“At a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
It’s a quote attributed to the novelist George Orwell, although he never actually wrote or said it.
But whoever did might have had chemotherapy in mind. It’s accepted worldwide by both the medical community and the public as one of the three gold standard treatments for cancer, along with surgery and radiation. To say otherwise marks you out as a quack or a charlatan.
But does it actually work? Around 600,000 annual deaths from cancer in the US alone would suggest its benefits are overrated – to say the least. You don’t have to take my word for it. Some top doctors have said the same thing. . .
We are losing the war against cancer
One of the first people outside the alternative medical field to question the orthodox mantra was John Cairns, professor of microbiology at Harvard University. He stated in Scientific American in 1985:
“Aside from certain rare cancers, it is not possible to detect any sudden changes in the death rates for any of the major cancers that could be credited to chemotherapy.” He went on to say that chemotherapy only saves 2-3% of patients from death and wasn’t capable of defeating any of the common cancers.1
The following year, John C Bailar 3rd, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University, and former editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, carried out a detailed analysis. He wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that “we are losing the war against cancer…”2
This became the cover story in Scientific American. In the article he reiterated his position, saying “my overall assessment is that the national cancer program must be judged a qualified failure.”
Other members of the medical establishment were also very critical, but that was over three decades ago. What about more recent times? Surely there must have been a lot of progress in all this time.
2% or 6% – it still spells failure
Writing in Clinical Oncology in 2004, three members of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Northern Sydney Cancer Center, Australia, carried out an assessment of chemotherapy. Their findings were shocking: “The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.”3
They were talking about five-year survival among late-stage cancer patients. Of those who tried chemotherapy, only slightly more than two out of a hundred lived more than five years.
To be fair, their work did come under some criticism. Michael Boyer, Head of Medical Oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, said there were methodology flaws in their study.
But what if you adjusted the statistics to resolve these issues? He went on to say:
“If you pull it altogether that number probably comes up to 5% or 6%…”
Taking the above into account, Australian medical oncologist Eva Segelov wrote an article in 2006 in which she questioned whether chemotherapy would even survive as a treatment, considering its limited survival benefits to the patients.
(Well, we know the answer to that one. Twelve years later, chemo is still going strong.)
“We are still left with the finding that the overall contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to survival in the 22 cancers reviewed in the study is less than 3%,” Dr. Segelov said. “At 2% or 6%, surely the message is the same.”4
Now let’s get right up to date. A review of 48 cancer drugs recently approved by European Medicines Agency was published in the British Medical Journal in October, 2017.
“Conclusions: …most drugs entered the market without evidence of benefit on survival or quality of life. At a minimum of 3.3 years after market entry, there was still no conclusive evidence that these drugs either extended or improved life for most cancer indications. When there were survival gains over existing treatment options or placebo, they were often marginal.”5
Why does chemotherapy have such a poor track record?
Chemotherapy is carcinogenic
The carcinogenic properties of drugs used in cancer treatment were first recognized in 1948. Naturally, this didn’t dissuade anyone from their use. In 1976, Dr. Curtis C Harris of the National Cancer Institute wrote a paper on the tendency of cancer drugs to actually cause cancer. His article in the journal Cancer was entitled “The carcinogenicity of anticancer drugs: a hazard in man.”
He wrote: “The use of carcinogenic drugs for the treatment of cancer is clearly justified when other effective therapy is lacking.”6
In 1997 a patent application filed with the US Government includes the following enlightening sentence: “Current approaches to combat cancer rely primarily on the use of chemicals and radiation, which are themselves carcinogenic and may promote recurrences and the development of metastatic disease.”7
At least seven drugs used to treat cancer are classified as “known to be carcinogenic.”
Personnel handling chemo drugs must observe strict safety rules. Disposing of the drugs calls for total destruction and incineration of anything that comes in contact with them.
And yet these same drugs are being put into the bodies of sick people.
The result of being treated with a cancer-causing agent is that it may lead to secondary cancers.
As the American Cancer Society states: “Of all the possible late complications of cancer treatment, developing a second cancer is one of the most serious.”8
The most likely secondary cancers following chemotherapy are leukemias, because the drugs damage the bone marrow (and therefore weaken the immune system – the very system needed to help patients get well). But many other types of cancer could eventually develop.
Chemotherapy promotes tumor growth
After aggressive treatment, weeds can become super weeds, and bacteria can turn into superbugs. The same holds true for malignant cells. After many rounds of chemotherapy, cancer cells develop resistance, fail to respond and then grow faster than before.
