Winning Life-Coming Out From The Losing War Against Cancer

BY: PROF. Xu Kecheng
Fuda Cancer Hospital-Guangzhou

It is the battle of life and death. As we enter into the 21st century, cancer has grown to become the number one cause of death today. Against this major concern for societies, billions of dollars have been invested on the long-term war on cancer. Thus, conquering cancer, minimizing death, giving hope to cancer victims, and winning life have become the dream of everyone who has been touched by the ill effects of cancer.

In 2006, a book entitled “One out of Ten Thousands Chance” was published in Taiwan. Its author, Ms. Wu Linlin, is one of the leading figures in Taiwan media. Ms. Chen Wenqian, a famous emcee within the Taiwan media, has called her a “lady with a strong willpower for life”. With a preface written by former Taiwan president Ma Yinjiu, Mr. Ma gave a descriptive and heartfelt account of the battle between Ms. Wu~s son and the devil of fast-spreading, high-mortality liver cancer.

In her and her son~s battle, Ms. Wu LinLin recounts their story:
“In July 2004, I joined a Taiwan Culture Group to tour the city of Lijiang in China~s Yunnan province.……. I bought some silk quilts–a famous product of the province–as presents for my two sons. Only after returning home was I was informed that my eldest son, Xiao Ming, had been admitted to Zhenxing Hospital with a serious, yet then unknown illness…….I rushed to the hospital. Xiao Ming told me that he had vomited blood and had vertebra pain with unknown reasons.

On the second day after some medical examinations, the doctor in charge of Xiao Ming, Dr. Chen, called me into his office. With a serious look on his face, he told me that Xiao Ming had end-stage liver cancer; cancer cells had invaded his lungs and vertebrate number seven and number eight causing the formation of two cavities. It was very likely that he would develop paralysis at any time. Dr Chen estimated that Xiao Ming had only another two weeks to two months to live. He specifically mentioned that he had prescribed morphine for relieving Xiao Ming~s pain. He advised me not to tell Xiao Ming about his sickness in order to make him feel comfortable and at ease.

After hearing all this, I decided to bring Xiao Ming to Shanghai for treatment since the doctors in Taiwan could do nothing for him. ~ I must give it a try!~ I told myself.

On the 7th of August 2004, my whole family–my two sons and their wives, my grandson, and my ex-husband–accompanied Xiao Ming and flew from Taiwan to Shanghai, where we rested our last hopes.”

The next morning, Ms. Wu Linlin and her family members went to one of the largest and most prominent hospitals in Shanghai. However, the hospital concluded that they, too, could do nothing to halt the progress of her son~s cancer. Dr. Yu, the president of the hospital, suggested that she not give up, because there was one last possibility: immunotherapy. Dr. Yu~s own sister had fought end-stage bladder. She received a mixed immunotherapy from Professor _ Kong at the __with very positive results. Dr. Yu suggested that there was still reason for optimism if they, too, followed this treatment path. This glimmer of hope reminded all of them of the Chinese saying, “If a horse is already dying, there is no risk in trying every possible method to heal it.

We were astonished to hear that Xiaoming was born in the zodiac year of the horse. What a coincidence it was! At that point, I was praying for a miracle.

With end-stage liver cancer, Xiao Ming~s liver functions had almost completely shut down. The white of his eyes had turned almost completely yellowish. His face was dark grey, there were red spots all over his body, his abdomen was swollen due to fluid retention, and his white blood cells had dropped to less than 500 per cubic mm.
On the 9th of August 2005, immunotherapy began. Xiaoming was given injections in each of this hands, once per week for three consecutive weeks followed by a 10-day break break. This course of treatment was then repeated until May of that same year. During that period, Ms. Wu LinLin and Xiao Ming remained in Shanghai for 20 days per month for Xiaoming. The next ten days they return to Taipei for rest and for medical examinations.”

In her book, Ms. Wu LinLin continues:
“After more than six months of treatment, Xiao Ming managed to pull through the most critical period of the initial two months he was given to live. His health continued to get better from day-to-day. Medical examinations in Chin Heng Hospital confirmed that his health had indeed made improvements. [Now, in 2006,] both jaundice and the fluid retention in the abdomen have disappeared completely. Xiao Ming~s white blood cell count had increased to an acceptable level of 4000 per cubic mm, though it was still lower than the normal count of 6000 per cubic mm. MRI reports indicated that the tumors at the lung and vertebra had disappeared. The size of liver tumor had been reduced to 2.5 cm in diameter.”

