Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Oct 1996

Meet a physician using a unique nutritional cancer treatment program that is producing good results in many cancer patients.

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The War on Cancer:
One Physician Is Winning Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez

LEF PractitionerLife Extension Practitioner
How Health Professionals Practice
LIFE EXTENSION


By Terri Mitchell

Has your doctor ever handed you a prescription for carrots? Probably not. But if research confirms what some scientists have been saying for years, diet may become the big gun in the war on cancer. After years of resistance, The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is finally taking a look at alternative cancer therapies involving diet and nutrient supplementation. DR. NICHOLAS GONZALEZ is one of the few physicians who has gotten their attention.

This establishment doctor-turned-rebel is beating the odds on pancreatic cancer - one of our worst killers. As part of a clinical trial, Gonzalez has ten pancreatic cancer patients who, for the most part, are doing well. Some have already survived as long as two years. None have been treated with radiation or chemotherapy.

A Departure From Traditional Therapy

Traditional cancer therapy is designed to kill the cancer. The problem is that destroying cancer cells with drugs and radiation cripples immunity and ravages healthy cells. Dr. Gonzalez' therapy is built around the concept of making the body eradicate it's own illness, rather than obliterating it with outside forces. The idea is simple, yet so different from the current slash-and-burn approach that it is hard to believe it could work. The method Gonzalez uses to coerce the body into marshaling its forced against cancer is also hard to accept.

Diet is one of the primary weapons he employs. Gonzalez' research demonstrates that selected foods (along with other factors) can actually turn the tide against cancer. Food can create such an inhospitable environment for cancer that it gives up. This is partly due to the fact that food changes the biochemistry of the entire body, not just one part. This ensures that the cancer can't simply move to another area of the body.

image The concept of treating disease with diet is not new. The ancient Greeks preserved several thousand years of medical wisdom in the Hippocratic Oath, which instructs that disease be treated with diet first. If diet fails, the Oath advises drugs. If drugs fail, surgery is the last recourse. Medieval practitioners had a cast knowledge of pharmacology, yet they, too, chose diet as the "fyrste instrument of medicine." One has to wonder, though, why a person would chose what is essentially ancient philosophy over all modern science has to offer.

A Visit To Dr. Gonzalez' Office

I ventured into the wilds of Manhattan during a blizzard in January to find out. Dr. Gonzalez' office is Zen-like. Panels of wood and rice-paper take the edge off he serious business at hand. "Not a molecule of formaldehyde," he tells me. Clearly, he believes in the benefits of "natural". Softspoken yet determined, Gonzalez begins with a phrase that could have come from the lips of Hippocrates himself. "Disease is an imbalance of autonomic physiology. The goal is to balance the nervous system." Balance is accomplished through diet, nutrient supplementation, and detoxification.

Dr. Gonzalez is a graduate of Cornell Medical College, not exactly off-the-beaten-medical-path. His post-graduate training was at Vanderbilt, and he holds a degree from Brown. He has training in immunology, yet the word "T-cell" doesn't cross his lips. He is not worried about the immune system, he tells me. The important thing is to treat the nervous system. This is odd talk, but strangely consistent with the emerging science of psychoneuroimmunology, which takes the view that the immune and neuroendocrine systems are interrelated - one effects the other. But food? Vitamins? Enzymes and enemas? "Yes," he tells me, "the body has enormous power to heal itself in given the right tools."

The Case Of Edmund Rubin

Edmund Rubin agrees. Diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 1990 at age 66, Rubin would be lucky to see his 67th birthday. Surgery revealed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. Since kidney cancer does not usually respond to chemotherapy or radiation, Rubin's doctor advised him to enroll in an experimental trial of interferon (an immune-enhancing synthetic cytokine). Despite the exhausting treatment, another tumor the size of an orange appeared on his skull a few months later.

image Disillusioned, and down to 105 pounds, the retired executive decided to follow the advice of a woman he had met and see Dr. Gonzalez. He was, as he put it, "in pretty bad shape" when he arrived in Gonzalez' office. Looking back, he credits his willingness to try Dr. Gonzalez' alternative therapy to two things: he didn't have much to lose, and the woman who referred him to the doctor had recovered from cancer herself.

