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Cancer:Four Alt/Treatment Stories

by Sara Altshul Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2002 at 2:47 PM

Nothing Left to Lose. When conventional medicine failed them, these four cancer patients -- three of them terminal -- turned to alternative treatments that have never been scientifically proven to work. They're all still alive.


An interesting and pretty fair article (In the most recent issue of "Prevention Magazine") documenting four stories of people taking so-called alternative cancer treatments and doing very well with them. The writer keeps referring to them as unproven. The only reason they are unproven is that the NCI has greatly delayed testing. One of the treatments, 714 X, has been around for over 25 years but the NCI just started testing in the last year or so. The only thing that is proven about orthodox treatments is that they have been an abysmal failure for cancer patients over the last 50 some years, but an enormous money maker for the drug companies. Cancer deaths have doubled since 1962.

One of the stories in the article is about Billy Best being cancer free for over 7 years. I interviewed his mother back in March/April and have posted it to my nonprofit web site. You can read it here.


I advocate medical freedom of choice. If you want to take cancer causing radiation and chemotherapy drugs that have serious side-effects, then that is your choice. Personally, I would never touch the stuff. The point is that we do not have a choice in the US at the moment. The drug cartels' profits are being protected from the competition of natural or inexpensive treatments. Thank you.
Gavin Phillips.
Exposing the Cancer Racket

Nothing Left to Lose. When conventional medicine failed them, these four cancer patients -- three of them terminal -- turned to alternative treatments that have never been scientifically proven to work. They're all still alive.
by Sara Altshul

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures David Yoffie's Deadly Cancer Dr. Gonzalez's Controversial Treatment Bill Mears Had a Year to Live The Jury's Still Out A Runaway Recovers An Unlikely Cancer Remedy A Dying Girl Triumphs Get More Information

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

When medical science had nothing left to offer (or, in 16-year-old Billy Best's case, when conventional therapy sickened him), each of these four people turned in desperation to alternatives that oncologists consider, at best, unproven.

David Yoffie and Bill Mears went to New York City physician Nicholas Gonzalez, MD, whose controversial nutritional regimen (100+ supplements, regular coffee enemas) and rejection of conventional cancer treatment have made him a lightning rod for criticism.

Little Katie Hartley and Best, who were children when they developed cancer, took (among other things) a substance called 714X, an injected or inhaled combination of camphor, nitrogen, and mineral salts. This treatment was developed by a French scientist who was once arrested for negligent homicide and practicing medicine without a license, though he was later cleared of those charges. They also took an herbal tea that purports to fight cancer. All four made dramatic changes in their diets as well, with three of them eating only organic produce and forsaking all meat.

But what exactly is keeping these people alive? Is it the unconventional remedies they turned to in desperation? Is it a healthy diet? Is it some combination of the two? Or is it something else entirely?

Their doctors are mystified. Though contacted for this story, only one would comment, and then only anonymously. When asked if his patient, who had not been expected to live, was doing better than expected, the physician replied with a terse "To say the least."

David Yoffie's Deadly Cancer

"My doctor told me I was going to die," says David Yoffie, 47, a real estate entrepreneur from St. Louis.

In January 2001, Yoffie had routine surgery to treat his chronic acid reflux. At the beginning of the procedure, his doctor made an awful discovery. "A biopsy of suspicious lesions on my liver showed that I had advanced pancreatic cancer," he recalls. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers; most of the 29,000 people diagnosed with it annually in the US will die within a year.

Yoffie underwent four rounds of chemotherapy. The first two rounds shrank the tumor; the second two left it unscathed. Despite the decrease in the tumor's size, he was told he had approximately a year to live.

Yoffie became an instant pancreatic cancer expert. Internet research turned up one name time and time again: Dr. Gonzalez. "But when I asked my oncologist about Dr. Gonzalez and told him that he'd successfully treated people with pancreatic cancer, he wasn't supportive," says Yoffie.

Yoffie went on the challenging Gonzalez program in June 2001. "It was quite an adjustment," he admits. He now eats a largely organic vegetarian diet, takes some 120 pills a day, and follows Dr. Gonzalez's detox procedures, including the twice-daily coffee enemas.

CAT scans and blood tests currently show no evidence of the pancreatic tumor, says Yoffie. "I live a normal life, and I have enough energy to keep up with my kids. If I hadn't seen Dr. Gonzalez, I'd probably be dead by now. Instead, I have every expectation of living a long, long time."

Dr. Gonzalez's Controversial Treatment In fact, Dr. Gonzalez says that hundreds of his patients with pancreatic and other cancers have lived at least 5 years after receiving "terminal or very poor cancer diagnoses."

