Cancer treatment road ahead: tripping over truth

By Marika Sboros

US physician Dr Michael Eades has written an extraordinary review of an extraordinary book on cancer treatment. He says everyone should read it. I couldn’t agree more. It is a revised version of Tripping Over The Truth, by Travis Christofferson. It is a challenge to orthodox medical dogma on the dread disease. Chirstofferson says that cancer research is “way off track”.

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Like Eades, I read it when Christofferson first published it in 2014. Eades says that in its revised version, Christofferson has produced “an absolute gem”, as “gripping” as a mystery novel.

He wrote the review while “hurtling through the sky somewhere over the North Atlantic” flying business class on his way back to the US from Germany.  Eades begins it with what can seem like a strange comparison: commercial aviation today compared with when he first flew to Europe in 1969.

What does that have to do with cancer? More than I wish were the case. Eades says that were he to get cancer today,  he would make a nasty discovery. Unlike commercial aviation, cancer treatment mostly wouldn’t be much different or any more effective than in 1969. Or even 1959. That’s “an awful realization”, Eades says. But there’s a lot more to why his review really is so remarkable.

For starters, as Eades says, cancer will soon overtake heart disease as the leading killer in the US and elsewhere. Sooner or later, he says, everyone will come into contact with the ravages of cancer, up close and personal. That makes his review even more compelling. He blends it with powerful, personal experience of his sister-in-law’s experience of cancer. Its implications – and the horror – make disturbing reading.

Dr Michael Eades

Eades poses many uncomfortable questions. Among these: why, despite the multi-billion dollars thrown at cancer research, are we no closer to a cure for cancer than when former US president Richard Nixon declared the War on Cancer 46 years ago?   Could it be for the same reason that all the money spent to promote low-fat diets ended up making us fat and diabetic? Most importantly – and poignantly for patients who never survived treatment – have the “experts” been on the wrong track?

Eades looks at the future of cancer treatment and why researchers and doctors appear to have gone in the completely wrong direction. He also looks at myths about the “right” direction. Limited research shows that ketogenic diets are looking good as adjunctive treatments. However, it’s simplistic to think they are the complete answer, Eades says.

However, an important step on the right path is proving to be the metabolic model of cancer. Eades believes its the “odds-on favorite” to win the cancer-cure sweepstakes. So does author Christofferson,   founder and director of the Single Cause, Single Cure Foundation that works to “realize the promise of metabolic cancer research”.

Another step is understanding the role of sugar that flows from the research and that the white stuff really is “poison” for anyone with cancer. Prominent open-minded orthodox-trained oncologists in the US are appreciating it,  Eades says. That gives him hope. Here’s a shortened version of what he had to say. There’s a link to the full version at the end. It’s a long read but a vital one:

By Michael Eades

What do aviation and cancer have in common? Not a lot, but cancer has been on my mind because before I left on this trip about a week ago, I finished an extraordinary book on cancer. It is by Travis Christofferson, Tripping Over The Truth: How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms.

Travis Christofferson

I have received more emails from people asking my opinion of this book than any other I can think of. I read it when the first edition came out (in 2014). When I heard a new, updated version was imminent, I snagged a review copy from the publisher. I thought the first edition of the book was pretty good. The new, revised edition is an absolute gem that everyone should read. But before I get to the book, let me tell you about my family’s close encounter with cancer.

Typical Case of Cancer Treatment Today

On New Year’s Day in 2012, my wife MD (editor’s note: MD is also a physician) and I were in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting her sister, Rose. A great cook who loves to throw dinner parties, she put together a small group of friends to join us at her house for a New Year’s spread. As usual, it was excellent. MD and I left the next day, but before we did, MD’s sis complained that she had an upper respiratory infection. MD checked her over and gave a prescription for an antibiotic.

