Taking on Cancer
Every time I go to my clinic, I know I’m going to see cancer. There may be three cases, there may be five; on a bad day, there may be more. For better or worse, treating cancer is what I do more than anything else, and what I’m known for now. I guess it’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life, or until it’s conquered. Believe me, there’s no shortage of it out there.
This isn’t what I intended when I chose to become a veterinarian years ago. I imagined extracting thorns from dogs’ paws, setting broken legs, stitching wounds—in short, being the kindly vet who treated a pet with an obvious problem and made him feel better, probably in the mountains of Colorado (playing my guitar every night after work). As I began my practice, however, degenerative diseases were on the rise, both in dogs and in cats, with cancer emerging as the most prevalent of the lot. The cancers I saw were usually in old pets, as I’d been taught to expect. But that was beginning to change, too.
At first, I applied the therapies I’d learned in school, which meant surgery to remove cancerous tumors. Like other veterinarians, I found my success rate to be abysmally, depressingly low. Occasionally, I’d refer patients out for radiation and chemotherapy. The odds weren’t much better. Nearly all pets with cancer died of it—unless they were put to sleep first. Out of desperation, I started experimenting with alternatives as part of my shift toward holistic therapy, working closely with my veterinarian brother, Robert, and his wife, Susan, who shared my frustrations about conventional medicine in general and cancer in particular. We began to get cases deemed hopeless by local animal hospitals—not so much by referral, since most veterinarians viewed our efforts with scorn, as by word of mouth, as owners sought us out on their own. We had some success from the first, but also more disappointments than triumphs. Then we discovered the missing piece—Dr. Lawrence Burton’s Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT)—and everything changed.
Today, our success rate with cancer patients stands at above 50 percent, a rate that would be higher still if we chose not to treat pets with truly bleak prospects, which we do as a matter of course. Because the program we’ve developed is available nowhere else in the U.S. as yet, we get cancer patients from around the country. Many pets are brought to us from out of state; many more we treat long-distance by serving as consultants to their attending veterinarians. Long-distance treatment is made easier than it might otherwise be because IAT therapy is based on analyzing blood samples sent to us, then formulating via computer a program of injections of isolated immune proteins, based on certain values in the blood, to be given at home. Dealing with cancer as much as we have over the years and delving into the histories of many patients, we’ve come to feel we understand many of the factors that help foster it, and to feel confident that its last secrets will soon be revealed.
I don’t like seeing cancer every day. But I love helping cancer patients recover enough to lead happy, relatively normal lives. And I’ve come to appreciate how fitting it is that cancer should be the focus of my work. It is, in an odd, almost poetic way, the perfect disease for a holistic doctor to fight. In whatever part of the body it appears, it’s the ultimate expression of ill health, a result of the body’s failure as a whole—a holistic failure—to keep itself healthy. Which is also to say that with cancer, more dramatically than with any other disease I know, the road to recovery lies in restoring the integrity of health overall, and of the immune system specifically.
When I see a new cancer patient, the first thing I tell his owner is: Don’t think of cancer as a foreign invader that’s attacked your pet out of nowhere. Cancer doesn’t really exist as an entity in itself, as a thing that attacks. It’s not a cause so much as it is an effect. Think of it as the body out of tune with itself. Focus on health. See cancer for what it is.
Cancer is the ultimate excuse to get healthy.
But that’s not all. Each radiation treatment is performed under general anesthesia. The radiation is bad enough, but then imagine aggravating it with general anesthesia eighteen times in less than a two-month period. Imagine having your own healthy young pet (or even yourself!) placed under anesthesia that many times in a short period, each time zapping him with high doses of radiation. How do you think he (or you) would feel? How much weaker do you think his (or your) immune system would be at the end of the day? In too many cases, unacceptably weaker, especially as the production of disease-causing free radicals is tremendously enhanced by the ionizing effect of the radiation.
Moreover, even if the tumor is eradicated through chemo or radiation, where does that leave the pet? In a lesser state of health than the one he was in before their debilitating effects. A lesser state, that is, than the one he was in when he developed cancer in the first place. To me, the only rationale for either of these treatments is to accomplish initial treatment of a cancer condition that is life-threatening, or when the statistics for success leading to healthier, prolonged lives support it for that cancer type. These cases certainly occur, and I do recommend radiation or chemo when I see them and know that there isn’t enough time for alternative therapies to work. I have witnessed impressive benefits from conventional treatment for cancer. But my experience still cautions me against the use of the more invasive therapies. As soon as I can, I try to curtail them.