“As Xiao Ming~s health improved gradually, he felt much better, his confidence grew, and he even began to take alcoholic drinks. On this latter point, we had many heated arguments. I told him if he treasured his life he should quit drinking immediately, but Xiao Ming insisted that as an adult of thirty-plus years, he no longer needed any guidance from me.

On the 26th of February 2006, we were celebrating the thirty-fifth birthday of my second son, Bei Bei. It was then that Xiao Ming began complaining to us that for the last few days, he was having persistent headaches which he thought might had been caused by the food or drinks that he had consumed wrongly. After hearing this, I admonished him for stupidly consuming alchohol in spite of his liver cancer and cirrhosis. At that time I was extremely worried, and Xiao Ming had not received any injections in over a month. I wondered, ~could it be that cancerous cells had spread to the brain, leading to the headaches?

We immediatly sent Xiao Ming for MRI and blood tests. There was no sign of metastasis, but we were worried about the slight capillary bleeding that was detected in the brain. However, we were told the capillary bleeding would stop by itself. Later, the doctors appeared to be correct, as during the Chinese New Year, Xiao Ming was feeling well and had regained a strong appetite. At one point, he even called me to invite me to go out to a restaurant to enjoy steak!”

In her book, Ms. Wu Linlin wrote that it was cancer, the most devilish of all diseases that caused all the nightmares in her life. Fortunately, she grasped hold of the slightest opportunity that came her way and held her son by the hand firmly and together walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Ms. Wu~s maternal love for her son and her indomitable character never let go of the one-out-of-ten-thousand~s chance that mixed immunotherapy could save the life of her dear son.

Immunotherapy is fast becoming one of the conventional therapies for cancer. However, there are many types of immunotherapy involving hundreds of medicines. Though, as there is no “golden standard” to determine its efficacy, nor is there a deep history of comparative studies, it is very difficult to tell which methodology and medicine is the best choice. The mixed immunotherapy used in the treatment of Ms. Wu LinLin~s son has been used since 1991 on several thousands of cancer patients. Are these patients still alive today to share their story?
In May 2008, it was nearly summer in Shanghai. The inside of the taxi we were in was just as hot as we expected.. Together with my friend and collaborator Professor _ Kong, a collaborator in Shanghai, we embarked on a journey that we called ~Chasing Life~. We were going to interview cancer patients who had received mixed immunotherapy in response to cancer and who met the following criteria:

