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An Old Idea, Revived: Starve Cancer to Death (nytimes.com)
212 points by joshrotenberg on May 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments

This is one of the best newspaper science articles I've ever read. It's a survey of the landscape, talks to a wide variety of experts, and modulates expectations for some miracle cure while still laying out the possibilities that could come from this approach.

Very good read!

A family member of mine was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and told to get her affairs in order. She went on a strict no sugar diet. 5 years later, she has no sign of cancer.

Of course, she also had standard surgery and chemo. But I wouldn't be in the least surprised if the no sugar diet slowed the cancer down enough for the chemo/surgery to be more effective.

My mother had lung cancer which spread to other parts of her body. Throughout her sickness, she ate very little, then almost nothing as the disease progressed. By the time of her death, she was practically just skin and bones. "Starving the cancer" didn't seem to work in her case. Then again, chemo also seemed to have zero effect. Cancer just spread, more and more, with each passing month.

That sucks, and I'm sorry. But: chiming in to clarify: it's not "stop eating to starve cancer"; its, "change diet to route energy through metabolic pathways that cancer is disadvantaged for".

The parents point is valid though.

If not eating sugar could slow (all) cancers, then not eating at all would clearly cover that case, and should have slowed the lung cancer.

At the very least, his anecdote is convincing to me that it "starving the cancer" doesn't work with lung cancer.

In the more general sense though my first impression of the phrase "route energy through metabolic pathways that cancer is disadvantaged for" is that it sounds like random word salad.

It sure as hell doesn't work with lung cancer. My dad had been sugar free for almost a decade prior to his diagnosis of small cell adenocarcinoma. He lasted almost a year.

Sorry for your loss.

Can you elaborate on whether his diet excluded rice, refined grains and any other sort of simple carbs?

I was rather shocked to see in the documentary 'Fed Up' that all these carb rich foods get broken down to simple sugar molecules pretty darn quick and as far as the body is concerned are identical to sugar.

Simple carbs are known to cause big spikes in insulin levels. So it's not a sugar-free diet alone, but also one has to contemplate glycemic index and glycemic load of apparently non-sugary foods....


As reflected in the article, the key is keeping the insulin levels at bay.

Metformin helps too.

Dad had adopted a (basically) ketogenic diet. He wasn't obsessively strict about it, he'd cheat, but he did a pretty good job of avoiding cheap complex carbs like bread/pasta.

In all honesty, I'm pretty touchy about alternative cancer treatments. Probably too touchy. :) I watched Dad choke down blended flaxseed and cottage cheese. I had to talk him out of handing over what little money he and Mom had to some charlatan who claimed to be able to cure cancer with sound waves. And he was also pitched this "cancer lives on sugar, starve the cancer" horsecrap. It was all complete bullshit and he fucking died right when the doctor told me he would after Dad was diagnosed.

There are vampires and leaches out there selling fraudulent hope to the desperate. It's amazing to watch them crawl out of the woodwork.

I really can't imagine how horrible that must have been to experience. I'm sorry you went through it.

Cancer is a bunch of different diseases. I think we get into a lot of trouble when we talk about it in simplified terms.

There are stories about certain kinds of cancers having a metabolic component. I have a friend who had a very, very serious cancer which appears to have responded to metabolic therapy. It may not all be "horsecrap". But it's surely not a cure-all, either.

"It may not all be 'horsecrap'"

It's probably not. Bitterness creeps in far too easily and my words became caustic.

> In all honesty, I'm pretty touchy about alternative cancer treatments.

Can completely understand, a lot of prats out there who take advantage of desperate folk struggling with an awful, awful disease.

> In the more general sense though my first impression of the phrase "route energy through metabolic pathways that cancer is disadvantaged for" is that it sounds like random word salad.

"Eat food that cancer/tumors don't like as much as sugar."

Doesn't everything convert to glucose? Isn't that what cells live on?

Regular cancer cells can use ketones for fuel. Cancer cells, with damaged mitochondria cannot.

> If not eating sugar could slow (all) cancers, then not eating at all would clearly cover that case, and should have slowed the lung cancer.

Umm.. This sounds to me to be very simplistic thinking. What about the effects of complete starving on the immune system for example?. Or for that matter, the proposed no sugar diet triggers some mechanisms from here. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_immunology)

I do agree, it's not yet accepted through experiments via the scientific method though.

All in all we're all saying what researcher are saying more and more since a few years. Cancer is 'multi-variate' and no silver bullet, no one cure will work blind.

My car broke down the other day and I immediately started doing my prayers and sacrifices to the car healing gods. 2 weeks later, my car is running smoothly with no signs of issues!

