Shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre – when no fire exists
is a criminal act. Yet misleading books and websites selling
“cures” for cancer are abundant, protected we suppose by
“free speech.” Harm can
follow when a false belief leads to the avoidance or delay of a
The message is most appealing when it provides us with what we want and wish to be
Being smart does not protect you from such claims (e.g.,
Steve Jobs). The conspiracy and theories can sound compelling
to those who lack background in the field … most of us, when
first diagnosed with a cancer!
Consider that a conspiracy to hide cures for cancer would require
the complicity of doctors and scientists world-wide. The secret
would have to be kept when their child, spouse, or dear friend
gets cancer. Competing drug companies would have to
intentionally undermine the products they test and submit to FDA
Natural is better?
Toxins and medicines can be man-made or derived from natural
sources – from plants and animals. Vincristine, Etoposide, and
Taxane are examples of cancer drugs derived from plants. The
molecular structure of a compound will be identical, whether
made by a plant or synthesized by man. Being natural does not
determine how effective or safe it will be.
For cancer drugs, what counts is the affinity of the compound to
the disease process. Does it bind well to the target like a key
fits a lock? How it’s derived will not alter its
bioavailability, its affinity to the target, or its good and bad
Cures for cancer that are free of side effects –
natural and food-based, kept from us by doctors and the drug
industry, “supported” by science, “proven” by testimonials.
Random screen capture of search results for
Recognizing junk science
Theories promoted to self-treat cancer are often hijacked from
the literature then applied prematurely or distorted … often
from preclinical studies: cell culture and animal experiments.
cell culture experiments
Cannot account for the dose that's needed to have a similar
effect on cancer cells in the body
Cannot tell us if the compound is absorbed into the blood when
taken orally... or if it is merely excreted
Cannot inform about the side effects of the compound when given
at the dose showing activity in the test tube (Is it feasible
or safe to take that much of it?)
Even if active against disease … the compound given at the wrong
dose can do harm:
Tumor cells can adapt to low or subclinical doses of treatment
compounds – leading to resistance. The first step in the
clinical development of a cancer treatment compound is to get
the dose right and to determine the safety of the agent at the
active dose (therapeutic window).
Cancer cells in a test tube are very poor models for the
treatment of cancer cells in the body.
Unlike bacteria, many kinds of tumor cells are challenging to
keep alive in cell culture medium.
Cannot account for the differences between the mouse and human
host environment. The mouse immune system is different. The
tumor cell line is different from cancers that emerge in
The toxicities and activity of the compound in the mouse rarely
predict what happens in humans.
What is Cancer? Is it treatable with diet, or other life style
What is plausible as a treatment depends on the nature of the
The beginnings of cancer:
Cell behavior is controlled by genes that are located in the
cell nucleus. Genes function like an instruction manual telling
the cell what proteins to make. These proteins in turn control
the behavior of the cell. Some proteins direct the cell to
divide; others how long it will live; and others begin cell
death - a normal process by which the body rids itself of old,
unneeded, or damaged cells.
Usually there is a
in which new cells replace old, and each cell carries out tasks
specific to its kind. The balance of cell division and death
ensures that the organs and systems function properly and serve
the needs of the body.
In any cell the genetic code can get damaged so that the
instructions in the "manual" are altered in ways that make
abnormal types and amounts of proteins that can lead to the
abnormal behavior of the cell.
... Instead of resting, cancer cells continue dividing; instead
of dying the cells stay alive. Mutations may also turn off
genes that can repair damaged DNA, or that can induce cell death
when mutations in the cell are detected.
The mutations that lead to cancer are numerous and
often unique to each type of cancer. Interventions that have
meaningful treatment effects will also have side effects.
Observations and testimonials are not reliable
"For centuries doctors used leeches and lancets to relieve
patients of their blood. They KNEW bloodletting worked.
EVERYBODY said it did. When you had a fever and the doctor bled
you, you got better. EVERYONE knew of a friend or relative who
had been at death’s door until bloodletting cured him. Doctors
could recount thousands of successful cases."
Today we know that patients did well in spite of bloodletting, a
practice based on primitive notions about the nature of diseases
- attributed to bad elements in the blood. The lesson from
history is that observations are not reliable as
In any observation or case report, even when from a reputable
source, you can't tell what would have happened if something
else – or nothing was done; you can't predict if others are
likely to be helped or harmed by the same approach.
In modern clinical research the number of participants in a
study is pre-specified and assessments are made in the same way.
One approach is compared to another in late phase testing – the
patients assigned to study groups randomly. In all clinical
studies you have a predefined denominator (the number of
participants) that informs about the rate of good and bad
effects. These methods tell us what others (YOU) can expect …
and how it compares to another established treatment.
Testimonials have all of the limitations of observations … with
much less certainty about the facts:
Did the person really have the medical condition? Was
it a false diagnosis of a cancer? You don't know how the
outcome was measured: Was it that the patient felt better? What
tests were used to measure it? Did the benefit last a week or 2
months? You can’t know what other medical treatments were given
shortly before or after. Finally, people who provide
testimonials and later die or get very sick cannot provide
Red flags for medical claims
Relies on testimonials
(stories that cannot be verified or account for how the reported
“benefit” was measured, and how long it lasted)
(Reliable reports come from prospective studies -- predefining
the number of persons that received the compound, which provides
the denominator needed to estimate a rate of good
and bad effects in others)
statements in medical literature out of context
(such as reasons to fear and avoid “poisonous” regular
Appeals to wishful thinking - easy (non-toxic /
(My magical remedy will make you whole again. It has no side
effects, only good effects)
(citing and focusing on the side effects of the approved
treatments, out of context -- cherry picked from the literature)
supported by pseudoscience or preclinical science -- cell
(Cell culture citations can sound convincing. But preclinical
research cannot account for the dose, or the safety of dose
needed to have an effect on the cells in the body. Salt will
kill cancer cells, and you if you are given enough.
It’s challenging to keep cancer cells alive in a test tube. They
tend to die without adding anything to the medium. The cell
lines used in test tube studies are also very different from
cancer cells that arise in the body)
Advances a conspiracy theory
On the last item, consider that three in five of us will develop
a serious cancer in our lifetime. … Regulators, scientists,
and doctors also get cancer – so do their loved ones, their
spouses, parents, and children).
(to explains why your doctor is not telling you about my cure
that will make you whole again without risk … and why you
can't trust the experts.)
There is NO conspiracy to keep cures from you or from your
spouse or child.