Forbis Report: No Fluoridation/Cancer Link
The Startling Effects of Light on Cancer
With “Short Takes” on:
- Tacky Laetrile Article at New Times,
- Recent Laetrile Victories,
- Second Opinion at Sloan-Kettering,
- Rauscher Farewell,
- Salk and Swine-Flu,
- The Lobotomies of a Mad Housewife,
- AMA Surprise,
- Cancer Cure Predicted (Again),
- The Corporate Connection,
- AND – don’t miss it! – How to Learn to Love Mammography and Stop Taking Gobs of Aspirin at the Same Time: Mammography, Mon Armour
Linus Pauling Defends Himself Against NCI Attack
The brilliance and humanity of Linus Pauling have been attested to by two Nobel Prizes, a plethora of other prestigious awards and by his hundreds of publications, an amazing number of which endure as major guideposts on the frontiers of scientific and medical knowledge. Pauling is surely the pre-eminent scientific property of our time. Indeed, the distinguished British journal New Scientist, in a poll of its readers, named Pauling one of the top 20 scientists of all time, placing him in the company of Galileo, Newton and the like. Pauling has been honored in his own time but, to the apparent chagrin of some, not yet honored to death. It’s a sad fact, in the course of human affairs, that greatness, once recognized, is very often expected to show its gratitude by shutting its mouth, shuffling its feet and letting lesser lights perpetuate the darkness. Pauling, thank goodness, seems to have missed this depressing history lesson, because he continues to clear and claim new territory all the time.
And now his scientific curiosity and ingenuity have led him smack dab into the middle of the cancer battlefield, one of the most hotly contested pieces of ground ever. In the heat of the battle it must sometimes seem to Pauling that there are more people trying to stave off a cure for cancer than find one. In any event, it is clearly evident to him now that the cancer generals, more bureaucrats than scientists, men who have mired us in a no-win billion-dollar-a-year debacle, do not want his help, his track record be damned.
Four times Pauling has applied for federal research funds and four times his applications have been rejected. But not content to deny Pauling even a pittance to pursue his findings that Vitamin C may well enhance the body’s immunological responses to a number of diseases, including even advanced cancers, the powers that be at the National Cancer Institute have now seen fit to heap insult on injury by assigning a very junior researcher to “rebut” Pauling’s latest paper on the Vitamin C/cancer link. At the very least one might expect NCI to turn its best minds to Pauling’s findings — and then not specifically to rebut them but to explore them in a scientific fashion.
But, no. Pauling and his Scottish clinician collaborator, Dr. Ewan Cameron, published in the October 20, 1976, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences an article entitled “Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: Prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer.” NCI’s director of cancer treatment, Vincent DeVita, a man notorious for his promotion of chemotherapies so toxic that I predict they will eventually be widely regarded as barbaric, shuffled the Pauling paper off to one of his subordinates, Brian Lewis. Lewis, certainly aware of his boss’s penchant for he-man, killer drugs and his scorn for pussycat vitamins, proceeded, ineptly, as it turned out, to “debunk” the Pauling/Cameron paper.
Pauling was prompt in calling attention to the multiple faults of the Lewis report. I spoke recently with Pauling in his Menlo Park office and was privileged to be one of six to receive from Pauling a copy of the letter he sent in January to DeVita. Pauling began that letter thus:
In recent years I have reached the conclusion that the National Cancer Institute is not operated in such a way as to favor the discovery of new methods of controlling cancer. I urge that you consider the possibility of making changes such as to permit new methods of controlling cancer to be recognized and studied as rapidly as possible.
Pauling then cited the treatment his own studies have received as an example of NCI’s “failure…to recognize and support a promising discovery.”
And he added:
The Lewis Report contains major errors of fact, misrepresents the paper by Cameron and Pauling in serious ways, and fails completely to recognize its significance as a promising discovery, which should be looked into by the National Cancer Institute.
The first two sentences of paragraph IIa of the Lewis Report are “The most serious shortcoming is that the control group came from the population of patients treated during the ten years prior to the study. Obviously, there is no way to control for differences in supportive care in going from one decade to the next.”
It is not true that the control group came from the population of patients treated during the ten years prior to the study. There were 1000 patients in the control, 10 matched patients for each of the 100 who received ascorbate. Some of the members of the control group dated back to 1966, five years before the period of the study, and not ten years. It is pointed out, however, that 200 of the patients in the control group were completely contemporaneous with the ascorbate-treated patients. The others in the control group were either overlapping or were studied during the preceding five years. A comparison could have been made between the 100 ascorbate-treated patients and the 200 completely contemporaneous patients in the control group. Results of such a comparison would have been closely similar to those of the comparison with the 1,000 control patients. In fact, it is pointed out in the paper that the average survival time of the 200 completely contemporaneous controls is 43.9 days, whereas that for the 100 ascorbate-treated patients was 209.6. The mean survival time for the ascorbate-treated patients was accordingly observed to be 4.8 times as great as that for the 200 completely contemporaneous controls, as compared with 4.2 for the 1,000 controls. On either basis the null hypothesis of zero effectiveness of ascorbate is rejected with extremely high statistical significance. The difference between 4.8 and 4.2 for this ratio is not significant.
The statement in the Lewis Report about the “most serious shortcoming” of the paper by Cameron and Pauling is accordingly wrong, apparently because of a failure by Lewis to read the paper by Cameron and Pauling carefully. Because of this error in the Lewis report, a re-evaluation of the paper by Cameron and Pauling should surely be made by the National Cancer Institute.
The next two sentences in paragraph IIa of the Lewis Report state that “They compound this flaw by then expecting a single consultant in a distant country to retrospectively analyze the records of a thousand patients and determine the date at which these patients, long since dead, became ‘terminal’. There is no possible way that this process could be comparable to the method used for the study patients whereby the current, attending physicians made the bedside decision, albeit ill defined, about when the patients became terminal.”
These statements are not true. In the paper by Ewan Cameron it is stated that “The detailed case records of these 1,000 were then analyzed quite independently by Dr. Frances Meuli, M.B. Ch.B. (Otago, New Zealand), who established their presentation date of ‘untreatability’ by such conventional standards as the establishment of inoperability at laparotomy, the abandonment of any definitive form of anti-cancer treatment, or the final date of admission for ‘terminal care’.”
Dr. Meuli received her medical and scientific degrees in Otago, New Zealand, as is stated in the sentence quoted above. She was in Scotland and was available for short-term employment…. This work…was not carried out “in a distant country.” It was carried out in Vale of Leven Hospital, LochLomondside, Scotland, the hospital in which the patients have been treated.
Moreover, the decision about “untreatability” of the control patients was not made by Dr. Meuli. It was instead made by the current, attending physicians, in bedside decisions, in Vale of Leven Hospital, and was noted on the case records. The same attending physicians, who altogether totaled more than twenty, were involved in making these decisions for the completely contemporaneous controls, and some of them for the earlier controls, as were involved in making the same decision about the ascorbate-treated patients. Dr. Meuli’s function was to examine the case records, in order to find the date at which each of the control patients was noted as having reached the stage of “untreatability.” Lewis is quite wrong in reporting that the decision about “untreatability” of the control patients was not made by the current, attending physicians, the same physicians who made the decision about the ascorbate-treated patients.
Section IIb of the Lewis Report states that “The dose, route, and timing of the administration of vitamin C does not appear to be consistent within the study.” It is hard for me to understand what Lewis means by this statement. The great majority of the patients received 10 grams of ascorbate per day, orally. A few received only 5 grams or 8 grams per day, and one received 20 grams per day, later decreased to 12.5 grams per day. In addition, most of the patients received 10 grams of ascorbate intravenously during the first ten days of their treatment. Details for 50 patients have been published in an earlier paper.
