By Marika Sboros
Can you eat to starve cancer? What about not eating – in other words, fasting? Ask Air France captain Jean-Jacques Trochon and cancer specialists and scientists globally.
Trochon is the visionary behind Rethinking Cancer. It’s a world-first summit in Paris on September 21, 2017, on new horizons in cancer treatment. Hosts are France’s internationally renowned Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute and Espace Maurice-Tubiana Medical School.
Specialists worldwide have accepted Trochon’s invitation to speak on what he believes is a real “revolution” in cancer treatment. It is anti-angiogenesis treatments. Angiogenesis is the growth of new blood vessels, including those feeding cancer cells. Angiogenesis is the “hallmark of just about every kind of cancer”, Trochon says. Diet and fasting are on the conference’s revolutionary anti-cancer menu.
But what does a pilot know about cancer research and treatment? Lots as it turns out. Trochon is a cancer survivor who did his own research. On the strength of it, he “intelligently delayed” having chemo and radiation. That decision may be why he is still around to tell his remarkable tale.
In 2003, doctors diagnosed Trochon with aggressive stage 2 kidney cancer. He had surgery to remove a tumour and kidney. Doctors expected metastases within a few months and advised chemotherapy and radiation.
However, Trochon chose to research first. That led to his daring decision to delay chemo and radiation “intelligently”. He is not encouraging anyone to do the same. He simply tells his story to help others.
Of course, Trochon knew that he was probably taking a risk. However, his research showed the risk was calculated. And unusually perhaps, his oncology team instinctively supported his decision.
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He has developed a personal health protocol which he believes is the “secret” to his survival. It’s a mix of ketogenic diet, supplements and fasting. It is now as normal a part of his daily routine as brushing his teeth.
Trochon now shares his story with scientists, doctors and patients worldwide. Hundreds of people, mainly in France, are following his protocol under medical supervision. Some will join him as speakers at the Paris summit to show “proof of concept”.
He knows that these stories are “anecdotal evidence”. He also knows the power of anecdote and the research behind his protocol. And if he hadn’t become a pilot, Trochon says that he would probably have become a biologist or “some sort of scientist”.
His lifelong study of biology allows him speedily to make sense of information on body and food chemistry, he says. It also stops him making detours into dead-end cancer “cures”.
Trochon recalls the moment in 2003 that led to the cancer diagnosis. It hit him not so much like a bolt out of the blue but rather a fire-engine-red lightning flash. At the time, he was super-fit, an extreme athlete who did triathlons, played rugby and surfed. While urinating one day, he had a sudden sharp pain and his urine turned fluorescent red.
Trochon knew it was bad news and rushed to the nearest clinic. Doctors did a scan and picked up a 7cm kidney tumour. Within 24 hours, surgeons had removed the tumour and affected kidney.
Thereafter, doctor friends pointed him to US-based French psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr David Servan-Schreiber. Servan-Schreiber is author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life. It’s a powerful book, the fruits of Servan-Schreiber’s research after his own diagnosis.
He survived 18 years after a diagnosis of a malignant brain tumour. He was diagnosed a second time and died 13 months later in May 2011.
In the book, Servan-Schreiber gives compelling research on the connection between diet and cancer. And he writes about the inextricable link between body, mind and the role of hope.
He was not against conventional medicine. However, Servan-Schreiber said that doctors too often believe that approaches not based on convention risk giving “false hope”. That thinking “robs patients of their power to act”, he said.
Thus, his mission became to spread a message. It was that a few simple lifestyle changes could improve patients’ chances of staying well.
Trochon got the message. It pointed him in the direction of the “twin peaks” of angiogenesis and inflammation. Research shows that these peaks create the conditions for cancer to develop.
His research also led him to the metabolic model of cancer. It fingers errant glucose metabolism as a culprit in development of cancer.
It is based on the work of German physiologist and Nobel laureate Dr Otto Warburg in the 1920s. Warburg described “aerobic glycolysis” – a defect in mitochondrial glucose metabolism. He showed how it causes fermentation of glucose and diverts glucose from energy production to cell growth.
It is also the fruits of the work of the late US physician scientist Dr Judah Folkman on angiogenesis. Folkman, who died in 2008, was a Harvard professor at Harvard and director of the vascular biology program at Children’s Hospital Boston.
He was a pioneer in the field of angiogenesis, and the idea that you can keep tumours in check by cutting off the blood supply they need to grow. That approach has led to several anti-angionesis drugs, the most well-known of which is probably Genentech’s Avastin.
One of Folkman’s students, Dr William Li, is a speaker at the Paris summit. In a New York Times interview, Li said of Folkman that “his vision and ideas literally changed the course of modern medicine”.
The same interview describes Folkman as “a path-breaking cancer researcher who faced years of scepticism before his ideas led to successful treatments”.
Some doctors now use angiogenesis-based treatments as an adjunct to mainstream medicine for cancer. They say that it can make conventional methods, such as chemo and radiation, less toxic and more effective.
But back to Trochon’s journey. He made radical changes to his diet, cutting sugar and other carbs. And he followed Servan-Shreiber’s recommendations strictly. Trochon believes that sugar addiction really is the “Achilles heel” of cancer. He also increased his intake of healthy fats, including saturated, and kept protein to a minimum.