A reason for this was discovered in 2012 by a team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle. Healthy cells that live close to the tumor develop DNA damage. This drives the production of a protein called WNT16B that stimulates cancer growth.9
Chemotherapy also releases circulating tumor cells (CTCs). These are cells that have shed into blood or lymph from a primary tumor to be carried around in the circulation to spread the cancer.
For instance, taxanes, drugs used to prevent cell division in breast cancer patients, “increase CTCs by 10,000-fold…”10
It is generally thought that these CTCs are actually cancer stem cells, which are highly adaptable – “cats that are able to change their stripes.” Confronted with a chemotherapy drug, they simply turn into a different type of cancer cell that the chemo drug can’t kill, much the way bacteria mutate and become resistant to antibiotics.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Maryland found that extensions of the plasma membrane of breast cancer cells – microtentacles – which break away and circulate, are promoted by a protein called tau.
Lead author Stuart S. Martin said, “These microtentacles increase the ability of circulating breast tumor cells to reattach in the small capillaries of the lung, where they can survive until they can seed new cancers.”10
Chemotherapy doesn’t touch stem cells
Confirmation of the cancer stem cell hypothesis comes in three studies published in 2012, conducted on brain, skin and precancerous intestinal cells in the lab.11
Because of these and other findings, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center even go as far as to suggest that orthodox cancer treatment is outdated. These therapies, they write, “do not destroy the small number of cells driving the cancer’s growth.
“Instead of trying to kill all the cells in a tumor with chemotherapy or radiation, we believe it would be more effective to use treatments targeted directly at these so-called cancer stem cells. If the stem cells were eliminated, the cancer would be unable to grow and spread to other locations in the body.”12
Chemotherapy weakens the heart
Heart damage is a well-established side effect of chemotherapy drugs. They can weaken the heart muscle, cause abnormal heart rhythms, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of a heart attack by causing coronary artery spasms.
“In a recent comprehensive review of breast cancer survivors in the United States, women were noted to be at significantly increased risk of death caused by CVD [cardiovascular disease], exceeding their risk of death from the initial cancer itself or from recurrent disease.”13
This has led to a new field called cardio-oncology which studies this relationship.
Dr. Agnes Kim heads the program at the University of Connecticut Health Center. In an interview she explained, “In the past if you were given a diagnosis of cancer, it was almost like a death sentence; the long-term side effects kind of took second place.
“Now we have a lot of cancer survivors, and the side effects are very important, especially the cardiac side effects. You can be a cancer survivor, then be a heart failure patient. That’s what we are trying to prevent.”14
After chemotherapy, many people report lapses in focus and concentration, difficulty in finishing what they started, visual and verbal memory loss, diminished processing speed and problems learning new skills.
The phenomenon is called “chemo brain.”
There have been a limited number of studies so far, with estimates of the number of patients affected ranging from one in six to over three-quarters of all cancer patients.
The cause is still being investigated, but University of Kansas researchers have shown in the lab that the biochemical hallmarks of chemo brain are higher brain levels of hydrogen peroxide and impaired release and uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.15
A study published in February, 2017 compared 581 breast cancer patients with 364 healthy controls. There were “substantially more cognitive difficulties up to 6 months after treatment with chemotherapy.”
45.2% of patients reported problems after chemo compared with just 10.4% of controls. Six months after therapy, 18.4% still reported difficulties compared with 11.5% of controls. Looking over a 12-month period from pre-chemotherapy to six-month follow-up, the figures were 36% vs 13.6%.
According to Professor Michelle Janelsins, the research team’s leader, “Our study, from one of the largest nationwide studies to date, shows that cancer-related cognitive problems are a substantial and pervasive issue for many women with breast cancer.”16
Chemotherapy has a very small success rate for late stage cancer, is carcinogenic, promotes the growth of cancer cells, doesn’t deal with the very cells that drive tumor growth, weakens the immune system, and harms the heart and the brain. Newer drugs are little better than older ones.
It might be a revolutionary act to state all this, but that is what the scientific evidence shows. Many alternative and integrative therapies are available that offer a far greater chance of long-term survival together with a better quality of life.
The only kind word I can say for chemo is that it does successfully treat some early stage cancers (e.g. breast cancer) when used in combination with surgery. When cancer is advanced, chemo merely increases the suffering of the patient for no good purpose.