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In 1971, when President Richard M. Nixon initiated the War on Cancer, the average person had a 1 in 10 risk of developing cancer in his or her lifetime. Today, that's changed – for the worse. The risk is now 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. Maybe it's premature to say that we've lost the war, but we certainly aren't winning it, either.
There is good news, too, though. As I mentioned in my earlier article ("Treat Outside the Box," Aug/Sept. 2013), the idea that cancer is actually a chronic disease that patients can live with – comfortably – for years, is creating a revolution in cancer care, transforming a disease that is traditionally considered to be death sentence into a far less threatening, manageable illness.
Now, you may be wondering if I can support that statement with solid science. And the answer is, yes, I can. Let's look at a few facts.
You have cancer. So do I. In fact, right now, we all have – on average – roughly 75 million cancer cells in our bodies. I don't mean to frighten you, but that's a simple fact of life. Relatively small portions of our trillions of cells are cancerous. In healthy people, those cells are targeted by the immune system, which prevents them from becoming something more serious.
The key words in the sentence above are "healthy people." Individuals who eat poorly, don't exercise, and fail to follow the other guidelines of good health are putting themselves at risk for a cancer diagnosis. Here's a quick look at how the disease develops.
If some of the cancer cells in your body join forces before your immune system can eliminate them, they can become a tumor. Why would your immune system allow this to happen? Think of the cancer-killing cells in your immune system as soldiers guarding a castle (your body). Once strong and watchful, the soldiers have been worn down by years of working long hours with very little nourishment from a diet of fast and processed foods. Those foods have created an acidic environment that has sapped the soldiers' strength. In addition, they don't get the fresh, filtered water; sunlight; stress relief; or oxygen they need. Nor do they get enough rest, so they're bone tired. And constant exposure to toxins and chemicals in our environment has nearly wiped out the soldiers' fighting abilities.
The bottom line is that a once-powerful army of immune system warriors is now a shadow of its former self, vulnerable to enemies of all sorts, whether those are microbes that cause colds and flu or rogue cancer cells looking for a place in your body to call home. Not a pretty picture, is it? But this is exactly the situation so many people are in these days.
The good news is that even though we cannot "cure" cancer yet, science has made tremendous progress in our understanding of how cancer works. So, for example, we now know that "watchful waiting" – observing small, nonaggressive cancers while leaving them in place – is actually the best solution for many patients. This practice eliminates the very real problem of cancer "seeding" – spreading cancerous cells into new areas of the body – which may occur during surgery, as well as biopsies.
At the same time, watchful waiting also means patients do not have to endure the miseries of standard chemotherapy to treat a non-life-threatening cancer. I realize that thinking of cancer as being non-life-threatening is a leap, but even mainstream medicine is arriving at the same conclusion. For example, in 2012 the New England Journal of Medicine reported that as many as 1.3 million cases of breast cancer during the last decade did not require treatment and could have been monitored safely while the patient lived a normal life.
Individualized Treatment: Creating Success in Cancer Care
Now you may be wondering what happens when cancer is life threatening and needs to be treated. Here is an area wherein integrative medicine is truly creating a revolution. Because one thing that has become perfectly clear is that physicians need to take into account each patient's individual biology and circumstances.
Conventional treatments are designed to be applied to large numbers of people without recognizing that what works for one may not help another. Integrative cancer care, on the other hand, focuses on each patient's unique aspects.
Let me give you two examples of how this works. First, I use RGCC (Research Genetic Cancer Centre) tests that, among other things, can give me an individual profile of which cancer drugs and which natural substances would work best for each patient. Out of more than 550 tests performed at Oasis of Hope, I have never seen any two test results come out the same, even if patients are related.
Second, instead of standard chemotherapy, we use what is known as insulin potentiated targeted low dose (IPTLD) therapy, which spares patients from the worst side effects of chemo while "tricking" cancer cells into absorbing the drugs. Because we use only 10% of the standard chemotherapy dosage, there are none of the horrendous side effects caused by conventional treatment.
