Cancer: More Care, More Cost, Less Cure
by Bill Sardi
Recently by Bill Sardi: Who Will Watch the Watchers?
Health authorities don’t foresee any cancer cures on the horizon. The World Health Organization estimates annual cancer cases will rise from 12.7 million to 21 million, and cancer deaths will jump from 7.6 million to more than 13 million, by the year 2030. That’s over 35,000 people dying of cancer every day. Over those two decades, world population is projected to increase from 7.01 billion to 9.30 billion, a rise of about 30%, while cancer cases and deaths will increase by 65—70%.
Advancing age is the harbinger of cancer
Despite concerns over carcinogens in the environment — cancer-causing agents such as herbicides, asbestos, and hormones — cancer is an age-related disease. Cancer was not a major health problem when life expectancy was 48 years for a newborn American child in the year 1900. But the life expectancy of Americans has risen upwards to nearly 80 years today and cancer affects nearly every extended family in America.
Living longer increases the risk for cancer many fold. Sixty percent of all cancer occurs in persons over age 65 years. While the overall rate of cancer hovers at 204 per 100,000 for adults under age 65, it is 2225 per 100,000 for adults over age 65. That’s 11 times greater risk!
This is why it has been said that an anti-aging pill would likely reduce the incidence of cancer better than any treatment for existing tumors. Slow the rate of aging so the onset of age-related diseases like cancer is delayed by 7 years or so, and you also spare Medicare from inevitable insolvency. The prospect of an anti-aging pill may not be too far away. Cellular debris called lipofuscin that accumulates with advancing age has been reversed with a nutriceutical in a human, suggesting biological aging can even be reversed.
One step forward, two steps back
With no single therapy expected to cure cancer, care of cancer patients today looks like an expensive menu of toxic treatments that offer marginal benefit. The five-year survival for all types of cancer is only about 43%. Meanwhile, the cost of cancer care has risen astronomically. News headlines herald the introduction of gene-targeted cancer drugs and promising anti-cancer vaccines which only increase survival by a few months.
Lung cancer dominates cancer statistics
Lung cancer still comprises the majority of cancers and the decline in tobacco use has done more to reduce the incidence and mortality from cancer overall. About 21% of Americans smoke tobacco today compared to 45% in 1954. Also, women have backed away from taking hormone replacement pills, which has resulted in a dramatic decline in breast cancer cases and deaths. These examples serve as evidence that significant advances that are being made in cancer are on the side of prevention, not treatment.
More infuriating, while major efforts are made to prevent cancer, U.S. cigarette manufacturers are reported to place more cancer-causing nitrosamines, about triple the amount found in cigarette brands in Australia, Canada or the United Kingdom. Even more maddening is the fact that menthol, a flavored tobacco additive used to mask the bitter taste and reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke, increases the delivery of tobacco carcinogens to the human body.
This may help explain why males in Japan who smoke incessantly don’t develop lung cancer at anywhere near the same rate as Americans. The odds of developing lung cancer in the US are 40 times greater among smokers than non-smokers compared to a 3.5 times increased risk in Japan.
Furthermore, it appears the cancer threat posed by nitrosamines in cigarettes can be completely negated by the use of vitamin C pills. But little or nothing is said about this, possibly because it may give smokers license to keep smoking.
Promising drugs that disappoint
Drug companies are being rewarded for developing blockbuster anti-cancer drugs that are more of a financial success than a cure. If the current trend continues, cancer patients in the year 2030 will take a dozen drugs at the cost of thousands of dollars per day to add less than a year to their survival.
The burgeoning cost of cancer care comes at a time when the health insurance system is fast becoming insolvent. The need is for 10-cent cures, not the expensive drugs now in the cancer pipeline. Pharmaceutical companies act as if there will be endless money to pay for drugs that don’t cure.
Desperate cancer patients are left holding their breath for a breakthrough in cancer treatment. Breast cancer patients hear of a breakthrough — an anti-cancer vaccine. But it won’t likely be available for another decade.
There is an effort to speed up the approval for anti-cancer drugs, which now have a median approval time of 7 years. However, the gold-standard for anti-cancer therapy is five-year survival. Rushing towards approval will likely produce even more ineffective and problematic drugs. The FDA approves cancer drugs if they temporarily shrink a tumor by at least 50% even though they do not improve survival. Many existing anti-cancer drugs should be retrospectively disapproved because they inevitably produce tumor resistance and destruction of the patient’s immune system.
Detecting cancer earlier: a new test
It must be particularly galling to the cancer care industry that a hound can sniff out cancer more reliably than most modern cancer screening technologies. In a recent study, a Belgian Malinois shepherd, a breed of dog with a powerful sense of smell, was able to accurately detect cancer in 63 of 66 cases by the smell of the patient’s urine. Researchers still don’t know what molecule in the urine of cancer patients alerts the dog.
On a more encouraging note, a British company has developed a test that makes it possible to detect cancer at a much earlier stage. Generally, conventional cancer detection tools find tumors when they are about two-thirds of the way through their development. For example, lung tumors can be the size of a tennis ball before detection. The earliest screening detection is only picking up cancer after more than 20 cell divisions, while death normally comes after about 40.
