Cancer is a devastating disease with roots in genetics, diet, environmental surroundings and sometimes what some see as random chaos. But another villain may also be at the helm when it comes to spreading cancer: the very ones who claim to be preventing it. Chemotherapy is a harsh treatment designed to kill both good and bad cancer cells. Extremely high cancer return percentages have led many to believe that the chemotherapy treatments spawn more cancer. Women with breast cancer commonly die from brain tumors. Were they predisposed through genetics or is chemotherapy tainted? That might be rhetorical.
The idea and concept behind chemotherapy are somewhat astounding. In all the years that it has been around, how have we had nothing else in the way of evolution? The only way to treat cancer is by destroying all our cells? Natural, holistic therapies have long been buried by large pharmaceutical companies with an interest in cancer revenue. When all things are considered, we can see why there hasn’t been much in the way of evolution.
Well, in some ways, there has been evolution. Jimmy Carter cured advanced melanoma using what is termed as, immunotherapy. With immunotherapy, the immune system is boosted in order to fight the cancer cells which wreak havoc all throughout our body and organs. Carter curing his cancer this was was, of course, a big deal. But then again, it really wasn’t. Why wasn’t it? Because publicity for logical cancer cures just don’t exist. And secondly, it has actually been around for years.
Before we get into all of that, however, let’s allow our gut instincts a moment to do its own work: Think and conclude. My intuition tells me that fighting cancer by powering up the immune system makes all the sense in the world. I’m not a doctor, but I am sure that strengthening an army with more weapons helps them defeat an enemy invader. And that’s what cancer is – an enemy invader. The current accepted, and costly method, of chemotherapy, destroys the body. It beats down the immune system, which is why patients on chemo are assigned immune boosting drugs. Does it make sense to decimate our immune system when fighting a disease? A radical might think chemo is just keeping cancer treatments in business. A radical, I said, with a smile.
In 1890, a doctor named William Coley was the first to deploy immunotherapy (a good 135 years before Jimmy Carter ever found his melanoma cure in it). Coley would try to solve a woman’s cancer first with amputation. But that failed attempt led him down a more logical, more reasonable alternative path. This was many years before chemo or radiation, so Coley had no alliances working against his seeking a greater good. The patient he performed an amputation on led him down a road to find a better solution. A more logical and practical way to cure what ails us. And so he did. An article on today’s NPR details the life, the tragedy, the events which shaped Coley’s exploration into a new frontier. And it is a mind-blowingly outstanding read.
So in the winter of 1891, William Coley the surgeon became William Coley the detective. He headed for the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the German immigrant community lived. He knocked on door after door asking for a man named Fred Stein who had a distinctive scar across his neck. After several weeks of searching, Coley found him alive and cancer-free.
So why did Stein’s cancer go away and stay away after he got a bacterial infection? Coley speculated that the strep infection had reversed the cancer. and wondered what would happen if he tried to reproduce the effect by deliberately injecting cancer patients with bacteria.
Coley connecting the immune system’s boost mode, if you will, to a cure for cancer, is groundbreaking, but also subjugated, material. With the exception of Carter, we rarely hear anything relating a boosted, more powerful immune system to curing cancer. We live in a society which has led us to believe that chemotherapy is the only option. In fact, we often call it a cure, even though the logic of the numbers doesn’t really add up.