Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Study: Shark Cartilage No Help for Cancer

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 26, 2010


Drug Derived From Shark Cartilage Did Not Extend Lives of Lung Cancer Patients

May 26, 2010 — Hopes that shark cartilage would prove to be a useful treatment for cancer were not borne out in one of the most rigorously designed and executed studies of an alternative therapy ever conducted.

Adding a drug derived from shark cartilage to standard cancer treatments did not improve survival among patients with late-stage lung cancer in the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Shark cartilage has been touted as a potential alternative or complementary cancer treatment for several decades. Dozens of shark cartilage products are sold as dietary supplements, but almost none have been studied in humans.

Testing the Usefulness of Shark Cartilage

The trial examined a carefully formulated and regulated liquid shark cartilage product developed as a drug, rather than one of the commercially available, but unregulated, supplements.

Researchers from multiple academic and community cancer centers in the U.S. and Canada enrolled almost 400 patients with inoperable non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the study.

Half received standard chemotherapy and radiation, and half received standard treatment and the shark cartilage drug, known as AE-941.

No difference was seen in overall survival, progression-free survival, time-to-disease progression, and tumor response rates between the two groups.

Patients who got the shark cartilage treatment lived for an average of 14.4 months, which was a month less than the average survival of patients who did not take shark cartilage.

The study was published online today and it will appear in the June 16 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“It is clear from these findings that this pharmaceutical-grade shark cartilage extract is not an effective treatment for this cancer,” study researcher Charles Lu, MD, tells WebMD.


Forced chemotherapy helping boy, friend says

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 15, 2009


X-rays show 13-year-old’s tumor is smaller, but Minn. boy is miserable

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. – A family friend says X-rays show the tumor in the chest of a 13-year-old Minnesota boy who resisted treatment has shrunk significantly after court-ordered chemotherapy.

However, family friend and spokesman Daniel Zwakman said the side effects of the treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma have made Daniel Hauser weak and miserable.


Vitamins ‘do not cut cancer risk’

Posted in Uncategorized by Skepdude on December 11, 2008

Taking vitamin C or E does not reduce the risk of prostate cancers – or other forms of the disease, two large US studies suggest.

Both trials were set up following some evidence that taking supplements might have a positive effect.

But one study of 35,533 men, and a second of 15,000 doctors, found no evidence that cancer rates were any lower in those taking supplements.

Both studies feature in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A number of trials had suggested that taking vitamins could cut the risk of certain cancers by boosting levels of beneficial antioxidants which work to minimise damage in the tissues, but the results were mixed.


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Eggplant mania for cancer

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on November 10, 2008

As I’ve said before many times, herbal or plant-based medicines are about the only kind of “alternative” medicine that has significant prior scientific plausibility based on what we know about science. That’s because plants often contain biologically active molecules; i.e., they often contain drugs. Of course, the problem with plant-based medicines is that they are, in essence, highly contaminated drugs, the predictability of whose responses is variable because the amount of active ingredient can vary widely.

There’s also a problem when claims for a plant-based compound become grandiose. It immediately makes me suspicious, even when there might be some biological plausibility that some compound with derived from a plant might have anticancer properties, when I see claims of “cancer cures” or the extensive use of testimonial evidence. Recently, I became aware of just such a “cancer cure” derived from, of all things, eggplant. The advertising for a cream based on this comound has it all: Testimonials, claims of near 100% efficacy in curing certain types of cancer, and claims of near miraculous efficacy. In essence, a man named Dr. Bill E. Cham takes a plant-based “treatment” and claims that it can not only cure skin cancer but regenerate and rejuvenate. In brief, he takes something that might have some efficacy and makes unbelievable claims for it.

In essence, Dr. Cham’s claim is that eggplants cure skin cancer? Naturally, I know it’s true because I saw it on the Internet, and I’ve even seen some credulous reporting on it:


Biologie Totale: The quackery of German New Medicine on steroids

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on October 14, 2008

OK, I give up.