Gonzalez put him on a program of organic vegetables, fish, supplements and detoxification. For the first two months, nothing extraordinary happened. But Rubin stuck to the new diet anyway. Within five months the tumor was gone, and his tests improved dramatically. About a year after he began the program, his weight returned to normal. A year after the CAT scan showed no cancer. Five years into it, Rubin is alive and well. "Compliance," he tells me, "is very important." Rubin freely admits that the regimen is demanding. Taking one-hundred and fifty capsules, preparing carrot juice three times a day and other tasks keep him and his wife busy. "But", he asks, "what's the alternative?"

The Role Of Environmental Factors

It has been pointed out by more than one observer that the incidence of cancer in Western society correlates with the refinement of food and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The success of physicians like Gonzalez in treating disease by changing what people consume, suggests that dietary and toxic factors are, in fact, related to the development and perpetuation of cancer. As he points out, "everything in our body comes from what we eat. It doesn't come from some miraculous process." Bad food produces suboptimal cells that don't function well.

image "No one would think of raising a $100,000 race horse on junk food, yet we don't think twice about raising people on CoolWhip?. Our diets are a disaster." Not surprisingly, Dr. Gonzalez' patients are put on organic vegetables and whole grains. If meat is on the diet, it must be "free-range", that is, raised naturally and free of hormones/pesticide/antibiotic residues found in ordinary grocery-store meat.

Acid Or Alkaline

Dr. Gonzalez believes that the physiology of patients with cancer invariably turns up as either too acid or too alkaline. Patients who have too much acidity have a predominance of sympathetic nervous system activity. Those who are too alkaline lean towards parasympathetic activity. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the brain involved in "fight or flight" activity. This primitive survival mechanism gears up the heart and lungs at the expense of other organs such as the pancreas and stomach. People who are born with a propensity towards sympathetic activity have hyper-vigilant stress responses, but low parasympathetic activity such as digestion.

People who lean towards the parasympathetic are the opposite. Their pancreas, intestines and other organs are working overtime, but their stress response organs are asleep. Dr. Gonzalez' goal with these patients is to augment their sympathetic activity. The idea is to balance sympathetic and parasympathetic physiology.

 

 

Pancreas Enzymes

Pancreatic enzymes are particularly important in balancing physiology, and in creating an inhospitable environment for cancer. Gonzalez points me towards mouse studies published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, which demonstrate that enzymes, given orally, protect breast cancer-prone mice from the disease. He believes that studies done at the turn-of-the-century by John Beard, Professor of Embryology at the University of Edinburgh, demonstrate why. Beard noticed that the placenta of mammals stops growing when the pancreas of the fetus begins secreting enzymes. Something in the enzymes seems to mortalize what are otherwise immortal (embryonic) cells.

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Since cancer cells are immortal, it stands to reason that pancreatic enzymes would stop them from growing as well. Beard began injecting trypsin (a common pancreatic enzyme) into tumors in mice. In 1905, he announced his findings at the Biological Society of Liverpool. "Cancer," he said, "has ceased to be a problem for the embryologist." As incredible as it sounds, Beard had arrived at fundamental understanding of cancer through his observations of embryologic development: cancer is caused by the failure of a normal process which clears cells that are prone to immortality. Based on his embryology studies, he argued that cancer cells cannot live in the presence of pancreatic enzymes. Although he was soundly attacked by his colleagues at the time, studies published recently support the validity of his concepts.

Degrading Cancer Cells

Just as Beard predicted, cancer cells use their own mutant forms of enzymes to "eat away" surrounding tissue. But cancer itself is subject to the body's natural enzymes, the pancreatic enzymes. These enzymes are stronger (in a sense) than cancer enzymes because they can degrade cancer cells. Beard called it the "antithesis of two digestions". This battle of the enzymes is apparently dependant on pH. Cancer cells cannot withstand the pH environment created by pancreatic enzymes.

Beard injected enzymes near the site of his patients' tumors. Dr. Gonzalez relies on oral enzymes. In 1975, a study published in the journal Science confirmed that pancreatic enzymes do, in fact, enter the blood stream through the gut, and are recycled back to the pancreas. The study verifies that oral enzymes have the potential to reach cancerous tissue by ingestion.

Gonzalez told me that some of his patients take as many as 50 to 60 enzymes tablets a day for three weeks. Although no study has yet been done to track where these enzymes end up, Gonzalez feels certain that they end up where they need to be? in tumor tissue.

The pancreatic enzymes are the only direct anti-tumor therapy Dr. Gonzalez incorporates into his protocol. Cancer patients are asked to take 5-7 enzyme capsules six times a day. They are told to take pancreatic enzymes with meals and in between meals around the clock. Some patients wake up at night to take more enzymes. After three weeks, Dr. Gonzalez has the patients take a few days off for additional detoxification. Coffee enemas are used repeatedly throughout the first month. After the first months, the dose of pancreatic enzymes is usually reduced significantly.

