Category: Disease News

Cancer Treatment

Cancer: A New Frontier

Any field of study, including cancer research, periodically reviews its basic assumptions. According to Ralph Moss, Ph.D., an assumption that determined the direction of cancer research for decades was the belief that metastasis happened “relatively late in the course of the disease and that it occurs largely as a result of increasing malignancy in the original (primary) tumor.” He then cited a Science journal publication which challenged this prevailing belief by presenting evidence “contrary to the late-spread hypothesis.”

The article reported that both normal and nonmalignant cancer cells often travel and relocate to organs and tissues in areas that seem unrelated to the route of blood and lymph flow. They perform benign metastasis. In addition, these satellite cells relocate with no signs of genetic anomalies.

Reciprocal Relationships Paradigm
Other published reports demonstrated that surgical removal of the primary tumor in breast cancer patients aggravated some metastasized cells, causing them to become cancerous. The primary tumor actually retarded the development of distal tumors. This work established the existence of a pathological relationship between the primary tumor and the distal cells. However, the potential therapeutic connection between distal cells and the primary tumor has yet to be sufficiently explored.

If the primary tumor impedes the malignancy of distal cells, supporting cellular immunity should have a therapeutic effect on the primary tumor. Candice Pert, Ph.D. proposed that both science and industry must support the neuroimmunological framework of the body’s interconnected systems. Even Kaiser Permanente now offers pre-surgery guided meditation CDs and herbs like Chaparral through its pharmacy because they are considered to be cost-effective treatments.

The flow of neuropeptides plays a critical role in cultivating the internal conditions which enhance existent visceral healing systems (Pert, 1997). Rather than segregating research towards the exclusive development of new uses of chemotherapy, radiation, or invasive surgery, this new paradigm embraced an approach that combines the best of both systems.

Intense Supportive Therapies Need Exposure
Nutritional deficiency caused by standard cancer treatment is common. For example, the detrimental effect of radiation on cellular metabolism often exacerbates cancer when patients ingest foods high in sugar and inflammatory drinks like caffeine for emotional support. Some doctors now advise patients to alkalinize their blood chemistry because cancer thrives in an acidic environment; wheatgrass juice, red clover, garlic, pau d’arco, aloe vera and thyme are effective. This breakthrough combination of allopathic and holistic methods is a sanguine indication of scientific common sense. However, a less well-known treatment called therapeutic apheresis, which filters the blood to initiate an anti-tumor reaction, is still rarely offered to cancer patients.

The Mind-Body Effect on Cancer Research
Observations of an inter-systemic communication system changed the focus of scientific thought from always “fighting” cancer to multiple internal support methodologies. By providing cancer patients access to their own internal neuro-immunological pharmacy through emotional biochemistry, regenerative nutrition, and therapies that improve neuropeptide receptivity in multiple body systems, the internal healing environment is cultivated while the chemistry of cancer undergoes progressive research.

This nascent body of information has significant implications for researchers who seek to balance the current body of work, based on late-metastasis theory, by designing research studies predicated on the new early-metastasis theory.

Is Africa Silent about AIDS?

In the West, most of the media reporting on matters of concern to Africa, especially the HIV and AIDs epidemic, is told through the eyes and experiences of scholars, practitioners in the field, researchers and academics from the West. There are few stories told from the South by Africans themselves.

According to Dr. Raymond Downing, an American medical doctor, who, with his medical doctor wife, have been living and practising medicine in different African countries for over fifteen years “Little is reported about what African leaders and scholars think about their own epidemic [AIDS]….Africans have written but for most part are not being read by people in the West. “Thus from our [Western] perspective Africa is “silent” about AIDS”[i]. {Emphasis mine)As They See It: The Development of the African AIDS Discourse

Numerous other scholars from both the West and Africa share similar sentiments. For example Laurie Garrett has noted that nearly all global health projects “have been designed, managed, and executed by residents of the wealthy world (albeit in cooperation with local personnel and agencies).” She states that “Virtually no provisions exist to allow the world’s poor to say what they want, decide which projects serve their needs, or adopt local innovations
[ii].” She concludes that advocacy, the whims of foundations, and the particular concerns of wealthy individuals and governments drive practically the entire global public health effort.

Rev. Sam L. Ruteikara, co-chair of Uganda’s National AIDS-Prevention Committee has lamented the fact that the views of Africans have been ignored. “We, the poor of Africa, remain silenced in the global dialogue. Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored“”

AIDS expert Helen Epstein writes in a preface to her book “The Invisible Cure,” that “everyone seems to know what Africa needs, but sometimes I think our minds are not really on it.”

Even the famous “Make Poverty History” events around the Group of Eight summit in Scotland in July of 2005 which had “Live 8” rock concerts in nine countries did not feature Africans.. According to Prof . William Easterly, “Everyone, it seems, was invited to the “Save Africa” campaign of 2005 except for Africans[iv].”

Richard Horton the editor of Lancet noted that in the 2006 International Conference on AIDs held in Canada there was no African representative that spoke at the opening session which “sent an incredibly negative signal that Africa lacked leadership on HIV and AIDs and that its people paid the disease far too little attention”.

While I have noted a marked difference in Africans participation in international conferences over the last two decades, the only downside is that these forums are usually largely ceremonial. The declarations and frameworks are debated and agreed upon months if not years ahead of the conferences. In most cases Africans are not involved in those deliberations for various reasons.

