With Chemotherapy, Less is More

Oncologists continue using chemotherapy drugs because of the scientific studies that support their use while alternative health “experts” are screaming the benefits of natural substances that are helpful and less dangerous. After carefully considering the pros and cons of each, it is clear that while small doses of chemo may provide some benefit to some patients, higher cumulative doses should be avoided.

Doctors are scientists that are focused on one thing: using the best tools available whose effectiveness are scientifically proven to improve or lengthen the life of the patient. Naturopaths and other alternative practitioners also attempt to improve and lengthen the patient’s life, but very often relies on common sense, folk traditions, and informally-gathered “anecdotes” that may or may not qualify as legitimate evidence, depending on who you ask.

If you ask me, I say that medicines continue to be handled by doctors, herbs continue to be handled by herbalists, and evidence continue to be handled by lawyers and judges.

Scientists prefer to base their opinion on larger, more formal studies, with strict procedures for comparing the effect of one substance against a fake. In most cases the look-alike is a sugar pill or a saline injection that tricks the patient into believing that she is receiving an active ingredient. To achieve the so-called “gold standard” of scientific studies, the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, even the doctor must be fooled into thinking that she is administering the drug.

No herbalist can afford to conduct such a study. Herbs are in the public domain, available to patients for free or for next to nothing. The herbalist has heard that a particular natural substance will have a beneficial effect based the vitamins or minerals that it contains, or based on the success stories from past users. But these “anecdotes” are considered unscientific.

Where is the truth in all of this?

A wise man that I know taught me to go to great lengths to find the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, no matter how obvious the truth may seem on the surface, and no matter how confusing things get when you dig up heaps of seemingly-disconnected facts. Only the most thoughtful and most patient among us are willing to take the time to carefully examine each scientific study and each “unscientific” anecdote to decide which of these belongs in the final weighing of the evidence.

In a perfect world, there would be wonderful studies comparing the effects of synthetic drugs against the natural alternative. There would be no need for deceiving hard-working, intelligent doctors, no more fooling the innocent and cooperative patients. Less money wasted messing around with sugar and salt.

I admit that it is mildly interesting to see how many patients are healed just by taking a moot pill, since this phenomenon proves that a person’s positive thoughts do in fact have a positive influence on her healing. But this has been proven and re-proved. On to other matters that are yet unclear in the minds of many.

We all want to know exactly how well does the notorious chemotherapy work when compared directly against the mighty dandelion, or raw natural cannabis?

There are heated debates, but rarely does a debate end with both sides having the same view of the truth.

Physicians and alternative practicioners must find some common ground. We must work together, without finger-pointing or name-calling. We must remember that we all want the same thing: to heal the patient, with the best means possible. We must be civil and fair. Each one of us must strive for the extremely-high standard of fairness that a wise judge strives for.

As Lown said in his 1996 book, the Lost art of healing, “Caring without science is well-intentioned kindness, but not medicine.”

The New England Journal of Medicine is a highly-prestigious weekly medical journal that is strictly devoted to science. In its pages you will find the observations and opinions of the most highly-trained professionals in the field of medicine.You will not find a great many studies on natural substances, not because the contributors or the editors are against nature, but simply because this type of study in fact doesn’t exist. But there is no shortage of information on chemotherapy agents, like doxorubicin.

On September 24, 1998, the NEJM published a report by K. Pawan and others, stating that with higher doses of doxorubicin, up to 36 percent of patients suffered cardiomyopathy or congestive heart failure. (“Higher” means a cumulative dose of more than 601 mg/sq m of body surface area.) At a medium dose, the risk was still up to 18 %. The researchers proposed a “dose cap” of 500 mg/sq m of body surface area, which seems to cap the risk of heart attack at “just” 4 %.
Clearly, even those that argue in favour of chemotherapy agree that its use should be minimized to avoid its most dangerous side effects.

In numerous studies, cannabis has been found to have antineoplastic, analgesic, antiemetic and appetite-modulatory properties. And raw cannabis has never been proven to harm a patient. Smoked cannabis does produce unwanted side effects such as undesired psychotropic changes and a slight risk of hypoxemia. But raw cannabis juice poses no such risks and contains the essential nutrients THC-acid and CBD-acid.

According to Dr. William Courtney, the tolerable dose of THCa is 60 times higher than with THC (600mg vs 10mg). The low human tolerance for THC explains why a slight change in dose will take some from a pleasant “high” to an unpleasant “acute toxic effect”. [Gerra G et al. Recent Pat CNS Drug Discov . 2010;5(1):46–52]

Dr. Courtney used a tincture of raw cannabis to treat a “massive…inoperable brain tumor” in an 8-year-old. At 2 months: a dramatic reduction. At 8 months: the tumour had nearly disappeared. Thus the child avoided side effects of chemotherapy/radiation.

Two pre-clinical trials have shown that CBD thwarts breast cancer growth. […the effects of CBD on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis”. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 129 (1): 37–47. 2010.] -and- [McAllister SD et al (2007). “Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells”. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 6 (11): 2921–7.]

A study at the University of Windsor showed that dandelion tea caused cancer cell apoptosis (cell suicide) in cancer cells.

Cannabis has been well-known and documented for more than 5,000 years. Dandelion has been known for at least a century, and neither plant is known to be dangerous to humans. Yet each of these natural remedies is a long way from gaining the acceptance of the overall community of physicians and healers. Or are they? Hundreds of thousands have been spent thus far showing dandelion’s promise. But several hundred thousand more are needed to complete a “gold standard” study.

to be continued.