1. They had not undergone any surgical operation or had recurrence of cancer after operation.
2. During their preliminary examinations, they were estimated to have less than one year to live;
3. They had not been given any other types of treatment.
We decided that if we found the patient that we wanted to interview, but because the patient was not available, or had deceased, we would interview his/her family members or others who had known them well. If this failed, we would interview members of their local community. For those former cancer patients who were not in Shanghai, we could contact them via telephone.
We managed to track down the outcome of 38 cancer patients who formerly suffered from various cancers such as gastric cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and more. We found that 11 of them had passed away either due to cancer recurrence or other causes; their survivability ranged from 2 to 15 years. The other 27 patients were still alive and had lived between 3 to 18 years after given immunotherapy. There were another 15 patients whom we failed to contact but according to the records in the affiliated hospital of Nanking South-East University, follow-ups on these patients in 2001 showed that they had survived for more than five years.
With difficulty and courage, the patients we tracked down agreed to recount their story while Professor Kong and I listened and took notes. We would like to share some of their stories:
Hu Guochao, a gastric cancer patient, received a surgical operation at Shanghai Ren Ji Hospital in September, 1992. During the operation it was discovered that there was metastasis of lymph nodes. A year later, the spread of cancer continued with metastasis of the liver; his doctors treated him by giving mixed immunotherapy. We met the 52-year old Hu who told us that he had been given immunotherapy for three years. After receiving his first year of immunotherapy treatment there was no longer metastasis of the liver, this allowing him to once again lead his normal life. Speaking with Mr. Hu, it was evident that he gave credit to his recovery to the immunotherapy, which he believed added many years to his life, when otherwise he would have been dead.
Gastric cancer is one of the most common cancers in China. Its chance of healing and size of the tumors are highly dependent on whether the lymph nodes outside the stomach have metastasized and whether or not the disease has spread to distant organs; once stomach cancer with distant metastasis is identified, it is categorized as stage IV cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the clinical cure rate for localized stomach cancer is 50%. But for stomach cancer with metastasis, there has been no record of any patient that has survived for longer than five years. With stomach cancer, neither chemotherapy nor radiotherapy can alter the eventual outcome. However, in the case of Hu Guochao, he had metastasis of the liver, was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer, and yet it was indeed a miracle that he was able to continue to live for more than 15 years after he was diagnosed.
For Qian Lijuan, she to joined the ranks of those who survived for an additional 15 years, due to her treatment with mixed immunotherapy. After she had a surgery to remove her stomach, it was discovered the presence of tubular gland cancer at the lower middle portion of the lesser curvature of the stomach. Cancer cells had invaded the mucous membranes with metastasis of lymph nodes at various parts of the abdominal cavity. She was given chemotherapy which was interrupted later due to severe side effects. The clinical note showed that her KPS was only 30. As she described herself, she was in a very terrible shape, with her face and body left in a ghostly state.. In May 1993, she began her treatment of complex immunotherapy. After half a year immunotherapy injections, the gains were noticeable as she gained eight kilograms and was able to resume her job. Her KPS was 100. She had just returned from a holiday at Mt. Pu Tuo when we visited her. Unfortunately, her husband had died in a car accident the year before, while she was suffering from a severe backache. She told us that, while her health was greatly improved over the previous year, after her husband~s death she lost weight and was generally not feeling well. However in recent months she took time off to travel around and had gained back her weight.
The occurrence of colorectal cancer in China is on the rise. The five-year survival rate of stage IV colorectal cancer patients is only 8% and few survive past 10 years. Despite those grim figures, Zhang Zenling is an exception. He lived for another 15 years. Mr. Zhang received surgery in January 1991 and was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma which had spread to the lymph nodes at the back of the abdominal membrane affecting both the nerves and veins at his buttock and its surroundings area. Doctors removed the tumor and gave him approximately one year to live. In the face of this bleak outlook, Zhang did not give up. Discovering that there was yet one more unexplored treatment path, in January 1993 he sought out and received injections of mixed immunotherapy. Half a year later, Zhang~s CT~s revealed that the metastases that had nearly cut short his life, had instead completely disappeared.
For stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, the five-year survival rate is less than 2%. But for the patients that we meet with, it was miraculous to find that those lung cancer patients we who were given mixed immunotherapy were continuing live far longer than conventionally expected after their stage IV diagnosis. The majority of the patients lived more than five years and some were even living up to 16 years. One patient in particular was a well-qualified medical specialist and another one was a government officer. Both had previously been treated at top-notch hospitals, but received no improvement. It was only after they switched to mixed immunotherapy that they began to see the substantive improvements in their health that allowed to live so much longer than conventional medicine expected of them.
In another case, a female patient from Taiwan by the name of Huang Xinxin was diagnosed with cancer in her left lung accompanied with metastases in the right pelvis and her left occipital lobe (size approximately 3×3 cm). After chemotherapy, there was no improvement, instead her health degraded even further when she was left with unbearable bone pain. In desperation for answers, she agreed to try mixed immunotherapy in September 2005. Upon re-examination in May 2007, tumors in the lung and brain had disappeared and bone pains long gone. With the great improvements in her health, Ms. Huang was able to resume her normal routines. However, as a precautionary measure, her doctors in Taiwan advised her to continue with radiotherapy for her brain. Instead of improving even further, six months later, her health quickly began to deteriorate as started to have noticeable speech problem, while her consciousness faded in and out. When we telephoned her husband about his wife~s condition, he wept over the phone while explaining, “I truly regret ever allowing her to use radiotherapy.” According to Ms. Huang~s husband, MRI done on Xinxin proved that tumors at the brain did not recur.
Over the course of our interview and our quest to chase life, every middle or late stage cancer patient had a significant and heartfelt story to tell. In 2007, the most popular book in China was the book “Chasing Daylight” by the late Eugene O~Kelly, the chief executive of the accounting firm KPMG who died of brain cancer at the age of 53. When his inoperable brain cancer was diagnosed in May 2005, he was given a mere three months to live. After receiving radiotherapy, O~Kelley could no longer bear the intolerable side effects of radiotherapy, leading him to make the decision to give up the treatment. In the last hours of his life, Eugene O~Kelly decided to write a book on his plan for death, the inspirations of his soul and spirit. A hundred and ten days later he died.
Mr. Shen Zailun, 61 years old, was far luckier than Eugene O~Kelly. As a manager of a medium-sized factory, Shen was busily developing the growth of his factory, when a severe headache forced him to stop his work and seek treatment. Shen eventually sought care at the Hua Shan Hospital in Shanghai, where he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and was quickly given surgery. Pathological examinations confirmed that he had stage III advanced glioma. Glioma is a quick and fatal cancer, with patients~ one-year survival rate at less than 10%. Realizing the seriousness of his situation, he quickly re-composed himself, taking solace in the irony and humor of the well-known saying, “Life is but a journey to death”.
He knew that conventional treatments for cancer were radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but that they would not be able to provide the kind of results that he needed if he wanted to extend his life. His brain tumors would not go away irrespective of how many times surgery was performed, how many times he was injected with chemo, or how many times he was radiated. At the time 54 years old, he had a devoted wife and two sons, who he did not want to share in his pain. Shen sought out and started on a course of complex immunotherapy. and was cured. During the interview, Shen explained that he had retired and was living a fulfilling life with his family, doing all the things he enjoyed doing before he was diagnosed with cancer. Sitting in his home, Shen shared his gratitude for the years that had been added to his life due to immunotherapy. “So far, I have gained 16 years of life. I am constantly grateful, and I will live every second of my remaining years meaningfully.”
In the course of my work, I have learned that a good doctor must have a kind of parental love for his or her patients. For me, it is truly exciting to meet patients who have escaped death, and go on to live their life, but with a renewed energy and a desire to make every day count. But when the excitement is over, the doctor inside all of us must begin to start asking the hard questions: Why was Ms. Wu Linlin~s son not obtain any kind of success in that Taiwan hospital that was well-equipped with advanced equipment, but instead in a much more poorly equipped Shanghai hospital? Why did those 54 patients that we interviewed –who did not undergo conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy–manage to survive for so much longer than conventional medicine would have predicted? The war on cancer has been raging for decades, what success have we achieved?