Reference is again made, in paragraph IIe, about the “inconstant way” in which the patients received Vitamin C. In this section Lewis also states that it is impossible for the reader to determine which variables were responsible for longer survival in the treated group. Only one variable was in fact involved, the intake of ascorbate acid, which was about 10 grams per day for the ascorbate-treated patients and quite small, perhaps 30 milligrams per day (obtained in the food) for most of the control patients.
Lewis’s statement that lack of specificity and consistency in the study design would frustrate any attempt to do a comparable experiment has, in my opinion, no basis in fact. Inasmuch as in the paper by Cameron and Pauling evidence is presented that ascorbic acid in amount 10 grams per day has some effectiveness in controlling essentially all kinds of cancer, control experiments could be carried out by use of this amount of ascorbate with a randomly selected subgroup from a group of patients with one or another of the various kinds of cancer, with the remaining subgroup of patients serving as controls.
Pauling goes on to state: “It is my opinion, which has grown stronger and stronger during the past four years, that the use of ascorbic acid in controlling cancer may well turn out to be the most important discovery about cancer that has been made in the last quarter century. Ewan Cameron deserves the credit for having made this discovery. The National Cancer Institute has not contributed to it.”
Pauling then relates the details of his long struggle to get NCI to take a serious look at the Vitamin C data . Four years ago Pauling went personally to NCI headquarters in Bethesda to present the preliminary data. All he got for his efforts was “a letter, later on, from one of them [at NCI], who said that their statisticians had reported that it had not been proved that ascorbic acid was effective in controlling cancer. I replied that I agreed that it had not been proved, and that if it had been proved I would not have asked the NCI to carry out any clincal trials. I felt that the evidence was suggestive that an important discovery had been made, which should be checked by the NCI.”
Another NCI official informed Pauling that the government wouldn’t investigate Vitamin C and its effects on cancer unless animal studies were done first. It was suggested by the official that Pauling apply for a grant to carry out such studies. Pauling did exactly that, asking for a mere $35,000. The application was rejected. Pauling applied on three subsequent occasions. Each new application was rejected. Now, given the very promising clinical work of Dr. Cameron, Pauling has applied for funds once again, this time to carry out both clinical and animal work.
Dr. Pauling now believes that ascorbic acid, properly used, could cut cancer mortality by a very substantial amount and perhaps do even more to reduce incidence of the disease. Pauling says that he feels strongly that “other promising leads” must also have been rejected out of hand by NCI, given the treatment that his proposals have been accorded.
One fervently hopes that, under the Carter administration, changes will soon be forthcoming at NCI — changes that favor the full exploration of promising new leads in cancer control. As things stand now, if researchers with names like Linus Pauling’s can’t get their ideas taken seriously at NCI, who can?
Forbis Report: No Fluoridation/Cancer Link
A short take in DMR-1 was headlined “Fluoridation: 30,000 Excess Cancer Deaths a Year?” The item began: “Dr. Dean Burk, until recently chief chemist at the National Cancer Institute (and one of the founders of NCI) and Dr. John Yiamouyiannis, science director of the consumer-oriented National Health Federation, have gathered data (some of it published in the Congressional Record, entered therein by Representative James J. Delaney, Democrat of New York, on July 21, 1975 and on December 16, 1975) which they say establish a probable link between certain cancers and fluoridation.” There were some more details and then: “More on this possible cancer link in future newsletters.”
For the past year I’ve continued to look into this controversy which has become mired in a statistical morass the likes of which, mercifully, we seldom see. In desperation I finally hired an earnest young man named Steven Forbis to pursue the matter for me. Forbis has a far better grasp of statistics than I do. And pursue the topic he did. He spent weeks culling through the voluminous data on both sides of the issue, calling the principal combatants and puzzling the numbers. Out of this came an informal 33-page report. It dispelled some, but not all, of the confusion and, in any event, still leaves the issue outside the scope of any definitive treatment in these newsletters.
Here’s how the Forbis report to me begins:
The fluoridation of public water systems has long been a subject of controversy. The Birchers saw it as another attempt by the Communists to sap America’s health…. The Liberals in turn ridiculed the Birchers, as in the film “Dr. Strangelove,” where a deranged right-winger touched off nuclear Armageddon because of fluoride pollution of the “precious bodily fluids.”
I laughed when I saw Dr. Strangelove and, as a cavity-prone youngster in New York, hoped that the water would be fluoridated there, as it eventually was in 1965. 1 was excited when a dentist told me of the prospect of injecting fluoride into pregnant women so that their offspring would be forever immune to cavities and, therefore, to the dreadful drilling…
But years later, when I read that Dr. Burk was saying that fluoride was causing cancer and should be halted, I was willing, especially in light of the distrust of our great governmental institutions, fostered by the Watergate scandal, to accept what he said. Especially alluring was the recent attention given to environmental carcinogens and the latency period one would expect between the initiation of fluoridation and the manifestation of its cancer-causing effect. These factors added credibility to Burk’s argument. They were new factors that would allow one to change one’s mind without having to eat crow.
Even so, it now [at the conclusion of this investigation] appears that little reason exists to suspect that fluoride causes cancer and that good reason exists to say that it probably doesn’t.
And then Forbis launches into a detailed analysis of the statistical battle, finally concluding, many pages later:
Yiamouyiannis has put all his eggs in this one basket and burned his bridges behind him. The data he once said proved that fluoride causes or stimulates cancer…are now described by him as “indicative — and that’s all.”
Since all of the Burk-Yiamouyiannis data so far have been shown to be insubstantial, the question that remains is what was and what is all the excitement about?
Part of the reason is the failure of the NCI to take Burk and Yiamouyiannis seriously enough from a standpoint of public relations. The NCI’s major study was seen not as a definitive one but rather as an obfuscatory one by people who made a difference, primarily Congressman Delaney. It gave Burk and Y. a grand opening to charge NCI with evasiveness.
Said [Donald R.] Taves [an M.D. investigating the fluoride/cancer question for the Safe Water Committee of the National Academy of Sciences] in his report to…the National Academy, “Had [the NCI] responded immediately with its [SMR graph of the cities under comparison] and followed it with the more complex studies much controversy and distrust might have been avoided.” Taves also notes: “There were different underlying assumptions about responsibility, both sides wanting the other to take the burden of proof.”
Why did the NCI push away this responsibility? According to [Marvin] Schneiderman [NCI’s associate director of the Field Studies and Statistics Program], the time people at NCI have must be used to study possible environmental carcinogens in the order of likelihood that each suspected factor is significant. Fluoride in the water was low on this list of priorities if it was there at all. Thus, to study fluoride was considered to be a misallocation of resources — a waste of time.
The question then is why not spend more money, hire more…and do the work that has to be done simultaneously rather than sequentially. Schneiderman claims that the problem is that there simply aren’t enough people who can do that kind of work competently without two other people watching over their shoulders.
To back up this assertion, Schneiderman points out a situation at Yale, where the university has a contract with NCI to follow up data collected in Connecticut since 1935. They’ve had the contract for three years and “they are still searching for a chief epidemiologist.”
Schneiderman says they have tried to have funding approved to train biometric statisticians but that it gets cut by an office of management and budget that looks at the training question for the medical profession as a whole and concludes that there are already enough doctors. This is a fall-out of the Nixon-Ford administrations, he claims.
To sum up, it appears that the Burk-Yiamouyiannis data are demonstrably shabby. The NCI data look reasonable, but I can’t say for positive that they are definitive.
One question that has been ignored all the way through this controversy is the possibility that the cities with the higher cancer rates are the ones which were more politically motivated to fluoridate because there is a correlation between cancer and tooth decay, and high rates of tooth decay tend to make people think more about fluoridating the water.