Of course, my mechanic also replaced the engine, but I wouldn't be surprised if my process helped.

That's why 'smart people' advise to do both; try something you believe in (it helps if you believe) but do it next to regular treatments. Replace the engine and pray at the same time. Praying doesn't hurt although it won't help because of the praying (if there would be a god, it is well accepted that he doesn't listen to individual requests; you get your chance in heaven) but because of the faith/believe you have which somehow makes you stronger.

BTW: Is that sugar as in all sugars or refined sugars? Not eating 'sweets' is not a bad idea anyway no matter if it helps against cancer or not. Just like not eating massive amounts of meat and exercising. It might not help you achieve immortality but it can't hurt. And no it does not 'remove all fun from life'.

I don't disagree, but I think other people looking at the situation should be able to distinguish the two.

Yes, and it should be told to them correctly. Saw a lot of people die by picking the alternative way only...

I was careful to point out that she did not eschew the standard treatment, and followed all of her oncologist's advice.

Does placebo even work for cancer?

Probably not; the point is that you use the regular treatment and, if you have some 'alternative way' you think that will help you, you just add it to it. I would never suggest to try only the 'alternative way'. The fact that I was doing something 'myself' (eating no sugar in my case which I continued after remission) made me feel better and more positive. If it helped I will never know but I felt better for it so who cares.

She's well aware that her experience is anecdotal and not scientifically rigorous. It's like the joke where the ad exec says "I know I'm wasting half of my advertising budget, I just don't know which half."

Fructose is crack for cancer.

Ketogenic diets have only proven beneficial for certain brain tumors. What kind of cancer did she have?

Uterine sarcoma

This seems unlikely. I mean it would be such a simple experiment to do. Give a few rats cancer, and give them different diets. See how long they live. Surely that's already been done, and if the results were so positive, surely we would know about them.

>This seems unlikely.

strong conclusion. What is your basis for it, if any? Do you have any related experience, education? May be you happened at least to read something on the subject?

>if the results were so positive, surely we would know about them.

we do know about them. At least when you are not too lazy to use Google.


"Although the full mechanism by which ketogenic diets improve oncological and neurological conditions still remains to be elucidated, their clinical efficacy has attracted many new followers, and ketogenic diets can be a good option as a co-adjuvant therapy, depending on the situation and the extent of the disease."

Ketogenic diets have been tested and have proven to be significantly beneficial to cancer patients.

Well then I'm wrong. But I trust that a lot more than a single anecdote about someone's grandma.

The already mentioned podcast on this topic is very good: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/11/03/dominic-dagostino/

Have their been any decent-sized rigorous human studies on this? I see a few small ones but I may be looking in the wrong place.

Not that I know of unfortunately.

So it's not really fair to say that they've been tested and proven to have significant benefit, is it?

Yes proven is too strong of a word: "Have shown promising results".

did she go on a strict no sugar diet specifically as a supplementary treatment to the metastatic cancer? and if so, what guidance was she following?

Yes, as a supplementary treatment. She still did all the traditional treatments recommended by her oncologist. She wrote a book about her method and experience, "Thriver Soup" by Heidi Bright.

Was this no refined sugar or no sugar at all?

My guess it was a very low carb diet. The only difference between refined sugar in a soft drink and break is how fast the sugars get into your blood.

What do you mean break? Anyway, there are many differences between refined sugar and natural sugar in e.g. fruit.

Other than the rate of absorption, what differences are you talking about? Yes, glucose, fructose and sucrose are different, but all can be bad if you eat too much. And, people don't normally thing of bread as being something that breaks down into glucose.

Sorry, bad typo. I meant "bread".

This is probably why cannabinoids are likely to have a synergistic effect in treating some (but not all) cancers when used in concert with immunotherapies and chemotherapies... The cannabinoid receptors connect into the akt system and modulate cell energy use. In vitro, some cancer cell lines are eradicated by cannabinoids, probably in vivo it's more complicated but weakening the cells probably helps.

Interestingly, cannabinoid antagonists also show some preclinical success.

that also makes sense. If you tweak finely tuned energy use in either direction, then things will break.

I was recently shocked and practically offended to read guidelines on what to eat while undergoing chemo[1]. It was a high-sugar diet, basically (milkshakes were encouraged!). I couldn't imagine anything worse than shocking your body with radiation, and then providing cancer cells with all the sugar they need for growth. Hopefully the ideas in this article start to affect public health policy and guidelines.

1: http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-informat...

As interesting as the article is, it's way too early to have feelings as strong as being "practically offended" towards literature advising such a diet.