The war on cancer has been going on for more than 30 years. The United States~ former President Richard Nixon devoted exactly 100 words of his 1971 State of the Union speech to proposing “an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer.” From that point on until 2004, Americans have spent more than $200 billion on cancer research, and 1.56 million theses have been written. As Harold Varmus, an American Nobel Prize winning scientist in 1976, said, ~Within a period of 30 years, human beings have progressed from being completely ignorant about cancer, to accumulating a vast amount of knowledge about it. Drugs for chemotherapy and factor targeted medicine have been quickly approved and sold on the market. People seemed to think that the cure for cancer was in sight.~
However, after a period of 37 years, the hope to have a cure for cancer has not yet been realized. Though the survival period has been extended, the extension is only for a few months and not years. A high clinical cure rate and long survival period have only been found in patients with a cancer with low occurring rate like Hopkins lymph node cancer and leukemia. Thirty-seven years ago, cancer patients that survived for five years or more accounted for approximately 50% of the total cases. This rate has improved on slightly, to 63%. Additionally, this slight improvement has been due to advancements made in early detection and diagnosis, rather than the ability to treat the cancer. Ruth Etzioni, a biostatistician at Seattle~s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, points out that when you break down the Big Four cancers (lung, colon and rectal, breast, and prostate) by stage–that is, how far the malignant cells have spread–long-term survival rates for patients with advanced cancer has barely budged since the 1970~s.
Yet somehow, along the way, something important has been lost. The search for knowledge has become an end unto itself rather than the means to an end. Eighty percent of research studies are performed on mice, fruit flies, or one of the most frequently used experimental models of human cancer, which is to take human cancer cells that are grown in a Petri dish, put them in an immune-compromised mouse, and allow them to form a tumor. In these test mice, researchers then expose the resulting xenograft to different kinds of drugs that might be useful in treating humans. Many of these preclinical human cancer models have very little predictive power in terms of how actual human beings–actual human tumors inside patients–will respond. Robert Weinberg, a professor of biology at MIT and winner of the National Medal of Science for his discovery of both the first human oncogene and the first tumor-suppressor gene, says “A fundamental problem which remains to be solved in the whole cancer research effort, in terms of therapies, is that the preclinical models of human cancer, in large part, stink.”
In his article, “Why we~re losing war on cancer” by Clifton Leaf, that appeared in the Fortune Magazine, in its March 22nd, 2004 edition, Leaf describes a dysfunctional “cancer culture”–a groupthink that pushes tens of thousands of physicians and scientists toward the goal of finding the tiniest improvements in treatment rather than genuine breakthroughs; a groupthink that fosters isolated (and redundant) problem solving instead of cooperation, while rewarding academic achievement and journal publication over all else.
“It~s like a Greek tragedy,” observes Andy Grove, the chairman of Intel and a prostate-cancer survivor who, for years has tried to shake this cultural mindset as a member of several cancer advisory groups. “Everybody plays his individual part to perfection, everybody does what~s right by his own life, and the total just doesn~t work.” said Grove. The Fortune Magazine article concludes that we are far from winning this war. So far away, in fact, that it looks like losing.