Whether Forbis issues that last statement with tongue-in-cheek or to satirize the whole situation or is in earnest, I cannot say. But the idea, I must allow, is considerably less preposterous than much of what we hear about fluoridation, pro and con. Authorities on both sides of the issue have shown a willingness to play fast and loose with the numbers. On the one hand, you’ve got Yiamouyiannis, in his very first publication on this possible hazard (National Health Federation Bulletin, April 1975) saying that his findings are “preliminary” joined with such disclaimers as “we don’t want to raise a red flag to terrorize anyone,” going on, nonetheless to do exactly that to the accompaniment of editorial blurbs describing his “findings” as “sort of a block buster” and “Startling? That’s putting it mildly. Stunning is a more descriptive adjective for this one.” At least 30,000 people dying each year because of fluoridation. That would be stunning all right. Except that several months down the tortuous trail Dr. Y tells Steve Forbis, who has been grilling him on the apparent faults of his analysis, that all those earlier calculations were merely “indicative” of some cancer/fluoridation association. But, boy-oh-boy, is he ever going to come up with some hot stuff soon. And so on.
And then on the other side you’ve gut swell fellows like Marvin Schneiderman who recently told Newsday that it could trust the NCI cancer survival statistics, despite substancial evidence that they are significantly biased by virtue of the data-gathering process and the defects thereof. Those figures NCI puts out, he confidently and authoritatively assured Newsday, are not off by more than one or two percent. “Asked how he reached this conclusion,” Newsday commented, “since no national survival-rate survey exists, Schneiderman says that it is his ‘educated guess.’” Whoopee.
Add to all of this the fact that nobody has ever reliably demonstrated that fluoridation of public water systems significantly protects us against tooth decay and you can at least begin to sympathize with those who have opposed fluoridation over the years. I do not believe that our water should be fluoridated because there is no evidence that it is needed. I worry, too, about the adverse effects of the substance and do not rule out the possibility that Drs. Burk and Y will eventually make their case — or that somebody else, at some point in the future, will do so. I congratulate Dr. Burk, whom I admire a great deal as a man with excellent “establishment” credentials who is, nonetheless, often a staunch and very effective fighter against establishment goals, for his tireless efforts to get fluorides out of our water, both here and overseas. He has, almost singlehandedly, been instrumental in persuading several countries in Europe either to ban fluoridation or to begin serious deliberations on the issue. But my own anti-fluoridation outlook is based not on the current Burk-Y data but on the lack of any convincing evidence that fluorides do us any good when added to our water.
The Forbis report is very much in the rough, complete with strikeovers, handwritten annotations, misspelled words, etc. It is largely unedited, informal and never meant for public consumption in its present form. But because it is probably the most sensible thing ever written on the cancer/fluoridation controversy I will make it available to any and all who request it. I will xerox it and mail it first class for $5 (cash or money order only) upon request to 601 Buena Vista West, #4, San Francisco, CA 94117. This is, I hasten to add, a break-even proposition.
The Startling Effects of Light on Cancer
Yes, light, the stuff that comes out of tubes, bulbs, neon signs and occasionally even the sun, smog permitting. There’s exciting evidence, and quite a lot of it, that light profoundly affects health, contributing, depending upon its nature, to both the cause and the prevention/cure of several diseases, including cancer. The research that supports this idea is largely the product of one very innovative man, John Ott, a photobiologist whose pioneering time-lapse photographic techniques were first seen (by millions of us) in a variety of Walt Disney films and, more recently, in the film “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” You remember all those flowers that sprouted, grew up and bloomed before your eyes, in a matter of seconds. That was all Ott’s doing.
This brilliant researcher’s lifelong interest in photobiology is detailed in his book Health & Light: The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man other Living Things (The Devin-Adair Company, Old Greenwich, Conn., 1973 and, more recently, issued in paperback). Ott’s doctorate is honorary (from Loyola University). He has won major photographic and horticultural awards, and his technical papers have been published in the Proceedings of the New York Academy of Sciences, Archives of Pathology, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Annals Dentistry, and so forth.
For years Ott sought unsuccessfully to persuade the establishment of the pressing need to investigate the effects of light on health and disease. His efforts have now finally paid off, for the prestigious Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, has announced the opening of a Center for Light Research in which Ott’s findings will be pursued.
Dr. Ott’s findings have not been confined to cancer, as I learned when I spoke with him in Los Angeles last summer. He has good evidence that light or the lack of it, in varying frequencies, has striking effects on nearly every aspect of biological life. Dr. Ott has shown that one can greatly retard or enhance the growth of plants by exposing them to different light frequencies; he is even able to “order” the sex of some plants by manipulating light. More remarkable, he has shown that various animals can likewise be induced to produce offspring of one sex or another by exposing them to various types of light. Mink breeders and others are already making valuable use of these findings. He has shown that a wide assortment of plant and animal diseases can be diminished or made more virulent via light fluctuations.
In a series of imaginative experiments with behavioral scientists, Dr. Ott demonstrated that hyperactivity in children is often induced by the emissions of certain commonly used fluorescent lights. And it was Dr. Ott who first called attention to the hazards of X-radiation coming from many television sets. His findings led directly to the national Radiation Control Act of 1968. Recently he has discovered that radiation coming from the screens used by air-traffic controllers may be at the root of the high incidence of mental breakdown and physical disease among air-traffic controllers.
Due to Dr. Ott’s many findings, some of the larger glass and plastics manufacturers, lightbulb manufacturers and eyeglass and contact lens makers are now producing products to Dr. Ott’s specifications. (Most eyeglasses now on the market screen out portions of natural light which are most needed by man, according to Dr. Ott; similarly, most artificial light sources fail to emit portions of the spectrum vital to good health; other lighting systems emit at frequencies which can be harmful. For full details, read Dr. Ott’s book.) Dr. Ott says his findings indicate that light acts on diverse parts of the body by its influence on the pineal and pituitary glands which, in turn, control the endocrine system.
More than 15 years ago, Dr. Ott made discoveries that strongly suggested that light can play an important role in cancer. Others have gradually confirmed some of these findings:
- Several years ago, Dr. Jane C. Wright, while in charge of cancer research at Bellevue Medical Center in New York, exposed a number of terminal cancer patients to as much natural sunlight as possible, forbade them to wear glasses or sunglasses and instructed them to avoid artificial light as much as possible. Most of these patients, Dr. Wright believed, showed unexpected improvement or stabilization of condition, whereas, prior to beginning the experiment, all were in steady and rapid decline.
- Animal experiments at the Ben May Cancer Research Laboratory of the University of Chicago showed that rats exposed to carcinogens and housed under standard incandescent lights developed significantly more and larger tumors than the same breed of rats exposed to the same carcinogens but housed under “daylight” incandescent lights (providing a fuller portion of the natural visible electromagnetic spectrum of energy). Other rats, given the same treatment, but housed in complete darkness, had still fewer and smaller tumors. And, unlike the other rats, those in the latter group did not suffer from partial baldness and skin problems. All of this suggested that there was some harmful emission coming from these bulbs. This was a six-year project.
- A two-year project at the Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois, under the direction of Dr. Samuel Lee Gabby, sought to discover the effects of different wavelengths of light on the development of C3H strain of mice (bred to develop spontaneous cancers). Light was the only variable in these series of complex experiments. Here’s a summary of Dr. Gabby’s report on his results:
Thirty pairs of test mice were kept in a room lighted only with daylight white fluorescent tubes. Thirty pairs of test mice were kept in another room lighted only with pink fluorescent tubes. As a control experiment, eight pairs were kept in still another room where they received daylight through the ordinary window glass of a basement window.
In the room lighted by pink lights every female developed cancer except one, which died of a liver abnormality, the exact cause of which we could not determine. Of the females in the room lighted by daylight white lights, all but six developed cancer. Two died of liver degeneration. At this date four have not developed cancer and still survive. In both artificially lighted rooms, the size of cancer growth was approximately the same. However, the females in the pink lighted room all died about a month earlier than those in the room lighted by daylight white bulbs. Those under pink lights stopped breeding about two months earlier than those under daylight white light and their individual litters were smaller. They gave birth to one or two offspring instead of the normal six to fifteen.
