They’re the three most terrifying words you never want to hear from your doctor: You. Have. Cancer. Yet 41 percent of us will hear those words at least once in our life. Cancer is without a doubt an epidemic; more than 7 million people will die this year from one of the more than 100 types of the disease. It causes more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. And while treatment options are many, the search for a be-all-end-all cure still eludes us. Or does it?
Just as there are many ways to prevent disease, it would seem just as logical that there are as many options in treating it, too. Take the Doctrine of Signatures—a system discovered by Paracelsus, the 15th century philosopher and alchemist considered the father of modern chemistry. Paracelsus found that the quality and human health values of plants are evident in their appearance: Slice a carrot, and notice the similarity to the human eye. Carrots are one of the best sources of beta-carotene, essential for eye health. Walnuts look like tiny brains and contain a large amount of omega fats important for cognitive function. Blood red beets contain iron for healthy blood, and so on. But, rather than observing and understanding the inherent benefits of nature, modernity opts instead for trial and error with laboratory chemical reinventions of something not quite natural, while subsidized cheap not-quite-foods offer no protection from disease; and in fact, may actually cause it. Very few of our nation’s resources are directed towards exploring natural alternative treatments for cancer, but many are directed at keeping those remedies and techniques from reaching desperately ill people.
The number of known plant, vitamin, mineral and even non-invasive alternative cancer treatments total in the tens of thousands. Some have been used for decades in treating and (you didn’t hear this from me) curing cancer. From the shamanic brew ayahuasca‘s purgative powers to the well-known herbal formula discovered nearly one hundred years ago by a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse who reportedly began treating cancer patients with a recipe given to her by an Ojibwa medicine man containing a mix of powerful cleansing herbs including burdock, sheep sorrel, slippery elm and Indian rhubarb. And there are devices, like Bob Beck’s Microbe Electrifier, based on reproducible laboratory research findings, which show consistent effects created by electric currents introduced to the bloodstream. Beck claimed the current renders invading microbes from multiplying inside human cells. Beck had to conduct his research outside of the U.S., and the machines are not easy to get into the country, often held up at customs. And despite Caisse’s apparent success in using her herbal formula to treat cancer, she was repeatedly faced with persecution and resistance from the Canadian government and medical community working on promoting pharmaceutical drug treatments. Because of its psychoactive properties, the sacred ayahuasca brew is considered a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., making it a crime to drink for medicinal effects.
Even if a patient does find they’re interested in pursuing a natural treatment, perhaps in tandem with Western medicine, many doctors are reluctant to support the exploration. Many are simply uninformed about the ingredients, procedures, effects and risks, and advise their patients against the treatments altogether, often dismissing them as ‘quackery’, as snake oil.
Without question, some treatments certainly are exploitive in nature, ineffective and often not covered by most insurance plans, and therefore quite costly. But so are well-established allopathic treatments, like chemotherapy, which to the uninsured can mean bankruptcy along with the grueling months off of work while enduring treatment. And even though widely used and considered one of the most effective weapons against cancer, chemotherapy hasn’t actually been proven to have long-term effectiveness in eliminating the disease. A 2004 study conducted at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore in Australia found that chemotherapy has a 5-year success rate in just over 2 percent of all cancers.
Now, recent research coming out of Canada shows promising results in curing cancer with a relatively well known drug; but the discovery, like so many before it, has received little media attention or consideration by major pharmaceutical companies. Researchers at Edmonton’s University of Alberta have found that the drug DCA (dichloracetate), already used to treat metabolic disorders with few side effects or risks, killed certain cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells. A long believed theory that cancer cells use a process called glycolysis (using sugar to fuel the main cell body) to power their takeover of healthy cells, may have been disproven by the study. The Canadian researchers found that by simply stimulating the cancer cell’s mitochondria (which in cancer cells appears inactive or damaged, unlike in healthy cells) by the administration of DCA, the cells actually could not function and soon died. The drug is not patented, which would allow, essentially for the first time, an incredibly inexpensive conventional cancer treatment option. And for that reason, no pharmaceutical company has shown interest in manufacturing it as a cancer drug.
If it was at any point impolite to point out the rampant fraud, misconduct and unethical motives regularly employed by the corporate entities entwined with our country’s governing agencies, that time is not now. After the banking system all but collapsed, taking the stock market and tens of thousands of jobs along with it, and leaving in its wake of destruction a trail of angry, unemployed and the please-god-not-now ill forced to Occupy the institutions supposed to be protecting them, the last thing a disenchanted populace wants to hear is that possible cures for cancer are being hidden for no other reason than corporate greed.
Still, the pharmaceutical industry has value in disease prevention, treatment and management. And DCA could actually be one of those wonder drugs we take for granted eventually, like penicillin or aspirin. But it’s a question we’ve no doubt asked before, and will likely ask again: Is this finally the cancer cure we’ve been waiting for? Or, is it just another alternative destined to be overshadowed by less effective, more expensive and highly toxic “treatments” pushed by an industry that is itself, showing signs of metastasized malignancy?
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger