July 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 13)
David Gluck, M.D.
Government Agency and Big Pharma Complicit in Stifling Investigation of Nontraditional Approaches
An honest admission by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) some years ago recognized that the development of effective cancer therapeutics has been comparatively sluggish for many decades now—compared, say, to the meaningful advances against heart disease, stroke, and infectious disease. The U.S. continues to experience, as it has for the past 50 years, almost 200 cancer deaths per 100,000 citizens annually. Thus each year, of every 500 to 600 Americans, 1 dies of cancer.
In order to improve results, NCI launched a novel program that brings together physical scientists and cancer biologists to uncover breakthrough approaches. This new research paradigm scrutinizes in yet more exquisite detail the specifics of the tumor process within cancer-ridden patients. This approach, however, simply continues the ineffective strategy of the past. One might view it as just another attempt to close the barn door after the horse is gone.
An effective protection against cancer that the NCI should be investigating is our own immune systems. Evidence is mounting that the immune system is the most powerful defender against cancer. We know that from the time of fetal growth, billions of cells are multiplying constantly, and we also know that the copy success rate for the genome is not 100% perfect. Add that to the impairments from a variety of environmental assaults, and it totals up to a considerable number of chromosomal errors each day, week, and year. If mammals hadn’t developed a marvelous defense mechanism to handle such carcinogenic defective cells over the past 500 million years of Darwinian survival, we wouldn’t be around today.
We also know that medical treatments that interfere with immune system functions have led to a high risk of new cancer formation over and over again. And we know, too, that as we age, every passing decade brings a somewhat less effective immune system concurrent with further increments in cancer deaths.
Much information has been collected on how to safely strengthen one’s immune system (although this is far from common knowledge). Everything points to our endorphins and metenkephalin as being the major beneficial regulators of the immune system.
Ian Zagon, Ph.D., distinguished professor of neural and behavioral sciences at Pennsylvania State University, a long-time researcher into endorphins and metenkephalin, has found that low-dose naltrexone (LDN) will reliably upregulate a weakened immune system as a result of doubling or tripling the levels of endorphins and metenkephalin.
Many of his research articles have demonstrated the efficacy of both metenkephalin and LDN in mitigating the progression of a variety of human cancer growths in nude mice.
Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., of the Integrative Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM, has published three separate articles in Integrative Cancer Therapies that report details on some of his patients with advanced cancers (either pancreatic cancer or B-cell lymphoma) who, treated with LDN (and in most cases with alpha-lipoic acid), are now apparently cancer free. He often sees patients in his practice who previously have been advised to choose palliative care. He estimates that the remission rate for that group is roughly 50%.
LDN has proven of no interest to any pharmaceutical company because naltrexone has been off patent for many years. But LDN, as an off-label Rx, is easily available from experienced compounding pharmacies, is inexpensive, has virtually no significant side effects, has no toxicity, and is generally compatible with all other medications save for those containing narcotics.
LDN is not alone among available anticancer therapies that are quite unknown to Western medicine because they are essentially unprofitable to big pharma. These fall into one of two groups—either original patent rights have long passed or they are simply a natural substance within our normal human chemistry and can’t be patented.
Why isn’t the NCI interested in exploring some of these alternative approaches? In the absence of any reasonable hope for profitability, we can quickly understand the reluctance of big pharma. However, for the NCI, the answers are not so obvious.
The NCI’s reluctance to investigate nontraditional cancer therapies probably includes some or all of the following: its natural reluctance to expend scant resources on brand new paradigms; the lack of credibility assigned to atypical sources such as private practitioners both here and abroad; the unusual nature of the application mode (i.e., it is not being approached by an interested researcher or pharmaceutical company but simply by an individual who demands that the NCI take the information and run with it); the lack of proof at the molecular level to explain the putative mechanism; and, last but not least, the complete absence of tangible rewards in the way of potential support for new staff positions and/or research materials.
For everyone’s benefit, NCI must change its stance on alternative approaches. Large-scale clinical trials must be implemented in a variety of cancers in order to test the outcomes of all kinds of cancer treatments. The lack of interest in these novel approaches, by both pharmaceutical companies and the NCI, is likely to negatively impact most patients with cancer in a serious fashion. There are millions of lives at stake and attention must be paid.