As Jeff describes his mother's recovery, "her searing pain was gone; her appetite returned at a gallop." Within three weeks, her racking cough had vanished and she could walk unaided. "In the months before her death, she went on television with me to tell the nation about hydrazine sulfate. The National Cancer Institute stopped trashing hydrazine sulfate and began referring inquiries to the UCLA Medical School team whose work had validated the effectiveness of the drug long before Erna Kamen began taking it."8 Jeff attributes his mother's death months later to her being "mistakenly taken off hydrazine sulfate and subjected to an unproven experimental substance."
With cancer patients, hydrazine sulfate is usually administered orally in 60-milligram capsules or tablets, approximately one to two hours before meals. It is given at first once a day for several days, then twice a day, then three or four times daily, depending on the patient's response and the physician's judgment. On such a regimen, many terminal and semiterminal patients have derived considerable benefit, although patients in the early stages of the disease derive the most benefit from the treatment.
Approximately half of the patients to whom the drug is properly administered in the early stages of the disease show an almost immediate weight gain and reversal of symptoms; in some instances, the tumor eventually disappears. The common types of cancer most frequently reported to benefit from hydrazine sulfate therapy are recto-colon cancer, ovarian cancer, prostatic cancer, lung (bronchogenic) cancer, Hodgkin's disease and other lymphomas, thyroid cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer. Some less common types of cancer also benefit.
"Whether hydrazine sulfate should be used in conjunction with other agents seems to be dependent on whether these agents are doing the patient any demonstrable good," according to Dr. Gold. "In the instances in which these agents have been doing good, hydrazine sulfate should be used in conjunction with them. However-and especially with those cases on toxic drugs-in instances in which the drugs have been doing no evident good, it is probably best to withdraw such drugs and use hydrazine sulfate alone." Many alternative therapists disagree. They see hydrazine sulfate as mainly an adjunctive treatment, albeit a potentially powerful one.
Critics have made much of the fact that hydrazine sulfate, a common industrial chemical, is found in such products as rocket fuel, insecticides, and rust-prevention agents. For medical purposes, however, the salt is refined, purified, and used in reagent-equivalent grades. Given to patients in minuscule amounts, it occasionally produces mild, transient side effects such as nausea, dizziness, itching of the skin, drowsiness, and euphoria, but such side effects are minimal, especially when compared with the devastating effects of standard chemotherapy.
A very small percentage of patients undergoing long-term, high-dosage hydrazine sulfate therapy experience pain or temporary numbness in their extremities, but this condition is quickly controlled by reducing the dosage and administering vitamin B6. In no known cases has hydrazine sulfate depressed or destroyed white blood cells or bone marrow, as conventional chemotherapy often does. In general, toxicity has been exceedingly low or nil.
The most recent study of this drug, however, concluded that hydrazine sulfate appears not to be beneficial and may even have neurological side effects. This study involved a nationwide, twenty-month trial with 291 advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients, all of whom received chemotherapy. In the double-blind phase, half were given hydrazine sulfate, while the other half received a placebo. Patients receiving hydrazine sulfate had a median survival of 7.62 months, while the comparable figure for those on placebo was 7.5 months. Hydrazine sulfate had no effect on cancer cachexia, according to Michael Kosty, M.D., an oncologist with Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, California, who was the study's principal investigator, nor were differences noted between the two groups in anorexia or weight gain. Furthermore, the placebo group rated their quality of life higher than did those patients taking hydrazine sulfate, and some hydrazine sulfate patients experienced loss of sensation and motor function. "Therefore, the best we can say about this drug is that it has no effect and may even be deleterious," Dr. Kosty was quoted as saying in a summer 1992 issue of ASCO Highlights, a publication of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.