The control mice in the daylight cages developed carcinoma of the breast some two months later than the test mice, which were kept in daylight white artificial light and three months later than those under pink lights. Two pairs of control mice out of the eight original pairs have not developed carcinoma and still survive.
- An experiment under the direction of Dr. Edward F. Scanlon, then chief of the Cancer Research Committee of Evanston Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, involved hamsters in which tumors of two types were transplanted. Controls were kept under cool-white fluorescent lights; experimentals were kept in compartments that maximized their exposure to natural daylight. Life span of both controls and experimentals did not differ significantly in those experiments involving transplant of a very virulent, fast-acting tumor. There was a significant difference, however, in those experiments using a slower-acting tumor transplant. Here, the controls lived an average of 29 days; the experimentals survived an average of 43 days.
- A three-year study (1970-73) conducted by a group of researchers at the Wills Eye Hospital and Research Institute in Philadelphia compared the effects of specially devised, cathode-shielded “full-spectrum” fluorescent lights versus cool-white, warm-white, pink and black-light fluorescent systems on the development of Harding-Passey mouse melanoma. This study was carried out in an effort to follow up on the C3H work Ott had described earlier. (In this earlier work mice exposed to natural sunlight as much as possible developed far fewer tumors, Ott had claimed, than had control mice kept under pink fluorescent light. The natural-light mice lived an average 16 months, he had reported, while the mice under artificial illumination lived an average of only 7.5 months.) The Philadelphia researchers devised a complex, carefully controlled series of experiments. Their findings showed that in every comparison the mice housed under the full-spectrum lights developed fewer tumors. These comparisons ranged from 24 percent versus 36 percent to 17 percent versus 50 percent.
- A study not directly confirmatory but suggestive of confirmation of some of Dr. Ott’s work was conducted recently by researchers at the Bureau of Radiological Health in Rockville, Maryland. Here, Osborne-Mendel rats were inoculated with large numbers of tumor cells which resulted in most of them developing tumors within seven days of injection. Rats housed under predominantly blue lights had significantly lower tumor incidence than those exposed to red lights. Dr. Ott, many years ago, pointed to the dangers of lights emitting in the pink and red frequencies. His experiments also demonstrated that blue lights were relatively benign.
Despite all of his own research and that of others, tending to confirm his findings, Dr. Ott has been rebuffed repeatedly by the ACS and NCI in his efforts to win funding for further light research. Testifying before the subcommittee on Public Health and Environment of U.S. Representative Paul G. Rogers, Dr. Ott said that it was obvious to him that establishment research organizations had decided, in advance of any investigation of his work, that light was not worth pursuing, that they were proceeding down their own avenues and “did not want to add another variable — light.” But, he continued, “in view of all the accumulating research data, light could be a most important factor that shoul be under scientific control in every research lab. This could mean a completely new and different approach to cancer research.”
Asked about Dr. Ott’s research in 1975, Dr. Bayard Morrison, then assistant director at NCI, said, “No one here is involved in that kind of research. There is no built-in bias against Dr. Ott or anyone else; it’s just that his proposals have not been relevant to on-going work.” And so what Dr. Pauling has said so many times over the past several years was demonstrated once again: our National Cancer Plan simply has no provision for exploring striking new discoveries. There’s plenty of money and machinery to “research” the tried and often not so true but little or none to aggressively followup on really new and different developments in cancer treatment and control. That so grievous a shortcoming in the Plan should continue to be suffered defies reason.
Light, of course, is but that very small, visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. There is growing evidence that other parts of the EM spectrum might also have profound effects on our health. The Soviets, most notably, have demonstrated that radiation from ultrahigh-voltage power lines can cause organ, blood and nerve damage. The U.S. Navy, in research that was once classified, turned up findings that suggest that very low frequencies, perhaps like those emitted by most of our electrical appliances, can have marked effects (in the wrong direction, unfortunately) on cholesterol and triglyceride production in humans. Medical researchers at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York have shown that other EM frequencies can remarkably speed healing of bone fractures. French researchers in Bordeaux have developed an apparatus with which a variety of cancerous growths are dramatically inhibited, according to carefully controlled and closely scrutinized scientific trials. The precise output of the apparatus has not been disclosed. (For more details on this apparatus, see my article, “Do the French Have a Cure for Cancer?” Esquire, July, 1975.)
ACS and NCI should be investigating these things. Still, the situation is more hopeful than it has been for some time. Roswell Park carries a lot of clout, and the fact that researchers there are now taking Ott seriously is encouraging, indeed. It may be able to shake loose some federal monies to pursue the topic in depth. The establishment organ Cancer Newsletter, in announcing Roswell Park’s new Center for Light Research, observed in passing, without quibbles, that “studies have indicated that some wavelengths of light may promote animal tumor growth, others inhibit it.” And perhaps in another ten years someone from NCI might even express interest in “that machine in Bordeaux” that is presently being ignored to death, despite solid scientific evidence that it has usefulness bordering on the extraordinary.
Yes, folks, another dumb article on laetrile — this one in the February 18, 1977 issue of New Times, written, coincidentally, by one of the new Patterson Fellows, Richard M. Levine, who got his fellowship to study network television, not medical politics. I remember Levine. He picked my brain about laetrile last summer. I gave him some of my newsletters, introduced him to some of the people he needed to talk to and extolled the virtues of the Patterson Fellowships, about which he obviously became quite interested. Later I saw him in Tijuana.
I asked him how things were going on the story, and he said fine, except that the science of the whole thing was beyond him and so he was going to ignore that part of it and just concentrate on the politics. Now, I ask you, in a case like this, how do you separate the science from the politics? If you can’t come to terms with one, can you really cope with the other? Levine’s piece indicates that you cannot.
His article reminds me a bit of the Marci Macdonald piece in Macleans (“Cashing in on Cancer”) that I demonstrated to be so palpably false in almost all particulars in a previous newsletter. I pointed out this article to Levine as an example of bad writing on this subject. Marci’s vitriole etched an impression on Levine’s mind; apparently it was a favorable one.
I’m not going to dissect Levine’s entire article, but I will beat about the ample butt a few of his more egregious errors and journalistic lapses. When it comes to discussing “a multi-million-dollar-drug-smuggling conspiracy,” Levine doesn’t even bother to qualify all that thunder with the word “alleged.” (The trial, Dick, has only begun.) Likewise, Levine is able to write: “The Mexican connection has to be among the most bizarre international smuggling conspiracies any government has ever cracked.” Just precisely what “connection” is that? And “cracked“? Says who? Again, let’s wait for the outcome of that trial before we decide what, if anything, has been cracked — or even if any “conspiracy” is proved.
Next Levine identifies as one of the kingpins of the “conspiracy” one Jorge Del Rio, “a shadowy figure…who is, according to [prosecutor] Herbert Hoffman, ‘something of a Mexican mafioso.'” Given the fact that Levine follows this with absolutely zero evidence of “shadowy” or “mafioso” behavior, this is, to be charitable, sorry journalism. So is Levine’s constant harping on John Birch involvement of some of the pro-laetrilists. To hear him talk, everybody who has nice things to say about laetrile sees commies under every rock. It just ain’t so. I’ve met as many “left-wingers” as “right-wingers” in the laetrile movement; I’ve also met a lot of political moderates.
Then there’s this statement in Levine’s piece: “No one claims that Laetrile itself is dangerous, except in the very real sense that it shortens the lives of some cancer patients by keeping them away from conventional therapies.” This is where it is absolutely necessary for a writer to understand some science, for the fact is that the statistics indicate that those cancer victims who avoid the conventional therapies in favor of no therapy are, depressingly often, the ones who live longer. In any event, the number of patients who use laetrile without first exhausting the orthodox therapies (and all too often both their bodies and their bank accounts in the process) is, alas, extremely small — under one percent.
