Alternative Medicine and the Treatment of Cancer

Steve Jobs died at 56 years old this year from complications of pancreatic cancer. Steve was the charismatic pioneer and innovative co-founder of Apple who transformed personal use of technology as well as entire industries with products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macintosh computer and the iTunes music store. Steve's premature passing was clearly a profound tragedy but we can use it to take to heart some of the wisdom he lived his life by and possibly improve our own life.

What Did Steve Jobs Die From?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the faster spreading cancers; only about 4 percent of patients can expect to survive five years after their diagnosis. Each year, about 44,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S., and 37,000 people die of the disease. Although cancer of the pancreas has a terrible prognosis — half of all patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer die within 10 months of the diagnosis; half of those in whom it has metastasized die within six months — cancer in the pancreas is not necessarily a death sentence.

The pancreas contains two types of glands: exocrine glands that produce enzymes that break down fats and proteins, and endocrine glands that make hormones like insulin that regulate sugar in the blood. Jobs died of tumors originating in the endocrine glands, which are among the rarer forms of pancreatic cancer. Unlike pancreatic cancer, with neuroendocrine cancer, if you catch it early, there is a real potential for cure. His cancer was detected during an abdominal scan in October 2003, as Fortune magazine reported in a 2008 cover story.

It is widely believed in conventional medicine that surgery can lead to long-term survival. Despite the expert consensus on the value of surgery, Jobs did not elect it right away. He reportedly spent nine months on "alternative therapies," including what Fortune called "a special diet."

But when a scan showed that the original tumor had grown, he finally had it removed on July 31, 2004, at Stanford University Medical Clinic. He underwent an operation called a modified Whipple procedure, or a pancreatoduodenectomy, which removes the right side of the pancreas, the gallbladder, and parts of the stomach, bile duct, and small intestine, which was a strong suggestion that his cancer had spread beyond the pancreas.

Within five years, it was clear that Jobs was not cured. In April of 2009 Jobs flew to Switzerland and underwent an experimental procedure called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). It involves delivering radiation to tumor cells by attaching one of two radioactive isotopes to a drug that mimics somatostatin, the hormone that regulates the entire endocrine system and the secretion of other hormones.

This treatment apparently failed, as shortly after that he had a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis. This is likely because the cancer had spread from the pancreas to his liver. Liver transplants are a well-established treatment for tumors that originate in that organ but it is very uncommon to remove the liver for metastatic cancer.

This is not routinely done for two primary reasons. The first is that it in no way, shape, or form addresses the original cancer, and it can easily spread to the new liver. But more importantly, he had to be placed on large doses of drugs to suppress his immune system so he would not reject his new liver. Tragically this is the very system your body uses to help control cancers. The liver has enormous regenerative capacity, and if they only removed the portion of his liver that contained the malignant cells, he would not have to take those dangerous anti-rejection drugs.

Conventional cancer experts disagree with the approach that was taken for Steve. With a liver transplant, "the overall costs and complications … override its benefits, especially when compared with partial [removal of the liver]. Indeed, liver transplants for metastatic cancer have been largely abandoned," says John Chabot, MD of Columbia's Pancreas Center, because the immune-suppressing, anti-rejection drugs lead to such a high recurrence rate.

Celebrity, Oncology and Alternative Medicine

Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez is widely known for his work with pancreatic cancer and has been involved in the natural treatment of cancer for over 25 years, offering innovative therapies for this devastating disease. He's known internationally for his expertise on pancreatic cancer specifically, but his therapies have wider applications and can be applied to all forms of cancer.

Many of his pancreatic cancer patients are still alive and well today, having survived up to 20 years. Using the best conventional therapies we have, the typical survival rate for a pancreatic cancer patient is about 12-18 months.

Dr. Gonzalez' program consists of three basic components:

  1. Individualized diet based on nutritional (metabolic) typing
  2. Individualized supplement program, which includes vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and pancreatic enzymes
  3. Detoxification, which includes coffee enemas and colon cleanses

According to Dr. Gonzalez, Jobs was seeing an acupuncturist who was very anxious for him to contact Dr. Gonzalez for advice, like other celebrities have done.

