Study Focuses on Alternative Cancer Treatment
United Press International
June 09, 2000
ARLINGTON, VA. June 9 (UPI) Using a century-old technique, a New York
physician claims to have brought scores of cancer patients into remission,
by orally administering pancreatic enzymes derived from pigs.
Nicholas Gonzales, M.D., reported his
findings yesterday at a national alternative cancer treatment conference
here, Comprehensive Cancer Care 2000.
Although many novel cancer therapies were
introduced at the conference, Gonzales' is receiving unique attention from
the government: A large clinical trial of the therapy for treatment of
pancreatic cancer patients is being undertaken at New York City's
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, funded by a $1.4 million dollar grant
from the National Institutes of Health's Center for Complementary and
"It is the first time an alternative
treatment has gotten this level of official support, but we like to think it
is just the beginning," says Dr. James Gordon, M.D., director of the
Center for Mind-Body Medicine, a co-sponsor of the conference.
In the early 1980s, while still a medical
student at Cornell, Nicholas Gonzales began investigating a cancer treatment
developed around 1900 by John Beard, a Scottish biologist and researcher.
Beard believed that pancreatic enzymes, essential for digestive function,
were also the body's best defense against cancer.
Beard, trained as an embryologist, had
learned that the placenta acted aggressively, almost like a tumor invading
the body, until the very day an embryo's pancreas became active. He
speculated that pancreatic enzymes might be effective against tumors.
He extracted pancreatic enzymes from a pig
-- chosen because a pig's pancreatic enzymes are most like humans --and
injected them into mice, in which tumors had been artificially induced. The
As early as 1905 physicians reported
successfully using injections of pork pancreatic enzymes to treat even
advanced cancers of many kinds.
"There are documented remissions in
leading medical journals of that time," says Nicholas Gonzales.
"But the introduction of radiation therapy in that era quickly came to
dominate the emerging field of cancer treatment."
Nonetheless, some physicians in Europe and
the United States continued to administer the pancreatic enzymes to cancer
patients. In the 1960s, an oral form of the enzyme treatment was developed.
"It was easier to use," says
Gonzales," but probably less potent."
Such oral therapy was often supplemented
with strict dietary regimens to strengthen and detoxify the body. Dr.
Gonzales' own protocol combines the oral pills with a strict diet and an
additional controversial feature: daily coffee enemas.
Since 1987 Gonzales has treated nearly
1,000 cancer patients from the United States and around the world at his
office in Manhattan. Most of them have failed chemotherapy, radiation or
Gonzales has reported remissions among
some hundred of his patients and of and long-term survival in many more,
years after their prognosis had been considered hopeless.
He continues to get more patients than he
can treat, although the therapy is demanding, involving as many as 150 pills
a day, about half pancreatic enzyme pills and half nutritional supplements.
In 1993 he was invited to present a series
of his cases at the National Cancer Institute. An administrator suggested
Gonzales design a small pilot study, involving patients with pancreatic
cancer, generally regarded as one of the worst forms of cancer and resistant
to traditional therapy.
"The idea was that if you could show
any benefit at all in those patients, that might really tell you something
meaningful," Gonzales says.
Gonzales conducted the study from January
of 1994 to January of 1999. It was published last year in the journal
``Nutrition and Cancer.'' The study included 11 patients with pancreatic
cancer, eight of whom had the most advanced form of the disease. All of the
participants were patients for whom curative surgery was no longer
considered a possibility.
Of the 11 patients, nine lived for one
year, five for two years, four for three years, two for four years, and one
patient lived five years. The mean survival time among the patients was
By contrast, Gonzales points to a recent
large-scale study of 126 patients on Gemzar, a new chemotherapy drug
approved for pancreatic cancer. No patient in that study lived longer than
19 months and the average survival time was five-and-a-half months.
The study in Nutrition and Cancer caught
the attention of researchers at the National Cancer Institute.
"It was quite impressive and
interesting data," says Dr. Jeffrey White, Director of the National
Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Intensive Medicine.
"The seventeen-month survival time was way out of the range usually
expected for patients with that form of cancer and at that stage of
White cautions that because Dr. Gonzales'
treatment is demanding --requiring, for instance, that a patient be able to
eat and swallow --the study may have featured atypically healthy patients.
Nonetheless, he believes that the study findings called for a larger case
controlled study. Such a trial is now getting underway at
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.
The trial will follow two groups, with 70
to 80 patients in each. One group will receive Dr. Gonzales' treatment
therapy while the other -- matched for criteria such as age, stage of
disease and weight loss -- will receive standard chemotherapy or radiation.
Everyone in the study must be within six weeks of diagnosis and never had
had a treatment or surgery designed to cure their disease.
Investigators will be comparing survival
time between the two groups and evaluating "quality of life"
issues, such as pain management.
Patients are being recruited for the
study, to be overseen by the National Cancer Institute. The study's primary
investigator is Dr. John Chabot, Chief of Oncological Surgery at
Chabot admits that he only slowly warmed
to the idea of the study.
"When I first heard of Dr. Gonzales'
therapy, my reaction was what anyone's would have been: I was
skeptical," says Chabot. "However, after reviewing the data Dr.
Gonzales generated in his pilot study, I considered whether this might not
be a viable treatment."
Chabot estimates that the study will take
three to five years to answer questions about the potential benefits of the
"If we can demonstrate that there is
a real effect," Chabot says, "then we have to take the protocol
apart and ask if there is one element in it that really makes the
difference. Is there a single underlying mechanism?"
Nicholas Gonzales himself is convinced
that it is the pancreatic enzymes and not thenutritional regimen, which
provide the critical anti-cancer component of his treatment.
"Strictly nutritional cancer
therapies have been tried for years, without any really compelling evidence
as to their benefits," he says. "Besides, the original
researchers, like John Beard, who used the enzymes at the turn of the
century, documented cancer remissions -- and they were administering nothing
more than the enzymes to patients."
(C) 2000 UPI All Rights Reserved.