Pancreatic enzymes can degrade shark cartilage or Dr. Burzynski's antineoplastin peptides, so cancer patients taking these other therapies should avoid taking pancreatic enzymes at the same time otherpeptide therapies are in the stomach.

Individualized Programs

Enzymes, diet modification and detoxification are nothing new, so I asked Dr. Gonzalez what makes his protocol different. His success is based on individualized programs. "The big failing in many alternative approaches to cancer treatment," he tells me, "is that every patient who walks in the door gets the same treatment. Why would you think that if a certain therapy works for one patient, it will work for everyone? People's physiology can differ. That has to be taken into account."

Good point, but how does Dr. Gonzalez know what will work for each patient? By evaluating the patient's physiological state, he can begin to modify the ten basic diets he has developed to address the individual's specific imbalances. Special tests he has developed over the past 15 years are used to create a profile of a patient's physiology. Like his protocols, they sound strange, but are all based on sound science. One test requires patients to sacrifice their hair instead of their blood. "Most hair tests are not very good. But I can learn a lot about a patient from well-designed hair analysis." One large corporation is impressed enough with the tests to sponsor trials which may lead to mass-marketing of his test procedures.

Once the test results are in, the patient is then categorized as either sympathetic or parasympathetic. Then a regimen is developed for each patient. The regimen is not easy. It requires much more effort on the part of the patient than traditional therapy. Gonzalez insists that patients not only change their eating habits, but their psychological and spiritual selves as well. "I've had patients whose cancer didn't get better no matter how perfectly they did my program," he tells me, "until they resolved serious emotional issues in their lives." The results are apparently worth it. Gonzalez claims a 70-75% success rate with patients who comply.

A New View Of How Tumors Behave

Part of what has led Dr. Gonzalez to his nontraditional therapy is that he is skeptical of current thinking about how tumors behave. The size of the tumor doesn't matter to him. He actually prefers that the tumor enlarge, explaining that the body's natural response to a tumor is inflammation. If the body is doing what it's supposed to do, then inflammation should occur. Inflammation can make a tumor look large on an X-ray. The patient and the doctor may think he's getting worse when in fact he's getting better. "Study after study has tried to correlate tumor size with survival and they can't do it," he declares. "The fact of the matter is that if a patient feels good they live longer. If they don't, they don't." Makes sense to me, but isn't the goal to get rid of the thing? "It's not necessary to destroy a tumor to get a patient well," he tells me, "sometimes the body will wall off a tumor and just keep it there like an old bird's nest."

According to Dr. Gonzalez, tumor biology is a lot more complicated than is presently appreciated. He believes the scientific community's fixation on tumor size is "two-dimensional" thinking. "It's like someone going out, looking at the horizon, and concluding the world is flat," He says. He believes that cancer is a multi-system, multi-faceted disease with demands a broader view.

Whatever the relevance of tumor size, the hair test Gonzalez has developed motivates patients. Keeping within the "normal" range is like scoring a touchdown after a long battle on the field. Patients work hard to keep their test scores within range. A bad score can mean a patient is stressed, or it could indicate the patient is slacking off. An increase in score is usually enough to motivate a change.

Henri-Etta's Story

Henri-Etta Simmons knows the ups and downs of cancer. Four-and-a-half years into a remission induced by surgery and six months of intensive chemotherapy (including tamoxifen), she woke up with what she thought was pleurisy. Distracted by family problems, she didn't seek medicle advice until she almost couldn't breath. When she finally did see her doctor, he took her into "the little room where they tell you bad things." She knew the news wasn't good. Her breast cancer had re-occurred.

Several years later, she tells me, "I could tell by his attitude that the doctor had drawn a line through my name." But she wasn't ready to give up and began to fight. The physician had nothing to offer but more chemo, so Henri began looking for treatments herself.

People find miracles on different places. For Henri-Etta it was the grocery store. Standing in the checkout line, a headline on a magazine caught her eye. A service could provide information on the latest cancer therapy. She bought the magazine and ordered information on metastatic breast cancer. The advisor she spoke with cautioned her to avoid long-term chemotherapy until she received the information.

Several days later, while sitting in the reception area of her regular oncologist's office, a nurse appeared in lead apron and long gloves. It was time, the nurse told her, to begin long-term chemotherapy. Henri-Etta refused. Traditional therapy has succeeded for a while, but this time she wanted something that would last.