It's perhaps better to tell patients to "eat balanced and enjoy yourself with a treat from time to time like anyone else" and stamp some medical authority behind it rather than have them obsess over diet to the point where they become hooked by all the predators selling fad diet cures.

I'd argue that the body of research supporting the `sugar == detriment` hypothesis is mounting. This is merely another in a series of dominoes that is (potentially) falling in that direction. I'd recommend the blog (eatingacademy.com) of Dr. Peter Attia, founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative, for more.

Just to be sure no one misunderstands: these milkshakes are not the same that one would drink at McDonalds etc. They are like the shakes overweight people drink to lose weight before surgery, only that they are for gaining weight. These shakes have many different vitamins, minerals etc. the body needs and have many calories (1.5-2.0 kcal/ml), and yes that means sugar.

These shakes are also low on lactase because depending on the chemo patients can become intollerant to lactase (either through the chemo or antibiotics that are given). They are also low on fibre so its easier to digest.

They recommend that because in many cases you can't hold down solid food for periods of time.

Good luck eating your veg and protein when you immediately vomit it back up.

Not only that but it is very easy to create a very strong food aversion to whatever you have recently eaten. Your brain connects the very bad nausea that results from the chemo with whatever you last ate. This effect can be so strong that people can never eat that food ever again.

One trick is to choose a scapegoat food that you don't care too much about, preferably something novel (e.g. strong liquorice might work). This has been shown to reduce the risk of aversion to normal food. [1]

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/3677112/

That's brilliant if so, great how such a simple technique could potentially have a solid, measurable, quality of life improvement.

Yes, that is important to note! All the 'experience' including the nausea, but also the smells of the hospital and the changes in that smell get connected to food you eat at that time. I did not touch my favorite foods during that because of that reason. The stuff I did eat I couldn't stomach for many months after (like croissants); luckily I went to work in China for months after so I got completely different food than in Europe which gave me the time for my body to unstress from the ordeal.

Interesting. I ate a can of tuna fish salad a while back. They changed something in the recipe, something made me feel sick in weird and deep ways. For a year, the sight of a similar enough can would trigger nausea back, with cold sweat fear.

As a child I ate some sweet potatoes and not long after was vomiting (some sort of bug), for the next 15 years I felt sick at the thought of eating sweet potatoes and similar vegetables and did not eat any.

Now I enjoy them just fine and cook with them, but every time I see one I still remember throwing up as a child.

I had the same experience with leaf parsley as a kid - my aunt made a broth with a bit more parsley than I was used to, and something - probably unrelated - made me almost vomit then. My brain "connected the dots". From then on, pretty much just seeing leaf parsley would make me nauseous, and I was quite a PITA for the family over that. 10-15 years later, something "clicked" in my head, and now I actually like it in my soup.

Teaches you how many security layers there are in our systems. Very low risk to ingest anything that may cause you harm.

This happens with alcohol, too.

I couldn't drink tequila for years after getting so drunk, and so sick from it.

I got sick once after drinking a little too much of vodka drinks at my friends', and for the next half a year the very smell of vodka made me nauseous (I could drink other alcoholic beverages quite fine). Funny thing, the week after that incident at my friends' I was on the wedding reception, and I was probably the only mostly sober person there (besides staff), because only alcohol served was vodka and I couldn't stand more than one or two shots.

With me it was coffee laced with whisky. Could not drink coffee or whisky for years. But I powered through it. :-)

This is why I cannot eat salmon. I threw up for 6 hours straight after eating it 30+ years ago and I have not had a single taste of it since. The mere smell of it makes me unhappy.

This happened to me with a particular type of cheese stick when I was young. I had a nasty illness, and to help, my Mom heated up a frozen cheese stick I never had before. I loved cheese sticks, yet never had this kind from the store before, and it was very different than any kind of cheese stick I had.

I could never eat that again. My brain tied it directly to bad feelings.

Depending on the tumor, feeding it well may increase its sensitivity to chemotherapy.

On the other hand, I've read recently that fasting improved chemo tolerance because it puts healthy cells at rest while the cancerous ones are oblivious to the reduced calories intake... Not sure if it is universal. Such an early study was likely targeted a specific kind of cancer.

Well the article tried to stress that what they wrote about didn't apply to all cancers.

Also, seem to me the basic complication of dealing with cancers is that anything that will kill a cancer cell is likely to also kill healthy cells. So inversely, whatever you do to keep the patient alive is likely to also exasperate the cancer problem.

