Leukaemia (ALL, AML, CLL and CML)
CISS relies strongly in its evaluations below on impartial analyses by the International Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal’s Clinical Evidence Group – two groups of researchers who specialise in Evidence Based Medicine.
Conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer, therefore, treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer. Unfortunately statistics will show this is rarely the case. Conventional medicine also advocates treatment should only be used if supported by appropriate clinical trials showing efficacy. In fact evidence based medicine suggests that the only reliable evidence needs to come from properly run randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Again, with conventional cancer treatment, this is generally not the case.
The following is based on the conventional cancer paradigm.
Leukaemia is cancer of the blood cells. Most cells form in the bone marrow. In leukaemia, cancerous blood cells form and crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow.
The type of leukaemia depends on the type of blood cell that has become cancerous. For example, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a cancer of the lymphoblast’s (white blood cells that fight infection). White blood cells are the most common type of blood cell to become cancer. But red blood cells (cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body) and platelets (cells that clot the blood) may also become cancer.
Leukaemia occurs most often in adults older than 55 years, and it is the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years.
Leukaemia is either acute or chronic. Acute leukaemia is a fast growing cancer that usually gets worse quickly. Chronic leukaemia is a slower growing cancer that gets worse slowly over time. The treatment and prognosis for leukaemia depend on the type of blood cell affected and whether the leukaemia is acute or chronic. Chemotherapy is often used to treat leukaemia. (National Cancer Institute)
Risks: There are no proven methods to prevent leukaemia
Signs and Symptoms: Many people with leukaemia have no symptoms. Symptoms tend to be mild at first and worsen slowly. The main symptoms include:
- Tiredness and/or anaemia (pale complexion, weakness and breathlessness)
- Repeated infections (mouth sores, sore throat, fevers, sweats, coughing, frequent passing of urine with irritation, infected cuts and scratches, and boils)
- Increased bruising and bleeding
Other less common symptoms include:
- Bone pain
- Swollen tender gums
- Skin rashes
- vision problems
- enlarged lymph nodes
- enlarged spleen that may cause pain or discomfort
- chest pains
An initial blood test will show if blast cells are present. A bone marrow biopsy, chest x-ray and lumbar puncture are done to confirm the diagnosis of leukaemia (Cancer council)
Treatment depends on the type of leukaemia. Acute leukaemia’s develop quickly and need to be treated urgently, typically within 24 hours of diagnosis.
Common treatment options are:
Acute lymphoblastic* leukaemia (ALL) (*also referred to as lymphocytic)
- peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow transplantation
- radiotherapy to the head
- steroid therapy
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
- peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow transplantation
- radiotherapy to the head
Chronic lymphoblastic* leukaemia (CLL). (*also referred to as lymphocytic)
- watchful waiting
- radiation therapy
- chemotherapy (chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is being tested in clinical trials)
- surgery (removal of spleen)
- monoclonal antibody therapy
Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
- tyrosine kinase inhibitory therapy
- biologic therapy
- high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
- donor lymphocyte infusion
- surgery removal of spleen (Cancer Council)
Note: Radiation – uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Please note: radiation has been shown to reduce recurrence with many types of cancer but this rarely results in increased survival. (The efficacy of radiotherapy, DJ Benjamin).
Chemotherapy – the use of toxic drugs to kill the cancer cell or stop them from growing.
An individual’s prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer as well as their age and general health at the time of diagnosis. For most children and many adults who achieve remission, the leukaemia may be cured with peripheral blood stem cell or bone marrow transplantation and chemotherapy. In Australia, the five year survival rate for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is around 73%, for acute myeloid leukaemia it is 24% (Cancer Council)
An individual’s prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer as well as their age and general health at the time of diagnosis.
The above therapies all come with risks and side effects which should be discussed in detail by your treating physician.
Before deciding on one of these treatments you would benefit from asking your physician three questions:
Question 1: What are my treatment options? – These should include doing nothing.
Question 2: What are the possible outcomes of those options? – including benefits and side effects.
Question 3: How likely is each of the outcomes to occur?
