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Alternative/Complementary Cancer Therapies

© Richard Walters

These cures do not mean that all of the nonconventional methods work. Some may by ineffective or fraudulent. "Most alternative therapies are almost totally useless--just like the conventional therapies," says Patrick McGrady,Jr., founder of CANHELP.

Estimates of success rates with alternative therapies vary widely. What works for one patient or type of cancer may fail with another patient having the same or a different malignancy. Holistic health advocate Gary Null, who spent years investigating alternative clinics and interviewing patients, claims that success rates have ranged "from 2 to 20 percent" in cases of terminal cancer. Some alternative practitioners exaggerate their results, claiming five-year remission rates of 60 percent or more. Patrick McGrady is skeptical of all such claims. "It would be good, if it were true."

"My subjective impression," says Ralph Moss, publisher of The Cancer Chronicles newsletter, "is a baseline 4 to 5 percent five-year remission rate in all of the alternative clinics. Then the figure goes up with less severe cases. If I found a 20 percent rate of five-year remission, that would be really exciting." But Moss feels that this posited success rate is highly significant. "After all, these therapies are not supposed to cure anybody, according to orthodox medicine." He points out that the chance for recovery in many patients has been undercut by prior radiation and chemotherapy, both of which can severely damage the body's immune response and normal functioning.

Myth #2: Alternative cancer therapists are quacks-unscrupulous, unlicensed, untrained in medicine, out for a fast buck

This stereotype may apply to some practitioners. Too often, though, it's used to paint with one brush all doctors and therapists who work beyond the limits of conventional medicine. The reality turns out to be just the opposite.

In a 1984 study in Annals of Internal Medicine, Barrie Cassileth, Ph.D., and fellow researchers found that 60 percent of the 138 alternative cancer practitioners they investigated were medical doctors (M.D.'s). Of the remaining 40 percent, many held doctorates in biology, chemistry, or other related sciences and had extensive research backgrounds.8

The American Cancer Society (ACS) maintains a compendium of "Unproven Methods of Cancer Management," which serves as the cancer establishment's chief tool to label alternative therapies as pseudoscience. To the ACS, unproven means disproven. Yet the ACS judges' pronouncement that "there is no acceptable evidence" for a particular therapy usually amounts to a blatant disregard of all the supporting data.9 The inclusion of a doctor's name and therapy on this ugly official blacklist leads to loss of funding, a sudden inability to get articles published, the rejection of testing applications, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) harassment, if not jail. The ACS blacklist "resembles the list of 'subversive' organizations once maintained by the House Un-American Activities Committee," notes Ralph Moss in his hard-hitting expose The Cancer Industry (see Appendix A). "Merely including a scientist's name on the list has the effect of damning that researcher's work and putting the tag of quackery on him and his efforts."~10

Moss's analysis of the unorthodox therapists whose names appear on the ACS Unproven Methods list reveals that 65 percent of them were M.D.'s, many from prestigious medical schools; an additional 13 percent held Ph.D.'s in medical or scientific disciplines.

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