I hadn’t planned on blogging about this because I thought I had already taken care of this woo before. Well, not exactly this woo, but a related woo of which this new issue is just a warmed over more woo-ified version. Indeed, I had even considered it as a candidate to be the first “victim” of a new, improved, resurrected version of Your Friday Dose of Woo (yes, I still do intend to resurrect it but haven’t managed to find the time to give it the justice it deserves), but decided against using this particular form of woo because, well, it’s quackery that kills. And that’s a buzzkill if anything is.

Still, you, my readers, would not let me easily ignore this particular bit of quackery. Over the last few days, you sent stories about it to me. It is indeed appalling and utterly pseudoscientific. It is indeed full of the most amazing bits of idiocy. It is indeed Biologie Totale.

Except that it’s nothing of the sort. Unfortunately, it’s gaining traction in Quebec:

A new therapy that claims to cure cancer and other diseases but has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Europe is gaining popularity in Canada, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.”Total biology” is a therapeutic approach that claims illness is caused by psychological conflicts in the brain.

The approach, also known as new medicine or bio-psycho-genealogy, professes to heal all disease, including AIDS and advanced forms of cancer.

The method is gaining traction in Quebec where patients are often told to ignore their cancer, or stop medical treatment altogether, according to an investigation by CBC’s French-language service.


The Vitamin C Empire Strikes Back

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on October 9, 2008

Well that didn’t take long, did it?

Three days ago, I described a study that I had noticed in the October 1 issue of Cancer Research that described an animal study that strongly suggested that vitamin C administered at sufficiently high doses may interfere with the action of multiple chemotherapeutic agents. You can read the link for full details of the study as discussed by yours truly. In fact, although I only blog sporadically about the exaggerated claims of advocates of vitamin C as a cancer cure, but when I do I like to think I hit the mark, starting two and a half years ago when I wrote about a couple of studies that were then making the rounds as “evidence” for the efficacy of vitamin C as a cancer treatment (one was weak evidence; one was hardly evidence at all); continuing to another study that claimed that mega-high dose vitamin C can cause tumor shrinkage in rodent models (it could, but the shrinkage was unimpressive and required enormous doses, the proverbial “long run for a short slide,” as I put it); and finally earlier this week the most recent study that demonstrated that vitamin C supplementation may not be such a good idea if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. Taken together, these posts constitute what I now dub my “Trilogy of Terror” with respect to vitamin C.

Not surprisingly, true believers in Linus Pauling’s view that vitamin C is some sort of panacea (or at least a cancer cure) were very quick to point to the studies encompassed by the first two posts in of my Vitamin C Trilogy of Terror as vindication of the great Nobel Prize winner turned crank, because, no matter how weak the evidence or results were, they still were seemingly positive results suggesting that vitamin C may actually have a beneficial effect against cancer, no matter how wimpy.

They aren’t at all pleased about the most recent study, though. No, they’re not happy at all that there is evidence in an animal model that vitamin C may interfere with chemotherapy. I just knew that sooner or later a vitamin C crank would attack the study. I just didn’t know it would be Linus Pauling’s bastard stepchild itself,, and I failed to guess just how woo-filled the counterattack would be. It came in the form of a press release entitled Chemotherapy doesn’t work, so blame vitamin C.


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To kill and cure cancer, you must first understand it

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

Yesterday, I was annoyed by a particularly vile article by quackery promoter supreme Mike Adams claiming that Christina Applegate didn’t need a bilateral mastectomy and could have “cured” herself of cancer with “natural” methods. Indeed, my contempt for Mike Adams knows no bounds, given that he is the purveyor of a seemingly never-ending stream of antiscience and quackery, much of it directed at cancer patients, who if they follow Adams’ “advice” could very well miss their best chance at treating their cancer and thereby wind up dead. Indeed, so great is the amount of quackery emanating from that website that I could easily devote this blog to nothing other than refuting it all and I’d still never be able to counter it. On the other hand, when Adams gets to a certain point and I get into a certain mood, I feel that it’s my duty to do what I can for a while and then move on, lest the concentrated stupidity of that site drive me to drink.

