient,following mastectomy,and awaiting the next part of treatment,I appreciate clear and concise information like this.

By laura jamieson (not verified) on 03 Aug 2016 #permalink

This kind of post is why I read this blog every day. Sure, I love the polemics, but you can't beat proper well-informed nuanced descriptions of the reality that quacks so blatantly misrepresent.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 03 Aug 2016 #permalink

Many breast cancer patients have been receiving chemotherapy treatments they didn’t need, and that made no difference in their survival.

Also, many people pay for travel insurance, only to find out afterwards that the policies were a complete waste because they weren't injured or robbed while travelling.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

HDB@3: Most insurance works like that. You buy it because there is a risk that something bad will happen, and you (or the bank that holds the mortgage on your house) want to make sure the downside risk is covered. (In most US states drivers are required by law to carry insurance, but the principle is the same.) The insurance company ideally sets rates such that they collect enough in premiums to cover the payouts and administrative expenses, with a little left over for profit. They know that bad things will happen to some fraction of their policy holders, but they can't predict in advance which ones it will happen to. All they can do is look at risk factors, e.g., an 18 year old driver will pay more for auto insurance than a 30 year old driver because the former is statistically more likely to be involved in an accident. But some 18 year olds manage to avoid accidents (I was an 18 year old driver once, and I never had one), and some 30 year olds do have them.

Adjuvant chemotherapy doesn't directly involve financial risk, but it is otherwise a sort of insurance against cancer recurrence. In some fraction of patients, such as Mr. Wark, the surgery is sufficient to cure the cancer. But in some fraction of patients it isn't, and doctors cannot always predict in advance which patients will be in which category. In some cases they can identify risk factors, which is the purpose of the genetic tests Orac mentions, but some high-risk patients will not see a recurrence, and some lower-risk patients will see a recurrence.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

@ herr doktor bimler

I'm going to respectfully dissent and make the observation with, with insurance, you usually bet against a variety of risks and all you lose is money, while an unneeded chemotherapy is very cancer-specific and may have less trivial consequences.

Now, if you just wanted to lampshade that hindsight is 20/20, I will shut up and go wait in the corner :-)

By Helianthus (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

An acquaintance of mine recently posted a video from an ND talking about how chemo is a scam, blah blah, doctors get paid directly by drug companies if they prescribe 5000 antibiotics a month but chemo is the only drug that they get paid each time they prescribe it, chemo only helps 2% of people, if everyone took selenium supplements the incidence of breast cancer would decrease by 84%, and several other nuggets of nonsense.

I find this personally offensive as he can't see medicine as a scam without including myself and my other half in that, people who are supposedly his friends. On the other hand, it's not news that this guy is gullible AF and full of sh!t. He's always forking out for the latest alt med bollocks for his non-existent medical woes, he even once passed on the offer of a glass of Krug (from us ebil pill-shilling doctors) because his Naturopath had told him he had Candida overgrowth so he needed to avoid alcohol.

I hope that people don't make decisions about cancer treatment based on something they saw on social media, but I still think it's irresponsible to post things like that as though it's true, or deserves to be heard. His caption to the video was "Word..." Humph. Yeah, I can think of a word...

By Can't remember… (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Heliantus @6: gambling is gambling, and utility is utility. Stakes can be high or low, it's true, but just cause the units are not money, does not make a decision inherently different.

I want to add that for people with low risk of recurrence of a cancer, it is not always necessary to demonstrate that additional treatment doesn't help, which is an exception to the usual rule that you need to demonstrate a treatment by risk interaction. Instead, the risk for a low-risk group can be so low (say 3%) that they are not willing to undergo the additional treatment (and it's side effects) even if it does reduce the risk (say to 2%). I await to see what the paper actually demonstrates, cause sometimes what is found is what I am talking about, but the scientists then spin it to claim extra treatment gave no benefit (and it's easy to fail to reject a null hypothesis if the effect is small).

(OT: rork: I've been trying to figure out what your avatar is. Can you explain?)

Few days ago a local chiropractor on some morning radio show lambasted this or some similar study as evidence that "their" idea of "individualized treatment protocols" is gaining traction and how the "standard Western idea of pushing medicine" is reaching it's end...

They mentioned it in passing, while promoting some book or other they had published.