After she read the information from the service, she knew she would try Dr. Gonzalez' nutritional approach. Many of the therapies involved drugs, but the idea of forcing her own body to work against the illness fascinated her. It was an exciting concept? one she couldn't quit thinking of during the plane ride to New York.

The Role Of Differentiation

Dr. Gonzalez has definite ideas about treating breast cancer. For one thing, he does not believe that estrogen either causes or stimulates it. In fact, part of his treatment is to normalize the production of estrogen. Why? Because Gonzalez believes that estrogen may cause breast cells to differentiate.

 

"Differentiation" is a hot word

"Differentiation" is a hot word in cancer research. Scientists have known for years that cells start out as somewhat amorphous. When stimulated by substances in the body, they become more differentiated, or precise, in their characteristics. Cancer has a better chance of taking hold in undifferentiated (immature) cells.

Jose and Irma Russo of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia recently published a paper on the subject. They have found that, in female rats, the hormone, chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is crucial for the differentiation of mammary cells. According to the Russo's work, rats exposed to hCG are far less likely to get breast cancer. HCG is only released during the last trimester of pregnancy, which is why women who have children (before the age of 30) are less likely to get breast cancer than women who never have children. The Russos were able to treat virgin female rats with the hormone and protect them from breast cancer. The hormone induces cells to differentiate, which is important in making the environmental stresses that can provoke cancer. One of the Russos' concerns, which may relate to the spiraling incidence of breast cancer, is that grown women are turning up with immature mammary cells. Even through the women have borne children should cause their cells to differentiate, their cells remain virgin-like. The Russos believe the cells in these women have failed to respond to hormones. Research conducted over the past ten years on the effects of pesticides and other chemicals give insight into why this is occurring.

Toxic Effects of Pesticides

image Dioxin is the most ubiquitous poison in the environment, with high levels of it in women with breast cancer. It has been reported that every human on earth has dioxin in their body. A report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1994 concludes that dioxin causes cancer, and that it is far more toxic than previously reported. Dioxin is found in pesticides, including "2,4-D" which is related to "Agent Orange" (the herbicide used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam). It is found in numerous foods, including meat (especially in fat), dairy products and fish. Variations of it are sprayed on fruit and vegetables. In addition it occurs as a byproduct of plastics manufacture and chlorine products (such as the bleach used to whiten paper products).

Dioxin is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It occupies estrogen receptors like real estrogen, but doesn't covey signals to cells the way natural estrogen does. In effect, it blocks estrogen. Dioxin also reduces the number of estrogen receptors. High levels of dioxin correlate to low levels of estrogen-mediated activity. Since dioxin tends to accumulate in fat, the breasts are particularly vulnerable. But males, too, are vulnerable to dioxin. The escalating incidence of prostate cancer has also been linked to dioxin.

Dr. Gonzalez' Detoxification Method

The liver is the main organ of detoxification. During the process of breaking down cancer, toxic byproduct are released into the blood stream. Dr. Gonzalez wants his patients exposed to as few extra toxins as possible so as not to overburden the liver's detoxification capacity. Avoiding environmental toxins, while augmenting liver function, helps patients avoid the toxic complications of cancer therapy which occur when the toxic products of cancer destruction are released into the body. Gonzalez prescribes a simple liver detoxification method which has consistently proven effective: coffee enemas.

Henri-Etta Simmons estimates that it took six months to detoxify her body. She eats only organic vegetables and animals raised without chemicals and hormones. Almost nine years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she is alive and well. The day I talked to her, she had walked 4 miles. She is adamant that people should be made aware of the choices they can make when diagnosed with cancer. "When you're first diagnosed, you're so scared that you get in line and do what they say," she told me. "Many people will still choose conventional therapy, but they should be made aware of what's available."

Cancer Is Not A Death Sentence

Mort Schneider agrees. One day in July, 1991, while sitting at a friend's house, he felt dizzy and sweaty. Thinking it was a heart attack, his wife took him to the emergency room, only to be told his heart was okay. Nevertheless, he saw a cardiologist, and took along a chest X-ray that had been taken at the ER. Fortunately for Schneider, the cardiologist had better vision than the ER staff. He took one look at the X-ray an told Schneider there was a spot on his lung. After undergoing surgery, Schneider found out it was cancerous.

