After a show at ShopNBC, my family took me out to dinner for my birthday at a fancy restaurant in Minneapolis, called The Kitchen (spectacular, by the way!). A man at the table across from us started by buying two very nice bottles of wine for our table. By the end of the evening, he decided to buy the entire dinner! I went to his table to thank him. Turns out he owns a pharmaceutical company (that explains the extravagant gift!). He was a very nice man and went on to tell me his wife had recently died of cancer. We started talking about my book, KNOCKOUT: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer and How to Prevent Getting it in the First Place
. When the subject of chemosensitivity tests came up, he mentioned his wife had one during the course of her treatment, even still she could not be saved.
While the owner of a big pharmaceutical company knew the term and asked for this test for his own wife, the term “chemosensitivity test” would fail to be recognized by most Americans. However, this concept is well known in other parts of the world. For instance, in Germany, chemosensitivity tests are routinely conducted in order to determine which type of chemo should be utilized for a specific cancer patient. In KNOCKOUT, Dr. James Forsythe explains that in both Germany and Greece, specialists begin by harvesting the cancer cells out of the patient’s blood. They then break down the cells genetically in order to discover which markers are compatible with treatment of the tumor. From this, they can tell which drugs would be most effective for the particular cancer, which ones would be ineffective, or harmful. Once the correct type of chemo has been determined, Dr. Forsythe uses an integrative treatment, with far lower doses of chemo (10-20% of the norm), far fewer side effects, and much better results.
We are all aware that the purpose of chemo is to kill cancer cells, but that it also kills our healthy cells along the way. With the right fit, the correct chemo can target and kill cancer cells so that at least when we are choosing to add this poison into our systems we know it will do its intended job. Dr. Forsythe illustrates the impact of this testing by sharing one of his patient’s stories. He begins, “I had a patient from Sacramento who six months ago had been on a heavy-duty chemo protocol called FOL-FOX (containing oxaliplatin, 5FU, and Avastin). We found out from the German chemosensitivity test that two out of the three of those drugs were completely ineffective against his cancer cells. I switched him over to a sensitive drug and he’s now out playing golf three days a week and his liver has cleared up completely on recent follow-up scans” (KNOCKOUT, p.128).
If these tests could help us to take less chemo, or a better chemo for our specific cancer, why wouldn’t we ALL be given these tests? Experts say it’s too long of a process and too much trouble, so they make the best guess possible and hope it works. Dr. Robert Nagourney in Long Beach, California, and Larry Weisenthal in Huntington Beach, California, are the only two American doctors who run these tests. Otherwise, we don’t bother to go through this step of chemotherapy sensitivity testing before administering a poison that could be completely ineffective and damaging to our immune system. I wasn’t even told this testing was an option for me in either of my two diagnoses. Why not? Why not find out if at least there is a shot that the chemo being administered will have any effect? I suspect the reason is that if this poison doesn’t fit, someone will lose the revenue.
I have also learned about this major issue through my friend, Farrah Fawcett’s experience. She underwent two courses of excruciating, debilitating, immune-system-ruining chemotherapy for anal cancer – only to have the cancer return in three months. Then she traveled to Germany and was told upon doing a chemosensitivity test that the chemo she had been administered in our country had been completely ineffective. A waste of time. Useless. All it did was seriously degrade her health. Perhaps this explains Bill Faloon’s thought process when he says, “The second biggest killer in America is medical ignorance and it is the number one reason people die” (KNOCKOUT, p. 254).
Now that I realize chemosensitivity tests exist, it feels unconscionable that chemotherapy would ever, ever be administered without testing first to find out if the chemo is even compatible with the specific cancer. Big Pharma knows about these tests… and the man who bought my birthday dinner insisted for his own wife. Why doesn’t everyone have access to the same knowledge and treatment?
If you would like to find out more about chemosensitivity testing, read KNOCKOUT
or consult the following resources:
Biofocus Institute for Laboratory Medicine
Dr. med Dipl. Chem. Doris Bachg
Dr. med Uwe Haselhorst
Berghauser Str. 295
45659 Recklinghausen, Germany
Contact: Dr. Lothar Prix
+49 2361-3000-169 (fax)
Research Genetic Cancer Centre (R.G.C.C.)
P.O. 53070 Florina, Greece