There's a therapy called IPT Insulin Potentiation Therapy which allows for much lower doses of chemotherapy

Surely the doctors who wrote this know more than you do and have considered this possibility? That doesn't mean they're automatically right, but your first reaction should be "what studies was this advice based on?" rather than "this advice is clearly harmful, I'm offended by it"

Many people hospitalized in any way, including when undergoing chemotherapy, don't eat enough. Loss of appetite. That's why this guideline document gives hints to increase kcal uptake.

Hospitals, no matter what they make of them, are not very nice because of their function. You are there for a reason. That's why, at least in NL/ES (luckily haven't been anywhere else) they try to get you out as fast as possible. Even unable to hardly walk because of the surgery I was out in 24 hours and that really helped recovery. In the 80s when they kept you 2 weeks even after trivial surgery it took far longer to recover (and I was younger so it should've been faster for multiple reasons).

When all you eat tastes like lead because of chemo therapy but you know that you have to eat something then you are really happy if it is over very fast. And drinking a milk shake is certainly fast.

Well. Change is hard, structure of scientific revolutions and all that. Back when I had chemo, nutrition wasn't even discussed. I got strange looks just by asking about it.

Have you experienced chemotherapy? Are you a doctor? Please lay down your credentials.

Tim Ferriss had Dr. Dom D'Agostino on his podcast late last year[1], where they talked about this subject in-depth. I thought it was a fascinating conversation and a great introduction to the topic.

[1]: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/11/03/dominic-dagostino/

I've read in multiple places that biohackers are using Intermittent fasting as a way of preventing cancer.

By making sporadic (eg. once a month) fasting periods of 12h to 24h, they expect to starve cancer cells in their very early stages (basically using the underlying principle of the article).

I would be extremely interested in seeing a study of the incidence of cancer in people doing Intermittent fasting vs general population.

Edit: Found one study, but this is likely to be a confirmation bias effect: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26094889

"Bi-monthly FMD cycles started at middle age extended longevity, lowered visceral fat, reduced cancer incidence and skin lesions, rejuvenated the immune system, and retarded bone mineral density loss."

This study shows not so promising results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20733612 Points to "Overall, there was no difference in mouse survival (P=0.37) or tumor volumes (P ≥ 0.10)" (mice that already had prostate cancer)

tl;dr: There might be some potential benefits of fasting in the prevention of cancer, might not be the case for treatment of cancer...

By making sporadic (eg. once a month) fasting periods of 12h to 24h

Uh, any adverse effects if you increase that frequency? Because I reach a fasting period of 12h almost every day...

Most people do I imagine. If you eat dinner at 6pm and breakfast at 8am that is a 14 hour fast.

Mmmh... lunch?

Lunch isn't usually eaten in the middle of the night.

This was edited. It used to be in this order: breakfast at 8am and dinner at 6pm.

Should be easy enough. Just looks at cancer rates of Mormons vs the general population. Mormons fast the first Sunday of every month.

Dichloroacetic_acid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dichloroacetic_acid#Cancer

Can't be patent protected, hence clinical trials are very difficult (to fund) but are under way for limited applications: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24297161

The mechanism of action targets the unique cancer cells energy metabolism.

And here's a review (although old) of the literature on the link between dichloroacetate (DCA), glucose, and cancer:


It is not only glucose that cancer cells can become addidicted to, but also amino acids. Often the cancer cells can overcome a lack of glucose by using an amino acid. An idea that was explored too soon (i.e. before we knew which cancers this would work on) was starving the cancer cells with multiple nutrient withdraws.

TL;DR: Cancer cell live on glucose... keep levels down

Simple-minded. That may slow, delay or avoid run-away growth & metastasis (of many not all cancers) but not any&all unwanted growths, because blood glucose never can go to 0. Cancer cells once sufficiently isolated from the immune system also love glutamine, other amino acids and vitamins. How long do you want to restrict all those? Ever heard of cachexia? With no food coming in, nutrients from the blood get scavenged by the baddies as bodily reserves are depleted. What then?

At least do not become a fat fertile ground for it.

BTW, in developing world with traditional simple, not processed foods and setting in a tribal culture eating habits rates of cancers are way lower (and no, it is not because lack of diagnostic tests).

Such a method may also force the cancer to evolve to survive under such stress.

So would a ketogenic diet be effective then?

Needs more studies. Armchair analysts find it intuitive though, but we don't know for sure yet.

This is the best way to describe just about any diet or exercise ideas floated on HN.

People also tend to very much forget that cancer is not a disease, but a class of diseases. Not all cancers will respond equally to the same treatments.

Can you give an example of a disease that responds equally to the same treatment in all people?

I'm not talking about across different people; I'm talking about different types of cancer.

The causes and treatments for lymphatic cancers are different from lung cancers are different from breast cancers are different from prostate cancers are different from brain cancers are different from liver cancers, ad infinitum.