If your doctor or other health practitioner cannot answer these questions, or shows that he or she is not comfortable with you asking these questions, it raises the question as to whether they are practising evidence based medicine and you should consider getting another opinion.
These three questions can be expanded.
Alternative Cancer Therapies
As mentioned above, conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer; therefore treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer.
Another paradigm believes that cancer is a systemic disease and the tumour is in fact a late stage symptom, element or manifestation of that disease. Therefore treating the disease should be systemic and wholistic (meaning treating the whole body) and should include the following principles:
- Treatment should cause no harm
- Treatment should be Wholistic (ie consider the whole person – body, mind, emotions and spirit)
- The person with cancer needs to take control of their own health.
This latter paradigm is supported by CISS (See Introduction to CISS)
Alternative cancer therapies are generally consistent with the above principles. In fact those believed to be most effective in controlling cancer – psychotherapy and immunotherapy – also have strong evidence from randomised controlled trials.
There are approximately 200 other alternative cancer therapies that have been shown or anecdotally reported to help a person with cancer have reduced morbidity and mortality. What is important in any cancer treatment is to both understand and believe in your chosen therapy.
Although not based on RCTs the most successful therapy for late stage cancers was:
- Issels’ Whole Body Therapy
Wholebody immunotherapy focused on restoring the body’s immune systems and was used by Josef Issels up to the 1970s.
It was estimated that a representative sample (252) of Issels’ patients with late stage cancers showed a 16.6% five year survival following his treatment and 15% 15 years survival in good health. Two of those with leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma were among those who survived 15 years.
References: Issels, J. Immunotherapy in Progressive Metastatic Cancer – A Fifteen-Year Follow-up. Clinical Trials Journal, August 1970: 357-365 – editorial by Phillips S. Dr Joseph Issels and the Ringberg Klinik. Clinical Trials Journal. August 1970: 355-56.
In Leukaemia, Ralph Moss (Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumers Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention) reports the following alternative therapies have been shown to benefit.
- Bestatin – Bestatin (also known as ubenimex) is a powerful immune stimulant discovered by Japanese scientists in 1076. It was isolated from the broth of the strep organism Streptomyces olivoreticuli. But unlike many other strep compounds, Bestatin is hardly toxic, even after long term administration.
In a large clinical trial in Japan, Bestatin prolonged the survival of patients with acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia. It was used alongside conventional chemotherapy to induce complete remissions. Japanese scientists noted “minimal side effects”.
In a study of acute nonlymphocytic leukaemia in adults, the length of remissions was prolonged when patients got Bestatin in addition to standard chemotherapy. This was especially true of elderly patients.
In another study, ten patients with chronic myelocytic leukaemia (CML) were treated with Bestatin as well as conventional therapy. Six of the ten experienced partial remissions within three months. However “one case showed a marked increase in white cell count and blast count,” an adverse sign in this type of cancer. From these findings haematologists at Osaka City University Medical School in Japan concluded that Bestatin could be used in either of these blood diseases, if the patient were unable to stand stronger chemotherapy.
Ota K. Review of ubenimex (Bestatin): clinical research. Biomed Pharmacother.1991;45:55-60.
Tsukagoshi S. (A new antitumour drug with immunomodulating activity, ubenimex (Bestatin). Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1987;14:2385-91.
Tatsumi N, et al. Effects of ubenimex, a biological response modifier, on myelodysplastic syndrome and chronic leukaemia. Biomed Pharmacother.1991;45:95-103.
- Butyric acid – is an oily liquid present in cow’s butter, it was discovered in 1869. Since the late 1960’s it and other related compounds have been investigated as a treatment for various kinds of cancer.
In one case a 500mg per kilogram intravenous dose of butyrate was given to a child with acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML). The child was in relapse and already resistant to conventional therapy. This unconventional treatment resulted in
- Elimination of myeloblasts (immature cells of the bone marrow) from the circulating blood supply;
- An increase in mature myeloid cells; and
- A reduction in bone marrow myeloblasts from 70-80 percent to 20 percent.
No impairment of liver, kidney or blood coagulation were seen during the treatment. Writing in Cancer; the Russian scientists concluded that natural agents that make cancer cells differentiate may provide additional drugs for the clinical management of selected cases of leukaemia.
