2014 Conference Wrap Up

Dr. James Forsythe of the Century Wellness Clinic in Reno, Nevada, an IOICP member, spoke at the annual Best Answer for Cancer Foundation conference in April. He has been conducting an outcome study for the past 46 months on 500 stage IV adult cancer patients using IPT with a mix of integrative therapies. Dr. Forsythe reported a 60 percent survival rate to date. Statistics suggest that had these patients been subjected to conventional protocols, perhaps 3 percent or less of these patients would be alive after 5 years.

The integrative protocols are not yet what might be described as plug-and-play.  “There was an issue at the Best Answer for Cancer conference about standard protocols and therapies and techniques,” Dr. Ellis said. “People want to see research about outcomes and potential side effects and the answer they get back is that there is a paucity of both, mostly because of lack of money to do research. That is a political problem. You need to force government to give the money. When AIDS came along, there was crazy advocacy. That forced Congress and the FDA to give funding and increased access to drugs and other treatments.”

Patient Advocacy

The picture of cancer patient advocacy is different than what we saw with AIDS, however. Cancer patients tend not to march on the Washington DC mall. They are more likely to turn to Google.

“People who experience a recurrence of cancer are the savvy cancer patients,” said Al Sanchez, Jr., CEO of AMARC Enterprises (Poly-MVA). “They get on the internet groups and learn to minimize what they eat the day before their chemo appointment, they don’t eat late in the day, and they walk into the doctor’s office with a lower than normal blood sugar level. They find it works better.”

In other words, these patients are attempting to mimic the IPT portion of the integrative protocol by fasting prior to chemotherapy.

With IPT, insulin is first used to drop the blood sugar level, then chemo drugs and sugar are administered. The drugs so effectively target the cancer cells that most IOICP physicians use only one-tenth the amount of chemo drugs.

The principle underlying IPT is well understood and could be readily accepted because it is the same principle used with PET scans to diagnose cancer. When a radioactive tracer is combined with sugar, cancerous cells take up the sugar much better than healthy cells. The radioactive tracer thus concentrates in the cancer cells and the result is an image of the tumor, reflecting its metabolic activity.

The IPT technique has a real upside for patients because they are spared the toxicity of full dose chemo – they experience minimal if any hair loss, nausea, organ damage, and minimal harm to healthy cells. But the technique has what the pharmaceutical industry sees a real downside – selling a lot less product.

Acceptance of new ideas and new protocols is often met with a brick wall. Annie Brandt, who founded the Best Answer for Cancer Foundation to foster progressive change in cancer treatment, wants to take down that brick wall.

“Thirteen years ago I had cancer in my breast, my lymphatic system, my brain, and my lungs,” Brandt said. “I did nothing conventional except for one lymph node biopsy and an estrogen blocker. I used diet, mind-body medicine, spirituality, detoxification, lifestyle changes, many holistic therapies, and IPT. I still see a conventional oncologist every three months and he still recommends that I get a double mastectomy, high-dose chemotherapy, and radiation. He tells me I am taking unnecessary chances and risks. I ask him how many survivors he has whose breast cancer involved the lungs and brain who are still alive after 13 years?”

“Many of us are closet integrative oncologists,” Dr. Ellis said. “It is significant that Sloan Kettering and all the National Cancer Institute centers are developing integrative medicine departments. We are figuring out from the baseline in a reductionist way that when we put all the elements of the combustion engine together, we will know how to fix the problem of traffic. But you won’t solve the problem of traffic. Cancer is more of a whole body problem in a very similar way to the relationship between combustion engines and the problem of traffic. Cancer is systemic illness and although there will be exceptions to this (such as specific mutations causing specific cancers such as the role of the BCR-ABL in CML) positive outcomes in cancer will depend on an integrative whole body approach to this illness.”

The Pace of Change

Money, it seems, does not affect the pace of change, at least in terms of turning around cancer mortalities. U.S. spending on cancer research, estimating both public and private investments, is now at $16 billion each year.3 What the conventional community seems to react to best is statistics.

Clinical trials have been discussed at integrative oncology meetings. The consensus of opinion, based on history, was that a clinical trial of just IPT would be an uphill battle as the drug companies are fearful for the bottom line. Who else would fund the trials? And going back to Seyfried, would testing just IPT be valid since it is only part of the toolbox? Would IOICP practitioners feel an ethical issue in withholding other integrative protocols with patients so just IPT could be tested? And how next to test the entire toolbox, the many therapies Dr. Devlin described above, where there are many variables and differences in how doctors do things?  “We are preparing to boldly go where no one has gone before,” Brandt said. “At our April conference, we began mapping out how to test integrative protocols for both better quality of life as well as better patient outcomes overall. The trials on chemo drugs have been done. The value of mind-body medicine and spirituality has been proven. We want to look now at combinations of targeted cancer therapies and integrative protocols. We are also embarking on that cookbook – putting in writing what the IOICP considers standard protocols for the various complementary and alternative medical therapies.”

The integrative oncology movement has staked out new techniques, and is now poised to define its best practices.

“With camaraderie among the different doctors, researchers, and universities, the architecture can be created and subsequently analyzed by statisticians to determine best outcomes,” Dr. Devlin said. “We as integrative oncologists must develop individualized treatment programs that reflect a personalized approach for each patient, reflective of their personal history, personal background, genetic type, cancer type, etc. We need to offer more than a cookie cutter approach with 60-year-old poisons to someone with any particular kind of cancer. “

Patients are increasingly demanding a better Standard of Care. The baby boom generation is hitting that time of life when they are most likely to receive a cancer diagnosis; the number of new cancer patients is expected to more than double between 2000 and 2050.4 There will be even more voices crying out for better options.