Just as one example of a commonality, aneuploidy is reported for nearly all cancers: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917070/

That is clearly something that can be targeted in principle (and not the only thing). Whether the "causes" are different is irrelevant. Whether the treatments are different is a choice made by people, and also irrelevant.

Well there must be some things they all have in common. Anaerobic environment I thought, is that still the case? No transport of oxygen via iron possible, in my layman's memory?

Like saying suffocating in vacuum and suffocating from oxygen substitution in an enclosed space (like by inert gasses) is equal. The causes are different enough that different solutions are necessary.

I don't see how this analogy works at all? In either case a space suit works doesn't it?

Anyway, this whole "cancer isn't one disease" meme is best depicted by the bottom right panel of the second section of this comic: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1162

It looks just like the "string theory landscape", next you will be told that we need to stop worrying about comparing predictions to evidence when it comes to cancer research. Just wait a few years/decades.


Can you fit the space suit? (maybe I should have said something about small spaces).

Just because there's a shared behavior there's no guarantee there's a shared cause or mechanism. And even when there are, the environment can make any given solution unusable.

I can't think of any disease where we can't come up with such examples (indicating that the same treatment can't be used in all cases).

Yep. For example, there's people so strongly allergic to medicines that normally would be the default choice for curing a variety of diseases, making them unusable for these people.

Then there are even more "fun" special cases of simultaneously occurring diseases where the cure for one makes the other disease more dangerous.

But the point regarding cancer is that it just really ISN'T a single disease. That's like calling rockets, hot-air balloons, airplanes and helicopters the same thing. Sure, they all fly, but the mechanisms for them all are drastically different.

Cancers are the collection of diseases which causes cells to replicate uncontrollably.

>"But the point regarding cancer is that it just really ISN'T a single disease."

No, this is just a recent meme people started repeating because it said in a documentary or something. It is just as much "one disease" as many other medical issues grouped together as "one disease".

It is an awful meme too, because it discourages looking at commonalities and gives poorly performing researchers an excuse for not figuring anything out. Both of which slow the process of understanding cancer.

I have no idea which documentary you're referring to, but the idea that cancers are a class of different diseases with differing mechanisms isn't exactly fringe.

I mean, here's Harold Varmus, former head of the NIH and a Nobel Prize winner for his work on cancer research:

"What we've learned can be grouped into three categories. First, we've learned that cancer is not simply a single disease that affects many parts of the body. It is not, for example, a "war on cancer" as a single enemy. It is many different diseases with common themes that can cause different kinds of disorders in many of our organs. These include mutations in many different genes, changes in essential cell functions, and unusual interactions with the cellular environment in which tumors grow. We need to study each of these areas separately."


Nesting is getting too deep, regarding: >"I mean, here's Harold Varmus..."

He has to say stuff like that as head of NCI. The slow progress is even noted on wikipedia, everyone knows it. This "cancer is so complicated" idea is being used as an "excuse" (not that it is definitely false):

"Though there has been significant progress in the understanding of cancer biology, risk factors, treatments, and prognosis of some types of cancer (such as childhood leukemia[2]) since the inception of the National Cancer Act of 1971, progress in reducing the overall cancer mortality rate has been disappointing.[5][31] Many types of cancer remain largely incurable (such as pancreatic cancer[39]) and the overall death rate from cancer has not decreased appreciably since the 1970s.[40] The death rate for cancer in the U.S., adjusted for population size and age, dropped only 5 percent from 1950 to 2005.[3]" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Cancer

Before accepting that reason for the slow progress, we should consider that some are reporting only 10% of what gets published can be reproduced:

"Although we in the cancer field hoped that this would lead to more effective drugs, historically, our ability to translate cancer research to clinical success has been remarkably low1. Sadly, clinical trials in oncology have the highest failure rate compared with other therapeutic areas." http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/483531a...

Also, people are quitting cancer reproducibility projects out of disgust for the low quality of the research:

"Early on, Begley, who had raised some of the initial objections about irreproducible papers, became disenchanted. He says some of the papers chosen have such serious flaws, such as a lack of appropriate controls, that attempting to replicate them is “a complete waste of time.” He stepped down from the project's advisory board last year. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6242/1411

Others are estimating pretty much 50% of all biomed can't be reproduced:

"The deeper problem is that much of cancer research in the lab—maybe even most of it—simply can’t be trusted. The data are corrupt. The findings are unstable. The science doesn’t work. The resulting waste amounts to more than $28 billion: That’s two dozen Cancer Moonshots misfired in every single year." http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tens... http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/jour...

