In clicking on the link today, I saw this story highlighted from the NY Times:
"Despite promising discoveries and multibillion-dollar investments, cancer research is quietly undergoing a crisis. Few drugs are being marketed, and most of those that have been introduced are enormously expensive and provide few of the benefits that patients expect. Officials of the Food and Drug Administration suggest that the failures may result from an obsolete testing system.â€?
Any adult with half a brain could have, and probably already has, arrived at the same conclusion. We are in a scientific quagmire of our own design.
"Although every field has suffered, cancer has had the greatest chasm between hope and reality. One in 20 prospective cancer cures used in human tests reaches the market, the worst record of any medical category. Among those that gained approval in the last 20 years, fewer than one in five have been shown to extend lives, life extensions usually measured in weeks or months, not years.â€?
"True cancer cures are still exceptionally rare. Medicines have been approved for colorectal cancer. Patients who take every one of the high-tech drugs has to spend, on average, $250,000, suffer serious side effects and gain, on average, months of life, according to studies.â€?
Here's another interesting fact: There has not been a significant new development in antibiotic therapy in over two decades, yet we have probably over twenty different drugs that your doctor can prescribe to lower your cholesterol.
Ever wonder why?
Well, it is simple math. Getting a pharmaceutical house interested in researching a drug that people take for a week is less likely to excite the in-house accountants than a drug that people take for the rest of their lives.
Add to that the increasing drug resistance seen to virtually all antibiotics and we have a formula for disaster. Thirty years ago, I remember Dr. Bastyr turning to me during a clinic shift and muttering that '"these things are not going to work forever" after we had examined a child who was on his seventh different antibiotic for a slew of ear infections.
In my early years of practice, I worked with Dr. Jules Harran, an archetypical kindly Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood MD, who often regaled me with stories of his medical years in the army during World War II. Dr. Jules was fond of recounting how 10,000 units of penicillin would completely erradicate a case of venereal disease back then, compared to the often ineffectual doses of over several million units used nowadays.
Natural product research? Forget about it. Going nowhere. As one Drug Company researcher told me in a blunt aside during a conference at which we both were presenting: "We're not interesting in things people can grow on their window boxes.â€?
The harsh reality is that in current day dynamics, doctors prescribe drugs developed by the pharmaceutical interests based upon sophisticated market analysis, and which have their path to market cleared by pharmaceutical insiders that flit back and forth between jobs at the drug companies, academia and the federal regulatory agencies. This is then parsed to the insurance interests, who bestow further scientific credibility by agreeing to pay for the whole thing.
Reminds me of a quote from the famous English artist William Hogarth:
"The sad thing about the ancient physicians is that they attempted to make medicine an art and failed; but the even sadder thing about our modern physicians is that they have attempted to make medicine a business, and have apparently succeeded."
Received my complementary copy of the Textbook Of Natural Medicine edited by my friend and mentor, Dr.Joseph Pizzorno. It was a real treat to see how well the new chapter on the Non Transfusion Significance of Blood Type (that I authored for this new edition of the Textbook) looks on real paper. I'm very happy with the information, which is clear and up to date. As far as I know the only new information on blood types that did not make this article was the association reported between blood types and p-glycoprotein that I had written about in an earlier blog. If you work with natural medicines, or just want the most authoritative reference work on the subject, you'll probably want to invest in a copy of the Textbook.
Hey, today is the winter solstice, first day of winter, at least for all of us on the upper half of the planet. Enjoy the next few days, in whatever manner works for you!
Been working on a sort of 'unification software' that allows me to input bio-impedance results, polymorphic data, clinical impressions and biometrics into a 'heuristic' database model, then pull out relevant analytic data. I'm mostly working in VB.Net, which is a lot like VBA programming in Access, and which you may remember from previous blogs, I hate. However it is the only way to go (other than writing for straight old DOS, which would not be without its charm) since VB.Net gives you all the nice-nice Windows accouterments like buttons and pull-down menus.