They talked a couple of days later on the phone, and Rose said she was much improved. But shortly, she had a relapse and asked MD to call her in another round of medication. This went back and forth – her getting better then worse – for about a month. Rose was a long-time smoker. In light of this lingering respiratory condition, MD had been badgering her to get a chest X-ray. When she finally did, she was ecstatic, as most smokers are when they get the normal-chest-x-ray news.

However, she continued her cycle of upper respiratory infections, each one getting a little worse than the one before. And now she was becoming hoarse. MD insisted that her sister sees a physician who could actually examine her. So, she made an appointment.

By the time she had her appointment in early March, she was seriously ill. She couldn’t sign in at the receptionist’s counter, not because she was so sick, but because her brain wasn’t working. She couldn’t figure out how to write her name.

The doc checked her over and sent her immediately for a head scan. It came back showing five large masses, which were compressing her brain and creating her cognitive difficulties. Though there might have been other possibilities, when we got the news MD and I figured they were metastatic tumors, which often go to the brain.

Of course, doctors scheduled her sister for the full cancer workup.

MD, left, and her sister, Rose, in Toledo, Spain, June 2011, nine months before Rose’s cancer diagnosis.

When the results came back on March 6, they were pretty grim. She had a chest full of cancer, but not so much in the lungs. It was mainly in the lymph nodes of her mediastinum (the central part of the chest) and hilum (at the base of the lungs). It was also in an adrenal gland and, of course, her brain.

A biopsy showed highly undifferentiated adenocarcinoma. Cell typing showed the primary came from the lung. Not a diagnosis anyone wants to get.

Due to the location of the tumors, surgery wasn’t an option. So Rose was spared the “slash” part of the “slash, burn, and poison” treatment protocol for cancer.

Since she was so ill, her oncologist hospitalized her. She lost her voice, which the oncologist thought was due to the cancer impinging on the nerve that makes the vocal cords work. He blasted her with a couple of doses of a potent chemotherapeutic cocktail.  That quickly knocked the cancer back enough so that she could speak and swallow, though her voice was a croaky whisper.

MD had hopped a plane once she learned the diagnosis. I came a week or so later. MD stayed in the hospital with her sister while she went through the first blast of chemo and saw firsthand the wretchedness of it. The unremitting nausea and vomiting and all the rest.

I want to digress here for a bit to let you know that until MDs sister’s cancer diagnosis, I had never had any actual day-to-day exposure to the disease. (MD had some, with other family members, but never as up close and day-to- day as this.) We had both diagnosed plenty of it in our careers. However, we always referred the cases on to oncologists.

We knew a fair amount about cancer on an academic level. Both of us could have told you the prognosis of most any cancer you might name. We understood on an intellectual level the misery cancer and cancer treatment bring about. But knowing it intellectually and living it every day on a gut level are two different things. It was eye-opening to both of us.

Rose began a multi-week course of radiation therapy for the tumors in her brain and chest. MD schlepped her over to the treatment center five days a week for six weeks of treatment. It left her exhausted, nauseated, and cost her her hair. She also took massive doses of steroids to prevent swelling of her brain after the insult of the radiation.

Click here to read:  Medicine’s dirty little secret: ‘drug whore’ doctors 

 

After the radiation, the chemotherapy began. It was a nightmare from day one. She experienced almost every bad thing that anyone can experience with chemotherapy. As she struggled on with her treatments, MD and I had to leave for a bit. We left her sister in the capable hands of their nephew, who had been there from the start.

Rose had problems while MD was away (a deep vein thrombus that required placement of a vena cava filter and a bleeding gastric ulcer) and was hospitalized. MD rode herd on her hospitalization from afar. Because her sister’s oncologist was MD’s medical school classmate,  they spoke almost daily. Rose slowly improved and fought on.

At the end of the course of therapy, she had another total body scan. This one on May 12 showed pretty much a complete regression of the tumors in her head. There was a major regression of the nodes in her chest. All that was left was some scarring where the tumors had been in her head.

Things looked pretty hopeful.