Levine’s characterization of the credentials of Ernst Krebs, Jr., the man who gave laetrile its name, is unfair. Levine says that Krebs’ doctorate is “an honorary degree from American Christian College in Tulsa, Okla.” He neglects to add that Krebs studied medicine and anatomy for three full years at the respected Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and later biochemistry, bacteriology and graduate pharmacology at the University of Illinois, University of California and elsewhere. He also neglects to add that Krebs has been noted for a number of discoveries besides laetrile. One of these, pangamic acid, has been recognized as one of the B vitamins throughout much of the world; the Soviets have devoted much research to it and conducted a sizeable symposium on the subject of pangamic acid. The Soviets obviously believe that pangamic acid may be effective in a wide range of diseases.
And once again, in the Levine piece, we see trotted out all those tired, unsubstantiated accusations against Andrew McNaughton. As usual, there is no mention of the fact that despite all of the charges levelled against him over the years, NcNaughton has suffered only one conviction — and the sentence on that has never been imposed because McNaughton has documentary proof of prosecution perjury in his case, and the government would now like to forget the whole affair — if McNaughton will let them. Levine talks of McNaughton’s storied wealth, adding that “now he claimed to be flat broke, so broke that he had petitioned the San Diego Superior Court to appoint an attorney to defend him in the upcoming trial.” What he neglects to add here (though he knew it long before he sat down to write his article) is that the court looked into McNaughton’s finances and agreed — he isbroke.
Levine continues. McNaughton, he writes, “drove a battered Toyota and dressed modestly, but I had heard talk of other, more expensive cars and a Mexican villa overlooking the ocean. If they existed, he clearly had no intention of showing them to me. ‘How would you like to continue this discussion over drinks at your place?’ I asked innocently as I could. ‘I’d hate it,’ McNaughton said.”
It is to giggle, dear friends. In the first place, McNaughton himself told Levine and all the rest of us about his beach house (the modest value of which I’ve already discussed in a previous newsletter). McNaughton has nevertried to conceal the existence of that damned house. And Levine, in this passage, is simply being dishonest. In the second place, McNaughton, whom I have known and observed closely for some months now, does not drink, save for a little wine on rare occasions and so would, of course, hate to discuss anything over drinks. Third, McNaughton may have been telling Levine that he was not finding this conversation very stimulating.
Levine hits bottom, however, when he describes a patient at one of the Mexican clinics, a young man with advanced cancer who leaves the clinic feeling much better than when he arrived. Levine goes to talk to the boy’s doctors and says, “I…quickly felt less sanguine about his prospects. One [doctor] spoke no English at all and the other spoke it haltingly. They put Brent’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ X-rays on the spectroscope and it was obvious even to the untrained eye that the white fibrous mass in the middle of his thigh had not changed throughout the treatment, a fact that the English-speaking doctor did not seem reluctant to admit. ‘Is important you understand the result is only in symptoma,’ he told me. ‘In this estudy the swolling has gone down, in the mooskles, in the fat. But tumora is same.”
What is the point of this? In the context of the piece it seems that Levine is extrapolating from this one isolated case the notion that patients are not being helped by laetrile — except, perhaps, to the extent that they are made to feel better, something Levine makes light of, ignoring the formidable pain that so often characterizes advanced cancers. Incredibly, he also seems to be making fun of these doctors and their imprecise English — as if their competence as medical practitioners is thus compromised. (If Levine’s confidence in these doctors is shaken by their broken English I suggest that he interview them in Spanish.) It apparently never occurs to Levine to say to himself: “My God, these doctors, who Herb Hoffman and the ACS tell me are quacks, aren’t at all afraid to bring up their failures; in fact, it seems they are going out of their way to point out to ignorant chaps like myself, whom they might easily have deceived, just exactly where they sometimes fail.” But, no. Instead, this highly instructive honesty is given only passing reference and then it is characterized as an “admission.”
Sometimes I wonder what it will take for the truth to penetrate the mooskles in some reporters’ skulls.
Meanwhile, back at Sloan-Kettering, where laetrile testing has been proceeding for years (as researchers there try desperately to produce as many negative results as positive ones), an “alternative” newspaper called Second Opinion has surfaced, and it’s a dandy. It advertises itself thus:
Second Opinion wants to be the voice of the rank-and-file employees of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It presents news and opinions of the Center and the cancer field from the employees’ point of view. The paper is put out by the rank-and-file employees of the Center, the Hospital and the Institute, and is distributed free to employees by the paper’s supporters.
We believe that very basic changes must be made at MSKCC and in the “war on cancer” in general. Our basic aim is to help MSKCC employees get organized.…In cancer, we favor putting prevention first; making research relevant to human disease; [fostering] an open-minded policy towards new and unorthodox methods; making the best treatment available to all people; taking the profits out of cancer.
Hear! Hear! My faith in mankind is almost restored. Anyway, one fervently hopes Second Opinion survives, flourishes and, indeed, metastasizes itself throughout the Sloan-Kettering body politic. One lengthy story in the first issue of the publication is: “Laetrile Cover-Up Continues at SKI.” This article relates the many positive laetrile tests of longtime cancer researcher Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura of SK. SK administrators, Second Opinionobserves, have “refused to release any of the [laetrile] data, favorable or unfavorable. Instead, it has conducted a four-year public-relations campaign, especially designed to cover-up and discredit Sugiura’s results.” The article continues with news that should be of considerable interest to those who read DMR-2, which related my own investigation of SK’s handling of the laetrile issue:
This summer a “definitive” study was conducted by SKI and the Catholic Medical Center to settle the question of whether or not Laetrile stopped metastases [as Dr. Sugiura has steadfastly maintained]. It has ended in a fiasco.
The new study was “blind,” that is, Dr. Sugiura was not told which animals were receiving the Laetrile, and which were receiving only a saline solution. The only persons who knew which mice received Laetrile were Dr. Daniel Martin, a CMC surgeon, and his assistants. Dr. Martin is a well-known opponent of Laetrile, who even told reporters before the current experiment began that he knew in advance that the results would be negative!
Nevertheless, Sloan-Kettering decided to collaborate with Dr. Martin on this crucial experiment.…The results were quite predictable to anyone who has followed the Laetrile controversy. First, Dr. Martin’s group at Catholic Medical Center completely botched the experiment, whether by accident or design, killing about one-quarter of the mice prematurely. As Dr. C. Chester Stock, vice president of SKI, told Sciencemagazine, the experiments “went badly because of clumsy injection procedures.” (Science, 10 Sept. 1976) These injections were given by the “honest and skillful” Dr. Martin and his staff. [Dr. Martin had been thus described by the president of SKI, Dr. Robert A. Good, whose star has been in decline ever since his principal protégé was caught faking lab results at SK.]
Second, although the test was “blind” Dr. Sugiura surmised which mice were being treated with Laetrile and which were receiving the inert saline solution. [Dr. Sugiura, over the years, had seen so many cancerous mice improve on laetrile therapy that it would have been difficult for him not to correctly guess which mice were getting the laetrile.]
Dr. Sugiura evaluated the mice in each group and said that he found far fewer metastases in the laetrile-treated mice. This observation was subsequently confirmed by microscopic studies carried out by the MSKCC Pathology Department. But Dr. Martin, using his own bioassay techniques, declared there was no difference between the two groups. Neither Dr. Sugiura nor anyone from SK participated in the bioassay tests. And, in any event, Dr. Stock decided to declare the entire experiment invalid because, he claimed, of Dr. Sugiura’s correct surmise, which rendered the test “non-blind.” Now another “blind” and “definitive” test is in the works, Second Opinion reported.
The newspaper castigated SK administrators for repeatedly failing to make good on its promises to publish all of its laetrile data. “The record shows that the top leaders of SKI are terrified of reporting any positive results with Laetrile, even if these are modified by more negative findings. The issue is no longer whether Laetrile works, but the political and economic embarrassment these men and their colleagues will feel if Laetrile turns out to have even a shred of value…. SKI has grown and thrives on its many connections with big business. The fact that Lewis Thomas, Robert Good, James Fisk and other MSKCC Trustees are themselves directors or top consultants to cancer-drug companies proves the close connection.”