Mysterious as its origins are usually said to be, cancer simply begins in the body when one cell becomes corrupted: a cell that should replicate itself in the ongoing process of cell life called mitosis, but which instead spawns a mutant cell that runs amok with others. The mutant cells that radiation zaps are cancer’s foundation. Its cause is whatever led that first cell to become mutant, as well as whatever kept the body from controlling cells after they mutated. Most likely, a combination of the two is involved. Unaddressed by conventional treatment, how likely is that cause to precipitate cancer again in a weaker host? Very.
What is the cause? The temptation is to picture some dark force from outside, pushing the cell to corruption. Certainly in people many cancers appear to begin that way: from chemically polluted drinking water or the radiation from overhead power lines to the effects of smoking and chronic stress. The forces are real, and if strong enough, a body subjected to them will get cancer. Pour enough PCBs into your daily drinking water and you’ll get cancer. Live long enough near Chernobyl and you’ll get cancer. Yet in situations less extreme, why do some people and pets become afflicted with cancer while others do not? A family history of cancer may suggest an inherited predisposition, but even in cancer-prone families, not everyone succumbs. In people, smoking may contribute, but again, not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer. (And pets, in any event, are pretty much exempt from the dangers of primary smoke.) To my brother and me, already drawn to the principles of holistic therapy, the cause of cancer in pets began to seem not so much an outside force as an absence of inner force—the inner force, that is, of the immune system.
Ironically, we arrived at that theory by means of a technique my brother had perfected to zap certain tumors considered inaccessible to surgery, more quickly and thoroughly even than radiation or chemotherapy. A longer discussion of cryosurgery appears in Chapter Five; essentially, it involves freezing a tumor with liquid nitrogen or special metal probes so that the diseased tissues get rejected and fall away, leaving healthy tissue behind. Unfortunately, while cryosurgery provided less invasive relief with few side effects or complications, the tumors tended to grow back. Perhaps, we thought, the immune system needed strengthening to do the work of keeping the body healthy after cryosurgery—the work we couldn’t do.
At the time, the best way we knew to boost the immune system was through fasting or high doses of intravenous vitamin C. As soon as a fast begins, the body stops expending its energy on digestion and uses it instead to begin cleansing itself of toxicity that may be inhibiting the immune system. Vitamin C was the most immunosupportive natural supplement we had at hand, and we were mindful of the success that holistic veterinarian Wendell O. Belfield was having in arresting or reversing other degenerative diseases with megadoses of intravenous C. One of our first test cases was a twenty-four-pound poodle. It taught us a lot.
The poodle had been brought to our clinic with a bone tumor in the mouth. Twice the tumor had been excised by conventional surgery; twice it had grown back more aggressively than before. More radical surgery would mean removing part of the jaw that adjoined the tumor, and for this pet, that wasn’t a good option. Cryosurgery could freeze the tumor even though it was in the bone, so that it held special promise for oral cancers in pets. Unfortunately in the case of the poodle, my brother had no better luck than the operating surgeon. The bone remained intact after each of two procedures, supported by intravenous vitamin C, but the tumor grew back. At that point, we had nothing to lose. We decided to put the poodle on a liquid fast of juices, broths, and distilled water—the same fast that we had undergone to such good effect on our own health.
After ten days of fasting, the tumor showed a slower growth rate. After fourteen days, it began to soften. During this time, we monitored the poodle’s vital signs and they stayed excellent. She had great energy and color, and her spirits, too, appeared very high. Finally, on the sixteenth day, the tumor began to shrink and break apart. We felt we were witnessing a natural miracle. On an almost hourly basis, we gathered to observe the tumor diminishing. By Day 18, we thought, the tumor would be gone.
On the seventeenth day, the poodle died.
In the somber aftermath, we realized our mistake. Holistic as our intent was, we’d retained our focus, as conventionally trained veterinarians, on wiping out the symptom—the tumor—as quickly as possible, in this case at the expense of the dog’s overall health. The cancer, in breaking up, had flooded the body with more toxicity than it could handle, especially since the rest of the body had been so cleansed from the fast. The liver, the body’s primary detoxifier, had been overwhelmed. The dog hadn’t died of cancer. She hadn’t starved to death, either; even on the next to last day she was full of energy, and she still had good muscle mass on her body. She had died of a sudden overload of toxicity which her liver simply couldn’t handle.
