Posts Tagged ‘cancer vaccine’

Blog explores alternative cancer treatments

10 Jul 2008 by under People, Research/Treatment

Today I came across a blog that explores alternative treatments for cancer, of all types. Our friend Charlene Kaforey, who recently experienced good results for her mesothelioma with an alternative program at the ITL Alternative Cancer Treatment Clinic in the Bahamas, posted her story to the site. The blog is a project of Jonathan Chamberlain, who authored two books about alternative therapies after losing his wife, Bernadette, to cervical cancer in 1994.

The blog, called the Cancerfighter’s Weblog, explores “alternative cancer therapies and ideas,” touching on a wide range of topics that also includes general health and wellness through alternative, holistic or natural medicines and practices. He encourages people like Charlene, who are trying non-traditional therapies, to share their stories and experiences with others, and provides a forum for people to ask questions.

John has another web site, Fighting Cancer: A Survival Guide, where he shares some personal stories of his and Bernadette’s life, and addresses topics including how to deal with a diagnosis of cancer, advice for caregivers, stories of good and bad experiences with alternative treatments, and good and bad stories about orthodox treatments.

An English teacher living in Hong Kong, John has authored textbooks for secondary school students, and also has written a number of other books on topics including Chinese folk religion, a profile of a famous Chinese gambler, and a touching biography about the life of his daughter, Stevie, who had Down Syndrome.

Complementary, alternative medicine debate

28 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

In the ongoing quest for a cure for mesothelioma and other life-threatening illnesses, the debate over the validity and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) continues to stir up strong emotions.

Complementary medicine is used along with standard medicine, while alternative medicine is used in place of standard treatments.

Complementary and alternative medicine may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

Not long ago, I shared Charlene Kaforey’s good news, when she discovered her mesothelioma mass had diminished by half after completing a first round of cancer vaccines, considered an alternative treatment.

Recent news has included reports of research ranging from the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines in combination with , to the use of Chinese mushrooms in homeopathic treatment, to a study indicating traditional might enhance the effectiveness of cancer vaccines, which are currently in clinical trials.

The problem, according to complementary medicine (CM) professor Edzard Ernst, in an editorial published recently in BMJ Clinical Evidence, is that “one side of the debate argues that there is no scientific evidence that can support CM, while the other side believes scientific evidence cannot be applied to CM.”

The danger, he says, is that waiting for absolute evidence might prevent someone from trying a therapy that could be beneficial, but siding with the idea that CAM simply cannot be proven may lead a patient into treatment that could cause more harm than good.

The National Cancer Institute’s Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), which coordinates the Institute’s research program in CAM, has established a goal of evaluating data from CAM practitioners with the same rigorous scientific methods employed in evaluating treatment responses with conventional medicine.

Major categories of CAM therapies, as determined by OCCAM, include alternative medical systems (built upon complete systems of theory and practice, like traditional Chinese medicine or homeopathy), energy and electromagnetic based therapies, exercise therapies (like yoga), manipulative and body-based methods, mind-body interventions (like hypnotherapy), nutritional therapeutics, pharmacological and biologic treatments (like vaccines), and spiritual therapies (healing, prayer).

OCCAM is developing the NCI Best Case Series (BCS) program based on its evaluations of CAM therapies, in which it provides an independent review of medical records and medical imaging from patients treated with unconventional cancer therapies.

But whether or not alternative and complementary medicine can be proven effective, people will still seek it out, says Professor Ernst. The “almost insatiable hunger of patients” for CM has driven its importance, he says, despite criticisms, praise or skepticism from the medical community, scientists or politicians, and in spite of the fact that more often than not health insurance does not cover the treatments.

Obviously, this topic – and its accompanying debate – needs much more examination. I will be exploring it more in the future. Do you have an experience with complementary or alternative medicine? Share it with us!

Mesothelioma and chemotherapy research

19 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

This week BBC News / Health reported on a recent study published by The Lancet, which features independent and authoritative commentary on global medicine, including research and analysis from all regions of the world. The study suggests that chemotherapy is not effective in dealing with mesothelioma, which is an asbestos-induced cancer that effects the lungs and, more rarely, the abdomen.

The results are based on a study of 409 patients, mostly from the , which set out to assess the potential benefits of combining active symptom control, which usually involves steroid drugs and radiotherapy, with chemotherapy. Results showed no real benefit from adding the chemotherapy drugs compared with just treating the symptoms of the disease.

The BBC quotes one of the authors of the study, Dr Richard Stephens from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, as saying, “While thousands are and will be affected by this deadly disease, our trial, which is one of the few large trials ever conducted in this disease, emphasizes how difficult mesothelioma is to treat. This is mainly because mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung. This makes it hard to target.”

One chemotherapy drug, vinorelbine, was shown by the study to have some promise, but researchers do not think blanket chemotherapy treatment is a promising direction for treatment of mesothelioma, according to the Lancet report.

Researchers do not necessarily consider these findings to be bad news, as a study that defines what does not help can be beneficial to patient health because it helps reduce the chance that patients will undergo stressful treatments that are ineffective.