Haven't trained all that much the last week as I had the flu last week. Probably a sign that I needed to cut back on my work schedule, since I have been burning the candle on both ends these last few weeks getting ready for the conference, maintaining a heavy patient load in the clinic, doing all this programming, while also training and trying to act like a husband and father around the house. Feel much better now and unfortunately have that burst of energy that often accompanies one's returning health fortunes.
Sadly, a bright shining soul from the old days on this website is slipping away rapidly from end-stage breast cancer. I've never actually met her face to face, but we corresponded often, and I so enjoyed her witty emails. You don't practice medicine for twenty-three years and not get somewhat inured to the whole death thing, but still, some circumstances are more difficult than others.
Many, many years ago I remember my grandmother saying that 'The world is a cruel place, and there is no justice.' At the time, all I could think was 'Gee, what a downer, to see the world in only those negative terms.'
Yet there is a reality in that harsh assessment. The world can be cruel. There is not a lot of justice.
Not in this Nature, not in this Solar System.
But we humans are one of the few species capable of altruism. We sometimes practice compassion, we can often empathize. As time went on, I began to really think about my grandmother's assessment of the world, and started to get the point. It wasn't the cruelty and injustice that was the focus; they will always be part of our existence. It was the challenge of working on myself to acknowledge and be thankful for the times when someone 'did the right thing' or extended a kindness to me.
If this was true, then bad things did have a purpose.
There is cruelty and injustice in the world because most of us are simply not evolved enough to learn by pleasure; we must learn by pain. Think of the abundance of material goods in the Western world. By this token we should the most appreciative population in human history. But instead our abundance just begets our further acquisitiveness, and as the Buddhists believe, desire is the root of all suffering.
The impersonal and unjust nature of suffering harkens us back to the acknowledgment of reality and its random and ephemeral nature. Further, when calamity befalls one who otherwise would be among the least deserving, the lesson is reinforced by its own pathos.
I often tell patients with a recent diagnosis of cancer that one element in their life almost always changes for the better; their prior level of assumption.
I've often used this example:
Imagine you are driving in you nice late model car, along a modern interstate. The air conditioner is on, keeping the interior a crisp 68 degrees. The stereo is playing your favorite music in surround-sound. You are zooming along at 65 mile per hour, the suspension air-cushioning any potholes and bumps. The windows provide views of rolling countryside gently moving along.
In the midst of all this control, there are assumptions and expectations. The car will continue to move. You will enjoy the next song. The temperature will stay the same. These assumptions leave time for other things, like arguing about whom does the most work around the house, or threatening the kids with punishment unless they stop bickering.
Then it happens.
The car's timing belt snaps. Now the engine dies. You steer the car over to the side of the road. The landscape that previously passed so effortlessly in front of you is now frozen solid. Now you feel the humidity, hear the bugs. The guardrail that you would never have noticed before now looks like a pretty good place to sit down. Now you have to depend on your spouse to figure out a way out of this mess and you know that first and foremost you are going to have to find a way to protect your kids.
If we understand this, we then understand that it is not just â€˜sad' when 'bad things happen to nice people.' It is critically important for our growth, and that is why it persists.
'There Was A Savior'
There was a saviour
Rarer than radium,
Commoner than water, crueler than truth;
Children kept from the sun
Assembled at his tongue
To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles.
Dinner out last night with an old friend of ours who has struggled back from a series of health problems. Fish with assorted vegetables. Yummy, if a bit overpriced, but that is Greenwich Connecticut these days. Incredibly high noise levels, to which you can only add your own attempts to scream above the cacophony.
This is an example of what some people call 'the escalation phenomena.'
You can only be heard by screaming above the high noise level, produced by other people screaming loud enough to be heard above your screams.
Like Dean Ornish and Robert Atkins on the Larry King show in 'the old days.'
A good example of the escalation phenomena is sometimes seen in clinical medicine. It usually takes form in a clinician misinterpreting the side effects of his treatment as signs of the further progression of the disease, thereby requiring more treatment. An example of this in the last century was the use in allopathic medicine of huge doses of mercury to treat syphillis. Its use was so accepted that eventually the symptoms of mercury poisoning were included in the descriptions of end-stage syphillis.