RGCC Testing Targets Individual Differences
The RGCC tests are extremely sensitive and deliver personalized results for each patient, providing us with highly detailed cellular, genetic, and protein levels so that we can design a safe, effective, individualized protocol. These tests hold the only world/international patent for this type of culture.
RGCC tests provide us with a wealth of information. For example, they show us a patient's current levels of circulating tumor cells (CTC) and circulating stem cells (CSC). Cancer therapy should be targeted to CTC/CSC to achieve remission or cure. And with the results of the tests, we know which products – both chemotherapeutic and natural – will induce apoptosis of a patient's cancer cells.
Treating a patient without the specific information provided by the RGCC tests is a hit-or-miss affair. It's like replacing the tires on your car when it won't start – not very helpful! Of course, the difference here is that treating a patient with a chemotherapeutic drug that does not work with his/her particular genetic makeup and body chemistry makes that individual very sick without having much effect on the cancer cells.
Kinder, Gentler, More Effective Chemo
Now let's take a more in-depth look at how IPTLD therapy works. Although many people have never heard of it, it has been in use since the 1940s. This approach is actually quite ingenious, using the unique features of cancer cells against them. IPTLD is based on the fact that sugar feeds cancer, a fact that was established in the 1930s when a Nobel Prize was awarded to Otto Warburg for his discovery.
We know that cancer cells have 10 times more insulin receptors than healthy cells. (Insulin, as you may know, is a hormone involved in managing carbohydrates, like sugar, and fats.) So to administer IPTLD, we first use insulin to gently reduce a patient's blood sugar, or glucose, levels. Deprived of their favorite food – sugar – the cancer cells open their insulin receptors wide to snare whatever is available. When the blood sugar reaches the desired level – a point that's known as the "therapeutic moment" – we administer a low dose of chemo, about 10% of what is used in conventional medicine. These steps allow us to deliver chemo when cancer cells are most vulnerable.
At this dosage level, tumors and cancer cells are the only things harmed by the chemo; the patient can continue to lead a normal life without the terrible side effects of standard chemo treatments, which attack all dividing cells. In fact, this is why conventional chemotherapy so often causes hair loss, nausea, and ulcerations in the mouth. The hair follicles, intestines, and mouth all have cells that turn over quickly, so they feel the brunt of chemotherapy more than other cells.
In my experience, IPTLD therapy works well for breast, prostate, lung, colon, and stomach cancers, as well as for lymphoma and melanoma. We've also had good responses from patients with pancreatic, ovarian, renal cell, cervical, esophageal, and blood and bone cancer.
You may be wondering how Oasis of Hope achieves success using only a fraction of the drugs used in standard chemo. The truth is, adding insulin makes a tremendous difference. Research has shown that any chemotherapy drug that works on a particular type of tumor is likely to work better with IPTLD. One study, for example, found that adding insulin when delivering methotrexate, a popular chemotherapy drug, increased its cancer killing effect by a factor of 10,000!
Nutritional Therapy Makes a Difference
In addition to RGCC testing and IPTLD, I've also developed nutrition protocols for both pre- and post-IPTLD treatments. These involve a variety of products, including nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies, which make chemotherapy more effective by keeping the drug(s) in cells longer, while reducing the cells' resistance and interfering with their ability to repair themselves later.
These natural substances include some well-known products, such as resveratrol from red grapes and the green-tea-derived EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). But we also may use nutrients that the average person is not familiar with, including amino acids like L-proline, which contributes to cancer cell death. Products like these can help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, protect the brain and nerve cells from being damaged, and correct acid/alkaline imbalance, another critical issue for cancer patients.