Later in the story:
Does Laetrile work? We do not know. It may turn out to be a hoax or an illusion. We are not advocating its use. But, on the other hand, we strongly urge SKI to release all of its data on Laetrile.…This will allow outside scientists to make their own judgments…and possibly attempt to reproduce the experiments themselves. Not to release the data, or to release it selectively, or to lump positive and negative results together [see DMR-2 for examples of this at SK], constitutes the suppression or misrepresentation of scientific work, which is intolerable.
Dr. Good has said, “I have never exerted pressure as a scientist to publish or not publish any information obtained from scientific inquiry.” Fine words. Why then has not Dr. Sugiura’s scientific paper, submitted to Dr. Stock over six months ago, been released by the SKI Administration for publication?
Could it be that the SKI Administration, like the FDA official quoted recently in Science, believes that legalized Laetrile would cause “total chaos in the medical marketplace?”
In the second edition of Second Opinion (published in February, 1977) there is more news on the laetrile controversy at SK. The news is that in December of 1976 SK finally published its 1974 “Sloan-Kettering Institute Annual Report,” containing some data that tends to confirm at least part of the hypothesized mechanism by which laetrile is said to selectively attack cancer cells. According to Dr. Krebs and others cancer cells are supposed to contain an enzyme that “unlocks” deadly cyanide from amygdalin. Normal cells, so the theory goes, have a protective enzyme which renders cyanide harmless. SK has long denied the validity of this theory. One official there, for example, told a science writer from The New York Times (7/21/75) that the Institute “found no special ability of can cells to release cyanide.”
Yet, in the 1974 annual report, the experiments of Drs. Morton Schwartz, Jerome Nisselbaum and Lloyd J. Old, Jr. are related and appear to contradict that 1975 statement. The summary of those experiments (the results of which have never been published in any scientific journal) clearly states that the liberating or unlocking enzyme was observed and that levels of same “in many cases” were “higher in cancerous than in…normal tissues.” Cyanide was released from prunasin, a form of laetrile, by “the following mouse tumors,” according to the SK summary, “129, meth A, spontaneous mammary tumor, C1498 myeloid leukemia and 591 melanoma.” Cyanide was similarly released from prunasin and amygdalin in the presence of other cancerous tissues, both animal and human.
Second Opinion comments: “We believe that these experiments tend to confirm and support the Laetrile theory, but it is admittedly hard to know from such a brief summary. This work should be fully published without delay, to enable other scientists to share this information and try to duplicate the results.”
Second Opinion was even more startled, however, by information that the 1974 report omitted:
During 1974, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura carried out some of his most important work on the effects of Laetrile in mice with spontaneous mammary tumors. In general, he found that Laetrile inhibits the spread of cancer, stops the growth of small tumors and leads to a general increase in health and well-being. Yet, all of this work, still unpublished, is mysteriously missing from the 1974 SKI report, which is supposedly a complete record of the hundreds of projects performed that year. This raises some serious questions about the honesty and intentions of the SKI Administration.
We must repeat what we said in the last issue of Second Opinion: we believe there is a cover-up of Laetrile experiments at SKI. The reason for this cover-up is the long-standing hostility of the drug companies towards this and other substances which are cheap and plentiful, non-toxic, easy to manufacture and non-patentable. The SKI Administration, intertwined with the corporations for whom cancer is big business, has been hamstrung by Sugiura’s surprisingly good results in Laetrile tests.
A ranking researcher at Sloan-Kettering told me not long ago: “The Trustees are the real power, and that’s where the difficulty arises when it comes to laetrile or anything else innovative and threatening. They’ve got their vested interests, both in ego and in money, and they simply won’t hear of laetrile or anything like it.” Insiders at SK tell me that the Trustees are “comfortable” with the fact that one-time boy-wonder Bob Good had been so badly “compromised” by the “Patchwork Mouse” affair. It made him one of the boys, so to speak — instead of the independent reformer. That sad tale reminds me of a situation that existed and may still exist at Columbia-Presbyterian. Some years ago, as an eager young science reporter, I was carted about by a young doctor intent upon introducing me to all of the people who were behind a “marvelous” and “revolutionary” new cigarette filter, one that would take all the risk out of smoking and none of the pleasure. I was nearly sold on it, but not quite. Others, including some very prominent names in medicine, weren’t so lucky. They gave their names and their prestige to this product which ultimately turned out to be useless and, it appeared, possibly fraudulent. What happened to the earnest young doctor? He got kicked upstairs to become acting dean of Columbia’s medical school. And there he languished, according to a department head, who told me that everybody was quite delighted to have so compromised and tractable a fellow in that key slot.
Second Opinion deserves the support of all those who would see science well served at Sloan-Kettering, an institute, alas, increasingly undeserving of the honors that have been bestowed upon it over the years. Subscribe or make contributions to:
C/0 Alec Pruchnicki
2800 University Ave.
Bronx, New York 10468
Make checks payable to Alec Pruchnicki.
And, by the way, since the critics of laetrile are always seeing fit to paint Ernst Krebs Jr. as the consummate racist (which he is not, please note that in its first two editions Second Opinion has carried some fascinating stories indicating that Sloan-Kettering Institute is guilty of racial bias in its graduate admissions policy. The case in point involves a foreign student who was the subject of a racial slur and seemingly discriminatory actions, a whole series of them, ending in his expulsion from the graduate program under extremely odd circumstances. This action came after three years of good work at SKI. The case has now been taken up by the Sloan-Kettering-Cornell Student Council which is demanding some explanations for the whole, apparently quite disgraceful matter.
- Indiana is promising to follow Alaska in legalizing laetrile for specific use against cancer. Legislation to do just that passed the Indiana House by a vote of 85-10, despite strong opposition from AMA, ACS, etc. More opposition is building now, to head things off in the state Senate, but it is clear, by that House vote, that the times are changing quickly. Meanwhile, prospects for Alaska-type legislation are even better in Nevada, and similar bills are coming up with some strength in five other states. If Nevada legalizes laetrile, as now seems likely, the backing has already been found for a large laetrile clinic there.
- And in the wake of that appeals court decision in Denver, which said that the FDA could not prohibit judges from authorizing cancer patients to import laetrile into this country until and unless it proves that laetrile is a “new drug” or a “dangerous substance,” which things, the court ruled, FDA has never done, several more judges have begun issuing orders enabling patients to import laetrile into this country for their own use. Also in the wake of that appeal decision, the FDA has been obliged by court order to begin listening to public testimony on laetrile and its alleged efficacy.
- Many of the opponents of laetrile claim that the substance is not only worthless but fraudulent, as well. It would be consistent with this line of thinking to believe that the makers of laetrile are, in fact, dispensing sugar tablets or, at least, a cheaply produced, impure or otherwise adulterated product. If the substance is purely fraudulent, why would the makers of it bother to put out a pure-amygdalin product? Quacks and frauds are not noted for observing such niceties as quality control. Recently the Free Press in Detroit took it upon its enterprising self to obtain some laetrile from the black market. It then had the tablets, which had been manufactured in Mexico, analyzed at a major Detroit laboratory via spectrographic examination. These tests showed that the tablets were “100 percent amygdalin, which is the chemical name for laetrile. The pills were actually 50 mg. heavier than advertised.” In other words, the quacks are not only producing an absolutely pure product, they are also giving their buyers more for their money than they have to.
- One of the fundamental problems of getting a substance like laetrile approved in this country has to do with the fact that “mainstream” researchers are still not attuned to drugs that make patients feel better, that ease their pains — even if they don’t dramatically or immediately shrink their tumors. But that may be changing, if only ever so slightly. A recent issue of The Cancer Letter reports on an interesting exchange that cropped up while an FDA advisory committee, chaired by oncologist Dr. Michael Shimkin, was considering the merits of a new drug for which Bristol Laboratories was seeking approval. The drug, Methyl-CCNU, had shown some anti-tumor activity, but one of the doctors who had tested it said that it had failed in another respect: it did not extend the survival rates of animals on which it had been tested.
