The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Friday, February 5, 2010

William Bengston, Chasing the Cure: A commentary

William Bengston's book Chasing the Cure, co-written with Canadian author Sylvia Fraser, is due to hit bookstores next month. The Canadian publisher of the book has chosen to give it the eye-catching subtitle An Effective Alternative for Treating Cancer and Other Diseases, which is a change from an earlier subtitle, A Passionate Quest to Prove that Hands-On Healing Can Cure Cancer and Other Diseases.

Is the book about An Effective Alternative for Treating Cancer and Other Diseases? Certainly (and astonishingly so), if you are a mouse injected with mammary adenocarcinoma (H2712; host strain C3H/HeJ from Jackson Labs) in one of Dr. Bengston's experiments. If you are that mouse, your chances of full life-span remission are nearly one hundred per cent, and you would be in a small but select group, because the mice injected with this cancer are usually doomed to certain death. But if you are a human being looking at a recent cancer diagnosis, it's early days yet: the method has not been tested on people.

While the remission of these mice is of huge and unprecedented significance for cancer research, a treatment cannot be called an effective alternative to the current medical model, until it has shown reliability and replicability in humans. In other words it has to be available to more than a few selected cancer patients, and it has to be proven effective in the hands of more than one or two individual practitioners. Human remissions need to be documented in dozens, if not hundreds, of cases (= reliability), treated not only by Dr. Bengston himself, but also independently by others who have learned his method (= replicability).

Further, scientific minds would want to see controlled studies done in human populations, which may not even be ethically possible, given that participating cancer patients would be required to receive no conventional medical treatment for the study's duration.

I note that a pharmaceutical company would not be allowed to market a drug it has only tested on mice as an "effective alternative for treating cancer" no matter how successful its animal testing has been.

To be fully accurate, the subtitle would have to say An Effective Alternative for Treating Cancer in Mice and a Potentially Effective Alternative for Treating Cancer in People because in the Absence of Documented Human Studies We Can't Really Say So for Sure. Or better yet, since that would clearly take up most of the cover, why not simply add a question mark to the existing title?

The promise of what Dr. Bengston has to offer is that if his ability to affect cancer could be taught, then a relatively easy, inexpensive and side-effect free form of cancer treatment would be in the hands of the many, creating a grass-roots medical revolution. Many years ago, after a series of experiments involving mice and skeptical volunteers, Dr. Bengston believed that he had achieved just that. But since then, he has said in talks and papers that he has not proven to his own satisfaction that he met all the criteria to show that he had indeed taught the volunteers to heal. (See now part two of his talk "Healing and the Mainstream" on Youtube.)

And when it comes to healing people of cancer, we do not yet know with what effectiveness Dr. Bengston's ability can be taught or transferred. The book ends without delving into what happened when in a two-year "sociological experiment" Dr. Bengston tried to teach people to apply his method not to mice but to humans. I was present for the first year and a half of that experiment. Suffice to say that there were questions and practical challenges, as well as what Dr. Bengston would call "interesting" results, including a temporary remission termed "a miracle" by the patient's own physician.

In my opinion there still remains a good deal of work to be done to tease out the full possibilities of this healing method, but Dr. Bengston, with his scientific mindset and his experiments, is uniquely positioned to be able to do just that. Let's hope he takes up the challenge.

Postscript The title of the American edition will be The Energy Cure: One Man's Quest to Unravel the Mystery of Hands-On Healing. That subtitle makes more sense to me, but the word "cure" in the title is open to the same questions and caveats as "effective alternative treatment" would be.

PostscriptThe German edition is now out under the title Heilen aus dem Nichts, or Healing from Nowhere. There is no mention of cancer in the German promotional material on, but the method is said to be particularly effective for serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's and arthritis. This is odd, given that the heart of the book is to be found in Dr. Bengston's experiments with cancer in mice, and that in his introduction Dr. Bengston says that with chronic diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and arthritis he is only able to alleviate symptoms up to about 50 per cent -- and heart disease is not even mentioned.


Unknown said...

There are many people who have experienced cancer remission following energy healing treatments. I've known some personally and I also perform energy healing myself on people with all kinds of physical and psychological issues and see healing results that go beyond a placebo effect or other explanations... I can feel disturbed spots in a person's energy field and feel things shift with treatment... there's no doubt that these therapies can heal people, it just isn't going to always work because a person can override the treatment and remain ill or return to being sick.

Judith said...

We have had many discussion in our group about "healing" vs "curing" and about the patient's input into their illness and the success of their treatment. In my opinion the best treatment tries to heal rather than cure, and takes into account the patient's resistances and possible reasons for hanging on to the illness. But how does one suggest to a cancer patient, without sounding unfeeling or arrogant, that his or her cancer is not going away because he or she is choosing to hang on to it? How can one even know? Energy healing is very real, and there are indeed real cures out there, but there is so much we don't yet know.