But I think I prefer the nuanced explanation here better, somehow.

(OT, I think rork's avatar is some type of honeycomb mushroom. I could be wrong).

So, just for grins and giggles I tried to look up these 20 questions; I admit I was curious to know what they were and how they compare to the kinds of questions I encourage patients to ask their physicians.

As I suspected, when you go to your page there's a link to a "Get your Free Guide." This invariably means giving personal information that ends up on a mailing list. I suspect Mr. Wark pays for his website by selling email addresses.

Fortunately, I keep a throwaway email address just for this purpose.

The first part I loved was the "No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the
written permission of the publisher" statement. Chris could use a primer on copyright law along with everything else since he makes a big deal on his link that it can be printed by the recipient. IE he gives you permission when he gives you the guide. And I can't imagine anyone but the truly gullible actually paying for this.

I'd also love to sit down with this guy and explain to him what palliative care really means. He clearly has no clue, given his overt hostility to it. The question is couched in such a way that presumes palliative care is bad if it isn't meant to cure you. This is a common fallacy about hospice care, but many people conflate the two and fail to realize that if you're getting Zofran for nausea caused by your chemo (or marijuana) you're getting palliative care. It's just symptom management. And if you get chemo or radiation to relieve a symptom, but without the intent to cure you, that's palliative care as well. I've seen radiation do a lot of end stage lung cancer patients some short term good in terms of being able to breathe. Ditto for a paracentesis for someone in end stage liver failure.

Some of the questions are quite sensible. Asking how long you might live if you do nothing is a reasonable question. Asking about 5 year survival rates is reasonable. I would ask about a one year survival, quite frankly. Asking if you can get a refund if the treatment doesn't work is just preposterous, and damned ignorant. It's not like asking for a refund if your car breaks down.

Asking for the Material Safety Data Sheets just exemplifies the ignorance Chris has about medicine, and he already had questions about side effects.

Oh, and apparently he doesn't seem to think an oncologist who hasn't actually taken the drugs he gives is worth much. Sure, Chris! Let me just hook myself up to this toxic chemical knowing I'm not sick at all, and knowing that chemotherapy generally doesn't distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells just to prove to you that chemotherapy is in fact a necessary treatment for your cancer.

Then he asks for references. Now granted, checking your doctor out is actually a good idea. But don't approach it like you were planning to hire an electrician or a plumber. There are support groups that can better address the concerns he raises with these related questions.

Asking how much money the oncologist makes is just downright rude.

And that's before you even get into his "transcript" of his discussion of the 20 questions.

I've tied up enough of Orac's comments section for one day. Needless to say, these are not the kinds of questions I would ask as a patient.

MI Dawn, I believe rork's avatar is a very large morel mushroom.

It goes both ways. Just recently I explained to my colleague why her elderly mother-in-law with early stage breast cancer just underwent lumpectomy, without any adjuvant radiation or chemo afterwards. My colleague was certain that the hospital was trying to save money, and because chemo is so expensive, they wouldn't give it to the elderly. Fortunately, she seemed to believe my explanation that in women over certain age with early stage breast cancer chemo is now not recommended.

"Few days ago a local chiropractor on some morning radio show lambasted this or some similar study as evidence that “their” idea of “individualized treatment protocols” is gaining traction and how the “standard Western idea of pushing medicine” is reaching it’s end…"

"Individualized treatment" in the world of woo generally means taking a "healing journey" in which you sample individual alt med therapies until you think one works (at least temporarily) for you, you run out of money or death supervenes.

I have heard this described online as "guinea-pigging" oneself.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

In the Netherlands, a story is unfolding of 3 victims of cancer quackery. Three terminal cancer patient got an IV with glucose blocker from a quack in Germany by the name of Klaus Ross:
http://www.klausross.com/

The website is filled with the usual garbage from MMS to peroxide treatment and is especially focussed on 'complimentary' treatment of cancer. He claims to use 100% natural, non-toxic treatments and higher effectivity than chemo.

The three patients had complaints of confusion and headache a few day's after the treatment and eventually lost consciousness and past away in Dutch hospitals. The case is currently being investigated. There are rumours the IV's given on a monday and tuesday came from Germany, but the one on wednesday came from USA. A fourth patient is allegedly still admitted to a hospital in the Netherlands.