Shimkin called the survival element’s introduction into the deliberations “a breath of fresh air” and asked the doctor from Mayo Clinic who had done much of the testing, “Okay, is there enough evidence presented to recommend its use as requested?”
“None whatsoever,” the doctor replied. “The prime interest of the American public in supporting cancer research is the lengthening of survival. The evidence is crystal clear; there is no increase in longevity with MeCCNU. There is toxicity, with carcinogenesis as a possibility. The fact that you may get 40 percent vs. 20 percent tumor shrinkage is not important.” Later he added: “Are we looking for something tangible? Are we meeting the expectation of the patient when he pays for a drug? His expectation is that he will live longer.”
“I can’t argue with you,” Shimkin replied. “You did the biggest study. But this does represent a change in our thinking.”
When the committee voted not to approve the drug for further testing, Shimkin commented: “This is music to my ears. I never thought that 21 percent vs. 17 percent tumor shrinkage was enough evidence to justify putting out another poison.”
NCI, however, which has been shepherding this new substance and others very similar to it, said it was not discouraged and would go on with its own studies of the drug, whether FDA approved it or not. An NCI spokesman, moreover, said he did not think “that the survival rate would become the dominant factor over tumor response in the development and approval of a new [cancer] drug,” Cancer Letter reported, adding: “The committee’s vote is an advisory one, and FDA is not required to follow the recommendation in deciding whether or not to approve” the drug for further testing.
There’s a lot to ponder in all this. Imagine: NCI is so locked into its present protocols, which demand tumor shrinkage and ignore the health and longevity of the patient, that they go blindly on insisting on the old way — and the patient be damned. Naturally, they hope and trust that life-extension will not become the prime requisite of new anti-cancer drugs. If it does, they are in big trouble, given the fact that almost all of the drugs they’ve pumped millions of our dollars into are the sort that shrink tumors. That’s all they’re designed for. They usually don’t make the patient live any longer; in fact they often make him/her sicker than he/she was before. And they may very well shorten life spans. Substances that make people with cancer live longer are hard to come by; substances that shrink tumors are relatively easy to find. It’s easy to understand why millions have been vested in the tumor-shrinking category. Not so easy to understand why, in the face of ever mounting evidence that these drugs do little if any good, NCI persists in putting all of their (actually our) eggs in this awful basket. These are vested interests with a vengeance and a killing interest-rate .
When Frank Rauscher left his job as head of NCI he had little to say about his pet viral theory of cancer — the one on which he has been lavishing so many of our tax dollars, despite the overwhelming evidence that cancer has no viral origin. Under Rauscher, environmental factors, noxious gases and other pollutants that scientists say contribute to the majority of cancers were largely ignored at NCI. Nutritional factors got a few monetary scraps, barely visible under a budgetary microscope. Like so many administrators who suddenly get honest in their final days in office (like sinners who declare their love for the Lord with their final breath), Rauscher’s final report at NCI contains this passage:
A strong case is being made at the present time to assign highest priority to research aimed at minimizing human exposure to environmental chemical carcinogens and to determine their relevance to human cancers. Clinical research to evaluate new therapeutic techniques is a continuing high-priority area. Research into the role of diet and nutrition in cancer is receiving renewed emphasis among scientists.
And not a word about those beloved old viruses. But the fact is: a strong case was made for substantially increasing NCI funding into nutritional and environmental factors contributing to cancer a long time ago — back when Frank Rauscher was saying he wasn’t going to give a penny of his virus money (which was the lion’s share of the total cancer budget) to any of those “off-the-wall” approaches to cancer control. Frank has gone on to his just desert: a job with the American Cancer Society.
Remember the swine flu fiasco. I could tell you I told you so — and I just have. There have been a lot of columns that have been awfully wise in hindsight on this issue lately. What amuses — and piques — me is that so many of these appear in the same papers and magazines that promoted the swine flu vaccine back when our health officials were telling us it was wonderful stuff, eventhough there was plenty of evidence to the contrary available, if only one dared stray a tad from government press releases to do a little honest reporting. The new head of HEW, one of Carter’s boys, has revived the junk but I doubt that there’s anybody dumb enough left to avail himself/herself of it. The swine flu vaccine is now widely regarded as a definitely undesirable substance, though those of us who called it that only a few short months ago (see DMR-3) were called “irresponsible.” We ought to learn something from all of this, though I doubt we will. One thing we might consider: our scientific “experts” often speak from arrogance rather than real knowledge. Recall, for example, the words of Dr. Jonas Salk, “father of the polio vaccine,” another substance that was never anything like it was cracked up to be:
I’m enthusiastic about the nationwide [swine-flu] vaccination program. It affords us the opportunity to close the immunity gap, which makes us vulnerable to an epidemic of flu due to a virus that has not been in circulation in the human population for about 50 years.…It is a kind of breakthrough of which advantage should be taken if ever influenza is to be brought under effective control.
The vaccine, he proclaimed, is “absolutely” safe. Now if somebody could just bring people like Salk under effective control and/or fill their various gaps we’d all be better off.
This item has nothing to do with cancer politics but it does have to do with medical and sexual politics and, anyway, I’m throwing it in for comic relief. My old granddaddy used to say that “many men of power and authority are thin as piss on a slate rock.” He was talking about real substance. And I’ve often been reminded of his comment in the course of these investigations. I was reminded of it again when I came across the following statement made by Dr. Walter Freedman, known among his admiring colleagues as “the Dean of Lobotomy”: “Women of all ages make up the great majority of cases and the successes of psychosurgery. From the available evidence, it would appear that it is difficult for a man to support a family after a lobotomy, but it is easy for a woman to do housework.” Contributions may be sent care of this station.
That’s right. And while I’m off the subject I might as well tell you about it. The AMA recently passed a resolution calling upon advertisers to stop sponsoring shows with a penchant for purveying gratuitous violence. There’s already been talk of the AMA advocating “censorship,” but that’s nonsense. What the AMA did was utterly laudable, as far as I’m concerned — and I’m delighted to finally be able to say something nice about the AMA. I’d be even happier, of course, if it would suffer a massive collective coronary, but failing that I’ll take what I can get.
Readers of DMR-1 (Losing the War on Cancer) will recall the optimistic, but unfounded, claims of progress that launched our poorly conceived National Cancer Plan a few years ago. The Congress was sucked into giving hundreds of millions of our dollars to the Plan on the basis of misrepresented past “progress” and on the basis of promised future rapid progress. Just a billion dollars a year for ten years and we’ll cure 90 percent of all cancer, raved Dr. R. Lee Clark, president of the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston, back in the late 1960s. Fellow Texan Ralph Yarborough, then a U.S. Senator, took the bait and persuaded his colleagues that a post-Apollo “spectacular” against cancer was not only possible but probable given adequate funding. The rest is history. It’s now 1977, however, and the Cancer Plan has yet to yield any palpable progress.
Still, Texans are continuing to make big promises — and so are a lot of others. Just a couple months ago Dr. Emil Freireich, director of the department of developmental therapeutics at M.D. Anderson, predicted that within ten years (always the magical number) 90 percent of those regarded as terminal will be successfully treated, i.e., cured. And over at the Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, Dr. Luther Brady, chairman of the department of radiation therapy and nuclear medicine, is allowing as how, in another ten years, natch, “cancer will be all but beaten.” Yes, folks, keep those cards and letters and greenbacks comin’. Not that I don’t think cancer couldn’t be beaten in another ten years. It’s just that I’m pretty sure it won’t be beaten in another fifty years so long as we continue to pump money into M.D. Anderson’s chemotherapeutic programs and into Dr. Brady’s antiquated radiation “therapies.”