Results of a completely different chemotherapy study conducted by researchers at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center were released May 18, revealing that chemotherapy given in conjunction with cancer vaccines may actually boost the immune system’s response to the vaccines, according to a report by ScienceDaily.

The Duke study focused on a drug used to treat lymphoma, but could have implications for clinical trials with vaccines being used to treat many cancers including lung cancer, brain tumors and colorectal cancer.

According to the FDA, it is the goal of cancer vaccine clinical trials not to prevent cancer, but to treat existing tumors. The idea is to train the person’s immune system to recognize the living cancer cells and attack them.

In July 2007, the American Association for Cancer Research examined the issue of cancer vaccines and, according to a report by Medical News Today, they found that “ongoing therapeutic have yet to show evidence of vaccines spurring a patient’s immune system to shrink tumors – yet patients who receive these vaccines in trials tend to live longer and respond better to subsequent treatment.”

The full study, titled Cancer Vaccines: Moving Beyond Current Paradigms is available to read online at Clinical Cancer Research.

Full results of the Duke study will be presented May 31 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, Ill.

Living with Meso – Charlene’s story, Part 4

15 Apr 2008 by under People, Research/Treatment

The ITL Experience

While undergoing chemotherapy to treat her mesothelioma, Charlene Kaforey had time to explore her options. As a Stage III patient, she was worried about her chances for quality of life or even long-term survival if she underwent surgery.

During this time, she found information about the ITL Alternative Cancer Treatment Clinic, located in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. After talking to patients who reported success, she decided to try this unusual route for her own treatment.

She made her first visit to the clinic January 7, 2008. Mesothelioma patients like Charlene initially complete an 8-week course of treatment, which includes daily blood tests, several injections daily of a serum designed to boost the body’s immune system so that it can fight the cancer, and intravenous vitamin C plus two shots of cancer vaccines, twice per week, she says.

The blood work is to monitor the body for responsiveness to the treatment in order to fine tune it to the patient and set up an ongoing course that is administered by the patients themselves after leaving the clinic, Charlene says. Treatment at ITL is a process that lasts for the rest of your life, she explains.

Now back home in New York, she administers her own shots eight to 12 times per day. She also is continuing the intravenous vitamin C at home, although she says that is optional. She also needed to complete 5 of the 12 weeks of the cancer vaccines at home. Patients return to the clinic every four months for two weeks at a time for re-evaluation and adjustments to their serum regimen. Charlene is scheduled to return in June.

“What they tell you at ITL is that it will not necessarily make the cancer you have go away, but will hopefully prevent it from spreading any further,” Charlene said. “So if they can do that, and give me six years, that would be wonderful. That would be six quality years instead of two miserable years.”

Patients considering ITL need to know that because the facility is considered alternative medicine, it is not accredited by the American Medical Association or other governing boards of that type, and some insurance companies will not cover the cost of treatments.

ITL requires payment at time of services, which, according to the clinic’s web site, for Immuno Augmentive Therapy (IAT) of the kind Charlene receives, run around $7,500 for the first four weeks and about $700 per week thereafter. That cost does not include the vitamin C IV’s or the vaccines. Patients also must cover the costs to travel to the facility, and for accommodations during their eight weeks of treatment.

“Everyone has had different experiences [with insurance],” Charlene said. “I submitted my bills to my insurance company and I’ll just see what they do. Some people get partial payment, some insurance pays nothing,” she says. “But what’s your life worth to you?”

In addition to the financial challenge, there also is the issue of travel and time away from family. Charlene was lucky; she had different family members with her throughout her 8-week stay. They became as much a part of daily clinic life as she did.

“Seeking treatment at the clinic definitely involves family decisions. The cost is a major consideration and so is the time away from home. While the cost is much less than the approximately $200,000 price tag involved with the surgery/chemo/radiation regime, insurance will pay for those debilitating treatments. Plus, knowing you may have limited time remaining, do you want to leave family and friends for 2 months,” Charlene said. “It is a really individual decision. You have to look realistically at what your own choices are and what you need to do for yourself and your family. We viewed this as an investment of time and financial resources for the long term. Two months away is worth it if I get 4-6 more years with my family.”

A big part of Charlene’s experience at ITL was meeting other mesothelioma patients, as well as people with other types of cancer, and sharing stories. Her last week at the clinic, she said there were seven mesothelioma patients there, all around the same age – mostly women in their 40s and 50s, with whom she felt a real connection.

“You talk to real-life people who are there, who are surviving and living quality lives after their doctors had told them there was no hope. The stories are so different and so amazing, and yet you share so much because you’re all going through this. It gives you hope to meet patients who have survived 28, 20 ,12 or even 4 years after being given a death sentence,” Charlene said.

That connection with other patients has led Charlene to explore forming an outreach and support group where she lives, in Rochester, New York, where she plans to work for fund raising for a cure and to raise of mesothelioma.

Alternative medicine is controversial. Its results often do not have a long history of documentation. People who choose this route understand that they are stepping out into largely uncharted waters.

Charlene is happy to share her story with others who are facing mesothelioma in their own lives, either as a patient or as a family member of someone with .

If you would like to talk with Charlene, please email and I will be happy to forward your information to her.