Clearly we should have stopped the fast the day before. The process of detoxification would have stopped or slowed along with it, relaxing the pressure of tumor breakdown and allowing the liver to “catch up.” Perhaps the tumor would have grown back a bit, but so what? The fast could resume later, when the liver would be ready again to process more of the tumor’s toxicity. Later, we would see that a march of two steps forward, one step back, mimics the body’s own healing process: first a strong attack on the cancer cells, then a modest retreat to let the body regain its balance, then another attack. We had fixated on beating the tumor in the shortest possible time. But why? If overall there was progress—two steps forward, one step back—what did it matter if we took three years, rather than three weeks, to neutralize the threat? The body as a whole, we realized, had to be our guide. We could treat cancer only as quickly as the body allowed.
At the same time, we felt sure now that we were on the right course—away from radiation and chemotherapy. I hit on an analogy that’s stayed with me, about a high school janitor. As long as the janitor works his regular night shift, the school remains clean. What happens if he gets sick and fails to show up for work? Soon students and teachers arriving in the morning will find the school filled with papers and debris. But the garbage has not “attacked” the school any more than cancer “attacks” a body. How does conventional medicine respond? By burning all the papers! Not only does that put the whole school building at risk, it fails to solve the problem. Soon enough, more papers and debris will collect. Far more useful to get the janitor well, and put him back to work.
The janitor, in this analogy, as you may have guessed, is the immune system.
Eccentric as it sounds, we also found that coffee enemas stimulated the liver and helped it eliminate toxic wastes. An enema of body-temperature black organic coffee acts first as a solvent for wastes accumulated in the colon. The caffeine in it also excites the peristaltic action of the intestinal muscle, causing it to contract and expand more vigorously, removing more wastes. As the coffee filters up through the intestines, other wastes are sloughed off. And then, because the intestines work with the liver in a mini-circulatory system (called the portal circulation), the coffee actually goes directly to the liver, stimulating its function with caffeine and helping it break down the toxins the body has channeled into it. The cleaner the liver, the stronger the immune system. Coffee enemas are commonplace in the East; a prominent East Indian nutritionist, when asked at a lecture in Connecticut for his opinion on coffee consumption, grinned and said, “There’s nothing wrong with coffee. It’s just that you Westerners don’t know what hole to put it in!”
In our search for a balance between fasting and immune support, we found coffee enemas to be a useful tool, and for a while administered them to several of our cancer patients. (We followed them with yogurt enemas, on the theory that the coffee might wipe out the colon’s beneficial as well as its destructive bacteria, so that the yogurt, with its healthful bacteria, could restore the cleaned-out colon and intestine to perfect health.) When other alternatives appeared promising, we tried them, too, Laetrile (vitamin B17) prominent among them. Each of these “miracle cures” had some validity; each had cured a few people of cancer, perhaps more than a few. Unfortunately, the vast majority of human patients—and pets—failed to respond to them. By using the “cures” in creative combinations, we pushed our success rate up to about 20 percent. These were pets whose local veterinarians had given up and recommended euthanasia, so 20 percent was a lot better than zero percent. But we wanted to do better than let four out of five of our cancer patients die.
The breakthrough came by chance. In 1982, my brother and his wife, Susan, went on vacation to the Bahamas. In a Bahamian newspaper, my brother saw an article about an American doctor named Lawrence Burton who’d set up a cancer clinic to treat human patients in a novel way. After years of research, Burton had isolated certain proteins in the immune system which played a key role, he felt, in controlling mutant cell growth. His approach, in essence, was to analyze the relationships between those proteins in a cancer patient and redress imbalances with a series of injections, so that the proteins could do the work of regulating the cancer themselves. He called his process Immuno-Augmentative Therapy because he managed to balance the proteins he found deficient or malfunctioning, augmenting or enhancing the immune system enough to battle the cancer into submission.
My brother was intrigued. On the face of it, this seemed exactly the means he needed to boost the immune systems of pets with cancer, so that his cryosurgery, along with our other complementary approaches, would have enduring results. He went over to the clinic, identified himself, and asked to see Dr. Burton. The receptionist grimaced. “Dr. Burton sees no one,” she said. Later, my brother would learn that Burton had grown bitter and defensive after his ideas were rejected by the U.S. medical establishment, and perhaps a bit paranoid, too. Still, my brother left his card with the phone number of his hotel scrawled on it. Later that day, Burton called and invited him back. The two sat down to a talk that stretched over many hours. The result, for my brother, was the start of a satellite program of Burton’s methods for pets at Smith Ridge.