I’ve been gathering odd clippings, reports and confessions from here and there for a year now documenting the fact that many of our “leading nutrition experts” are academic prostitutes who have sold themselves to the giant food industry. These are the men and women who tell us that we don’t have to worry much about those silly old vitamins and minerals (“for heaven’s sake, you get those in your food, dummy”), about empty calories (“American’s are the best-fed people in the world, and if you don’t believe it, why don’t you ship out, commie?”), about food-additives and adulterations (“leave the technical details to us”) and so on. It would take me months to put all my material together, and I may eventually get around to doing just that. In the meantime, the November 1976 issue of The Progressive contains one of the best summaries of this sorry situation that I’ve seen so far.
The article is called “Professors on the Take” and is written by Benjamin Rosenthal (a U.S. Representative from New York) and Michael Jacobsen and Marcy Bohm of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington D.C. If our diet is so good one wonders why all those high-powered academic types Rosenthal et al quote have to be so defensive. The answer is simple: our diet is rotten. The The Progressive authors cite evidence strongly suggesting that the high-fat, high-sugar, low-fiber content of the typical American’s food fare is directly related to a large number of diseases, including, of course, the Big C. They estimate that diet-related illness costs American consumers $30 billion annually. Not enough, alas, to outweigh the influence of the $200 billion food industry.
“At the most prominent universities, eminent nutritionists have traded their independence for the food industry’s favors.” Harvard University’s department of nutrition provides but one glaring example of this sell-out. As the authors of this article state, “one need go no further than the front door [of the Harvard nutrition department for the first indication — a wall plaque thanking General Foods for funding the research facilities” is attached thereto. A little digging beyond the front door reveals that the department is also funded by Amstar (sugar) Corporation, Beatrice Foods, Carnation Company, CocaCola, Continental Can Company, Gerber Products, International Sugar Research Foundation, Kellogg Company, Kraftco, Oscar Mayer & Co., Miles Laboratories, Monsanta, The Sugar Association and on ad nauseum. Harvard receives millions from these corporations.
And what is the effect of all of this? Well, among other things you’ve got Dr. Frederick Stare, longtime chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department, repeatedly telling us that what are widely regarded as “junk” foods are really quite wonderful. “Is there any reason for concern about food chemicals?” Fred chuckled recently, in his fatherly sort of way. “The answer is no.” On another occasion, he said, smiling sweetly: “Most people could healthily double their sugar intake daily.”
Then there’s Jean Mayer, until recently the best-known member of Harvard’s nutrition department. He also apologizes frequently for America’s lousy diet and declares various food additives, synthetics and the like completely harmless, while serving on the board of directors of Monsanto, Miles Laboratories (which make artificial food flavorings, preservatives, pesticides, synthetic “fruit bits,” artificial meats and the like) and so on. Both Mayer and Stare write nationally syndicated columns which proudly note their Harvard affiliations and scrupulously (or should I say inscrupulously) neglect to mention their corporate ties. Mayer, by the way, was recently appointed president of Tufts University, which was apparently looking to get its bread buttered, too.
Well. I wish Dante were alive today. I have a hunch he’d consign Stare, Mayer et al to the lowest level of his Inferno. As it is, I suppose the best we can hope for is that they take their own advice and eat all that garbage. The more of it they indulge in the sooner we’ll be shut of ‘em.
“MAMMOGRAPHY, MON AMOUR”
Helene Brown (who once said: “In the cancer business, if you will, there are no absolutes.”)
Mammography, X-raying of the breasts to detect cancer, continues to be a hotly debated topic. I reported earlier that some experts believe that routine mammography, along the lines being promoted by the American Cancer Society, may actually cause more cancer than it prevents. The best experts now say that only those women over 50 should have regular mammographies. Younger women should not have them unless they show symptoms. Yet the ACS goes on insisting that even these younger women should have routine breast X-rays, and all the evidence of risk be damned. Dr. Arthur Holleb, ACS spokesman, says there “is no reason for women to be frightened about having breast X-rays” and he adds that he deplores the “near-panic” caused, he claims, by the warnings of experts who are more than a little uneasy about women being exposed to all that radiation. Dr. Holleb would hate to see those very costly 27 national breast cancer “detection centers” his organization has so heavily funded go unused.
Those who have warned about the dangers of mammography in women under 50 include Dr. John Bailar III, a respected cancer epidemiologist and editor of the National Cancer Institute Journal, Dr. Lester Breslow, dean of UCLA’s school of public health and others of equal standing. The only “big gun” backing the ACS position has been Frank Rauscher, and his support of the ACS began to loom large about the time he decided to take a job with the ACS for $75,000 a year, about twice his government salary.
But then when you’ve got Helene Brown, do you really need anybody else? Ms. Brown, who has been quoted in my earlier newsletters, you will recall, has served as chairman of the ACS in California and has been a national spokesperson for the Cancer Society for many years. In the course of discussing another matter with me, Ms. Brown abruptly unleashed the following heavy artillery on the opponents of mammography. It began like this:
“In the cancer business, if you will, there are no absolutes. We have an argument ongoing relative to mammography. Nobody could present both sides of that story and go ahead and let the public take their choice because neither side is an absolute. People of very great responsibility and integrity are trying to make a decision and when you take something like that to the public and you oversimplify it and make it seem so simple that all you have to do is say here’s what this side says, here’s what that fellow said, now you make up your mind.”
Not quite sure yet what I’ve been hit with, I stammer: but, hasn’t the ACS already made up its mind? As I hear it, the ACS is telling women, even those under 50: get out there and get your breasts X-rayed at regular intervals.
“The point is,” Ms. Brown barrels on, “that there is no right and wrong. I think we have to wait two or three generations probably to find out.”
But we’re not waiting, I observe. It soon becomes clear that what Ms. Brown means is that we wait two or three generations before we stop giving routine mammographies, if it turns out that they are harmful.
I describe this reasoning as “insane.”
“Maybe it is in your view,” she responds. “In my view it doesn’t have to be that way. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have today. Right now today I am taking penicillin. It may prove to be — and this, you know, is just an oddball kind of circumstance — but it may prove to be in thirty years that a whole generation of penicillin takers or whatever drug you might want to say comes up with some odd and unknown disease that’s related to penicillin. Today, though, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities of what we can see now.”
I try to point out that the analogy, if you can call it that, is indeed an “oddball” one and certainly doesn’t hold water. Very detailed testing is required before drugs are approved for clinical use.
Ms. Brown ignores the comment and says: “What they’re saying is in one group that radiation causes cancer. Now we know that this is a fact. We know this from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were radiation doses that were simply immense. At the same time what one party is saying is that the risks we are giving to women by exposing them to radiation, taking mammograms in a linear development of the fact that radiation causes cancer like at Hiroshima, that therefore over the next 20 years we will be, it is possible that we will be causing a number of cancers. That’s all theory worked out on this linear route from the fact that massive radiation causes cancer. You can give an analogy by saying that if you or I were to take a hundred aspirin it would probably cause bleeding in our stomach. But if we take ten aspirin we probably wouldn’t bleed at all. You probably wouldn’t bleed one-tenth as much, probably wouldn’t bleed at all. That’s what the argument boils down to relative to mammography.”
Oh. Well, why didn’t somebody say so before? I see it all clearly now. All right, you women, get out there and get your X-rays.
In my next, and final, newsletter I will address myself to the neglected genius of Manfred von Ardenne, relate some of the innovative and very promising work of Virginia Livingstone and take one last, still-doleful look at the cancer statistics, those “awful numbers” that persist in saying that we are losing our War on Cancer.
Received in New York on February 25, 1977
David M. Rorvik, a freelance writer, is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner. He is studying the politics of cancer research in the United States and elsewhere. This article may be published with credit to Mr. Rorvik as a Fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. The views expressed by the author in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Foundation.