It is not only in international forums and conferences that African views are absent – but in the development of specific national strategies and policies For example, the New York Times reported that in 2003 Mozambique had developed a comprehensive HIV national strategy and had agreed with donors to pool their contributions. So they were glad to be designated as one of PEPFAR beneficiaries but were shocked when they were also told, ‘‘We want to move quickly, and we know that your government doesn’t have the capacity[v].” Only after prolonged debates did PEFPFAR finally grant the country the help that they needed by helping Mozambique strengthen its health infrastructure. Mozambique’s north western neighbour, Zambia, had its share of complaints. One government official stated that every aspect of the AIDS response apart from blood transfusion services comes from abroad.[vi].

Of course, the concept of who pays the piper comes into play. When African countries and organisations need funds from Western agencies they need to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) which has been previously developed with the priorities and interests of the funding agency. Consequently, in order to be eligible for funds they must tailor or restrict their activities to those that are stated in the RFPs, regardless of what their own priorities and needs may be.

The case for including African people in developing the right responses and solutions to their own problems has long been known and agreed by the international community. Indeed, it can make the difference between the success and failure of a project. A leading light in the AIDS fight from the West, Dr. Paul farmer notes that programs that do not involve the recipients are bound to fail. “When programs are properly designed to reflect patients’ needs rather than the wishes of donors, AIDS funding can strengthen primary care.[vii]”

One example illustrates this very clearly. While the Western world has a microbe-centric medical approach to fighting diseases, Africans have a two-pronged approach to battling diseases. They understand the viral aspect of disease – a microbe causes a disease but they also have a spiritual understanding of disease. This is the reason that according to WHO as many as 80% of Africans consult traditional African healers and use traditional African remedies[viii]. These spiritualists seek to understand why a certain individual becomes infected with a disease while others living in the same microbe context do not. Yet most AIDS approaches, designed without the inputs of the local people have ignored traditional healers and remedies and ridiculed them as charlatans and nothing more than practitioners of witchcraft.

Sometimes hot button cultural issues of the West influence how AIDs projects and policies are developed in other countries – even when those issues are not a priority or even concern of local people. For example, different perspectives regarding abstinence or condom use, homosexuality and illegal drug users, or how to deal or not deal with sex workers have greatly impacted AIDs policies. A former PEPFAR Global AIDS coordinator lamented the politicized HIV debates stating that “The enemy here ought to be apathy, denial and stigma,” he said. “I don’t know why people spend so much time fighting each other.[ix]”

However, while some countries have the wherewithal to resist some of these stipulations many poor countries cannot. In 2005, Brazil turned down $40 million from the United States when it refused to sign on to a policy that condemned sex work. Brazil stated that it had taken the decision “in order to preserve its autonomy on issues related to national policies on HIV and AIDS as well as ethical and human rights principles[x]”.

Cultural ignorance has also affected how AIDs projects are rolled out. For example, the significant decision that had to be made to extend or not extend ARV treatment to Africans rested on the shoulders of a man (a USAID Director) who claimed that this would not be a good idea as “that many Africans cannot tell time well enough to take anti-AIDS drugs”. Speaking in 2001, he explained that the US government would only support prevention and not treatment for Africans as many Africans “do not know what watches or clocks are. They do not use Western means to tell time. They use the sun. These [AIDS] drugs have to be administered in certain sequences, at certain times during the day.”

Fortunately, his views did not carry the day and Africans were provided with the ARVs they needed. In evaluations of their treatment uptake and drop offs Africans proved to be as diligent as other people in Western countries when it came to taking their drugs on time. Had the gentleman spoken to a single African he would have learnt that while they may not have watches they have a very keen sense and concept of and ways to tell time.

[xi]. The essence of a good policy is to develop it from the perspective of those who will be directly affected by it rather than the perspective of the donors or experts. Different people in other cultures are affected differently by the same phenomena. The AIDS epidemic is not the same across Africa. In some countries the prevalence rate is low while in others it is high, in some countries the mode of transmission has changed from traditional ones to injecting drug uses, gays and sex workers. In some countries the prevalence rate has stabilized and in some others it is still rising. In such a diverse context any highly homogenized approaches, whether from Washington DC or from Nairobi are ill advised. It is therefore critical to ensure that local stakeholders are involved in all aspects of any international initiatives through participatory development approaches. The World Bank realized just that much and adopted a strategy that allows individual countries to produce their own Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) that guide national governments policy and include civil society. On the other hand, the Global Fund includes civil society in all stages of decision-making, from sourcing, drafting proposals, and watching over implementation.

In addition to involving stakeholders in all the cycles of a project, there is a need to put in place mechanism for feedback. Markets work because of consumer feedback through their purchasing decisions and democracies work because of the feedback mechanism of regular elections. However, in many non-profit projects or initiatives there is no feedback mechanism to register how the benefeciaries feel about the initiative in question. According to Prof . William Easterly[xii] in his article, “Tone Deaf on Africa,” many big development plans fail to work because they miss the critical elements of feedback and accountability.

African voices on important development issues such as public health and HIV and AIDs can be heard if more people make an effort to seek them out and also oppose efforts to proceed without them. In many parts of the world it would not be acceptable for someone to make decisions affecting another group of people without consulting or involving them. The good intentions of Western nations and organizations can be realized when their own priorities, ideas and interests are placed side-by-side and balanced with those of local communities or organizations which are the voices of the people.