The program started that year with a few pets for whom no other therapy, conventional or holistic, had worked. From Burton, my brother obtained a start-up supply of protein serums. In those precomputer, prefax days, the pets’ blood samples were shipped to a mailbox in Miami, picked up for Dr. Burton by a courier who worked for a casino in the Bahamas, and analyzed at Burton’s IAT clinic, with the results conveyed to Smith Ridge by phone, followed by express mail. For each case, a specific amount of each of the four proteins would be given, with each measurement changing on a daily basis as the balance of proteins in the blood changed. Over the course of one week, forty such measurements would be relayed—determining the content of forty injections.
To me, at first, the process seemed overwhelming, and possibly absurd. This was my brother’s latest kick, not mine. I hardly had time to listen to him explain the basics of how the treatment worked, much less do the scientific reading that might have convinced me there was merit in it. In fact, I was juggling four jobs and still struggling to pay the bills. By now, most of what I preferred to practice was holistic medicine, and in the early 1980s, there was a price to pay for that: only truly desperate or eccentric pet owners sought me out. To make ends meet, I’d start the week at my brother’s clinic—the genesis of what Smith Ridge is today, but in a space that was, I remember exactly, 298 square feet. Monday evening, after a full day working for my brother, I’d report for a night shift at an emergency clinic in White Plains, then work a third job at my friend Howard Rothstein’s practice two hours away outside Woodstock, New York, only to put in another two-hour ride for another emergency-room shift in Queens, New York. Then one more shift at my brother’s clinic. Which is to say that from Monday morning to Wednesday evening, I rarely slept. I could have found a full-time job as a conventional veterinarian, but I didn’t want to do that. Holistic medicine felt right to me. I was sure it had enormous promise, and I was willing to make the necessary sacrifices until the right opportunity came up. I just wasn’t sure that the Burton method was any better than simple fasting and intravenous vitamin C.
When my brother told me that five of the first eight pets on the program appeared to improve, I saw that he might be on to something. Then came the case that galvanized me, one that began not in his then tiny clinic but in the White Plains emergency room. A mid-sized, mixed-breed dog, twelve and a half years old, arrived one night in total heart failure. An electrocardiogram revealed only a few normal heartbeats; the dog’s breathing was terribly labored. I recommended putting the dog to sleep, but her owner, a New Age-y woman, refused. She asked me, rather sternly, if I knew of any holistic veterinarians in the area. “Yeah, me,” I said. “But an emergency room isn’t the place for holistic medicine, and anyway I think your dog is too far gone.” I said that if she wanted, she could take her dog to my brother’s clinic for holistic therapy, but that my personal recommendation was euthanasia.
The owner was adamant. As a last resort, I sent her to the Animal Medical Center, the area’s largest conventional veterinary hospital, which also had twenty-four-hour emergency service. As an emergency measure, the sac around the dog’s heart was drained of blood, but again the recommendation was euthanasia. Their diagnosis: pericardial hemangiosarcoma, or severe cancer of this area. Instead, the owner did take her dog to my brother’s clinic, where she was put on Dr. Burton’s Immuno-Augmentative Therapy, plus at least a dozen supplements. Months later, having forgotten about the case altogether, I began working at my brother’s clinic. One of my first cases was that same mixed-breed dog, in for a routine follow-up visit to have a blood sample drawn for IAT monitoring. I was shocked. Here was a case I’d deemed truly hopeless, yet the dog appeared healthy, in clinical remission with a good-sounding heart.
That dog went on to live until the age of seventeen and a half—fully five years beyond the night of her trip to the emergency room.
With this case, seeing was believing. And yet no small doubt remained. This was cancer, after all. The big C. Even if Burton’s program beat it in a few cases, the majority would probably die, and his protein injections would be put in the same category as all those other alternative therapies: promising, but hardly conclusive.
Then came the first case I put on the Burton program myself. Pinky was a white standard poodle, eleven years old. I’d just taken over ownership of the clinic from my brother—this was April 1984. The Burton program was mine to continue or perhaps not, depending on what results I saw with Pinky and the next dozen or so cases.
Certainly Pinky presented a formidable test-case challenge. In a course of conventional treatment which had cost his owner more than $7,000, he had had a malignant tumor of the abdomen called an anaplastic sarcoma excised surgically, then gone on chemotherapy. A ruptured spleen months later had seemed a sorry coincidence until doctors, in removing the spleen, discovered lymph cancer. When they removed a bit of bone marrow for analysis—a bone “aspiration”—they learned that the dog also had grade III lymphosarcoma. This dog was sick. And to the veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was being treated, his case came to be seen as hopeless.