Once I visited the laboratory of Beijing XX University Cancer Hospital having a candid conversation with a well-known oncologues, who was also close friend and colleague. He pointed at the multi-level hospital wards and said to me, “Look at those wards. Everyday tens of patients come in to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Yet at the same time, other tens of patients are carried out, leaving for heaven.” He sighed. All of them realize that incremental advances in chemotherapy and radiotherapy can only slightly delay the death that is the inevitable outcome, and yet they still rush in to register for treatment. Despite the tenuous possibiity of any real success in their treatment, they willingly pay heavily for a registration number that will admit them to that hospital.
Cancer treatment is trapped in a strange logic. Firstly, although they are fully aware that conventional treatments for cancer will not help (or at least not help much), doctors still apply them to their cancer patients. They have little consideration for whether these treatments will bring any meaningful benefits to the patients, failing to consider that–instead of gaining anything–ultimately lose their money and their life. This is because they believe that conventional treatments are “legalized”. Secondly, many in the cancer establishment point to tumor regression as the main indicator that cancer treatment is effective; they define tumor shrinkage as a “success”. Even though the patients died afterward, doctors will unhesitatingly write and publish theses on authoritative medical journals on their “success”.
Third, both doctors and patients–though doctors in particular–are inclined to use new, expensive and so called “wonder” medicines. While the current drugs and the bleeding-edge wonder medicines both may extend the patient~s life by a media of one or two months, doctors–though probably well-intentioned–prefer to unnecessarily recommend the newest medicines that are many times more expensive. Fourth, doctors–as well as some patients–believe and trust blindly on authoritative organizations, symposiums and forums. To them, any treatment that can prolong life of patients, but has not been published in a highly acclaimed journals is not worthy of any notice, it is just a coincidence, and of no academic value. In their eyes, the prestige of academic authorities outweighs the practicalities of how to best benefit the patient.
Cancer treatments have fallen into a vicious circle: chemotherapy-radiotherapy-death.
Of course there are some doctors who are sensible, practical, and honest. As mentioned previously, Ms. Wu Linlin brought her son to a top-notch hospital in Shanghai for her son~s treatment. The president of that hospital frankly recommended her son~s best option may be complex immunotherapy, which at that point had not been practiced in his hospital. Eugene O~Kelly, the author of the book “Chasing Daylight”, gave praises to his incredibly candid neuro-chemotherapist. In the beginning stages of his fight with cancer, Eugene asked his neuro-chemotherapist whether it was advisable for him to receive chemotherapy. The doctor said “Yes.”. Eugene then asked how long he could survive with chemotherapy, the doctor answered “10 weeks.” Continuing, he inquired, “If not given chemotherapy, how long can I survive?” The neuro-chemotherapist replied, “12 weeks.”
In a meeting of doctors and patients in our hospital towards the end of 2006, some patients who had survived for five years or more, gave their accounts of their fight for live. After the patients had finished sharing their story, a middle-aged man went on the stage and said: “I am the director of the oncology department of XXX hospital. I hold a PhD in medicine. I am very ashamed that whenever patients are admitted, we give them courses of chemotherapy as a routine until they finally die without truly considering its suitability…” His eyes were wet.
Next on stage was yet another doctor. He said “I am the head of the radiotherapy department at XX hospital which is affiliated with XXX University. Whenever patients are admitted, radiotherapy is given even if the patients are unsuitable to be given radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is our conventional weapon, a legalized therapy. Whether the patients can survive the ordeal is not really our priority. As doctors, we have taken charge of the ~sickness~ but have not taken charge ~life~. Upon hearing the speeches by these patients, I fully understand a doctor must do more in order to have a clear conscience.”
I by no means to oppose conventional treatments outright. Surgery is still the main means for treating cancer. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may at sometimes be excellent for certain types of cancer or provide a clinical cure. However, if we are fully aware that a certain type of cancer does not respond to chemotherapy, yet we apply it without any restraint just because it is conventional and legalized, the outcome will be unfortunate and predictable.
Not long agi, I had a painful experience in facing one of my patients who was a well-known philosopher and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006. Her university sent her for treatment with several lung cancer specialists with high reputations in several cities. She was transferred from one hospital to another; each time best and most expensive medicines were used. After several months, her condition deteriorated. Her husband came to our hospital several times and finally decided to seek treatment at our hospital. By the time that I met her, her hair had all fallen out and her face was distinctly. She had pain in her chest and back and she was unable to sit up, and her white blood cell count was less than 3000. My heart was in great pain when I saw her, for one who had supposedly been given the ~best~ treatment available. I said to her husband “There is nothing we can do to treat her cancer. Her immune system has completely shut down; even a slight flu would lead to a severe infection which would be fatal.” Sure enough, after two weeks, she suddenly developed a fever. The second day she got pneumonia in both lungs. The third day, her lungs failed and she was transferred to the respiratory research institute of Guangzhou Medical College for intensive care. Two weeks later, her husband informed that she hoped to spend the final hours of her life in our hospital. We happy to oblige her request.
The ordeal that this patient underwent is testimony to the additional honest and practicality that is so desperately needed when recommended the “best” treatment for cancer patients. Oncologists must deeply search the body of their knowledge, their experience with patient outcomes, as well as their own hearts before making treatment recommendations.
I am always convicted by my own conscience. Once I went to see an end-stage colorectal cancer patient who was given Avastin treatment. This factor target medicine is the most precious gem stone on the crown of cancer therapy, and was at the time the newest medicine available when it was approved by the American FDA in 2004. We all had great hopes that this new medicine would bring relief and results to cancer patients everywhere. But, after having been given Avastin for three weeks, the patient that I had went to see began an uncontrollable and severe hemorrhage of the intestines, causing the patient to eventually die. His family members were Christians, and they did not blame me but instead they held my hands and said: “Thank you. You have tried your best and God has called him home.” My heart was engulfed in pain. Avastin had been experimented with in the USA for more than 10 years, with billion of dollars being spent on its research and development. Four hundred end-stage colorectal cancer patients were tested with the drug, and the average survival period was extended by 4.7 months as compared to those who were not given the medicine. This figure might be meaningful to researchers, but to end-stage colorectal patients whose average life would not exceed 16 months, this additional 4.7 months is effectively meaningless Furthermore, 70% of patients would experience various side effects. Worse still, the expenses incurred amounted to tens of thousands RMB (1 USD = approx. 7 RMB ) per week.
The quest for a cure for cancer is built on a foundation of life lessons, and the blood of others. As previously mentioned Fortune article points out, clinical trials are focused on the wrong goal–on doing “proper” science rather than saving lives. It is not that oncologists provide bad care or have any ill intentions–patients in trials are actually treated particulary well–but rather trials~ very reason for being conducted is to test a hypothesis: Is treatment X better than treatment Y? And sometimes–sadly, too often–the information generated by this tortuously long process does not contribute much. If you have spent over a decade to discover that a new drug shrinks a tumor by an average of 10% more than the existing standard of care, how many people have you really helped? For the two most widely publicized drugs, Erbitus and Avastin, the Fortune article points out: “Neither drug will save more than a handful of the 57,000 people who will die of colorectal cancer this year.”
The cruel fact has brought an awakening among doctors and researchers. Two Italian pharmacologists pored over the results of trials of 12 new anti-cancer drugs that had been approved for the European market from 1995 to 2000, and compared them with standard treatments for their respective diseases. The researchers could find no substantial advantages–no improved survival, no better quality of life, no added safety–with any of the new agents. All of them, though, were several times more expensive than the old drugs. In one case, the price was 350 times higher than the previous generation of drug.