The Gonzalez treatment is based on the work of two people: the turn-of-the century Scottish embryologist John Beard, MD, and a dentist from Texas named Donald Kelly who practiced some 30 years ago.

In a nutshell, the theory holds that pancreatic enzymes are the body's main defense against cancer and are useful as a cancer treatment. Dr. Gonzalez, who trained in immunology, uses special diets, aggressive supplementation with nutrients and enzymes, and detoxification methods, including coffee enemas, "to enhance liver function and aid in the processing and excretion of metabolic wastes." These, he believes, contribute to the body's ability to destroy tumors.

Based on the kind of cancer they have, patients are put on 1 of 10 diets, ranging from strictly vegetarian to those containing plenty of red meat. They eat only organic foods (Dr. Gonzalez believes cancer patients should limit exposure to pesticides and additives) and are cautioned to avoid aluminum and nonstick cookware, microwave cooking, fried foods, processed foods, white sugar, artificial sweeteners, white bread, white rice, and other refined grain products. They use only olive, sesame, and flaxseed oils. Dr. Gonzalez urges his patients to get a good juicer; he believes that freshly prepared organic juices are an easily digestible, concentrated source of nutrients.

His patients also down as many as 160 pills a day, including vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, according to individual needs and the cancer type. Dr. Gonzalez believes that these supplements boost metabolic function, which enables the body to heal itself. His patients also self-administer detoxifying treatments, including twice-daily coffee enemas, periodic "liver flushes," occasional carrot juice fasts, and various baths and soaks.

Dr. Gonzalez lives his program, eating organically and taking supplements. He swears, as do his patients, that the coffee enemas make him "feel good." And he believes that his enviable energy and ability to work 14-hour days are a direct result of following his own advice.

Bill Mears Had a Year to Live

In 1984, when he was 53, Bill Mears, an engineer from Kennett Square, PA, was diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) inside the sinus behind his left eye. After extensive surgery ("They took my head apart," he recalls), surgeons removed an olive-size tumor. Mears went on with his life, believing himself cured. But just 3 years later, the cancer returned. Surgeons removed as much as they could, but offered little hope.

In May 1988, a new tumor was found in his abdomen. Mears nixed the idea of chemotherapy, and surgery wasn't even offered as an option, because he wasn't expected to live very long. A physician he was seeing for nutritional support recommended Dr. Gonzalez, who accepted Mears as a patient. By December 1988, the tumor had finally stopped growing. In 1993, the tumor (which, according to pathology reports, seemed to be "dying") was removed. According to Mears, his surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a top cancer center in New York City, admitted that "whatever I [Mears] was doing was having a beneficial effect." Now 70, Mears skis, splits wood, and travels the world with his wife.

The Jury's Still Out

Like other practitioners who treat cancer with alternative therapies, Dr. Gonzalez has evoked a range of reactions from the medical establishment and the media. He has been sued for malpractice. A January 2000 story in the Washington Post questioned why federal funds were used to study a program designed by a doctor whom they alleged "lacks traditional training in cancer treatment and has been disciplined by a state medical board."

Others, notably Jeffrey White, MD, director of the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, aren't so quick to dismiss him. Unlike some unconventional healers, Dr. Gonzalez has insisted that his methods be scientifically studied, and he has refused to train other healers in his methods until his treatments are proven.

"What Dr. Gonzalez has done is what I hope more alternative practitioners will attempt," says Dr. White. "Namely, to gather hard data about the effectiveness of their therapies and have it published in the scientific literature ... instead of simply marketing themselves and their treatments directly to patients."

Details of Dr. Gonzalez's treatment of 11 patients with pancreatic cancer were published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 1999. Of the 11, nine survived at least 1 year after beginning the Gonzalez treatment, five survived at least 2 years, four survived at least 3 years, and two lived beyond 4 years.

Those survival times got Dr. White's attention, since the median survival time for someone with pancreatic cancer is 5 months. "His results are impressive and warrant the further investigation that's now ongoing," says Dr. White.

A Runaway Recovers

The same day 16-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in the summer of 1994, his beloved aunt died of breast cancer at the age of 49.

"The doctors told Billy the same thing they'd told my sister-in-law: that chemotherapy would cure his cancer," says his mother, Sue Best, of Rockland, MA. Billy didn't believe them, and he told his doctors at the prestigious Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston that he didn't want the chemo. "They said, 'You have to have it, or you'll die,'" Sue Best recalls.

In a story that made headlines, Billy ran away in October after just five treatments. When he eventually came home, tests showed that his cancer, which was almost gone before he ran away, had returned.