Here is another way that nutritional products enhance a cancer patient's treatment. Often, oncologists face a major hurdle during chemotherapy, because after a time patients develop resistance to a drug that worked initially. This occurs because of the MDR-1 (multi-drug resistance-1) gene found in cancer cells. This gene makes it possible for a pump in the cancer cell to remove chemotherapy drugs from the cell. But I have found that by using nutritional supplements, we can inhibit that pump and reduce cancer cells' resistance to chemo.
Fighting Cancer from the Inside Out
Understanding the disease gives patients a real advantage when it comes to avoiding it in the first place or preventing a reoccurrence.
So let's look at what it takes to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer or keeping it under control. The first step is to accept the fact that you play a major role in the process. This is not meant to "blame the victim"; I'm simply pointing out what statistics show. In most cases, cancer doesn't just randomly happen. The American Cancer Society estimates that faulty inherited genes cause only 5% to 10% of all cancers. The leading causes are:
- poor lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep
- not maintaining a healthy weight
These are things that we control. Yes, it's hard, but you can quit smoking. You can also improve your diet, make time for regular exercise, learn simple stress management techniques, and take steps to get adequate sleep. I know these changes can be made, because I've seen people do it.
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that very few people are willing to follow these guidelines as a preventive measure. Too many people wait until after they've become ill to make these important, lifesaving changes. That's truly a shame, because these very basic good health practices reduce the risk of being diagnosed with not only cancer but also heart disease. In other words, following these guidelines can protect you against the top two killers that we face. Yet only a tiny fraction of people actually practice the seven behaviors known to reduce the risk of serious illness. According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), only 1.2% of Americans met all seven cardiovascular health recommendations – which would also help reduce cancer diagnoses –between the years 2005 and 2010. Here are the guidelines:
- not smoking
- being physically active
- controlling blood pressure
- maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar (glucose)
- maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels
- maintaining healthy body weight
- eating a balanced, healthful diet
This list is very similar to the recommendations from the American Cancer Society, so clearly these behaviors should be part of your life if you would like to be cancer free. Personally, I would add a few things to it, including:
- practicing regular detoxification
- keeping a watchful eye on your body's acidity
- getting sufficient sleep
- drinking plenty of fresh, filtered water
- practicing stress management regularly
Next, let's take an in-depth look at how cancer happens. "Know your enemy" is very good advice, especially with cancer. Understanding the disease can empower both patients and caregivers. It also helps dispel the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Once you have a better idea of how the disease works, you'll see that it is possible to coexist with cancer, and even keep it in check while building up your natural defenses against it.
The idea of living with cancer may sound far-fetched, even impossible. But that's simply because our fear of the disease has been blown out of proportion. Yes, cancer is serious, but so are heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and many other health conditions. Yet I've seen patients diagnosed with cancer burst into tears or pass out, something that never happens when they discover that they have a less fearsome disease, such as type 2 diabetes.
The truth is, cancer is another chronic ailment that we can learn to live with. Every day, more and more survivors are discovering that life with cancer can be much better than they ever imagined. So let's learn more about how cancer happens.
The Cancer Cascade
The cancer cascade is a 12-year-long process during which time cells develop into a tumor. First, the cancer cells cloak themselves with fibrin, a substance that makes them invisible to the immune system. Next, the cells stick to one another, forming a cluster that attaches to a muscle wall where it has access to a blood supply. This is the beginning of a tumor.
Since sugar – including simple carbohydrates, like those found in white flour and most prepared and processed foods – is a tumor's favorite food, one of the keys to preventing or eliminating cancer is to stop feeding it. Giving up sugar, in all its many forms, is part of the one-two punch that can kill cancer cells. Removing sugar and simple carbs from your life is a good way to discourage cancer from establishing (or reestablishing) itself in your body.
