Stop Searching for the Magic Bullet

“Isn’t there a pill for that?”  As a society, we are accustomed to having easy fixes to our problems.  This is also true in medicine, where we treat a problem with a pill.  High blood pressure?  Here is a pill to lower it.  Low mood?  Here is a pill to raise it.  The list goes on and on.

Our search for a magic bullet applies to cancer treatment as well.  A look back at the billions of dollars spent on cancer research over the years reveals a calculated search for that one magic treatment to cure cancer.  Drug companies would like to find such a remedy, as a cure for cancer is estimated to be worth many billions of dollars.  The thought 15-20 years ago was that advances in genetic testing would lead to bona fide cures for cancer, but that has turned out to be a mostly failed idea.  The reality is that researchers are no closer to a cure.

Interestingly, the search for a magic bullet extends beyond the confines of cancer research labs and drug development teams.  If you spend any length of time on the Internet, you will see that promises of a cure for cancer can be yours with the simple purchase of a supplement, gadget, or gizmo, usually purported to be hidden from public view due to a conspiracy by someone or something who desires to suppress the truth.

In each of these cases, the company, entity, or individual is hoping to make a profit by seizing on our desire to find a problem which we so desperately want to be solved.  In this case, our problem is cancer, and as we all know it is a significant problem.  Unfortunately, unlike most other health issues, cancer is not a simple and straightforward problem, but rather a very complex one.  I’m here to tell you that the solution is not a simple one either.  There is no magic bullet, and there likely never will be.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost.  There are many things we can – and should – do in order to treat cancer better.  The approach must be multifaceted and all-encompassing.  When we approach cancer in this way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Once you come to terms with the fact that the one big thing you’re missing is not an elusive pill, potion, or therapy, but rather the correct treatment “cocktail” designed precisely for you and your cancer, you are then free to truly start down the path toward healing and not be distracted by a fruitless search for a cure.

Our “cocktail” should typically include the following:

  1. Treatment directed toward removing the current source of the problem (for example, the tumor). This is best achieved by surgery.
  2. Treatment directed toward the unique genetics of a cancer cell. This is best achieved by chemotherapy.
  3. Treatment directed toward the unique behavior of the mitochondria within cancer cells. This is best achieved by specific nutritional supplements and dietary strategies.
  4. Treatment directed toward the body’s internal environment which has allowed cancer to develop and flourish. This is termed the “terrain,” and is best addressed through a combination of nutrition, supplementation, medications, and stress reduction.
  5. Treatment directed toward cancer’s various growth factors, which are numerous, and can include hormones, iron, copper, sugar, fats, proteins, and ketones, just to name a few. This is best achieved with a combination of specific medications, supplements, and nutritional strategies.
  6. Treatment directed toward the factors which likely caused or allowed cancer to develop in the first place. This is best addressed through a careful analysis of the patient’s home environment, work environment, relationships, nutrition, and stress levels, with specific steps taken to remedy those factors as quickly as possible.

The way we address each of these six main treatment targets will vary from person to person.  This is the essence of personalized medicine, and is a radical departure from the one-size-fits-all approach so common in oncology today.

When we reduce our desire or ability to address all six of these issues, we also reduce our likelihood of success significantly.  Patients who are unwilling to consider some of these therapies out of concern for their appropriateness or potential benefit, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy, nutrition, or stress reduction, are those who tend to have worse outcomes.  These tend to be patients who claim to be willing to do “anything and everything I can,” but in reality, they are only willing to do what fits within their narrow scope of preferences. Please don’t be one of these patients.

Our goal is to use an integrative approach which embraces all branches of medicine, drawing from a variety of healing modalities, provided that there is evidence for that therapy’s potential benefit as well as its compatibility with other treatments.  This holistic philosophy is, without fail, optimal when it comes to treating cancer.