We found some interesting parallels between the Issels approach to alternative cancer treatment and an unusual cancer experiment using fruit flies that was recently reported on CBS Sunday Morning. The experiment is a last-ditch attempt by an Atlanta businessman to beat medullary thyroid cancer, a rare, deadly and extremely aggressive form of thyroid cancer.
Mark Beeninga has been fighting cancer for 13 years. His tumor has proved resistant to standard treatments, returning after bouts of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and clinical trials. After years spent searching for new treatments, Mark has enlisted the aid of a fruit fly geneticist to develop an individualized cancer treatment designed to work on Mark and Mark alone.
Individualized cancer treatments aren’t new. Issels Integrative Oncology has a rich history of individualized immunotherapy cancer treatments that stretches over more than 60 years. It is only relatively recently that Western medicine has begun to explore beyond its traditional one-size-fits-all approach to cancer treatment. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told CBS that personalized cancer care specifically tailored to the individual shows the “greatest promise” for winning the war against cancer.
Mark and fruit fly geneticist Ross Cagan may be taking individualized care to a new extreme. Cagan has engineered a fruit fly that is a near genetic duplicate of Mark, replicating not only his tumor, but also his diabetes and other health issues. The purpose is to bombard the fly with different treatments to find something that will kill Mark’s specific tumor.
The approach is not unlike our commitment to creating highly personalized cancer treatment protocols designed to meet the specific needs of each individual patient. Mark is still waiting on results, but Issels’ approach has already proven successful for many patients.
One in every 640 adults between the ages of 20 and 39 is a childhood cancer survivor, according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine. About 70% of those cancer survivors will experience serious, life-altering health problems as adults that are directly related to their cancer battle and, more often, the cancer treatment they underwent decades ago. To these childhood cancer survivors it seems a cruel twist of fate that cancer up-ends their lives not once, but twice.
A recent University of Florida study on the long-term effects of childhood cancer found that many survivors suffer physical, mental or social effects as adults that can drastically impair daily function and quality of life. Working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Florida researchers analyzed data from 1,667 childhood cancer survivors.
According to a report on Medical News Today, “The most common symptoms the survivors reported were head pain, back and neck pain, pain in other parts of the body, sensation abnormalities, and disfigurement” (such as hair loss). Other symptoms included heart problems, lung problems, mobility issues, learning and memory issues, depression and anxiety. Seventy percent of childhood cancer survivors reported at least one negative adult-onset symptom with 25% reporting six or more. With each additional symptom, survivors reported a noticeable decrease in their quality of life.
It is possible that using integrated immunotherapy to bolster the immune system during and after childhood cancer treatment, either as a primary treatment or with traditional treatment may decrease adult-onset symptoms for childhood cancer survivors. There may also be benefit in continuing immunotherapy treatments beyond initial cancer treatment to optimize immune system benefits throughout life.
In 2003, the U.S. Institute of Medicine released a report on the special challenges faced by childhood cancer survivors after they entered their adult years. While citing a remarkable 78% improvement in survival rates since 1970, the report noted that, “More than two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors will face complications, disabilities or adverse outcomes directly related to their cancer, its treatment or both.”
As we’ve been discussing in social media lately, childhood cancer survivors frequently face serious medical problems and chronic illnesses during their adult years that can significantly diminish their quality of life and even decrease their life expectancy. A new movement designed to call attention to the unique challenges faced by survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer is building steam. The Society of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (SAYAO) recently held its first annual meeting at the University of California at Irvine with the goal of building awareness and improving the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors.
Not long ago, we reported on a new St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital study that linked the use of chemotherapy to treat childhood cancers to the survivors’ development of chronic, life threatening diseases during their adult years. Increasing the severity of the threat, the St. Jude’s study found that 90% of the heart conditions and 55% of the lung problems that childhood cancer survivors developed went undetected until the condition had reached an advanced stage.
SAYAO is calling on the cancer community to address the long-term issues of cancer survival. Non-toxic immunotherapy treatment at an alternative cancer treatment center may offer an important avenue not only to effective initial treatment but also to improved lifelong outcomes.
Children born with major birth defects face many challenges as they move through life. A new study adds cancer to the hurdles they and their families must overcome. University of Utah researchers have found that children with certain types of birth defects have a somewhat greater risk of developing cancer, a risk that could impact the 120,000 (3%) of American children born with major birth defects every year.
The study found that non-chromosomal birth defects double cancer risk for children under the age of 15, although risk was greatest during the first 5 years of life. However, increased cancer risk was not universal and was not associated with the most common birth defects. According to study findings, increased cancer risk was limited to specific birth defects: cleft palate, eye defects, microcephaly and certain heart and kidney defects. All of the cancers associated with these birth defects were linked to immature cells that develop in early childhood.
While previous studies have documented increased cancer risk for children with Down’s syndrome, which is a genetic birth defect caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, this study focused on cancer risk for children born with structural birth defects unrelated to chromosomal abnormalities. It is hoped that study results will lead to improved treatment and long-term outcomes for children with birth defects.
Traditional medical treatments for children with cancer carry their own risks. As we reported earlier, one study found that children who undergo chemotherapy have a high risk of developing life-threatening chronic diseases during their adult years. Issels’ integrated immunotherapy cancer treatments offer effective alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation.