The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

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Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Your chance of benefitting from chemotherapy: 4%

From an investment-oriented newsletter, The Growth
Stock Wire
, March 7 edition:

Chemotherapy is one of the most grueling treatments in modern medicine, one that causes nausea, hair loss, infertility, and more. Even so, most cancer patients willingly face such harsh side effects in hopes of getting better.

But what if your doctor told you the chances of you getting any benefit from subjecting your body to such chemical warfare was only 4%? I'd pass on the chemo and advise my family members to do the same...

Yet doctors have had no way to determine who would and would not respond to chemotherapy. So the thinking has been treat first, ask questions later. But now, for the first time, doctors can pre-screen patients that will respond to chemo based on the results of a new test that probes their cancer's molecular "fingerprint."

Tissue samples are run through a 16-gene test panel to identify the small percentage of patients that will actually derive a clinical benefit from the physically and mentally taxing chemotherapy regimen.

How much does a test like this cost? About $3,650 a pop.

That's worlds away from your standard $10 cholesterol test. But the information provided in the test is much more valuable, too. The doctor doesn't have to guess whether the patient will benefit. The patient understands the risks and payoffs of such a nasty treatment beforehand. And the insurance company would much rather cough up a few thousand bucks up-front for the test in order to skip out on a $20,000–$50,000 course of chemo.

Biostatistician Ulrich Abel studied chemotherapy many years ago, and concluded that chemotherapy was beneficial in only 1% of the cases it was used (monograph: "Chemotherapy of Advanced Epithelial Cancer"). He wrote, "A sober and unprejudiced analysis of the literature has rarely revealed any therapeutic success by the regimens in question in treating advanced epithelial cancer." (For more information, Google this phrase: "Ulrich Abel chemotherapy study")

Draw your own conclusions. My conclusion is that most of the time, the doctors KNOW it will not help. But they push it on patients anyway.