How are we to win the war on cancer? Sidney Farber, the Boston physician widely recognized as the father of cancer research says: “We cannot wait for full understanding; the 325,000 patients with cancer who are going to die this year cannot wait; nor is it necessary, in order to make great progress in the cure of cancer, for us to have the full solution of all the problems of basic research,” Farber testified in congressional hearings that fall. “The history of medicine is replete with examples of cures obtained years, decades, and even centuries, before the mechanism of action was understood for these cures–from vaccination, to digitalis, to aspirin.”
Oncologists and academics are beginning to once again join forces in the once-lost war on cancer. By adopting a new paradigm of thinking and new concepts in their research to conquer cancer, they are fighting hard to deal a fatal blow to cancer in order to reverse the outcome of the war.
The questions we need to be asking are: “How do we prolong lives of mid and late-stage cancer patients? How do we reduce and prevent the recurrence of cancer?” I posed these very questions to a well-known hematologist and a fellow at the China Engineering Faculty, Professor Wang Zhenyi. His reply was, “Innovation!”
Thirty years ago, acute leukemia was a horrific disease. The survivability of a leukemia patient would not exceed one year. Though there were many theses that came up with various combinations of chemotherapy, the median survival time could only be extended by a mere few months. For a patient with only one more year to live, this extension serves little purpose. “As leukemia is caused by the mutations of normal white blood cells, why not we try to convert these mutated white blood cells into normal cells (re-mutation)?” Professor Wang pondered. He noted that all trans-retinoic acid possess such a property. Together with his student, Mr. Fellow Chenzhu, the present health minister of China, they researched further into this and discovered that arsenic, a traditional Chinese medicine could be used as a tool to kill leukemia cells. The present cure rate for leukemia currently stands at 95%, due to the research that was conducted by Professor Wang and Fellow Chenzhu. This innovative therapy was able to turn the tables on this previously highly fatal malignant cancer of the blood; astonishing the world that leukemia could become highly curable instead of fatal.

