Oliver Childs March 24, 2014
From cannabis to coffee enemas, the internet is awash with videos and personal anecdotes about ‘natural’ ‘miracle’ cures for cancer.
But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – YouTube videos and Facebook posts are emphatically not scientific evidence and aren’t the same as good-quality, peer-reviewed evidence.
In many cases it’s impossible to tell whether patients featured in such anecdotal sources have been ‘cured’ by any particular alternative treatment or not. We know nothing about their medical diagnosis, stage of disease or outlook, or even if they actually had cancer in the first place. For instance, we don’t know what other cancer treatments they had.
And we only hear about the success stories – what about the people who have tried it and have not survived? The dead can’t speak, and often people who make bold claims for ‘miracle’ cures only pick their best cases, without presenting the full picture.
This highlights the importance of publishing data from peer-reviewed, scientifically rigorous lab research and clinical trials. Firstly, because conducting proper clinical studies enables researchers to prove that a prospective cancer treatment is safe and effective. And secondly, because publishing these data allows doctors around the world to judge for themselves and use it for the benefit of their patients.
This is the standard to which all cancer treatments should be held.
That’s not to say the natural world isn’t a source of potential treatments, from aspirin (willow bark) to penicillin (mould). For example, the cancer drug taxol was first extracted from the bark and needles of the Pacific Yew tree.
But that’s a far cry from saying you should chew bark to combat a tumour. It’s an effective treatment because the active ingredient has been purified and tested in clinical trials. So we know that it’s safe and effective, and what dose to prescribe.
Of course people with cancer want to beat their disease by any means possible. And it’s completely understandable to be searching high and low for potential cures. But our advice is to be wary of anything labelled a ‘miracle cure’, especially if people are trying to sell it to you.
If you want to know about the scientific evidence about cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – a topic we’re often asked about – please take a look at our extensive blog post on the subject, including information about the clinical trials we’re helping to fund.
And if you’ve seen links to article about scientists in Canada “curing cancer but nobody notices”, these refer to an interesting but currently unproven drug called DCA, which we’ve also written about before.