Trochon also ate organic food as much as possible.
He effectively went on a strict anti-angiogenic approach mixed with the “ketogenic” approach and diet. The ketogenic diet is on the extreme end of low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) spectrum. Ketogenic diets are so-called because they produce “ketones”. These are natural substances the body produces when using fat instead of glucose for fuel.
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Trochon says that research strongly suggests ketones as one of the keys to beating cancer.
As he explains it, healthy cells in the body can use ketones for fuel as an alternative energy source. Bodily cells have learnt that process many centuries ago through forced hunger periods.
“Cancer cells cannot, as they have lost time memory,” Trochon says. Consequently, “they lack the ability to transition from using glucose to using ketones”.
He compares cancer cells to damaged hybrid engines. Therein lies their weakness that anti-angionesis compounds can easily exploit, he says.
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Trochon believes in a “shotgun approach” to dealing fighting cancer. He added specific supplements shown to have anti-inflammatory properties to his protocol.
One is a spirulina product that French specialist Dr Jean Louis Vidalo developed initially to treat malnutrition globally. It is nutrient-dense and also fights inflammation by acting like “a vacuum cleaner”, Trochon says. It mops up internal toxins, such as heavy metals, that contribute to inflammation, he says.
Trochon’s personal approach to managing his own cancer worked well. Thus, at the five-year mark in 2008, conventional medicine’s bewitching “golden hour”, doctors declared him “cured”. They also told him he could now live a “normal” life.
Trochon took them at their word. He reverted to what many doctors and dietitians still dish up as a “healthy, balanced” diet. He didn’t overdo it but he did eat more sugar and other carbohydrate foods, including “healthier, unrefined carbs.
Four years later, the cancer was back with a vengeance. Scans in 2012 showed lung metastases from the kidney cancer. That led Trochon to French renal cancer specialist Dr Bernard Escudier, with whom he immediately discussed the best way forward.
Escudier, a speaker at the Paris summit, is a trained cardiologist who joined the Gustave Roussy Institue in 1983. Initially, he was in the Intensive Care Unit. He later led the Immunotherapy Unit, mainly in charge of developing programs in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and melanoma.
His major fields are RCC, immunotherapy (cytokines, vaccine), and developing new strategies (antiangiogenic drugs, gene therapy). He has also been principal investigator of RCC trials from phase I to III.
Escudier supported Trochon in all his decisions. Between 2012 and 2014, successive scans showed up to 26 tumours on Trochon’s lungs. Doctors described him as “a tumour-making machine” – an image as grim as the conventional prognosis. They estimated that the tumours were growing at a rate of around 12% every three months.
His options were: surgery adding an anti-angiogenic or immunotherapy treatment as a preventive move. He chose to delay immunotherapy.
Trochon went on the offensive to starve cancer of all its fuel sources. He went back to the strictest possible ketogenic diet. His research led him to add fasting to his regime.
During 2012 and 2014, Trochon had successive surgery. Thoracic surgeons removed parts of one of his lungs in one operation. Thereafter, he had two more operations as metastases were coming back at a quicker rate. His doctors told him to recover for three months before they could remove the rest.
He did a strict water fast of 12 consecutive days before the last operation in December 2014. A scan showed a few calcified nodules.
He was excited. So was a friend, a radiologist in the hospital, because Trochon had achieved apoptosis. That’s the term for cell death that occurs as a normal, controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.
Like all good things in life, apoptosis can be bad. And as Trochon notes, heavy metals and other toxins can cause mitochondrial death.
After the last operation, Trochon went on another 17-day fast on water and liquid spirulina. His most recent scan eight months ago showed a clean bill of health. He was never fat but before 2012, he weighed 91 kgs. At 187cm, he now weighs a lean-mean 74kgs.
However, he isn’t about to tempt fate by reverting to his former eating habits and a so-called “balanced” diet.
“I’m a lot stronger,” Trochon says. “I feel electric and bionic.”
He keeps up the protocol that includes occasional shorter fast. He believes it’s why he is living with, not dying from, cancer.
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And while the anti-angiogenesis movement remains controversial that’s not necessarily bad. It’s in researchers’ job description to push boundaries. And some scientists see anti-angiogenesis as one of the most exciting developments in cancer treatment for decades.
However, cancer treatment is a billion-dollar industry and vested interests work hard to protect their turf. And cancer specialists still claim significant successes in the “War on Cancer” that former US president Richard Nixon declared in 1971. They have won skirmishes and the US Dana Farber Institute claims ” countless successes “. It also calls cancer “one of the most resilient and recalcitrant enemies” that mankind has faced.
That much is true but not quite true are claims that conventional treatment “cures” many cancers. And the reality, say specialists, is that cancer is a medical Hydra. Lop off one of cancer’s horrible heads and another often instantly grows in its place.
Thus, the numbers speak volumes: cancer is a global pandemic.
In Tripping Over The Truth, author Travis Christofferson challenges orthodoxy. He also explains why cancer research is “way off track”. Trochon and scientists and doctors at the Paris summit are working to get it back on track.