Just wanted to let you know of this case

http://nos.nl/artikel/2122909-kankerpatienten-duitse-kliniek-kregen-glu…

By Sebastian (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

I am so grateful for all the oncology specialists who have treated members of my family over the years. Why anyone would trust some guy with a web site and no medical training over someone like you, Orac, boggles me. Yet, here in Phoenix, there's a local chiroquacktor who has a Saturday AM radio show where he routinely talks about those cancer doctors who "cut, burn and poison" their patients and then he immediately segues into a plug for a woo-filled "holistic, integrated" medical center in Phoenix. I can't stand this bottom feeder (who I think doesn't see patients anymore, basically making his living off his who (which is one snake oil plug after another)). Ironically, this stupid AF quack goes by the name of "Dr. Bob" (and of course he's got an anti-vaccine page on his web site, too).

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Nice to see big pharma going out of their way to fund indoctrinated bullshit propaganda such as this !

My current avatar is indeed a morel. The big one, sometimes called thick-footed, recently renamed Morchella esculentoides. It's from Washtenaw County, MI.

Nice to see big pharma going out of their way to fund indoctrinated bullshit propaganda such as this !

I take you're not the usual Chris commenting here (for example, in #12)...

Did you even read the post or the study? I mean, how utterly awful of them to suggest utilizing tests to reduce unnecessary chemo.

You're obviously one to talk about indoctrination to bullshit propaganda...

Say Dr. Hickie, I've pre-ordered you a copy of Dr. Paul Thomas' "The Vaccine-Friendly Plan" (due to be released later this month.

"Paul Thomas, M.D., presents his proven approach to building immunity: a new protocol that limits a child’s exposure to aluminum, mercury, and other neurotoxins while building overall good health. Based on the results from his pediatric practice of more than eleven thousand children, as well as data from other credible and scientifically minded medical doctors"

https://www.amazon.com/Vaccine-Friendly-Plan-Effective-Health-Pregnancy…

Should be a humdinger!

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

To all who answered: Thanks! It's obvious that I have no mycology skills. I love to eat them but I've never hunted them in the wild. :)

@DB: Well, it looks a bit woo-ish, with its delayed vaccine schedule, especially when it mentions MERCURY!!! and NEUROTOXINS!!! And ALUMINUM (it's only in the MMR, IIRC). On the other hand, he does claim that all of his children are fully vaccinated. As much as I dislike woo, and the idea that his vaccine schedule is safer than the CDC recommendations, at least he's not telling parents to NOT vaccinate.

You know, if big pharma and oncologists were only interested in making as much money as possible by selling you ineffective drugs, why would they be pushing drugs that are so notoriously difficult to endure? Why would they sell you drugs that "poison" and "burn"? If the drugs are ineffective, just a scam, and they know it, they'd make a lot more money selling people innocuous ones, or even cherry-flavored.

No snake-oil salesman would pick a noxious treatment to push, so that means......that chemotherapy isn't snake oil?

Nah, couldn't be that.

By Garnetstar (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

I dunno Garnetstar (@22) - I've heard we know the cod liver oil must work because it tastes so bad.

the drugs are ineffective, just a scam, and they know it, they’d make a lot more money selling people innocuous ones, or even cherry-flavored.

Better yet, find a way to sell people pure water as if it's actually medicine...oh, wait.

Seems biomedical researchers just can't win - when they develop new drugs to treat diseases, they're drug pushers in thrall to Big Pharma. When they develop tests that could help people avoid unnecessary treatments, they're...um...still drug pushers in thrall to Big Pharma, I guess?

"...at least (Dr. Thomas is) not telling parents to NOT vaccinate."

You may be giving him too much credit.

Among other gems, Thomas' website advises parents on the dangers of various aluminum-containing vaccines (TOXINS!) and how to use Oregon's religious exemption to duck out on getting their kids vaccinated:

"Parents who elect to vaccinate differently from the published schedule can check the box for religious exemption based on their beliefs - whatever they may be."

Yeah, no matter what your religion's precepts say, whatever you believe rocks.

