By Dr. Joseph Shaw Jones, M.D.
Dr. Jones is the medical director for Gentle Wellness Center’s alternative cancer treatment program, which includes infusion services and the IPT for cancer.
It’s not an uncommon request here at Gentle Wellness Center, an integrative cancer care clinic. Having researched many integrative cancer care clinic websites, perused natural cancer cure blogs and flush with the latest alternative cancer cure books, this patient wants nothing that smacks of pharmaceuticals or chemotherapy. I hear hints about big pharma’s conspiring to hide miracle cures from the public to increase profit by prolonging illness. A loved one got cancer, got chemotherapy and then died and chemotherapy did it.
BUT, I Want to Treat My Cancer Without Chemo!
The internet has remarkably increased our access to information, some of which is accurate, and much which is not. There is no alarm to warn a patient, seeking further insight into their cancer, that the website they are on is selling snake oil, that the doctor’s dogma has blinded him or her to truth. But once read, like a bell just rung, it’s so very difficult to undo the misinformation, to un-ring the bell. The most studious alternative minded patient often has adopted, sometimes defensively and with almost religious zeal, the mantra of their chosen champion. This can be a powerful mindset, and conversations about options are not easy, or appreciated by the patient. The truth is, the complementary therapies we offer, intravenous vitamin C, infra-red sauna, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, supplements and dietary recommendations, among others, do improve quality of life for our patients, likely improve general health and immune function, but they are still complementary to a more aggressive treatment plan. They aren’t true alternatives, certainly not effective alternatives to cancer therapy.
But, respecting a patient’s right to choose what goes in their body, informing a patient how a given intervention carries risk, not only of side effects, but treatment failure, and explaining how said intervention differs from conventional therapy, a patient may decide, despite all evidence to the contrary, against any more than natural alternatives as their sole intervention. They are informed that in 12 years of integrative cancer care, I’ve never seen the natural progression of a cancer affected by a solely alternative means. I usually compromise with such a patient, asking for a baseline study before initiating the therapy in question, and inevitably failing improvement on follow-up three months later, many understand the necessity of pharmaceuticals, and accept, albeit grudgingly at times, a more aggressive protocol that includes those drugs we know to be effective against their cancer.
The trick is to administer the new protocol in a manner that has the least impact on the patient while maintaining efficacy. We have been using dose adjusted weekly chemotherapy protocols to treat patients for decades. It’s been clear for some time that lower dose chemotherapy administered more often is tolerated far better and in most cases works as well. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s best practices recommendations are now showing more weekly and bi-weekly chemotherapy protocols, given at lower doses, as a reasonable alternative conventional therapy for many types of cancer. It’s not natural or ideal, but it is an alternative to full dose conventional therapy that you can tolerate.
About Side Effects
Patients fear potential side effects from chemotherapy, and that fear often surpasses their fear of dying from their cancer. Fear can blind a body to common sense, logic and contrary opinion too. Reassurances from the doctor are doubted. But what do patients receiving chemotherapy experience here at Gentle Wellness Center? None have died from a side effect of their chemotherapy. Truth is, remarkably few patients die from receiving chemotherapy. The reality is, most receiving chemotherapy die because the chemotherapy stopped working. That’s not to say significant side effects don’t occur; they do and it can be bad enough to force a patient to abandon treatment, especially when receiving full dose.
We know the kind of side effect one experiences with chemotherapy is related to the specific drug they are given. Each drug has its own set of potential side effects, and some shared side effects. To what degree a patient experiences a side effect is based on the dose of the drug. Most conventional chemotherapy protocols are based on every 3 or 4 week infusions called a cycle. Time is needed for the body to recover prior to the next cycle due to the side effects from the current infusion. Acute side effects of nausea and vomiting are frequent, at times severe, and can require multiple pre and post-infusion drugs to control it. Subacute side effects are expected, such as bone marrow suppression leading to low white cell counts and increased risk for fever and life threatening infection. Hair loss is common. Long term side effects, such as bone marrow failure and secondary leukemia, have been reported with some of the oldest and most effective drugs.
So, What Makes Us Different?
By administering the appropriate drugs, based on current peer reviewed studies at a fraction of the conventional dose, but at the same time, increasing the frequency of the infusion, results in the ability to tolerate the treatment with far fewer side effects, particularly of the acute and subacute side effects, and possibly the long term side effect risk. This means that the average patient can expect to receive chemotherapy weekly, at a dose ~20% per week of convention. Doing the math, that converts to a cumulative dose of about 70-80% over a months’ time. By administering the chemotherapy weekly rather than every 3 or 4 weeks and doing so at this lower dose, most patients can do their daily activities. Nausea, hair loss, and low white counts, while possible, are far less likely. While there are increasing numbers of conventional protocols that are recommended to be given weekly, not all chemotherapeutics have been tested against all cancers in this manner. In some cases, it’s been found that some drugs work better against a cancer when given every 3 or 4 weeks, rather than weekly. In my experience, however, majority conventional protocols can be adapted with success.
We do follow the teaching of Dr. Donato Garcia regarding the use of insulin prior to administration of the chemotherapy. The procedure, called ‘Insulin Potentiation Therapy, Low Dose’ or IPTLD, aims to take advantage of the increased permeability of the cancer cells to chemotherapy provided by the insulin. This in-vitro (cancer cell culture) effect may be active in-vivo, the human body, and with attention to close monitoring is a safe procedure. There was a clinical trial of this phenomenon published some years back in a group of patients with breast cancer. Divided in to two groups, the one receiving insulin prior to chemotherapy did significantly better than the chemotherapy-only group. It is unknown if there will be future follow-up larger studies to confirm this benefit, given the cost and lack of interest of the pharmaceutical industry to do any study which reveals less of their product is necessary to treat cancer. In the meantime, a number of case studies and anecdotal published reports continue to document successes using IPT. Of note, IPT is used here with cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs, however recent advances in immunotherapy, monoclonal antibody and targeted checkpoint inhibitors reveal their importance with certain types of cancer. Those modalities are available here. As non-IPT drugs, they are administered in conventional doses and frequencies and as a rule are tolerated very well.