An article in a well known German magazine, Der Spiegel (4 October 2004) featured an article with this title: The Useless Poisonous Cures. It says: “Increasingly sophisticated and expensive cellular poisons are being given to seriously ill patients … patients do not actually live a day longer.” At first impression I thought the article was rather rash on the so called “noble” effort of the Vested Interest to find a cure for cancer. My perception has since changed after much reading – I begin to question if the effort is really noble or something else – a deception done in the name of science?
It is well known that breast cancer is a common, much feared disease among women worldwide. In the US alone, it is said that each year 180,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 44,000 will die of it. This works out to be almost 25% death due to breast cancer after diagnosis. Why must 25% of them die? What happen to all the research that are being done and the hype that a cure is around the corner?
In Malaysia and also elsewhere, women with breast cancer undergoes a standard recipe of treatments — surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal oral drug. I was shocked to be told by a bank executive that the oncologist offered her a $50,000 state-of-the-art-package-deal to cure her breast cancer after finding a lump in her breast. This offer was made even before a surgery was done.
The chemotherapy regimes commonly used for breast cancer are anthracycline-based. Perhaps breast cancer patients are more familiar with these names: AC (Andriamycin + cyclophosphamide), CAF (cyclophosphamide + Adriamycin + 5-FU), CEF (cyclophosphamide + epirubicin + 5-FU). Patients receiving such regimen are told that this is the state-of-the-art treatment. It is scientifically proven. The effectiveness of such a treatment has undergone peer review and is published in peer-reviewed journal. The treatment can prevent further spread of the cancer and patients can be cured.
Naïve patients accept their doctors’ words with good faith. In countries where medical treatments are not paid by the government, patients have to find their own money to pay for the medical expenses. Some patients have to sell their house, land or jewellery to finance their hunt for a cure.
It is most shocking to learn that at a closed session of a select group of people during the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting held in Chicago (2007), Dr. Dennis Slamon, chief of Oncology at the University of California at Los Angeles, revealed that his research had indicated that anthracycline chemo-drugs such as Andriamycin, provide no benefit whatever to about 92% of breast cancer patients. Dr. Slamon’s research has shown that the most widely used chemo-drug may not benefit most women. To find no benefit is one thing but pay for and receive a drug that causes severe toxicities is another thing. These anthracyclines are notoriously dangerous because they are known to cause damage to the heart or may even cause secondary cancer like leukemia.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) – a grass roots advocacy group in the US released this statement (May 2007) in its website: “NBCC urges the oncology community to reassess the use of anthracycline-based chemotherapy in the adjuvant treatment of breast cancer.”
The Coalition urged that it “may very well be the time to do away with anthracycline drugs”. Such drugs only benefit a very small percentage — only 8% — of breast patients whose breast cancer co-amplify the Her2 and TopoII genes. This point is worth repeating: only patients tested positive for Her2 and TopoII benefit from anthracycline-base chemotherapy.
Is the medical community willing to change its ways of treating breast cancer in the light of this research evidence? The NBCC said: “while the medical oncology community is quick to embrace additional treatments, it is extremely cautions toward change in the other direction even when the evidence warrants it. Meanwhile, women with breast cancer are subject to complex regimens of toxic and expensive treatments that they simply may not need.”
The jury is out. The choice is clear. Women have a choice. Make that choice wisely. Learn for yourself if the chemotherapy that is offered to you is going to benefit you or it is just an expensive, useless and dangerous poisonous cure that you do not need.