On June 2, a few days before we were planning to head back to Little Rock, the oncologist told MD that her sister was doing so well he planned to move her out of the hospital to a kind of halfway house rehab center. She was pretty weak and needed someone there with her. Rose was torqued because she wanted to go home. That was under discussion because MD and I would soon be coming back and living there with her for a while.

The next morning —  of the day before we were headed back — MD got a call from the oncologist. He told her he was on his way to the hospital because her sister had shortness of breath. A couple of hours later, MD got another call. The oncologist told her that he did a chest x-ray and that her sister had lymphangitic spread of the cancer throughout her lungs. That is a pretty much a terminal stage event.

He said that he had talked to Rose, explained the situation, and told her all he could do was make her comfortable. He told MD to come back quickly and texted us her chest x-ray. It was horrific.

Click here to read: Chatterjee on curing modern medicine’s sickness 

 

MD called her sister and told her to hang on, that we were coming. We tried everything to get a flight out there that day. But the only thing we could find was a red-eye flight out of LAX that would get us there at 8 am. We booked. As our ride was coming to take us on the two-hour ride to LAX, MD’s nephew called to say that her sister had just died.

It was June 3, 2012. Just three months after her diagnosis and six months after the New Year’s dinner party at which she seemed totally normal.  Not quite a year after the photo above was taken.

MD was the executrix of her sister’s estate. When she gathered all the medical bills for this three-month treatment period, they totaled a little over $400,000.

I’ve gone on at length about MD’s sister’s illness to give those of you who haven’t lived cheek by jowl with someone with terminal cancer a better understanding of how devastating this disease can be. And how, in most cases, the treatment is worse than the disease.

If MD’s sister hadn’t gone through this long and expensive process, she might have lived one miserable month instead of three. Or she might have lived six months. Was it worth it? I can’t speak for her. However,  having lived on the front lines with it, it doesn’t seem so to me.

The War on Cancer

On December 23, 1971, as a Christmas present to the American people, President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act, allocating $1.6 billion ($9.7 billion in today’s dollars!) to declare the War on Cancer. One of the observers cheering loudest was Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, one of the Act’s biggest supporters.

Confidence was high that with the massive funding involved and America’s can-do spirit, doctors might vanquish cancer by 1976, the US Bicentennial.

Senator Edward Kennedy. Picture: Muffet via Foter.com / CC BY

Thirty-eight years later, Kennedy himself succumbed to brain cancer. He died on August 25, 2009, after the same kinds of horrendous treatment Rose had.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on cancer research, Kennedy ended up having the same treatment and experiencing the same dreadful outcome he would have had, had he developed his brain cancer before December 23, 1971. That was the kick-off of the War on Cancer he so supported.

How come the multi-billion dollars thrown at cancer research hasn’t gotten us any closer to a cure than we were when Nixon signed the bill? Could it be for the same reason all the money spent to promote low-fat diets ended up making us fat and diabetic? Have the “experts” been on the wrong track?

In Tripping Over the Truth, Travis Christofferson makes the case that the cancer research industry has been on the wrong track. While they’ve been fruitlessly throwing billions of dollars at the genetic theory of cancer, the real cause of most cancer is not genetically derived.

Instead, he posits that cancer is a disease of deranged cellular metabolism.

 I’m sure if I dug in and poured through all the literature, I could find dozens of offbeat theories of how cancer gets its start. There are doubtless many people who have published their own theories of the initiating factors causing normal cells to undergo the transformation into malignant cancer cells.

However,  the two theories that the greatest number of people accept are the genetic theory and the metabolic theory. The vast majority of cancer researchers are believers in the first theory, the so-called Somatic Mutation Theory.

The Somatic Mutation Theory of Cancer

In 1914, Theodor Boveri, a German cell biologist, kicked off the Somatic Mutation Theory of Cancer (SMT) by publishing the first paper discussing the role of chromosomal abnormalities and their role in cancer. The main premise of the SMT is that cancer arises in a single somatic cell (any cell other than a reproductive cell – could be skin, lung, bone, brain, etc.) due to an accumulation of multiple DNA mutations over time.

