According to one survey, more than 8 out of 10 mainstream cancer doctors prescribe experimental drugs – most likely due to the low success rate of conventional cancer treatments for most cancers. Now, a new study has found that far more patients are harmed than are helped by such experimental drugs: two-thirds of the patients have severe or life threatening side effects while only 27% have any improvement in survival and less than half having any clinical benefits whatsoever.The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at 172 recent clinical trials published on drugs that were being prescribed while they were still under scrutiny. While some of the drugs were new ones, many were already available on the US market. However, those drugs had been approved in different doses or different combinations and in many instances may have been approved for different conditions than those the cancer doctors were prescribing for. It was unclear how many doctors prescribed drugs for unapproved conditions; however, it is a common practice, with one fifth of all US drugs prescribed as off-label prescriptions.
Dr. Jeffrey Peppercorn, a cancer doctor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, who led the new research, noted that patients and doctors were frequently searching for new drugs and therapies that offered better hope than present conventional treatments.
“We know there is a high demand for new treatments in oncology,” said Peppercorn, who noted that he had found in an earlier survey that more than eight in 10 cancer doctors prescribe medications that are still being tested. While Peppercorn did not advocate an end to prescribing experimental drugs, he nevertheless stated that “it is done far more often than it should be.”
Dr. Steven Joffe, an ethicist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston who has worked with Peppercorn on earlier studies, agreed with the need for caution in prescribing experimental drugs and noted that doctors “may think they know that it works. But the fact is, somebody is running a study to find out if it does. Almost by definition it hasn’t been proved safe and effective.”
Peppercorn said that doctors should be very clear about the high risks involved. One way to do that, said Peppercorn, would be to require that cancer doctors get informed consent from patients before starting them on any experimental drugs.
The actual figures for harm and benefits of using experimental drugs may be even more disturbing than those revealed in the new study. Negative effects are under-reported and survival improvements are often measured in mere months or even weeks. In addition, industry-funded studies often have data manipulated to provide positive results – thus it is likely that some of the trials which did return positive results over-stated those results.
The problem with conventional cancer therapies is that they attempt to eliminate the symptoms of cancer (tumors) without addressing the root causes or helping the patient avoid the return of cancer even in the instances where it appears to be eliminated. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have been the mainstays of conventional medicine in the largely failed war on cancer for forty years now. All three weaken the body and immune system and often lead to the spread of cancer or else pave the way for future cancers. Chemo drugs and radiation actually cause cancer.
Meanwhile, ample natural therapies abound which can eliminate the tumors, correct the root causes and prevent cancer from returning. However, such therapies are not patentable, controllable or very profitable. Thus few doctors know about them and fewer still are brave enough to use them.