Cancer treatment – tripping over truth on the long road ahead

Photo credit:Photo credit: Wonder woman0731 via / CC BY

By Marika Sboros

Here is an extraordinary review of an extraordinary book on future horizons in cancer treatment. It is a revised version of Tripping Over The Truth by Travis Christofferson. The book is a provocative, a direct challenge to orthodox medical dogma on the dread disease. Christofferson says that cancer research is “way off track”.

Dr Michael Eades has written the review and says that everyone should read it. I agree.

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

What does that have to do with cancer? Well, lots as it turns out. 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.

Awful realization

That’s “an awful realization”, Eades says. Cancer will soon overtake heart disease as the leading killer in the US and elsewhere. Sooner or later, every one of us will come into contact with the ravages of cancer, up close and personal, he says.

That makes his review even more compelling. He blends it with personal experience of his sister-in-law’s experience of cancer. Its implications – and the horror – make disturbing reading.

Dr Michael Eades

In his review, Eades poses many uncomfortable questions. Among these: why, despite the multi-billion dollars that president Richard Nixon threw at the disease when he declared the War on Cancer 46 years ago, are we no close to a cure?   Could it be because the “experts” have always been on the wrong track? And not just but cancer but about nutrition, as well?

Eades looks at 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 full answer, Eades says.

An important step in the right direction is proving to be the metabolic model of cancer. Eades believes it is the “odds-on favorite” to win the cancer-cure sweepstakes.

The promise of metabolic cancer research

Author Christofferson believes that, too. He is founder and director of the Single Cause, Single Cure Foundation. The foundation works to “realize the promise of metabolic cancer research”.

Another important step on this futuristic dread journey 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 fascinating 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. 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 and I were in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting her sister, Rose. (editor’s note: MD is her name, not short for medical doctor. She is also a physician.) 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 that 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.

‘Brain not working’

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 saw 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 compressing her brain and creating her cognitive difficulties. There might have been other possibilities but when we got the news MD and I figured that they were metastatic tumors, which often go to the brain.

Full cancer workup

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.

Due to the location of the tumors, surgery wasn’t an option. So doctors spared Rose their “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.

Potent chemo cocktail

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. She 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.  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. 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.

The nightmare begins again

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). Doctors hospitalized her. 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 well. 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.

Heading home

Rose 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 that 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.

He said that he had talked to Rose, explained the situation and told her that 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.

The cost of cancer treatment

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 / 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?

Tripping over the truth

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.

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.

Critical observation

“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

Metabolic pathways

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 that as described above: the initial insult is to the cell’s respiratory system with the genetic instability following as a consequence.

Competing theories

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 days.

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.

Keto under a microscope

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 radiation and chemotherapeutic agents. At the same time, it makes the surrounding normal, non-cancerous tissue healthier, more robust, 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 can’t help but make you believe that the 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. There is also 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.



  1. “If I were to develop cancer I would put myself on a completely fresh raw animal protein and fat diet. If a cure for cancer is to be found I believe it will be simply a diet like the above. When all other methods fail if you continue to slip, try this diet; but don’t wait until you have slipped too far. Aid the digestive process if needed, for foods can do you no good unless you get them into the blood stream. Fresh raw animal protein and fat is man’s normal diet and is the best curative.”
    “You Can Live Longer Than You Think” (1948) -Dr. Daniel Colin Munro

  2. Further to the above. After the publication of Dr Wise’s article in the BMJ and Dr Godlee’s editorial many responses were received, which you can see using the link provided in my last entry. I’ve attached one from a senior doctor:

    “I find myself constantly at odds with optimistic oncologists with the “never say die” spirit, despite evidence of tumour progression and patients’ problems with side effects. Too much chemotherapy is of course expensive but the main thrust is the patients’ well being or lack thereof. To give an example of optimism: I have done bypass operations for patients with obstructed, non-resectable colon cancer and widespread mets. The next step of course is a visit to the oncologist. I prepare the family not to expect too much. To my dismay, when I see the patients on their following visit with me they are bubbling with confidence after the oncologist has assured them of a 10 year survival. To cut the story short, they are often dead within a year. We need to know our limitations and when to stop playing God.”

    Patients should be told the truth and given a genuine choice.

    • Some of the responses were zingers, especially to the original (paywalled) article.

      Old saying “the treatment was successful, but the patient died”

  3. What a fascinating and important article.

    As for chemotherapy, Dr Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, wrote an excellent piece in November 2016 called ‘Too much Chemotherapy’. This was in response to an article by Dr Peter Wise that Dr Godlee encouraged every oncologist to read.

    Dr Wise said the following about the effectiveness of chemotherapy:

    “An important effect was shown on five year survival only in testicular cancer (40%), Hodgkin’s disease (37%), cancer of the cervix (12%), lymphoma (10.5%), and ovarian cancer (8.8%). Together, these represented less than 10% of all cases. In the remaining 90% of patients—including those with the commonest tumours of the lung, prostate, colorectum, and breast—drug therapy increased five year survival by less than 2.5%—an overall survival benefit of around three months.”

    Bearing in mind the side effects and the resulting quality of life for patients, how much informed consent is there for this ‘treatment’? The alternative of supportive care rarely gets a mention.

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