Olga, our dinner guest, lost her husband Eric about a year ago. Once, about ten years ago, we got talking about medicine, and Eric volunteered his philosophy that 'the body has a bias towards healing.' I remember having to take a step back from this, since over the course of my life, I have never associated the word 'bias' with anything other than negative meaning.
However, I then remembered that radios were 'biased', i.e. the difference between an AM and FM radio, was simply that the AM radio was biased to receive AM frequencies, while FM radios were biased to receive FM. So to understand his meaning of the word, I had to understand that his use of the word bias was in the context of an orientation or leaning-towards.
It was so like Eric to have the ability to rescue a villified word like bias and put it back to work.
Tom Greenfield's column on blood type and osteoporosis is a must-read. Research published this year showed significant difference between the ABO blood types and the rate of osteoporosis. In a study that looked at 227 postmenopausal women. The results showed that the prevalence of osteoporosis in the proximal femur and lumbar spine averaged 2.3- and 1.7-fold higher in women with blood type AB than in those with blood type O.
This again validates the sophistication of choosing one's diet based upon the genetics of blood type. How many type O's have been lectured by dieticians and other vegetarian nutritionists that 'all that protein will give you osteoporosis.' Guess what? Doesn't happen. Type AB women on the other hand, may have a good friend in cultured dairy products, and the AB diet gives permission to use these high calcium foods.
A new study looked at the distribution of ABO blood groups in acute leukaemias and lymphomas. As I predicted in in my first book over ten years ago, in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, there were more patients with O blood group. In Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients, there less patients with A blood group, respectively. This leads me to believe that the cellular mechanisms (T, Tn) that are found in 'A-like' cancers (breast, colon, stomach) are not a factor in lymphoproliferative diseases, which as my oncology professor many years ago quickly and frequently reminded us, 'are not true cancers.'
A study published in Acta Otolaryngol found a correlation between ABO group and noise induced hearing loss; with a significantly higher number of workers tested being blood group O.
Cassini-Huygens has provided some reassuring proof the we can still 'get it right.' Now I just have to convince myself that these wonderful photographs are not just close-ups of my old LP collection.
Someone left the comment that I was a 'betterer,' which is why I can't always just relax and take in the view.
Everything has to be made better by The Betterer.
However, there are some things that cannot be made better.
Had the most interesting email exchange over the last week with a Swedish neurology professor. The gentleman contacted my publicist and requested some early articles that I had written while at Bastyr College, as he had been asked to write an evaluation of the Blood Type Diet for a Swedish medical journal. He suggested that he had been chosen as he had 'taught classes in alternative medicine.'
When the email was forwarded to me, I noticed that he had a website. Featured were a few articles on homeopathy and acupuncture, seemingly quite negative, which to me called his alternative medicine-teaching career into question.
Over the last five years I have noticed an increasing infiltration of quackbuster-types into positions involving alternative medicine. From these internal positions, medical students and the public interested in alternative medicines can be taught that they are dangerous or ineffective. A good example of this is the hyperbolically titled â€˜The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine,' which in fact is staffed by renowned opponents of alternative medicine, and which does not feature a single researcher or practitioner of any alternative medicine on its editorial board. This last year, at a local hospital, the first thing the new â€˜Department of Alternative Medicine' did was to sponsor a lecture of the dangers of herbal medicine.
Although the homepage was in Swedish, an obvious link to a page about the Blood Type Diet was available, so I investigated. Since I don't read Swedish, it was not completely decipherable, but the gist was evident. Every negative article on the internet on the diet was featured, though virtually all of these are ad hominem attacks (an ad hominem rejects an idea on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.) An example of ad hominem attacks against the Blood Type Diet are the 'reviews' of the diet by vegan authors, such as Klaper and McMahon who are simply against the notion of anybody eating meat, regardless of how you came to that conclusion.
Had I recommended that each blood type adopt a different version of veganism, I'd certainly be a darling of the vegan world.