This single cancerous cell grows and replicates in an uncontrolled fashion due to other mutations in genes controlling growth and the cell cycle.

Should this theory be true, it would mean that if the specific mutations were known, then doctors could design therapies to treat them. Countless dollars have gone toward discovering these mutations and trying to match them with specific cancers. Unfortunately, there has been minimal success.

Researchers have identified an enormous number of specific mutations, but there is little, if any, correlation between these mutations and types of cancer. Consequently, the treatments for the vast majority of cancers rely on surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy (slash, burn and poison) in combinations mostly unchanged over the past 50 years.

The typical outcome of these treatments: misery on the patient’s part, shrinking of the cancer and little to no prolongation of life.

The Metabolic Theory of Cancer

After World War I, another German scientist, Otto Warburg, started studying cancer. He found a unique feature of cancer cells: they fermented glucose in the presence of oxygen. In normal cells, under anaerobic conditions (ie, without oxygen), glycolysis (the metabolism of sugar) proceeds and results in the production of lactic acid.

Dr Otto Warburg

When oxygen becomes available, this shuts down anaerobic glycolysis in normal cells (the Pasteur effect). Warburg found that cancer cells continue to produce lactic acid even in the presence of plenty of oxygen. That’s a phenomenon now called the Warburg effect.

As Christofferson writes:

“As Warburg continued his experiments, he found that cancer’s defective metabolism presented itself without exception in all types of tumor cells. Now he could be sure. To him, this reversion was the prime cause into which all other secondary causes collapsed. The shift from aerobic to anaerobic energy generation was the signature difference between cancer cells and normal cells. Nothing was more fundamental to a cell than energy creation. Nothing could be further reduced.

“Years later, Warburg made another critical observation that hinted at why cancer cells were fermenting in the first place. He showed that when normal, healthy cells were deprived of oxygen for brief periods of time (hours), they turned cancerous. No other carcinogens, viruses or radiation were needed, just a lack of oxygen. This led him to conclude that cancer must be caused by ‘injury’ to the cell’s ability to respire.

“He contended that once damaged by lack of oxygen, the cell’s respiratory machinery (later found to be the mitochondria) became permanently broken and could not be rescued by returning the cells to an oxygen-rich environment. He reasoned that cancer must be caused by a permanent alteration to the respiratory machinery of the cell.

“It was a simple, elegant hypothesis. Warburg would contend until his death that this was the prime cause of cancer.”

Let’s take a minute to go over what he means by the “cell’s respiratory machinery”.

Scientists define respiration more or less as taking in oxygen. Oxygen is used to fuel metabolism (in the same way that a fire in your fireplace needs oxygen to burn) and releasing carbon dioxide and water. We do this constantly. We breathe in oxygen-containing air and breathe out carbon dioxide and water vapor (and make urine). Cells do the same thing.

Cells take in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide and water. But not all metabolic processes use oxygen all the time.

 

Click here to read:   Seyfried on the real cause, right diet to beat dread disease

 

 

Glycolysis, as we discussed above, can operate without oxygen. Other pathways that generate ATP (the cellular energy currency) can also operate without oxygen. The part of our metabolic process that cannot work without oxygen is located on the inner mitochondrial membrane and is called oxidative phosphorylation.

The metabolic pathways that can work either in the presence of oxygen or not are called substrate level phosphorylation and represent about 12% of total energy produced. Oxidative phosphorylation produces 88% of total energy, the obvious lion’s share.

When the respiratory part of the energy production process becomes damaged, then the substrate level phosphorylation is left to come up with all the energy required for the cell to function, or the cell dies. Usually, the cells die, but when they don’t, they become cancer cells.

