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From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
June 2004
Letter from the Publisher
Our June 2004 cover
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Unlike carpal tunnel syndrome which responds to Vitamin B6 and herpes simplex eruption which responds to lysine, cancer fails to respond to any simple treatments. When cancer does respond to treatment, invariably it has been complicated requiring not only surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation, but usually numerous herbal and vitamin supports in addition to some form of positive mental thinking. Still it is very difficult to isolate what exactly brings about a remission in a cancer patient. Even more difficult to understand is why a protocol or recipe which works so favorably in one patient, fails to elicit a beneficial outcome in another. Chemotherapy and radiation have dramatic benefit in many pediatric cancers, in leukemia and in lymphoma, yet both seem to fail in patients having solid tumors including colon, lung, breast, brain and most gastrointestinal cancers. For all the trials made with chemotherapy and radiation, not much progress has been made in the treatment of cancer over the past 25 years. It appears in hormone-sensitive tumors, particularly breast and prostate cancer, that outcomes are independent of whatever cancer treatment is administered. One survey of physicians conducted a number of years ago demonstrated that most would not opt to undergo either chemotherapy or radiation treatment unless the treatment had a very high remission rate. For most tumors, neither chemotherapy nor radiation offer a likely remission. Hence, the public has a tremendous interest in exploring alternatives to conventional cancer treatment. While a number of physicians remain skeptical of alternative treatments, a burgeoning public armed with access to the Internet is willing to investigate and undertake alternative treatments rather than willingly sacrifice themselves. Alternative cancer treatments are not, unfortunately, without their own risks. Most clinics specializing in alternative cancer therapy offer protocols which are complicated, difficult to administer, formidable to comply with, and are frankly overly expensive. Many insurance companies balk at paying big fees for alternative treatments, so patients are generally forced to pay exorbitant charges for uncertain treatment strategies. For the wealthy, such fees are not burdensome, but for the average patient, families are often challenged economically to commit to the expenses required for an alternative cancer clinic treatment stay. Confusion abounds not only for the cancer patient and family but even among professionals in the alternative cancer field. One clinic will emphatically demand certain diet, supplements and herbals and medication; another clinic will contraindicate much of the first clinic's requirements. A patient is frequently caught in the crossfire of conflicting clinician orders with physicians swearing that their protocol is correct and other protocols are ineffective. When a patient improves, staying the course and following the successful treatment regimen is easy; when the patient is failing, treatment regimens change like a ship adrift in a storm. The late stages of malignancy, when the tumor has metastasized, offers the grim picture of patients too sick to eat and keep down food much less supplementation, forced to attempt to follow an alternative cancer clinic regimen despite feeling thoroughly nauseated and miserable. When the patient's course declines precipitously, some alternative clinic operators callously claim that the patient and family did not follow the regimen properly. It is easy to criticize the conventional cancer treatments; it is not so easy for an alternative practitioner to caution patients about alternative treatment programs.

Still for many patients suffering from unremitting cancer, alternative cancer treatments have offered considerable hope and improvement. Perhaps a certain portion of the improvement is related to positive mental thinking, prayer, meditation, even placebo effect. The former cancer surgeon Bernie Siegel has championed the benefits of meditation and positive thinking for cancer care. Dr. Larry Dorsey has written extensively about the power of prayer in healing. Despite some experimentation to the contrary (see Robert Anderson's column in this issue), positive counseling support is dramatically helpful for most cancer patients. The National Cancer Institute is actively seeking reports of protocols and regimens used in alternative cancer treatment (see a letter from the NCI in the letters section of this issue.). Clearly there is something to alternative cancer treatment – how to get the most benefit from an alternative cancer clinic without suffering unduly from the costs of undergoing treatment is the key question.

We examine in this issue and in one issue each year the progress in alternative cancer treatments. Wayne Martin directs us to a neglected alternative treatment using Coley Vaccines (we reprint an important paper on Coley Vaccines for careful study.) Please send us reports of important alternative treatments and consider submitting papers to the National Cancer Institute.

Jonathan Collin, MD




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