Dr. Thomas advises that the only way babies get hepatitis B is if their moms have it (outside of a few cases involving household contacts out of millions). Also this:

"Q: What causes Autism? Why are we seeing so much more autism these days?
A: While there are many theories and no one knows for certain. Dr Thomas believes that in genetically vulnerable individuals, toxins (heavy metals like mercury and aluminum, lead and arsenic), pesticides and plastics along with too many vaccines in the very young (possibly triggering an immune issue or perhaps just simply the toxic load of all the vaccines) triggers autism."

http://integrativepediatricsonline.com/faqs.html

Nope, he's not antivaccine. Nuh-uh.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Anagram for Dangerous Bacon = A Gonads Bouncer

By Annabel Lee (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Aluminum isn't a heavy metal.

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Aluminum isn’t a heavy metal.

While making this observation has utility as a probe, the actual term is more nebulous than suggested.

Speaking or Morels, I never thought that they were worth the effort.

Portobello mushrooms taste like 5x better and are 10x cheaper.

By Annabel Lee (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

In the Netherlands, a story is unfolding of 3 victims of cancer quackery. Three terminal cancer patient got an IV with glucose blocker from a quack in Germany by the name of Klaus Ross:
http://www.klausross.com/
The website is filled with the usual garbage from MMS to peroxide treatment and is especially focussed on ‘complimentary’ treatment of cancer. He claims to use 100% natural, non-toxic treatments and higher effectivity than chemo.

So 3-bromopyruvate is "100% natural"?
It pops up in the scammosphere from time to time but was never as popular as DCA. Sounds like it is not suitable for oral administration, but has to be perfused into an artery upstream from the targetted tumour (in order not to kill the patient)... but it's NOT CHEMOTHERAPY.

Goofle tells me that there are alt-med money-extraction centres in the US pimping 3-bromopyruvate treatment. Also that doctors don't want you to know about it. Also that it's not widely available because the pharmaceutical industry can't patent it, or because they have patented it and are now sitting on the patent, or possibly both.
It is strangely amusing that his particular not-a-doctor con-man (Klaus Ross) is recruiting his victims from the Netherlands, but he is taking advantage of the less-regulated regime in Germany to work from a house just across the border in Bracht. Like Tijuana.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

the actual term is more nebulous than suggested.

I am no astronomer. Also it causes me physical pain to see arsenic described as a 'metal', let alone as a heavy one.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

@Herr Doktor Also it causes me physical pain to see arsenic described as a ‘metal’, let alone as a heavy one.

If that causes you pain, you might not want to look at this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_heavy_metal

You might want to get some Morphine, or some acupuncture needles, before you edit this.

By Annabel Lee (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

it causes me physical pain to see arsenic described as a ‘metal’

But it is a 'metalloid' --

Arsenic doesn't seem much like a metal in its so called yellow form, but it also has a grey form known tellingly as metallic arsenic.

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/podcast/interactive_periodic_table_tr…

At ambient conditions bismuth shares the same layered structure as the metallic forms of arsenic and antimony, crystallizing in the rhombohedral lattice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bismuth#Physical_characteristics

Is there such a thing as mercury antimony oxide??

Annabel Lee: Actually, morels ARE free, as long as you know your mushrooms, and can get to the woods at the right time. Do you enjoy being stupid or something?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

@ Dangerous Bacon #20--gee, how could you have known how keen I am to read "Dr. Paul" and his anti-vaccine screeds? I don't give a hoot what Paul Thomas claims--he's just as bad as Sears or Gordon in that he enables parents to minimally delay vaccines if not skip some or outright not vaccinate at all. It's hard enough to keep kids on the vaccine schedule without YAQ (yet another quack) coming along to tell parents it's ok not to follow the CDC schedule.

I am amazed how these "I'm not anti-vaccine" pediatricians who really are very anti-vaccine can write books and come up with "schedules" despite never having participated in real research projects or having published a single bit of research in any peer-reviewed journal. To me, it's criminal.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

I was sitting here trying to understand why these wackadoodles think a great example of scientific medicine improving itself proves its a fraud, but then I remembered. In the alt med world, it's possible to be 100% right. If you ever change your mind, it means you're either incompetent or lying. Naturopathy is always right and needs no improvement - we just need to figure out what the patients are doing so wrong they die.

And the ban hammer comes down.

What, now? They're all "Fendelsworth," unless Mitzi Gilberttimmeh discovered some tag-along creativity or managed to create the whole shebang, which differs from the earlier HELP ME BLACK HELICOPTERS AND ASSASSINS noise only in terms of duration.