“I actually started work on this at the age of 60,” says a humble Professor Wang. “In treating cancer we must think and work outside of the box. Before, all existing treatments were unable to cure the patients.” By ~work~ Professor Wang refers to the work to come up with innovative and creative treatments.
The hallmark of a cancer cell is its genetic instability. The cell~s DNA is not fixed in the same way as normal cell~s. A normal cell passes on pristine and unadulterated copies of its three-billion-letter code to every next-generation cell. But when a cancer cell divides, it may pass along to its daughters an altered copy of its DNA instructions–and even the slightest alteration can have substantial effects on cell behavior. The consequence is that while cancer is thought to begin with a single cell that has mutated, the tumors eventually formed are made up of countless cellular cousins, with a variety of quirky traits, living side-by-side. That heterogeneity of tumors is the major obstacle to any easy solution for treating cancer.
Complex immunotherapy adopts various vaccines and medicines to deal with hematological malignancies which are related to the immune system. The elimination of the cancer cells is not through use of chemotherapeutic drugs but by the immune cells. However, there are a great variety of immune cells that can destroy cancer cells. Different vaccines can stimulate different immune cells to act against and destroy different types of cancer cells and bring about synergic effects. Clinical observations reveal that many cancer patients simply live with their cancer. Though cancer is present, the patients can live normally for a few years. It has been proved that cancer cells can remain dormant for a long period of time in our blood, lymph nodes, bone marrow and abdominal cavity. Cancer dormancy in human body is not confined to hematological malignancies such as lymphoma and leukemia but also to other solid tumors such as mammary gland cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and soft tissue tumors. The immune system plays a very important role in ~forcing~ cancer cells to remain dormant.

