Could This 200 Year Old Therapy Be The Latest in High-Tech Medicine?
It’s “a disgrace…a cruel deception….nonsense on stilts….witchcraft” says Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee.
He’s angry and he’s not alone. What makes him so mad? Why, it’s just another exciting alternative treatment breakthrough. Keep reading and I’ll tell you about it. . .
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Dr. Dolphin’s disgust is shared by many of his colleagues concerning this 200-year-old form of medicine – or quackery as they see it.
They say it has no place in a modern medical system. They believe something so “scientifically implausible” should not be available as part of the UK’s National Health Service – which allows doctors to prescribe it for a wide range of health conditions, including the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Not only is it used as supportive therapy for cancer, but in some places outside the UK it’s prescribed – amazing to say — as a front line therapy and even as the sole therapy for cancer.
This happens in a clinic in India where the Banerji Protocols, a modern version of an 18th century medical system, are used to treat over a hundred cancer patients a day. The doctors who run the clinic achieve some astonishing results.
The therapy I’m talking about is homeopathy.
Classical homeopathy vs the Banerji Protocols
Homeopathy contends that a substance that causes a particular set of symptoms when taken in a large dose by a healthy person can be used to treat the same symptoms when taken in a tiny dose. This is the like-cures-like principle.
An example might be a plant that causes your skin to itch. Taken in an extremely small dose diluted in water, an extract of this plant may cure itching skin.
Homoepathic medicines may be derived from plants, animal products or minerals. They are diluted and succussed (shaken) until the desired dosage is achieved. The more the substance is diluted the stronger the remedy is said to become.
A remedy can get diluted to the point where nothing is left of the original source material – not even one molecule. This aspect is what creates such incredulity among “proper” scientifically-trained doctors. I have to admit it sounds like quackery. Physically, there’s nothing there except water. But I’ve seen published research by medical doctors which suggests it can be effective.
In traditional or classical homeopathy developed by the German doctor Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s, a single dose of a single medicine is given to the patient based on the person’s symptoms and individual constitution.
Different remedies may be used for two different patients who have the same disease, because the choice of medicine is not based just on the disease but on the whole patient, seen in his or her entirety as an individual.
The Banerji Protocols are different.
So many people came to see the first Dr. Pareshnath Banerji when he started his clinic in 1918 that he wasn’t able to spend the amount of time needed to get to know the person in a traditional homeopathic consultation. So he would prescribe the same remedy or even a combination of remedies to patients for common conditions, and despite this departure from the ideal approach, he reportedly saw a high rate of success.
The tradition continues today with Prasanta Banerji and his son Pratip at their clinic in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), who use a more objective approach than in traditional homeopathy. They utilize advanced tests and tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound images for diagnosis.
And they’ve used their considerable experience to prescribe particular medicines in specific potencies and in fixed dosages for cancer and other diseases. This standardized strategy – as opposed to the individualized approach — makes it easy to learn, easy to apply and should give more reproducible results.
The NCI – sufficient evidence of possible efficacy
The doctors Banerji began testing homeopathy for cancer patients in 1992. Later in the decade they gave a six hour presentation on 16 cases of brain tumor regression before oncologists from leading American cancer centers at an international conference.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked them to submit records of successful cases for their Best Case program. This allows practitioners outside conventional medicine to present data for appraisal.
After detailed evaluation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), four cases were accepted for publication in the journal Oncology Reports in 2008. Two of these patients presented with cancers of the esophagus and two with lung cancer. All four became symptom free and enjoyed highly positive outcomes. None of them received any conventional treatment.
The NCI found the results were sufficient to warrant further research.
Encouraging results at MD Anderson
Several studies were carried out by the Banerjis in conjunction with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
In the first study, researchers tested two homeopathic remedies, Ruta 6 in combination with calcium phosphate, on normal cells and brain cancer cells.
This study also included 15 case reports of patients with brain tumors treated at Kolkata. The patients were 10 to 65 years of age and were mostly at an advanced stage. They were treated for up to seven years with the same two remedies. They received neither chemotherapy nor radiation.
