How dare I question the experts?

Michael Gearin-Tosh is living proof that non-orthodox treatments for cancer can be successful. But, he says, themedical thought police are out to prove him wrong

Daily telegraph March 14 2002

Cancer is a tragic problem. $13.5 billion is now spent on research each year, and this is on top of vast investment over the past 30 years. But cancer being cured? No. Mortality "has barely changed since 1971", wrote Professor Michael Baum in last month’s issue of Prospect "About one in four people in Britain now die of cancer. The incidence of most cancers is increasing."

Why is these such little success? What is wrong? If only there were easy answers. There are signs of hope in research, but there are also villains at work. The villains are "thought police" inside the medical profession, according to Prof Baum. He is in a position to know: Baum is an emeritus professor of surgery at UCL. These thought police, Baum says, can hinder and seriously mislead cancer research. The reaction to my book, Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny, leads me to ask if thought police are at work in other ways.

I was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow, which is "Incurable". According to a current textbook: "The median survival time is under a year in untreated patients, and two to three years with treatment" I opted against conventional treatment But I am well and still doing my job, eight years later. I followed a therapy of diet, breathing exercises, vegetable juices, acupuncture, vitamins and coffee enemas. Living Proof tells my story and suggests that these therapies may, possibly, help orthodox and unorthodox patients; they may help to prevent cancer returning to those who have had orthodox treatments-and, of course, breathing exercises and diet can be combined with chemotherapy.

This is a quiet argument, you might think, and my manuscript was read by four eminent professors before it was published. Even so, I am in trouble.

Medical thought police are not new.

Chekhov, doctor as well as dramatist, saw a "duliwittedness and tyranny" in medicine which he compared to tsarist police.

The first move against me by the thought police was to argue that I am no more than an exception. "Nearly every week, someone wins the lottery jackpot, but many millions do not," wrote a consultant haematologist (Dr Andrew Will) in the Sunday Times. "Gearin-Tosh is not just lucky. He is very lucky indeed." Classify someone as lucky or an exception to the rules, and you do not have to worry if the rules are wrong.

I wrote Living Proof at the suggestion of Sir James Gowans FRS. A research professor of the Royal Society, Sir James was also secretary of the Medical Research Council in Britain for 10 years. He is a pioneer of immunology, and my cancer is a disease of the immune system. Sir James believes that exceptions should be studied, not dismissed.

"Strange things continue to happen and confound medical science —thank God," writes a distinguished professor about my case. "As a young surgeon, I was interested in spontaneous resolution of cancer and have had truly exceptional survival in two patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer, one of whom survives to this day n excellent health."

The professor is adorable, but his words are lethal. "Spontaneous" is medical jargon for a disease that is cured without treatment. But look carefully. What "spontaneous" actually means is "cured without conventional treatment".

Only conventional treatment is treatment. The fact that, day by day, month by month, I used a therapy vitamins, diet, acupuncture... all of that is spontaneous. In other words, irrelevant.

But the basis of my therapy, I protest, comes from a qualified doctor,.

Max Gerson. I also used the work of a double Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling. Professor Kyle of the great Mayo clinic writes that what I did deserves study.

There is new biochemical research...

"Silence in the court," says Mr Justice Thought Police. "Your cure is spontaneous, Mr Gearin-Tosh. You are an exception and spontaneous. Take him down. Case dismissed."

I exaggerate? No.

"If there were anything in this stuff," wrote a consultant physician from Yorkshire (Roger Fisken) to the Sunday Times, "don’t you think that the medical profession would have grasped these ‘cures’ with both hands years ago?" There is a veneer of common sense to these remarks. Underneath, however, there is a blissfully circular argument.  If there were anything in this stuff, we would do it. But we do not do it.  Therefore there is nothing in it.

Yet, there are now thousands of articles, peer reviewed, from great North American universities such as Harvard Medical School, which indicate biochemical evidence in support, of nutritional therapies.’

Here is an example. Interleukin 6 is a hormone of the immune system which is over expressed in my cancer.