Damage to the respiratory function of the cell can then lead to instability of the genome as the cancer develops. The instability of the genome can then lead to additional respiratory impairment, which then leads to more genetic instability, etc.

A major difference between the SMT and Metabolic Theory of Cancer is what precedes what. SMT supporters believe the genetic instability arises first and causes the respiratory dysfunction. Those who favor the Metabolic Theory believe as described above: the initial insult is to the cell’s respiratory system with the genetic instability following as a consequence.

In Tripping Over the Truth, you’ll learn the history and background to these two competing theories. You’ll also learn why the Metabolic Theory is the odds-on favorite for taking the cancer sweepstakes. It’s a book loaded with an unforgettable cast of characters, many of whom are less than savory.

Click here to read: Sugar addiction: how to beat the elephant in the kitchen 

 

For example, James Watson of double-helix fame even slithers into the story by trying to purloin the work of a young researcher, who may have hit upon a real cure for cancer.

The new edition of this book is absolutely gripping. I thought it on par with some of the best mystery novels I’ve ever read, which says a lot for a non-fiction book on cancer. I read it over a few day. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I thought maybe it was just me, but I blathered on about it so much, MD wanted to read it. She felt the same way. She stayed up half the night polishing it off.

I believe the book is hugely important and everyone should read it. That’s because sooner or later cancer is going to cross everyone’s path one way or another. The book is a must-read for anyone with cancer or who has a friend or loved one with cancer.

It’s an important book, not just because it tells the story of the Metabolic Theory, but because it dispels a lot of myths I’ve heard bandied about on Facebook and Twitter.

It Must be True.  I Read it on Twitter

Since most cancerous cells must ferment glucose for energy, it means that if they don’t get glucose they can’t survive. Since the cancer cells can’t really use ketones or fat, because these substances require the broken part of the respiratory process to metabolize, it makes sense for cancer patients to go on high-fat, ketogenic diets. Which is true.

Tripping Over the Truth tells many miraculous stories of sufferers of cancer of one kind or another being jerked from the jaws of death and living many more years by switching to a ketogenic diet. But too many people seem to think a ketogenic diet is the total answer.

It makes sense. Cancer needs sugar to survive. Deprive it of sugar, and you’re cured. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

Physicians who are treating cancer-based on its being a metabolic rather than a genetic disease use many of the same therapies that oncologists use treating cancer as if it were a genetic disease. The best outcomes are those in which doctors use everything available against cancer. Especially the ketogenic diet.

A ketogenic diet, the mainstay of the program, makes the cancer cells more vulnerable to the radiation and chemotherapeutic agents. At the same time, it makes the surrounding normal, non-cancerous tissue healthier, more robust and better able to withstand the assault of the poisonous drugs.

Other treatment modalities such as hyperbaric oxygen add to the treatment armamentarium.

Reading about the virtues of the ketogenic diet in beating back cancer and enhancing the health of normal cells can’t help but make you believe the notion that a ketogenic diet would be a great way to prevent cancer.

One of the great virtues of this book is a description of many of the therapeutic modalities that doctors and patients have used along with the ketogenic diet and a list of physicians who treat cancer as if it were a metabolic disease.

I feel heartened because even the mainstream is starting to change. I had lunch a few weeks ago with my son and a friend of his, who had surgery a couple of months before for esophageal cancer. The diagnosis came out of the blue (both he and his gastroenterologist thought he had an ulcer). He headed off to MD Anderson Center in Houston, the most mainstream of the mainstream, to get a course of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor so that surgeons could operate.

After his chemo, he underwent surgery to remove and reconstruct the cancerous part of his esophagus. When he went back to his surgeon on a follow-up visit, he asked what he could eat. The surgeon told him, “Pretty much anything – except sugar. Sugar is poison; it feeds the cancer.”

If that’s what they believe at MD Anderson, they’ve come a long way and there is hope for the future. I’m going to send this guy a copy of the book. I suggest you do the same for anyone you know with cancer.