Annabel Lee: Tell that to someone who lives in Arizona.

Your problem, not mine. You chose to live with your fellow dingbats. Although, judging from your posts, I suspect you live in Florida. Not a state with a lot of smart people, and boy does it show. Real smart, internet tough guy- that's not even a good threat. I bet you are actually a twelve-year-old boy.
Orac: Really? Thanks, but I was kind of enjoying chewing on 'her.'

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

My personal beef with Fata is that the very existence of him, and frauds like him, is taken as a gilt edged Get Out of Jail Free Card by every crackpot that I have to deal with. If I am trying to explain how the FDA approval system works, little elenacarlena can sneer "Fata shows us everything we need to know about Big Pharma" and run off to celebrate a smashing victory with her fellow goons.

These people are implacable. I once had a guy lecture me that the Minamata disaster proves that the mercury in vaccines is known to be deadly. That is as logically coherent as "you scientists lied to me about cigarettes, now I can never trust another scientist ever again!" but it seems to be rhetorically effective on its intended audience.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 04 Aug 2016 #permalink

Can't remember my 'nym @7

I always wonder how the alt-med conspiracy theorists explain how that "doctors get paid directly for x amount of y drug they prescribe" lie works in systems such as the UK one, in which ALL NHS doctors are salaried and employed by NHS trusts, and we have rules on gifts so tight that you have to declare a box of chocolates, and folk are sacked for fraudulent over-time or shift allowance claims...

Oh, and anyone who turns down a glass of Krug is automatically untrustworthy (says he looking up at the empty "trophy" Krug bottle from our 20th wedding anniversary).

@DB: Thanks for the additional info about Paul Thomas. I hadn't gone to his website; I only looked at the Amazon page. Serves me right for trusting a publishing blurb.

I ran across his to-be-released vaccine book while checking out the ever-expanding antivax literature. I'd forgotten that Thomas got a mention on RI a couple of years ago.

"The depressing thing about this latest round of antivaccine projection is that it’s all so depressingly the same, a fact made even more depressing by an actual “integrative pediatrician” named “Dr. Paul” Thomas, who in response to the SafeMinds piece chimed in with a spectacularly brain dead blog post in which he proclaims Andrew Wakefield to have been right and not to have committed research fraud."

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/06/12/tactics-and-tropes-of-the-…

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 05 Aug 2016 #permalink

@MI Dawn #47: Another tip-off to me that this "book" by Thomas was crap without having to crack its yet-to-be-released cover is his co-author is anti-vaxxer journalist Jennifer Margulis, who pretends to be "pro-vaccine safety" and unlike the subject of today's RI blog doesn't have the decency to simply come out and admit she's anti-vax.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 05 Aug 2016 #permalink

Mr Woo remains firmly entrenched in woo. He continues to insist there are kickbacks, etc.

I have managed to get diabetes numbers firmly in check, but after diagnosis ended up joining several low carb diabetic support groups. The members are almost cult-like, and not only do they proclaim the joys and benefits of the LCHF WOE, anyone asking questions or suggesting some of their recommendations might be dangerous (fasting one to two months without medical supervision) is rapidly attacked by others: "if you do not believe in the WOE, why are you here?", etc.

I have found it fascinating. The one encouraging months without food kept saying, "I follow the science." When I asked for the studies she has read supporting long-term fasting, she sent me to her favorite alternative doctor's website, where I found anecdotes and a small pilot study linked to which studied a diet alternating as much as you want with 25% of calories the next day (only study I have found so far), hardly scientific evidence that drinking nothing but water and eating nothing at all for 30 to 60 days is safe, or that it "rejuvenated" the pancreas.

This blog has taught me a lot. I wish that woo true believers were willing to listen.

@Mrs Woo,

Good luck with your diabetes management.

Is it type 1 or 2?

My wife got type 2 when we had our little girl and we've been working with it ever since. Nonstarchy vegetables are a must (forget the peas and corn, and beans cause problems too.). But sometimes things that should be OK cause a blood sugar spike.

We switched to whole grapefruit (lower K because of a kidney problem) and oranges, but the grapefruit are harder to chew these days.