The second part of that punch involves reducing your body's acidity. Acidic environments are a cancer favorite. If you've been eating the standard American diet (SAD) of processed, packaged, and fast foods, there's a good chance that you are acidic. It's easy to check. Simply purchase a packet of pH strips at any pharmacy and test your urine. Ideally, your test score should be slightly alkaline, between 7.2 and 7.4. Anything below that is considered acidic, while test results above 7.4 indicates alkalinity. If your test shows that you are too acidic, simply add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Nearly all vegetables are alkaline, so eating more fresh, organic produce is an easy, nutritious way to stop the cancer cascade from continuing.
Otherwise, without intervention on your part, the tumor keeps growing. As a general rule, it takes 8 years for the cascade process to create a tumor, then another 4 for the tumor to grow large enough to show up on medical tests or create symptoms. During those 12 years, there is a great deal that you can do to interfere with a tumor's growth. To begin with, I strongly urge you to consider implementing the lifestyle changes discussed earlier as soon as possible.
Before closing, I'd like to share one more story with you. A 19-year-old patient I'll call Gloria was only days away from having her tongue removed and replaced with muscle from her leg. Her doctors could see no alternative. Gloria's horribly swollen, black tongue was making it difficult for her to eat, drink, or swallow, and she had lost 30 pounds.
After speaking with the Oasis of Hope's director of patient services, Gloria's parents drove overnight to bring her to the clinic. After she arrived, we sent her blood to the RGCC lab for testing. When the results came back, Gloria was given IPLDT chemotherapy for approximately 7 weeks. During that time, she made tremendous strides, improving almost daily.
Thankfully, at the end of the process, a PET scan revealed that Gloria was cancer free, except for a few small spots in her throat. Upon hearing the news, Gloria, who had been sitting in cross-legged in a chair, chewing gum like any other 19-year-old, laughed with joy at the good news. And to think that just a few months earlier, she would not talk or even make eye contact with anyone.
Since cancer is a chronic condition, Gloria will remain under our care, so we can monitor her and respond to any recurrences quickly. She'll also need to maintain her lifestyle changes and we are encouraging her to seek emotional support for possible issues related to her tongue – for example, speaking up or sharing her feelings. But these are changes that improve a patient's life, rather than cause the misery associated with conventional cancer care.
As long as we have these kinds of wonderful patient stories to share, I know we're on track to helping many others who are not getting what they need from conventional cancer care.
Bleyer A, Welch HG. Effects of three decades of screening mammography on breast-cancer incidence. N Engl J Med. 2012;367:1998–2005.
Yang Q, Cogswell ME, Flanders WD, et al. Trends in cardiovascular heath metrics and associations with all-cause and CVD mortality among US adults. JAMA. 2012 Mar 28;307(12):1273–1283.
Alabaster O, Vonderhaar BK, Shafie SM. Metabolic modification by insulin enhances methotrexate cytotoxicity in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol. 1981 Nov;17(11):1223–1228.
Dr. Connealy began practicing medicine in 1986. In 1992, she founded the Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, where she serves as medical director. Her practice is firmly based in the belief that strictly treating the health problems with medications does not find the root cause of the illness. Dr. Connealy soon realized that conventional medicine had very limited returns and did not always improve the health of her patients. Her patients were hungry for alternative approaches for improving their health. This led her to study integrative and complementary therapies. She believes that we must treat the patient with the disease and not just the disease of the patient. Dr. Connealy has an outpatient cancer treatment center right on site in association with Oasis of Hope USA; she has come to realize the importance of cancer prevention health care. She has become a foremost integrative cancer expert and utilizes low-dose insulin-potentiated chemotherapy, which has few to no side effects as well as genetic testing through RGCC labs to determine the exact effective therapies; alternative and chemotherapy. Dr. Connealy is frequently featured in magazines, is a guest speaker at professional organizations, and is on cable television shows highlighting health topics like Know the Cause. She is a frequent writer for Natural News and Newport Natural Health. Additionally, for 10 years she was a weekly cohost on Frank Jordan's national radio show Healthy, Wealthy and Wise on Sirius XM. To learn more about Leigh Erin Connealy, MD, visit www.connealymd.com.