Flax oil, which Dr Gerson made part of his therapy in the Forties, has recently been shown to inhibit the growth of interleukin 6. Or consider garlic, ‘another element of the Gerson therapy. It is now known to have significant therapeutic activities. This is not according to some organic gardener, but to the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit of Memorial Sloan Kettering, arguably the greatest cancer research centre in the world.

"But does this amount to proof?" asks Mr Justice Thought Police.

Do you have proof for orthodox cancer treatments? I reply.

"That was not my question, Mr Gearin-Tosh."

But you have $13.5 billion a year and you are not curing cancer, I protest. "I ask the questions. Take him down."

Do the thought police have an office in the Times? I was mentioned in an editorial in that newspaper on February 6, which stated that "knowledge of the causes and treatment of cancer is advanced enough to reject" some of what I did. Newspapers cover so many fields that they cannot be impeccable in everything. But this comment by the, Times was ill-informed. If anything, recent research confirms some of what I did.

What are the real dangers of policed thinking in cancer? According to Professor Baum, "the war against cancer is bogged down by undeclared special interest, petty mindedness, political quick fixes and slavish adherence to outdated paradigms". Another way of putting this is that habitual biases, perhaps only half conscious, lead people of integrity to positions where the problems of cancer are not well served — and the ghastly suffering of patients and their families continues.

In discussing Living Proof the medical correspondent of the Times writes that testicular cancer "is entirely curable by chemotherapy in 80 to 90 per cent of cases". Pause over "entirely". It is true that the cancer is cured, but there can be serious long-term heart and kidney problems, from the chemotherapy — not good news.

Many GPs have written to me, and I shall discuss them and the response of journalists at more length in Volume 2 of Living Proof.  But Dr Moffie Hunton has given me permission to quote her.

"I have recently retired from the NHS and the sort of experiences you describe [in Living Proof] were one of the factors that encouraged me to retire early..." she, writes. "The last patient I had with myeloma cancer of the bone marrow) took ages to diagnose, because she complained of pain in her ankle and, as a GP, I had to refer her to a consultant for a scan and a succession of junior doctors missed it.

When it was finally diagnosed, she had repeated courses of chemotherapy over which I had no control, as she never saw me, only the haematologist.

"I got to see her only in the last stage of her illness when she kept getting repeated bronchitis. The steroids she was on not only lowered her immune system but collapsed her vertebrae so that her spine curved and her chin was on her chest and she could not breathe. She really died of respiratory failure due to her curvature of the spine, due to her steroid treatment, but ‘I signed her death certificate ‘myeloma’.

"It made me wonder at the time how often the true cause of death is recorded, ie the treatment not the underlying illness. Before she died, I realised what was going on and wrestled with my conscience about what I would put on the death certificate, but I did not have the courage to’ put the real cause of death on it. I don’t know if the haematologists audit the long-term outcome of their treatment in this manner, ie to find the true cause of death. If they do, I would be surprised. I get the impression that they have their meetings about how they feel each stage should be treated, but I am not sure that the outcomes are recorded honestly."

Another doctor writes to me who, interestingly, confirms a survey that I noted in Living Proof when Dr Ulrich Abel of Heidelberg published in a professional journal, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, the following note:

"It should arouse concern that, according to opinion polls, many oncologists would decline to accept cytotoxic therapy in their own case." This was in 1992. Now, 10 years later, Dr Julian Kenyon MD MB ChB, who uses approaches to cancer not so different from mine, writes: "I am somewhat bemused by the number of doctors who consult me, many of them with cancer, and so far as they are concerned they apply the arguments you have applied to your own illness in Living Proof. The doctors seem to reserve the approach espoused by conventional oncologists for their patients only. This really is a curious state of affairs."

Curiouser and curiouser. Sir Wilham Osler, as great a doctor as there has ever been, wrote that there was only one response. to the "appalling ferocity of [orthodox] treatment". The response was "humility" on the part of doctors — year by year... the lesson is humility". Or, as Sir James Gowans might put it, open-mindedness. Alas, the thought police are not open-minded.

Doctors must learn Osler’s lesson. It is the only hope and our only way forward.

Michael Gearin-Tosh: The medical mutineer JANUARY 27 2002