She spends an hour every day on a recumbent bike and that has really helped her bp and cholesterol.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 05 Aug 2016 #permalink

@squirrelelite: I spend 30 minutes, five days a week on elliptical trainer set for random program and 20 minutes, five days a week, weight training. I avoid everything you suggested and usually have a fasting blood glucose between 65 and 85, and post prandial readings between 86 and 120 (sometimes I give in to the siren call of ice cream).

Type 2, same as Mr Woo. Even with my careful meal planning and exercise example, he continues to web search and try "diabetes cure," and has fasting blood glucose 140 - 200.

Magical thinking must be addictive.

Thank you for the well wishes. I share the same for Mrs Squirrelelite. It is a frustrating disease to manage!

@Mrs Woo,

Thanks! It sounds like you're doing reasonably well.

Her sister has diabetes also and is having more trouble.

Good luck!

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 05 Aug 2016 #permalink

Thank you for alerting me to the report of the German cancer clinic. I have followed the development of 3-Bromopyruvate closely for many years and have tried to keep informed about the ongoing research advances. It is probably best not to make guesses of what could have caused the problem at the clinic at this time.

#MI Dawn

Oh Thomas looks antivac all right.

From his blog

So if it’s not the Zika virus, what is it?

One theory that you may have read about in the alternative media is that the microcephaly is linked to pertussis vaccination.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 06 Aug 2016 #permalink

You might find How to Become a Charlatan in 9 Easy Steps at : http://www.science20.com/edzard_ernst/how_to_become_a_charlatan_in_9_ea…
•1. Find an attractive therapy and give it a fantastic name
•2. Invent a fascinating history
•3. Add a dash of pseudo-science
•4. Do not forget a dose of ancient wisdom
•5. Claim to have a panacea
•6. Deal with the ‘evidence-problem’ and the nasty skeptics
•7. Demonstrate that you master the fine art of cheating with statistics
•8. Score points invoking Big Pharma
•9. Ask for money, much money
This is listed as item 9 on Parademic Notes for 160807 at http://parademic.typepad.com/

By Robert Blew (not verified) on 07 Aug 2016 #permalink

@Annabelle Lee

Wow. They're really complaining that they can't get mani-pedis!? Good God! If I were in that situation, I wouldn't care what my nails looked like, because I would just be grateful to be alive for another day.

I have noticed that many alternative "cure" e-books cost $27. Some might go as high as thirty. It makes me wonder if there is a "sell your book" alternative guru marketing course out there that has calculated that thirty dollars or less is the amount most desperate marks will shrug off when your miracle recommendations fail to work for them.

I just came across this Hardin Jones guy that says....

"For a typical type of cancer, people who refused treatment lived for an average of 12 1/2 years. Those who, accepted surgery and other kinds of treatment lived an average of only three years!"

http://www.rethinkingcancer.org/resources/magazine-articles/2_1-2/cance…

This guy is from UC Berkeley, the same place where Peter Duesberg says the same thing about AIDS.

So is getting chemo/rad just an expensive way to die faster?

By Richard Clarke (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

Dr.. Hardin Jones made that claim in a paper published in 1956. Dr. Jones died in 1978. The article Richard Clarke linked to did not happen to mention either of those facts, suggesting that he wrote the article by placing his name in the byline and suggesting that the information was recent. The article does not read like one written by Dr. Jones, as it refers to him in the third person consistently. Naturally, the information is not all that recent. The article provides no links to the source material.

It appears that this article is intentionally deceptive. or deliberate click bait.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Aug 2016 #permalink

Oh, by the way, Snopes has an article on this as well.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Aug 2016 #permalink

Yes. That article looks like an assemblage of quotations.

Did Hardin Jones publish an article on this or go straight to paperback?

I think the Gerson diet is the best diet for cancer.

What would you rather have, a radiation-death beam, or a pineapple?

I would have to go with the pineapple.

By Richard Clarke (not verified) on 15 Aug 2016 #permalink

... except that you are forgetting one measly factor : what is the most likely to work ? Side-effects come after in the equation.
If there is no evidence of the pineapple curing my type of cancer, I would have to go with the "radiation beam" (or whatever treatment has the most evidence for my type of cancer).
(As an aside, I recently discovered that ultrasounds seem seriously considered as an alternative for some cancers, partly because they may be as effective with fewer side effects.
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatme… )