"Michael Landon actually did consult with me," Dr. Gonzalez says, "but he never did the therapy. His press agent, Harry Flynn, became a very good friend. As soon as a celebrity gets cancer, the conventional predators come out of the woodwork and say that alternative doctors are sitting there like predators, trying to lure unsuspecting cancer patients into their lairs.

"What I do see is conventional doctors doing exactly what they criticize in alternative doctors. Landon was treated by an 'eminent oncologist' from Cedars-Sinai, who held a press conference. The first thing conventional doctors do when they get a celebrity is to hold a press conference. This is even if they know they can't do anything. He gave Landon an experimental chemo, but he was dead in three months."

As Dr. Gonzalez points out, conventional doctors can fail miserably and still be considered heroes. Alternative doctors, even the most successful ones, are still looked upon with great suspicion if not disdain. Upon Landon's death, his oncologist held another press conference, and Landon's widow was impressed with how "hard" his doctor had worked to treat her dying husband.

"When a conventional oncologist loses a celebrity patient, they portray him as a hero fighting this terrible disease against the enormous odds, working late into the night trying to keep the celebrity alive," Dr. Gonzalez says. "But when an alternative practitioner loses a patient, they consider him a sleazy quack getting money from unsuspecting cancer victims.

"The same thing was true, more recently, with Patrick Swayze. He had a very aggressive pancreatic cancer. Stanford oncologists doing his treatment held press conferences routinely… filled with this kind of joyful optimism that 'they're going to help.' He was gone in 18 months. Friends of his are actually patients of mine, but he absolutely had no interest in alternative medicine. He was very conventional – used 'the best doctors' from Stanford.

"Conventional oncologists lose patients every day, and no one says they're murdering anybody. Instead they're considered heroes for trying so hard. It's not even a double standard; it's like being in an alternative universe. If you're a conventional oncologist, you can do no wrong, you're lauded as a hero despite your failures, and you make a lot of money making them. Meanwhile, alternative practitioners may succeed again and again, and still be considered dangerous quacks. This is a mindset that has absolutely nothing to do with scientific validity, objectivity, or evaluation of data. It really falls into a category more reminiscent of religious fervor."

Conventional Medicine as a Religion

So, how did we get to this point? Why does this situation exist when it's so illogical?

"The way you have to look at medicine," Dr. Gonzalez says, "is not as a scientific profession, but rather a religious profession…It has its irrational beliefs. It has its own special language. It has its tools, it has its rituals….The fact that they don't make us better is ignored. Landon died, Patrick Swayze died, Linda McCartney died. I could list 20 celebrities who are dead because they went the conventional route. Why didn't they do my therapy?

"Because I don't have a temple. I don't even own a white coat…Michael Landon picked that up right away. So he went to the priesthood. He went to Cedars-Sinai."

But, it's important to stress that this is not a conspiracy. The physicians who promote the conventional approach do so because they truly believe it's the right thing to do, the only thing that has any chance of working. Healing cancer with foods and coffee enemas seems ludicrous when compared to the most advanced drug cocktails. If the most potent toxins can't kill the cancer, how in the world could you get rid of the cancer with nutrients? They've bought the conventional paradigm hook line and sinker, and they promote it not just for their patients, but for themselves and their families as well. And they suffer the same consequences as their patients.

However, there are signs that the tide is slowly about to shift.

"We get calls from doctors now, asking us about nutrition and what supplements they should take," Dr. Gonzalez says. "There's been a big change in the last few years. Fifteen years ago it didn't happen, and now it's starting to happen."

Dr. Joseph Mercola is the founder of the world's most visited natural health web site, www.mercola.com. For more information about Dr. Gonzalez and his practice call 212-213-3337 or visit www.dr-gonzalez.com.