In both the lab work and in patients “results showed induction of survival-signaling pathways in normal lymphocytes and induction of death signaling pathways in brain cancer cells.”
Out of the seven patients suffering from glioma, a type of brain cancer, six “showed complete regression of tumors.” The authors concluded that the remedies “could be used for effective treatment of brain cancers, particularly glioma.”
American doctors travel to India
Dr. Moshe Frenkel from M.D. Anderson helped arrange this study. He was so impressed, he traveled to India to visit the Banerji clinic in person.
“I saw things there that I couldn’t explain. Tumors shrank with nothing else other than homeopathic remedies…X-rays showing there is a lesion on the lung and a year after taking the remedy it has shrunk or disappeared.”
Dr Frankel, together with seven of his colleagues, carried out a second laboratory study which tested four homeopathic remedies on breast cancer cells.
“The remedies exerted preferential cytotoxic effects…causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis [cancer cell death].” They even found that two of the remedies were similar in their effects to the activity of Taxol, a chemotherapy drug commonly prescribed for breast cancer.
Also impressed was Barbara Sarter, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Advanced Practice Nursing at the University of San Diego, who also travelled to India.
“For the most aggressive and lethal of brain tumors they are able to cure one out of three patients, compared to the five percent cure rate with conventional treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation,” she said.
According to the Banerjis’ own data, between 1990 and 2005 they treated 21,888 patients for malignant tumors. Although these patients did not undergo any conventional treatment, there was complete regression in 19% and tumors were static or improved in 21%.
Critics will point to the fact that all the evidence the Banerjis have ever presented at conferences or in published studies is observational in a small number of patients. Until high quality studies are carried out the Banerji Protocols will never be accepted by conventional medicine.
Such studies are unlikely to ever take place. But even if they did, the lack of a plausible mechanism for how homeopathy works makes it likely that many orthodox doctors would still reject it.
Still, there’s some hope for change. . .
Homeopathy as a form of nanomedicine
Many researchers into homeopathy believe it works by hormesis, whereby a substance that is toxic in a large dose can have the reverse effect — be stimulatory or beneficial — in a small dose. This is an accepted concept in pharmacology and toxicology. A tiny dose can act as a mild stressor which sets off an adaptive response throughout the whole body.
But no stressor (hormetin) can be found in a typical homeopathic remedy because of the high dilutions.
This changed in 2010. Using sophisticated electron microscopes, original source materials were found in highly diluted homeopathic remedies as nanoparticles.
Nanoparticles are very potent because of their highly charged properties and multiple effects. They can enter cells easily because of their small size — similar to a virus — and be precisely targeted. Nanostructured forms of drugs are a growing segment of conventional medicine.
There are many possibilities for this form of medical nanotechnology, such as delivering nanoparticles to a cell to instruct it to behave in a different way — like an intelligent molecular-scale mechanic working on damaged cells.
Homeopathic remedies work as nanomedicines, according to the Banerjis and colleagues from three centers in the United State, writing in a recent research paper.
They say, “In one sense, homeopaths in clinical practice may be many years ahead of conventional physicians in applied understanding of how and when to use nanoparticles of natural products for safe and effective clinical treatment.”
Will homeopathy survive?
At the same time as we have a new biological hypothesis that might account for the success of homeopathy, a division of the National Health Service in the UK was threatened with legal action in April, 2015 by a pro-science group for using public money on homeopathy.
And in the same month, on this side of the Atlantic, the FDA held open hearings to decide whether the regulatory framework for homeopathy needs updating.
Instead of making efforts to step up research into homeopathy, we may find the opposite takes place because of the current hostile environment created by Dr Tom Dolphin and others.
Let’s hope not.
Meanwhile, whatever the health Nazis may say, there’s one powerful “alternative” tool you can use to beat cancer any time you want. If you missed this news in the last issue, you can read it now just below.