The problem is, without effective treatments, what good is early detection? What is needed is true prevention, not more treatment.
Pouring water on the wrong fire
A major misdirection of modern cancer therapy is that it is focused on treating the initial tumor rather than the circulating tumor cells that have escaped into the blood circulation. Imagine fire fighters dousing flames on a burning house while flames spread to neighboring homes without a drop of water being poured on them. Targeting tumor cells in circulation is what is needed. This means boosting the sometimes sluggish immune system to actively engulf or destroy roaming tumor cells.
Cancer vaccines are purported to do just that, but they appear to be of limited value. Researchers admit cancer vaccines "will never be a stand-alone therapy" and will need to be combined with standard treatments and immune boosters.
Vaccines against prostate and breast cancer are widely trumpeted by the news media. Provenge, the recently approved anti-prostate cancer vaccine, involves re-injection of the patients own white blood cells back into their circulation and is said to add 4.5 months to survival time at an anticipated cost ranging from $30,000 to $90,000.
The public generally believes vaccines are intended to prevent disease. However, this anti-prostate cancer vaccine isn’t intended to prevent prostate cancer, it is only intended for use in advanced stages of the disease.
The best 10-cent cure: vitamin D
It appears the cancer industry favors complicated and expensive therapies over simple inexpensive cures. This is certainly true for prostate cancer. Why remove the patient’s own immune cells when they can be stimulated in a dramatic manner by vitamin D? Vitamin D has a striking effect upon progression of prostate cancer, particularly among patients with a low-circulating level of vitamin D to begin with. It is the patients’ best 10-cent cancer cure. In lieu of sunlight, it appears supplemental vitamin D is fast becoming a universal anti-cancer agent that should be employed for both prevention and therapy.
The problem is that vitamin D’s anti-tumor effect is often reduced in late stages of cancer. The vitamin D receptor located on the cell wall, to which vitamin D binds (attaches), often becomes insensitive to vitamin D in advanced-stage cancer. However, the co-administration of vitamin E succinate and/or resveratrol increases vitamin D cell receptor protein and its sensitivity to vitamin D itself. Other natural molecules that enhance the anti-cancer action of vitamin D are menthol, a component of peppermint oil, curcumin from turmeric spice, and gamma tocotrienol, another form of vitamin E.
Another important tip to optimize vitamin D is to make sure your intake of magnesium is adequate. Depletion of magnesium reduces blood concentration of vitamin D. Magnesium supplementation increases vitamin D levels. Some smartly designed vitamin D supplements provide magnesium.
A ray of hope: anti-angiogenesis
In 1998, New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata asked Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson what was new in the world of science, he replied, “Judah Folkman and angiogenesis, that’s what’s new. Judah is going to cure cancer in two years.” That became a news headline that encircled the globe.
Actually, Dr. Folkman had proposed the idea of starving growing tumors by cutting off their blood supply in 1971. Today so-called anti-angiogenic drugs are undergoing human study and the first such drug (Avastin, bevacizumab) was approved for use in 2004. Millions of cancer patients now receive drugs intended to inhibit new blood vessel formation associated with tumor growth.
As background information, when you incur a cut in your skin, chemical growth factors are released in that area which weaken nearby blood vessels, which then sprout new tributaries in the direction of the wound. This is all part of a natural wound-healing mechanism. When the wound is healed, the new blood vessels recede. But in cancer these new blood vessels persist, to provide oxygen and nutrients for tumor growth. Surgical removal of a solid tumor only produces more wound healing chemicals that further stimulates angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation). The new blood vessels become a conduit for cancer cells to escape, spread and develop into distant tumors called metastases. Inhibit the new blood vessels (anti-angiogenesis) and the tumor cannot grow beyond the size of a few millimeters. The trick is to do this without totally inhibiting the regenerative (wound healing) processes in the body.
In 2005, Nature magazine published a major review of the field of angiogenesis research and predicted that "angiogenesis research will probably change the face of medicine in the next decades" with more than 500 million people worldwide predicted to benefit from anti-angiogenesis drugs. However, nearly four decades after Dr. Folkman’s discovery of angiogenesis and tumor growth, researchers sadly admit "the clinical benefits of anti-angiogenesis therapy are modest and usually measured in weeks or months." The response to anti-angiogenic therapy is only transient. Yet the cancer industry arrogantly describes the achievements of researchers involved in this field as "remarkable."
Enter Dr. William Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation in Boston. Dr. Li is an understudy of Dr. Judah Folkman. Dr. Li says tumors are generally out of control by the time anti-angiogenesis therapy is administered. Earlier intervention is what is needed.
His research shows that certain foods, herbs and spices contain natural anti-angiogenesis agents that in many instances are more potent than some of the widely-touted anti-angiogenic drugs.
Dr. Li shows a slide in his online presentation of the most potent natural anti-angiogenic agents discovered so far. Presented in descending order they are: vitamin E, tea leaves, turmeric, glucosamine, green tea, olive, brassica (cruciferous vegetables), red grapes, garlic, soy and berries. The Angiogenesis Foundation is in the process of identifying and scoring varieties of plant foods for their anti-angiogenic properties.