Anger G, et al. (Treatment of multiple myeloma with a new cytostatic agent: gama-l-methyl-5-bis-(beta-chlorethyl)-amino-benzimidazolyl-(2)-butyric acid hydrochloride). Dtsch Med Wochenschr.1969;94:2495-500.
Finklestein JZ, et al. Unorthodox therapy fpr murine neuroblastoma with 6-hydroxydopamine (NSC-233898), bretylium tiosylate (NSC-62164), papaverine (NSC-35443), and butyric acid (NSC-8415). Cancer Chemother Rep.1975;59:571-4.
Novogrodsky A, et al. effect of polar organic compounds on leukemic cells. Butyrate-induced partial remission of acute myelogenous leukaemia in a child. Cancer.1983;51:9-14.
- Krestin – Most western doctors would be stymied if asked to name the best selling cancer drug in the world. The surprising answer is krestin, a Japanese mushroom extract. Krestin was patented in Japan in 1973, its anticancer properties were first reported at the chemotherapy congress in Athens that year.
In 1981, scientists studied patients with acute leukaemia “to determine if immunotherapy with Krestin can prolong the durations of complete remission and survival”. Complete remission rates were higher and survival times were indeed longer in the Krestin group than in those receiving just chemotherapy. Crucial cell mediated immunity was also enhanced.
These results suggested that Krestin was “useful for prolongation of the durations of remission and survival time in patients with acute leukaemia.
Reference: Nagao T, et al. Chemoimmunotherapy with Krestin in acute leukaemia. Tokai J Exp Clin Med.1981;6:141-6.
- Phototherapy – is the use of light in the treatment of diseases such as cancer. Phototherapy causes the destruction of tumours through the administration of a “photosensitising agent” that is retained in tumours. This relatively harmless substance is then activated by shining a light on the tumour in order to generate cell-killing agents on the spot.
In Vienna, scientists encouraged by success in treating various kinds of cancer involving T-cells (white blood cells), decided to try what is called extracorporeal (outside the body) phototherapy against a leukaemia of the opposite type of cells, the B cells. Three such patients were treated for a year. Two of them showed stabilisation of disease with a desired reduction of white blood cell count. The lymph nodes of another were normalised. One patient did not respond to this experimental therapy.
“No significant side effects” were observed, dermatologists at the University of Vienna reported. This treatment “may have a positive effect on the course” of B-cell leukaemia in selected patients. The Austrian doctors called for further clinical trials.
Reference: Knobler RM, et al. Experimental treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia with extracorporeal photochemotherapy. Initial observations. Blut.1990;60:215-8.
5. Selenium – is a mineral of the sulphur family. While toxic in high doses, a relatively high intake of selenium in the diet has been repeatedly linked to lower than usual incidences of cancer.
Scientists have seen some associations between selenium and cancer, that being the higher the amount of selenium in the body, the lower the rate of cancer. This association has been seen with leukaemia, as well as cancers of the intestines, rectum, ovary, prostate, lung, pancreas, skin and bladder.
6. Vitamin D – unlike any other nutrient, Vitamin D is manufactured in the body by exposure to sunlight. Together with the mineral calcium, it may play an important role in preventing colon and other kinds of cancer.
There are numerous studies showing the benefit of Vitamin D in both preventing and treating cancer. One study showed that even small amounts of the hormonal form of the vitamin will cause an early stage of leukemic cells to mature into healthy blood cells.
Reference: Tanaka H, et al. 1(alpha),25-dihydroxycholecalciferol and a human myeloid leukaemia cell line (HL-60). The presence of a cytosol receptor and induction of differentiation. Biochem J.1982;204:713-719.
If you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with leukaemia, it is important you research and understand your chosen treatment, whether that be conventional, alternative or a mixture of both. For the best results your treatment should include physical, mental, emotional/psychological and spiritual treatment.
If you don’t know where to begin in your journey to wellness then we suggest you read Where To Start. This provides an introduction to the alternative approach to treating cancer and also information about some evidenced based alternative cancer treatments.