Curiously, on the professor's webpage I was described as the Editor of the Journal of Neuropathic Medicine which, while I am interested in nutritional approaches to neuropathy, was not the journal I edited.
I answered back with a link to the article he requested and pointed out the nature of the material he was including in his article. As a series of emails unfolded between us it became evident that the gentleman had long ago made up his mind. Eventually the exchange came down to semantics, centering on the syntax of whether his â€˜opinion' on the Blood Type Diet was all that relevant. Obviously not happy about having a â€˜opinion,' his last note tried to make that appear that opinions are a bad thing, which, at least to me, they are not.
As long as they remain â€˜opinions.'
And yet, other things can be made better.
I have been slowing reconstituting my research lab, moving it out of mothballs at the clinic and into an area behind the garage at home. It will be great to have the ability to work on projects right here versus having to motor over to the office. It's nice to see the â€˜old friends' one more time! The back-breakingly heavy star of the lab: an Integrated Separation System electrophoresis unit, long-ago birthday present from Martha. Incubators, centrifuges, Treff tubes, micro liter pipettes â€“hello again!
I'm especially interested in looking at a class of mucopolysaccharides in Fucus vesiculosus called â€˜fucoidins' which have very fascinating anti-microbial and metabolic effects. Interestingly, (perhaps in true type A fashion) I'll be restarting my research at exactly the place where I left it.
However, it will also be a good time to test a variety of new food substances as well. When the time comes for that, I'll put up a submission form so readers can make suggestions.
Yesterday I went through with what I call â€˜weather head,' a fullness that I occasionally feel when the outside barometer goes up while the inside barometer in my head is still heading down, or vice versa. Better this morning.
Great day in the office. Eight office calls, several featuring favorite patients who I have tended to for literally decades. What a delight it is to grow old with a good patient! To see their children mature and develop; to see the lines and wrinkles and gray hairs develop on their faces and they on mine.
Dinner tonight will be at my brother's place. He and his wife have a delightful little one-year-old son, Alex.
Ally-Boy, as his proud godfather prefers to call him (as opposed to Andy-Boy, a brand of broccoli) is a true child of the â€˜info-toy' generation. By this I mean the battery-operated, push-button, stimulus-response and â€˜educational' device toys everybody gives kids nowadays.
Now at age one, Alex thinks everything that looks like a button should produce some sort of computer voice, light or music tone when he pushes it. How insulted he gets when his best effort to twiddle a knob or dial on an unplugged radio or push a knot or whirl pattern in a piece of furniture is repaid with stony indifference!
On my way out to my office (which sits behind my garage) Martha passed me a news article from the NY Times about a man who is suing the estate of Robert Atkins and the company that promotes his dietary products.
A group with the improbably highfalutin name â€˜Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine' (PCRM) but who are actually a veganism and animal rights support group is actively assisting the plaintiff. The lawsuit seems more of a publicity stunt and is not surprising, since the PCRM has maintained an â€˜Atkins-watch' website for several years now, where people can report adverse reactions to the use of animal products in their diet.
Apparently Mr. Jody Gorran, a wealthy manufacturer of solar panels and swimming pools, and who ate quite a bit of cheese and cheesecake while on the Atkins Diet, had his cholesterol increase from a rather low 146 to a potentially hazardous 230. This resulted, he claims, in a 99% blockage in one of his coronary arteries, requiring angioplasty.
From what the article said, most law experts do not believe the lawsuit would get anywhere, and even the plaintiff said he contacted the PCRM â€˜because they are familiar with publicity.'
So I guess this is where the Great American Diet Debate eventually winds up.
Not that I believe for a second that this will end matters. In fact, I'm certain that the heavy-handed manner of the PCRM will eventually boomerang badly, since they in turn leave themselves open to litigation from any ex-vegan who goes on to develop cancer or some other ailment supposedly prevented by their vegan diet.
Blades cut in two directions.
But who knows? If one-year-olds can eventually adjust to their lack of results in expert knob twiddling and button-pushing, then perhaps there is hope for Mr. Gorran and the PCRM.