CAT scans showed it had spread to the liver, pancreas and adrenals. The oncologist told him not to torture himself with chemotherapy or radiation. His wise, a longstanding believer in preventative medicine and alternative therapies, took over his care. Within two months, she has located Dr. Gonzalez, and Mort was sitting in his office. When asked how he could have trusted his life to a diet and supplements, he tells me, "I didn't have much choice. I could either sit around waiting to die, or I could do something."

Maybe because he had avoided conventional therapy, or perhaps because he reached Dr. Gonzalez so rapidly, Schneider was in better shape than most patients. As sick as he was, Gonzalez expressed confidence that he would improve. Four months into the program, Schneider was surprised to receive a phone call from the doctor. Gonzalez had called to inform him that his tests looked good - very good. Five years later, at age 75, Mort Schneider is alive and well. He eats no red meat, sugar or refined foods. Every two months he sends a hair sample to Dr. Gonzalez for analysis. Once a year he travels to New York so that Gonzalez can examine him.

The Value Of A Pro-Active Attitude

All of the patients I spoke to told m that a pro-active attitude was critical to their recovery. Edmund Rubin saw physicians at one of the finest university hospitals in the country, yet he was on a downhill course until he took charge of his own treatment. While he has no animosity towards traditional physicians, he feels that these doctors "may be looking through the wrong end of the telescope."

None of the patients had time to wait for modern science to demonstrate why certain alternative therapies work. Rubin is philosophical about his experience. "Look." He told me, "I'm happy to drink my carrot juice and have it work, and not worry about what makes it work. That may not be very scientific, but I'm not in this for science; I'm in it for survival."

image He points out that twenty years after Nixon declared war on cancer, the incidence of some types of cancer has risen. It doesn't make sense to him that insurance companies refuse to cover alternative therapy (ed note: some companies such as Blue Cross? are beginning to cover some non-traditional cancer therapies). Why spend $50,000-100,000 a year for chemotherapy and radiation when $6,000 worth of supplements might do the trick?

Mort Schneider and Henri-Etta Simmons both believe they would be dead had they not taken the initiative to seek alternative therapy. Science has repeatedly verified what they and other know intuitively: the "will to live" is one of the most important factors in overcoming cancer. It is the one psychological factor which has been conclusively linked to cancer-related survival in clinical studies.

image The Lives Of Millions Of People Are At Stake

It is imperative that the government, the media, and the general public pay more attention to alternative cancer therapies such as Dr. Gonzalez' nutritional approach. The traditional slash-and-burn form of treatment has largely failed after decades of research costing billions of dollars. It is clearly time for a change.

The NCI is playing catch-up with regard to alternative treatments. Although it is considering analogs of vitamins as preventative agents, NCI has yet to commit serious time and interest to natural therapies. Dr. Gonzalez' work is an exception. The Institute is following his trial of ten pancreatic cancer patients. Hopefully in the near future, it will invest for of America's tax dollars in trials of other alternative therapies.

Cancer prevention is underrated in midstream America. Yet numerous studies demonstrate the efficacy of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and other substances in preventing the disease. The power of these natural substances to cause disruption of cancer can and should be utilized before cancer gets a toehold. Along with alternative cancer therapies such as Dr. Gonzalez', the Life Extension Foundation endorses the use of documented cancer-preventing nutrients as an important component in an longevity program.

Those persons interested in Dr. Gonzalez' treatment program or his upcoming trials on metastatic breast or colon cancer should contact him at: 212/213-3337.

Further Reading:

  1. Yoneda T, Takaoka Y, Boyce BJ, Scott L and GR Mundy. 1994 Extracts of porcine pancreas prevent progression of hypercalcemia and cachexia and prolong survival in nude mice bearing a human squamous carcinoma. Canc Res 54: 2509-2513
  2. Liebow C and SS Rothman. 1975. [Enteropancreatic circulation of digestive enzymes]. Science 189: 472-474
  3. Harris M, Zacharewski T and S Safe. 1990. Effects of 2, 3, 7, 8-tetra-chlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and related compounds on the occupied nuclear estrogen receptor in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Canc Res 50 (12):3579-84
  4. Weinberg, J ed. Dow Brand Dioxin: Dow Makes You Poison Great Things. Greenpeace publication. (Call (202) 462-1177).
  5. Cone M. "Pollution's Effect on Sexual Development Fire Debate." Los Angeles Times Oct. 3, 1994; A1.
  6. King LS, 1965. Prevention of virus-induced mammary tumors by an orally active pancreas factor. Exp Med Surg 23:345-7.

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