I presented Professor Wang the book “Cryosurgery for Cancers” that I co-authored with Professor Niu Lizhi. He scanned quickly through the pages and said, “Cryosurgery for cancer! Yes, there is truth in it.” A few months later, I visited Professor Wang again in Shanghai. When he saw me, he told me excitedly that he was greatly inspired by the book. He continued: “Cryosurgery is highly promising in cancer treatment. It is far superior to traditional surgery, because the dead tumors in situ after cryosurgery will cause the release of antigen and stimulate the body immune system to fight against cancer.”

The academic circle has expressed greater and greater interest in cryo-immunology. It is proven that tumors which are killed via cryosurgery and left in situ will stimulate and uncover the potential of tumor antigen leading to a qualitative and quantitative change of the antigen. The concentration of cell membrane protein will increase to stimulate lymphoma cells to destroy cancer cells.
Some scientists in America have conducted experiments with animals as the liver cancer model. One group of animals had 30% of their liver surgically removed and another group was given cryosurgery. Both groups were observed and monitored for a few weeks for recurrence of tumors. The result showed that there was 100% tumor recurrence in the group with part of their liver surgically removed using traditional methods whereas there was zero recurrence in the group that was given cryosurgery. The factor that stimulates cancer growth was found to have increased in the blood of the first group of animals while there was no such increase in the group under cryosurgery.
Clinical studies have been conducted whereby patients with tumors at various parts of the body had one or several (though not all) of the tumors underwent cryosurgery. It was noted that those remaining tumors which had not been given cryosurgery vanished gradually. Additionally, while it is not possible to completely remove large tumor, especially all the tumors located at awkward operating positions, many of these cryosurgery patients manage to survive for four to five years. Take the example of pancreatic cancer, a malignant cancer with a poor prognosis. The surgery rate for pancreatic patients is less than 5% and the survival rate is very low. The China Medical Academy~s statistics show that prior to 2005, none of pancreatic patients treated with conventional therapies could survive for more than 3 years. Our hospital~s statistics show that during the last four years, 23% of the 49 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who were given cryosurgery survived for more than 3 years and one patient had lived up to 4 years. Without a doubt, the results of cryosurgery far exceed what is possible with conventional therapies By applying cryosurgery percutaneously , the resulting wounds were far smaller than those created due to traditional surgery.
According to our statistics, 840 non-small cells lung cancer patients, the majority of them with metastasis of lymph nodes, have been treated with cryosurgery. The five-year survival rate was 26%. For the past seven years, more than 1000 patients with non-resectable liver cancer (“king of cancers”) were given cryosurgery in our hospital; their five-year survive rate was 45%. For those patients who also had liver cancer with inferior vena cava thrombosis with severe ascites as the indication. After cryosurgery, the thrombosis disappeared and had patient recovered almost completely allowing them to continue living for an additional five to seven years.

In our studies, it is evident to us that cryosurgery carries great potential to be utilized. not just at our hospital, but at cancer centers around the world. Cryosurgery~s unique ability to perform its two functions– eliminate tumor tissues, reduce tumor burden, and strengthen the body~s immune system against tumors–is exactly the kind of innovative and milestone techniques that will defeat cancer, prevent unnecessary suffering, and ultimately save lives.

Our strategy

Chinese traditional medicine places great importance on the harmony between nature, environment, and human beings. It stresses strengthening the immune system of the whole body. When Chinese medicine is recommended for cancer treatment, the core of our goals is to strengthen the inner organs which actually refers to raising the immune power of the body. Complex immunotherapy and cryo-immunotherapy have a catalytic effect on our immune system and bring about greater results.
The fact remains that surgery is confined to early stage tumors while radiotherapy is a local treatment. Neither can stop metastases. The emergence of hundreds of cancer drugs and the availability of numerous types of cancer treatment schemes are neither able to cure most cancers, exterminate cancer cells, nor can they prolong the lives of advanced cancer patients. Though factor target therapy looks promising, it cannot prolong the life of cancer patients in any substantive way. A combination of complex immunotherapy and cryo-immunotherapy is emerging to be one of the most effective treatment strategies to extend the survivability of middle and late-stage cancer patients.


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