Even Robert Wienberg refers to cancer research as an example of "Augean Stables":

"'It’s a naÏveté that by simply embracing this ethic, which sounds eminently reasonable, that one can clean out the Augean stables of science,' says Robert Weinberg, a cancer biologist at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts." http://www.nature.com/news/cancer-reproducibility-project-sc...

There's a very interesting article about that here:


Yes, it would be helpful. Of course, other forms of treatment would still be needed.

There are people who advocate that. The following video discusses some results in the area (link is to 41:05, where they show some rodent models). https://youtu.be/gONeCxtyH18?t=41m5s

Of note is that that is in addition to (not instead of) standard care.

It's also interesting to see many people taking Metformin (which inhibits glucose production in the liver) preventatively.

Cancer cells need to be isolated to starve them; That's the difficult part;

I think for many/most of them the key thing is that they need some 20x the amount of glucose than normally oxygenated cells. So they're actually supremely inefficient in terms of energy. What's the problem then? They just won't die off normally via programmed-cell-death (apoptosis) or autophagy or immune system attack, but keep replicating. Blood sugar levels may modulate rate of growth and metastasis, but since blood sugar can never go too low, that's only part of the picture.

I am very sorry for your loss.

my (armchair) analysis on cancer treatment - i) chemotherapy, in vacuum, most likely does considerably more harm than good, ii) sugar feeds cancer cells, iii) essential to feed body nutrients from a variety of sources (all must be plant based and non-processed), iv) it is likely a prudent investment to engage in holistic treatments such as being immersed in positivity and fulfilled environment and ingesting plant products with powerful healing properties known to locals across the world.

Having said all this, it is difficult to say no to conventional treatment and to MDs working at prestigious hospitals when the life of your loved one is at stake.

I have multiple cancer patients in my extended family, and this is in a family that lives on a south Asian diet (with all kinds of spices and turmeric, lots of vegetables). the cancer epidemic is extremely scary, and makes me feel vulnerable with my life - regardless of how knowledgeable I try to be on the subject.

My belief is that we must approach cancer as we have approached infectious diseases such as measles and whooping cough. We must identify carcinogens in our environment (this may be physical and spiritual), and take serious steps to remove them from our social construct.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11698213 and marked it off-topic.

I am sure you mean well, but you need to be better informed about biology. Table sugar is not the greatest thing in the world for our bodies, but your body needs certain kinds of sugars to function. Glucose is how your brain is powered. Sadly there is no evidence that restricting sugar would retard cancerous growth. Yes, there are toxins in our environment. Going past that to things that affect cancer is a huge step. Just like we don't worry anymore about a black cat crossing our path, we should use science to inform our ideas about medical treatment.

The brain does need some glucose to function, but the bulk of its energy need can be met by ketones. After adapting to this energy source the need for glucose is low enough that it can be met entirely by gluconeogenesis (making glucose from proteins and fats). Humans can survive on a zero carbohydrate diet with no cognitive impairment.

> making glucose from proteins and fats

plus recycling of pyruvate/lactate/some-such

Gluconeogenesis is the process by which the body synthesizes glucose from protein. So long as fats and proteins are available, human beings have no need for any sugars in our diets whatsoever.


You do not need to eat sugar to have glucose. You do not need to eat carbs at all.


thank you for the reply. I am aware that saccharides are essential in our bodies in order to produce adenosine tri-phosphates (ATPs) which are units of energy used by our cells to perform everything from translation and commutation of genetic information, regeneration through mitosis, nervous actions carried out through active ion gates. I am also aware of multiple peer reviewed research papers (one from UCSF comes to mind, but I cannot be bothered to search it) that have shown direct links between cancerous cell growth and glucose (a monosaccharide).

p.s. the reference to a black cat crossing was intriguing from the perspective of a psychoanalyst studying the HN mind.

> ...your body needs certain kinds of sugars to function...

I would really like to see the citations that "body needs certain kinds of sugars to function" connotes that we must perforce consume sugar in some form (which I interpret "not the greatest thing in the world for our bodies" implies while we might not have to eat table sugar, we need to at least eat carbs that can be readily converted to glucose), at least in modest amounts. People who start out as epileptic children put on strict ketogenic diets able to carry out successful lifestyles for decades without any other restrictions are prima facie empirical evidence that we most assuredly can synthesize what little sugars our bodies do require beyond very small amounts of daily net carbohydrates (20g per day or less, equivalent to 5 teaspoons table sugar), and do not have to include sugars in our diets.

Just a plug for /r/ketoscience.