Oddly enough, this time around, I found an article with a title that I actually agree with, that title being To Kill and Cure Cancer, You Must First Understand It, although I’m sure that neither Adams nor the writer of this piece has any idea just how ironic the title is. This being, of course, the author Kal Sellers, a man who describes himself as a “Master Herbalist, a Massage Therapist, Technician of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration, Iridologist, Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner, Mental Re-programmer, Life Coach, Natural Nutritionist, Reflexologist” who is preparing to enter chiropractic school and runs a website called Kal’s School of Vitalistic Botanical and Holistic Medicine, demonstrates unequivocally that he does not have even a clue about cancer. Given the sheer concentration of woo Sellers is into, I was not in the least bit surprised.


Skepnews – 7/24/08

Posted in Skepnews by Skepdude on July 24, 2008

  • Cancer center director warns of cell phone use – The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer. Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children. – Maybe it takes too long to get the answer YOU WANT from science. It seems that there were some serious studies on the matter ( one involving 420,00 participants) and they all came back with no association, except for a remote correlation with one specific type of brain tumor. Let’s see, he’s ignoring existing studies, citing unpublished (thus not peer reviewed) data and bringing children in. Sound familiar?
  • Cancer Vaccine??Researchers have developed a plant-based cancer vaccine capable of kick-starting the body’s immune response and being tailored to a patient’s specific tumor type, according to a study released Monday. While they have not yet determined whether the immune response is sufficient to destroy the cancer, the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day lead to a cure for at lease some types of the deadly disease – Too bad vaccines cause autism, so we won’t be able to use this one if it pans out. What you don’t trust Jim Carrey?
  • Amanda Peet backs up her vaccination statementsHowever, I still believe that the decision not to vaccinate our children bodes for a dangerous future. Vast reductions in immunization will lead to a resurgence of deadly viruses. This is as indisputable as global warming. I know a lot of parents who secretly use as a justification, “Well, enough other people are vaccinating, so therefore, we don’t have to.” – I understand why from a PR point of view Amanda Peet must apologize for using the word “parasite” in regards to the parents that refuse to vaccinate kids. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about PR so let it go on record that THOSE PARENTS THAT REFUSE TO VACCINATE THEIR CHILDREN ARE NOT ONLY PARASITES BUT DOWNRIGHT IRRESPONSIBLE AND SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE IF THEIR KIDS DEVELOP THE DISEASES THAT THEY WERE NOT VACCINATED FOR. That said, Amanda Peet remains my favorite Hollywood actress!
  • Kidnapped a little girl, forcefully married & converted to Islam? No problem, not in Pakistan – A Christian father in Pakistan is trying without success through the courts to gain custody of his two pre-teen daughters who were kidnapped and made to convert to Islam. The kidnappers, who had married the girls, had also filed for custody of the girls at a local police station on 28 June, asserting that the sisters had converted to Islam and their father no longer had jurisdiction over them. – What? And hear this, the judge agrees with the kidnappers! Ah, is there anything we won’t turn a blind eye on for our “allies in the war on terror”?
  • Radovan Karadzic was practicing CAM – Could this be the moment when alternative medicine finally gets the reputation it deserves and is seen for what it is – a massive social and intellectual fraud? Everything that is wrong with complementary and alternative medicine is contained in the two stories that have dominated the news this week – the discovery that Radovan Karadzic had reinvented himself as a white-haired guru offering homeopathy, energy medicine and acupuncture, and the story of Dawn Page, a woman who is now brain-damaged after she went on a “detox diet”. For alternative medicine is not only founded on lies and falsehoods, but it can be very bad indeed for your health – Do you think the fact that a guy like Karadzic can easily infiltrate the (S)CAM community will deter the believers? I don’t think so. I mean, they already know you don’t need any kind of accreditation to become a (S)CAM practitioner. The likely result? They’ll consult a psychic before they sign up with their new (S)CAM “doctor”! **DEEP SIGH**