I often find myself thinking that modern medicine has it all wrong when it comes to treating cancer. Miraculous new treatments for cancer make headlines every day, but what are the long-term results of these treatments? Are these wonder drugs truly extending life, and more importantly, are they enhancing quality of life?
According to a recently published paper in the British Medical Journal, one of the most prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journals, more than one-half of cancer drugs approved by the European Medicines Agency from 2009 to 2013 show no improvement in quality of life or survival.
If you want to really know the truth about the current “War on Cancer,” look no further than this well-documented study on the effectiveness of many recently approved, very expensive drugs. We are naturally drawn to “miracle cures” and spectacular results, such as “Look at how fast this tumor shrank!” The conventional medical world places its focus, direction, and purpose on these kinds of results. But this focus does not necessarily translate into a better and longer life. In fact, it rarely does.
Would a drug that didn’t shrink a tumor or initiate regression but significantly helped people live better and longer ever be given a chance? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no.
The Facts About Conventional Cancer Treatment
- Although the goal of cancer treatment is to improve the quantity and quality-of-life, clinical trials designed to gain regulatory approval for new drugs often evaluate indirect or “surrogate” measures of drug efficacy. These endpoints show that an agent has biological activity, but they are not reliable surrogates for improved survival or quality-of-life.
- Two recent systematic reviews suggest that the strength of association between surrogates in cancer clinical trials and life extension is generally low.1,2
- Recent reviews from the US show that only a small proportion of cancer drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration improve survival or quality-of-life.
- No recent studies have systematically examined the evidence base for and magnitude of benefit for cancer drugs approved by the EMA.
- Most new oncology drugs authorized by the EMA in 2009-13 came onto the market without clear evidence that they improved the quality or quantity of patients’ lives.
- After market entry, cancer drugs rarely show benefits on overall survival or quality of life in randomized trials.
- When survival gains over available treatment alternatives are shown, they are not always clinically meaningful.
“This systematic evaluation of oncology approvals by the EMA in 2009-13 shows that most drugs entered the market without evidence of benefit on survival or quality of life. At a minimum of 3.3 years after market entry, there was still no conclusive evidence that these drugs either extended or improved life for most cancer indications. When there were survival gains over existing treatment options or placebo, they were often marginal.”3
“When expensive drugs that lack clinically meaningful benefits are approved and paid for within publicly funded healthcare systems, individual patients can be harmed, important societal resources wasted, and the delivery of equitable and affordable care undermined.”3
Clearly, we need a radically different approach to cancer.
Changing Our Attitudes Toward Cancer: Evolutionary Theory
Evolutionary theory predicts that once the age of sufficiently low Darwinian fitness is attained, an individual has reduced chances of keeping cancerous lesions in check. The central precept of Darwinian medicine is that vulnerability to cancer and other major diseases arises at least in part as a consequence of the ‘design’ limitations, compromises and trade-offs that characterize evolutionary processes.4.5
These mechanisms may not involve complete lesion or tumor elimination, because the costs of such adaptations might exceed the benefits at ages when natural selection is most intense. This concept can also apply to acute disease and infectious diseases.
Avoidance and tolerance of damage caused by pathogens and parasites are frequent in nature, and it appears that the majority of host defenses that have arisen during evolution are tolerance mechanisms that control damage rather than eliminate an enemy. For cancers, these considerations mean that organisms should hold tumors in check, but not necessarily eliminate them when it is too costly to reproductive fitness.6
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden
A Rational, Unitive Alternative
Placing hope in chemotherapy, a “magic bullet” drug, a radical diet, or even an herb (for example, cannabis is currently touted as the latest natural cure-all) invariably leads to less than optimal results and often negatively affects quality of life. But there is an alternative to the disappointing reality of magical “cures.”
Mederi Medicine is founded on a unitive approach, taking the individual, their environment, and their unique constitution and health condition into consideration when creating a treatment plan. The patient and health care professionals work together, thus our guiding principal is “Together We Heal.”
“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.” ~St. Francis of Assisi
The Concept of Logical Positivism
Conventional medicine encompasses an inherently restricted set of categories and constructs for understanding patients and diseases. Given that no one approach is suitable for all patients, problems, and situations, the approach of conventional medicine is far from ideal. In contrast to conventional medicine, Mederi Medicine examines whatever techniques work in therapy, regardless of the different theories from which they arose.
“The heart must access the brain. Grace will flow if you open your heart and allow it.”
The concept of logical positivism is central to Mederi Medicine and Mederi Care (the application of the ETMS to health optimization and disease prevention). It is spiritual-rationality in its most pristine form, and is considered culturally universal in traditional healing systems. Logical positivism includes a process of thinking, transcendent of culture and historical context, which incorporates traditional wisdom, scientific knowledge, logic, intuition, and prayer, making it applicable to all techniques and situations.
As an herbalist, plants play an essential role in my protocols. One of the many distinguishing qualities of plant medicines recommended by an herbalist for therapeutic reasons is that plant medicines listen, dialogue, and respond accordingly, primarily in a gentle, supportive way.
Drug medicine, on the other hand, does not have the ability to listen, and functions in a direct and strong fashion (like a sledgehammer) with sometimes immediate and spectacular results—but these results are not beneficial in the context of long-term health and quality of life. This is why I call herbal medicine ‘humble medicine’ and modern conventional medicine ‘glamorous medicine,’ or heroic medicine.
The Potential of Botanical Medicine in Cancer Protocols
Botanical medicine shows great potential for combination therapy in cancer treatment, but barriers in the public domain of botanical compound-target interactions make it difficult to gain acceptance. In my own practice, I have observed the synergy and mechanism of action between herbal medicine and synthetic drugs.
It is the combination therapy that makes Mederi Medicine a highly effective therapeutic strategy to manage cancer and chronic disease and optimize health. Interest in research into the synergy of herbal compounds and synthetic drugs both for cancer and other diseases is growing.7,8 I strongly believe this is the future of medicine.
1. Prasad V, Kim C, Burotto M, Vandross A. The Strength of Association Between Surrogate End Points and Survival in Oncology: A Systematic Review of Trial-Level Meta-analyses. JAMA Intern Med 2015;175:1389-98. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2829.
2. Ciani O, Davis S, Tappenden P, et al. Validation of surrogate endpoints in advanced solid tumors: systematic review of statistical methods, results, and implications for policy makers. Int J Technol Assess Health Care 2014;30:312-24. doi:10.1017/S0266462314000300.
3. Courtney Davis, Huseyin Naci, Evrim Gurpinar, Elita Poplavska, Ashlyn Pinto, Ajay Aggarwal, Availability of evidence of benefits on overall survival and quality of life of cancer drugs approved by European Medicines Agency: retrospective cohort study of drug approvals 2009-13, BMJ 2017;359:j4530 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4530
4. Komarova, N. L. & Wodarz, D. Evolutionary dynamics of mutator phenotypes in cancer: implications for chemotherapy. Cancer Res.63, 6635–6642 (2003).
5. Evan, G. I. Can’t kick that oncogene habit. Cancer Cell 10, 345–347 (2006).
7. Prabhakar PK, Kumar A, Doble M. Combination therapy: a new strategy to manage diabetes and its complications. Phytomedicine. 2014 Jan 15;21(2):123-30. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.08.020. Epub 2013 Sep 26. Review.
8. HemaIswarya S, Doble M. Potential synergism of natural products in the treatment of cancer. Phytother Res. 2006 Apr; 20(4):239-49.