This time, his family acquiesced to Billy's desire to say no to chemo. They investigated alternative treatments and chose 714X, created by a maverick French scientist named Gaston Naessens, who fled his native country for Canada after an uproar about another of his remedies. They also discovered an herbal tea called essiac, which contains burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm bark, and turkey rhubarb. It is a widely promoted, though never proven, cancer treatment.

Billy overhauled his diet too. He ate only organic whole grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and fish. He avoided sugar, processed foods, and refined grains, and he drank 8 to 10 glasses of distilled or pure spring water every day.

The Bests believe that Billy's cancer is gone. An apparently healthy 24-year-old who works at a health food store in Boston, he's had only one CAT scan to confirm the tumor's disappearance, and that was back in 1995, 21/2 months after starting the regimen. (He and his family believe that CAT scans can cause cancer.)

Instead, they rely on blood tests devised by Naessens, who invented a special microscope, the somatoscope, to enable people to view "live blood." By viewing live blood, he claims that blood particles that no other scientist has ever identified become visible. Naessens calls these particles "somatids." According to his theory, somatids have a life cycle similar to other biological entities. When stress interrupts the somatidian life cycle, degenerative diseases such as cancer are enabled.

An Unlikely Cancer Remedy

"You couldn't ask for anything more fascinating," says Ralph Moss, PhD, about 714X. Author of 11 books on cancer-related topics, Dr. Moss is science advisor to the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He is also founder of "Cancer Decisions," a newsletter and Web site for cancer patients.

Fascinating, maybe. But as a cure for cancer, 714X is far from proven, according to Dr. Moss.

Naessens believes that 714X, which can be injected into the lymphatic system or inhaled through a nebulizer, "stimulates deep cellular cleansing and repair." This is apparently the explanation for its use as a cancer treatment.

After leaving France, Naessens opened a clinic in Rock Forest, Quebec. In 1989, he was arrested and charged with negligent homicide and practicing medicine without a license in the death of a woman who had chosen 714X over chemotherapy. After a 3-week trial, Naessens was cleared of all charges, but he was forbidden to reopen the clinic.

Naessens and his company, CERBE Distribution of Rock Forest, Quebec, are readying documentation on 16 people whose cancers were treated with 714X. They will soon present it as a "best case series" for the OCCAM. One of the documented patients is Katie Hartley. Read her story by clicking below.

A Dying Girl Triumphs

In April 1995, Julia Hartley noticed that one of her 7-year-old daughter's eyes was protruding oddly from its socket. Her pediatrician suspected an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics.

"But I just knew that something was really wrong," says Hartley, who has four other children. At Hartley's insistence, the pediatrician sent Katie to Children's Hospital in Boston, where the doctors diagnosed what Hartley describes as "a mother's worst nightmare." Katie had an "undifferentiated sarcoma," a cancer of unknown origin. The size of a tangerine, it was growing inside her head.

Katie endured chemotherapy for only 9 of the 13 weeks recommended, because the treatment caused severe and debilitating problems for her; she was fed through a stomach tube. Following the chemo, her doctors (a team of oncologists from Dana Farber Cancer Institute) gave her 6 weeks of radiation. The radiation stopped the aggressive tumor from growing, but it left Katie weighing just 40 lb, too weak to undergo further treatment. The tumor began to grow again. The doctors sent Katie home, telling her family that she had only a couple of weeks to live.

Frantic, Julia Hartley began calling cancer institutes and hospitals all over the world. But no one offered any hope. Then the Hartley family heard about the Best family.

In January 1996, Julia Hartley told the doctors that they'd like to put Katie on714X. "They said, 'If she tries it, she'll never be eligible for treatment in this hospital again,'" recalls Hartley. "I loved the doctors and couldn't shun them." Katie needed her weekly medical checkups. So the family kept mum about Katie's 714X injections in the morning and nebulizer treatments at night. Since Katie was still unable to eat normally, her mother fed her a strictly organic vegetarian juice diet through her stomach tube.

Katie's Happy Ending Eighteen months later, Julia Hartley discovered a tumor growing inside Katie's nose. Terrified, they rushed back to the hospital. Miraculously, it proved to be scar tissue, not cancer. In fact, tests revealed that the original tumor was gone.

Katie's doctor was mystified, says Julia Hartley. "He told us, 'Keep on doing whatever you're doing.'" Like the other physicians in this story, Katie's doctor refused to be interviewed, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.

Today, Katie is a healthy 14-year-old who just began high school as "Kathleen." "She's given herself a fresh start with a new name," her mother says proudly.

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