A friend of mine (she is a microbiologist, let's call her Lucy) was diagnosed with Uterine cancer. Oncologist told her they have to remove her womb, otherwise she'll die in a couple weeks. She decided to avoid "traditional treatment". Instead, she shared her issue with various professors from the university she is working at. One of the professors (another friend of mine) advised her to go to the Republic of Peru. He gave her contacts of his friend who's already been there and suggested to talk to him first. Lucy got in touch with this guy, he convinced her to go and in a week or so she was already in Peru.

In Peru, Lucy met some sort of a shaman. He wrote down her a list of things she must eat and things to avoid. This list also contained some herb, that she had to eat during the 2-3 months she was there.

After a few months, she got back home. 6 months after - no cancer. Year after this all happened she was dancing at my sister's wedding, healthy and happy.

Now as for the Peru guy and the friend of my friend who been there :) He had a brother. They both got cancer. One of the brothers decided to go with traditional treatment (radiation and all that). The other one went to Peru.

Long story short: the one who picked traditional methods died many years ago. The other one (who convinced Lucy to go) - completely recovered.

As far as I know, overall treatment was less than $5,000. If I'm not wrong, this was including rent + air flight.

I must add, that Lucy lost 45 pounds within a year. During my sister's wedding, she was only eating some oceanic fish and rice.


This is just a short story from people I know in person. All of them are scientists working at university, doing researches on molecular genetics & microbiology.

I'm not even sure the guy in Peru was a shaman. That's just how I called him here. I just don't believe he was a real doctor. The gist of the whole treatment was fasting, not a herb.

This is a scam, pure and simple. People die from this shit needlessly all the time. Doesn't uterine cancer have a very high survival rate with proper treatment? But no, this "microbiologist" treks off to the Peruvian jungle to spend a measly $5k for a magical herb that cures cancer! Doctors hate this one weird trick!

If you or someone you know has cancer, go see an oncologist, not a freaking shaman.

> Oncologist told her they have to remove her womb, otherwise she'll die in a couple weeks.

Sorry, I've heard all this before. My family is packed with people who "know someone" who amazed all the doctors by curing their cancers with weird diets, herbs, and prayers. I don't buy any of it. Unless you have some data, it's basically worthless noise.

One of the worst things about cancer is hearing stories like this all the time. It's really unhelpful and very draining to have your body undergo hell and your mind besieged by well=intentioned idiots telling you to expel toxins/ pray the cancer away/ stop eating this.

Having any chronic illness makes you hear this nonsense too, tons of unsolicited and unwanted "advice."

Agree. Maybe this is all a coincidence they both survived and the other guy passed away. Have no idea. Shared what I know. Nothing less, nothing more.

You don't really know anything of value about this though. Are you an oncologist? Did you see her scans and test results? Have you been to her follow ups? Talked with her doctors? Do you even know the name of this magical herb that cures cancer but has somehow eluded the attention of thousands of researchers desperate to save hundreds of millions of suffering people, including their own loved ones?

Ryan, there is no magical herb. The gist of treatment was fasting. I have no idea what kind of diet it was. Do you want to know more? I can ask her details and the other guy who survived by sticking to the same diet.

I want to know whether they're dedicating their lives to winning a Nobel prize and saving billions of lives with this magical cure. If not, why not? They had fatal cancers cured in just a few months with no treatment, and then just went back to work and forgot about it?

Also, if the essence is fasting, why did they need to go see a shaman in Peru?

The problem is that medical science today isn't equipped to prove/disprove this kind of medicine. All that would happen if they could convince anyone to even believe the story, which I highly doubt, is one study would be conducted.

The scientists would ignore all the diagnosis and individual examination the shaman did, and the study would probably have the participants take a specific amount of a single specific herb on a single specific schedule. Basically, they'd take all the complexities of the alternative medical system and tried to distill it down to a one-size-fits-all regimen.

Then, after it undoubtedly showed no effect, they'd proclaim the shaman is a fraud and that nothing he does really works.

I mean, really, are you going to sit there and tell me that its more logical that all the alternative medical systems developed over thousands of years are bullshit, than the possibility that modern medicine has gaps covered by these other medical systems, that can't/won't be filled using the scientific method, wrapped and perverted as it is by the hubris and single-minded culture of the doctors and scientists using it?

So the only kind of "science" that could prove this works is to layer on so many confounding effects and other variables that it'd be impossible to tell what, if anything, is happening.

Gee, I wonder why rational people are skeptical of that.

And to answer your question, no, I do not believe that alternative health systems "developed" over thousands of years work. If they work, then they're medicine. We only use the term alternative health to define things that are too magical to have their effects show up when studied using the scientific method. And barring the ability to collect some reliable data on their efficacy, then yes, they're bullshit by default. What other reliable framework for evaluating them could I possibly have?

