Cancer Clinical Trials and Alternative Treatments

The conventional paradigm that a viable treatment for cancer will come from a toxic synthesized drug and not an alternative non-toxic remedy is fruits and vegetablesreflected in how our research dollars are spent. For example, there are thousands of cancer clinical trials. Many of these are funded or partially funded by our tax dollars through the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Others are funded wholly by pharmaceutical companies, foundations, and medical centers. Cancer Monthly recently performed a cursory analysis to determine which and how many clinical trials are focused on alternative or complementary therapies. The results were disappointing, but not surprising.

According to the NCI database there are currently 7,080 active clinical trials for cancer. A review of these trials found nearly half were focused on chemotherapy and over two thousand looked at cutting edge biological therapies like anti-angiogenesis approaches such as Veglin. Many of these biological therapies apply our latest understanding of genetics and the biological basis of cancer and no doubt reflect a quantum leap from the indiscriminate toxicity of chemotherapy. Nonetheless, only 123 trials were "complementary or alternative" - treatments focused on naturally occurring agents.

These 123 represent only 1.7% of the total and included trials of various foods, herbs and modalities such as: soy, ginger, Valerian, Curcumin, acupuncture, Reiki, meditation, garlic, Green tea, and Tai Chi. At first glance, this is encouraging. A more thorough analysis, however, revealed that the overwhelming majority of these trials examined questions that did not focus on whether these approaches alone improved survivability from cancer.

The breakdown revealed:

 xlinical trial table

Most of these categories are self explanatory with the possible exception of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski's antineoplastons. These 24 trials are "alternative or complementary" in the sense that this is an original modality not taught in U.S. medical schools and not generally available in U.S. hospitals. The constituents of antineoplastons include natural components and sodium phenylbutyrate, arguably a drug. Dr. Burzynski has had some success especially with aggressive brain cancers and his clinical trials focus on survival as one of the primary outcome measures.

The three additional clinical trials that focused on improving survival included:

1. Sun's Soup in lung cancer - this trial compares the survival of patients with stage IIIB or IV non-small cell lung cancer receiving selected vegetables (Sun's soup dietary supplement vs placebo). Sun's soup consists of 19 vegetable and herbs in a highly concentrated form. According to information on this trial, "These vegetables and herbs were selected based on their anti-cancer and immune-enhancing activities." (Trial # NCT00246727)

2. Green tea in leukemia - this phase I/II study of green tea extract (Polyphenon E) focuses on patients with previously untreated stage 0-II chronic lymphocytic leukemia (Trial # NCT00262743)

3. Fruits and vegetables for head & neck cancer - this randomized phase II trial is studying how well fruit and vegetable extracts work in preventing the recurrence of stage I, stage II, stage III, stage IVA, or stage IVB head and neck cancer. (Trial # NCT00064298)

Therefore if one includes Dr. Burzynski's antineoplaston studies, a total of 27 clinical trials out of 7,080, less than half of one percent are focused on alternative and complementary therapies as a stand alone treatment to assess survival. If one considers the Burzynski trials as a separate category, then only 3 of 7,080 or .04% are focused on this question.

These numbers speak volumes. Alternative therapies represent a small minority of cancer clinical trials and only a smaller number of these are focused on whether they are viable treatments. While there were 3,198 chemotherapy trials, a treatment that has been experimented with for over fifty years, less than 30 trials were focused on natural approaches. This analysis suggests what many observers have been reporting for some time that alternative therapies - stand alone natural cancer treatments have been co-opted into the conventional paradigm. They are no longer seen as potentially powerful treatments in their own right, but rather "add-ons" to ameliorate the side effects or improve the quality of life for patients who receive the toxic conventional treatments.

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