We have to come up with something rigorous to deal with these sorts of things. Whether you call it "science" or not we still have to come to grips with "weird shit".

I know a guy. He's a healer. He can do things that Western science has absolutely no idea about. In point of fact several people who were diagnosed with cancer have worked with him and afterwards were no longer diagnosed with cancer.

This is factual.

Yet good luck getting people in general to take this seriously. No one wants to hear it. My mom's neighbour had breast cancer, she beat it with conventional medicine, more power to her. But she refused even to think about anything outside of the established system. For her it worked.

Personally, I'm very frustrated. I come from a strongly scientific background, so when I meet a person who can fucking cure fucking cancer I would really like to see the scientific establishment take that seriously.

But whatever. I can take some consolation that at least my family and I don't have to worry about cancer, even if I can do nothing to change the zeitgeist of society.

For those of you wondering why this guy wouldn't try to spread the word, well, first of all he does! He talks to anyone he meets and is not shy about it at all. The limiting factor is the people who don't want to hear about crazy shit.

(P.S. If you have cancer and want to talk to my healer friend I can put you in touch. He's in Europe now and kind of retired, and I haven't spoken to him in a year or so, but if you truly need help and feel that this guy is "the one" you can contact me and I'll see about putting you in touch.)

This is factual.

Well, no, it's not. From my perspective, this is yet another random anecdote from the Internet. It's no different to me than someone saying they can turn base metals into gold, hear the voice of God directly, or travel to alternate dimensions.

And even from YOUR perspective, you have no idea what's fact and what's not. Apparently this healer is so powerful that your family need not worry about cancer. But I suspect you have little hard evidence of any actual healing, no proposed mechanisms that make any sense, and no ability to reproduce any of this.

The amazing thing about the scientific method is that it gives us a framework to separate claims from reality. If you have a better framework then please share it. But there seems to be little value to a framework built on "I know a guy, trust me." We had that for thousands of years. Health care under such a framework was pretty rough.

I'm not arguing that the scientific method is invalid. Just that it's applied in a way today that is typically unable to prove or disprove if alternative medicine works or not.

The shaman might tell you, I look into their eyes and if I see a slight yellowness I know X. Then I measure their pulse and that tells me Y. So based on that I prescribe medicine A at dose B.

Now if someone designed a study that first separated people into a category where both X and Y are true, and then gave only those people the medicine the shaman recommended, you'd have a real test. But this isn't done.

Humanity has produced great things before the scientific method existed, agriculture, smelting, sea travel, etc., including the scientific method, itself! How can you reconcile this fact with your proclamation that anything related to medicine, a body of knowledge produced from the same people at the same period of time is all bullshit?

Exactly. We need a new kind of science that works for living systems.

"When you kick a stone the energy for its resulting movement comes from your foot. When you kick a dog..."

Complex living systems with scads of "free" energy are not susceptible to the same formal method that revealed and is still revealing Physics.

We need a new science.

I can't tell if this is satire. I really hope so.

It's obvious that the author doesn't know all the details and you keep asking all of these questions over and over again, making yourself look like a troll.

I have a feeling that the _magical_ Peruvian cure is based on eating blister beetles, which is a popular treatment in Chinese medicine. Apparently, chemicals these bugs make could be beneficial in treating certain kinds of cancer. There are a few researches going on on that front.



That's a good question. I moved to another city and had no chance (and interest) to know what they were doing after the recovery. I'll try to figure it out. You made me curious.

I see you want more data, but, unfortunately, I cannot provide you with any other details. I don't like your tone and would love to close this thread. Thank you.

I just don't understand. You clearly believe that their method cured their cancer. But you lost interest From there? I obviously don't believe their method works, but if I did, I wouldn't just shuffle off to do something else. I just don't understand how you, and these cured scientists could all just shrug at this incredibly miraculous and basically free cure of a horrible disease that will kill tens of millions of people this year alone.

Doesn't it strike you as incredibly shady or selfish that these scientists who had their cancer cured haven't bothered to tell the world about it?

Or if they're currently researching it to help others not die from cancers that can be easily cured, please point us to their work.

Doesn't it strike you as incredibly shady or selfish that these scientists who had their cancer cured haven't bothered to tell the world about it?

It doesn't, actually. Getting diagnosed with cancer and then surviving it is still a terrible ordeal. Publishing their single story would do nothing to change the course of medical science, but it would open them up to abuse from skeptics all over the world.

I'm sure that even if I survived cancer (through whatever means), I would still not have the courage to allow myself to be flagellated by a horde of entitled zealots.

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