When the case was presented to me, Pinky’s red blood cell count, which in a normal dog is about 40 percent of total blood volume, had dropped to 17 percent. As a result of all the chemotherapy he had received, the skin was literally sloughing off his muzzle. Often when the dog defecated, he fainted. I finished my examination, looked hard at the medical history, and also recommended euthanasia. The owner, a Peekskill, New York, woman named Ann Bland, refused. “I just love this dog too much,” she said. “If you love this dog,” I said, “put him to sleep.” But Ann said no.
Reluctantly, I gave a sample of Pinky’s blood to my brother, who was headed down to Burton’s clinic in the Bahamas with samples from other ongoing cases to pick up a new supply of therapeutic serums. Over the next three days, I tried homeopathic remedies and supplements on Pinky; his condition remained the same. Then my brother called from Burton’s clinic to give me the blood results from all the patients. About Pinky, he said, “Burton thinks this dog is going to do well.”
“If that’s what he thinks, then get the next plane off the island,” I said. I was flabbergasted. How could I possibly represent his prognosis as good to Ann when the dog’s condition was so obviously terminal? Instead, I shared my grave doubts with Ann, but did tell her that Burton felt Pinky’s immune system was blocked, and that if “released,” he might respond. I thought we should go ahead with the injections Burton prescribed—but only because we had nothing to lose.
Within twenty-four hours of his first series of injections, Pinky got up unaided, began walking around his home, and ate a full meal. He also stopped fainting.
I couldn’t believe it.
In retrospect, Pinky’s recovery was unusual even by Burton’s standards: only about 2 percent of the cases treated by IAT do so well so dramatically fast. But Pinky’s woes weren’t over. Seemingly on the mend for two months, he suddenly slipped into a coma, the result of a sudden drop in red blood cells. Again I recommended euthanasia. Again Ann Bland refused. This time Pinky was given a transfusion at the emergency clinic in White Plains where I’d once worked. Pinky perked up for another month or so, then dropped into another coma. For the third time, I recommended euthanasia; for the third time, Ann refused. When Pinky defied the odds and perked up again, only to plummet after nearly six months, I gave the next and last transfusion he needed. At last, the recovery took: Pinky died at almost fifteen, not of cancer but of old age.
Six months after Pinky’s initial series of injections, I harbored no more doubts about continuing Burton’s program at Smith Ridge. Our success rate with cancer, especially with cases deemed hopeless, had nearly tripled since we started on it. To my knowledge, no other veterinarian in the country could report results anywhere near as good. As yet, however, I’d still not met the mysterious doctor himself. Clearly it was time to pay a visit.
The clinic lay in downtown Freeport, not far from the Bahamian Princess hotel. Uncontrolled tourism and the casinos had taken their toll: Freeport even then was a rambling hodgepodge without much civic beauty, and as I’d been warned, it wasn’t too safe. Yet Burton’s clinic proved to be a clean, modern, low-rise building imbued with a sense of sanctuary. Inside, the clinic was immaculate, with all the professional decor of a top-tier U.S. facility. From my brother, I knew that Burton worked not in some beautiful corner office but in a windowless cubbyhole redolent of pipe smoke. When I knocked on his open door, he was just lighting one of perhaps two dozen pipes he kept in a rack on his desk, the lit pipe protruding from a thick gray beard beneath very intense, rather suspicious eyes. Short and barrel-chested, he had the wary demeanor of a barroom regular who wouldn’t hesitate to leap into a fight. Pinned to the wall behind him were two posters. One was a drawing of Albert Einstein’s head and wavy curls, with what had already become my favorite declaration: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” The other showed a hawk descending with talons extended on a mouse. One talon was labeled the American Cancer Society. The other was labeled the National Cancer Institute. As for the mouse, it bravely stood its ground, making a rather obscene gesture at the hawk. It wore a sweatshirt that read “Dr. Burton.” I looked from Burton to the posters and back again into those eyes. This guy is right on, I thought.
As we began to talk, Burton swung around to demonstrate the hulking computer at his side. For months, I’d received printouts from this machine. When the blood samples for each cancer case were analyzed, a computer model churned out exact measurements for each of the four critical cancer factors in the blood which the pet in question should be given by injection, day by day, week by week, to redress the imbalances that were allowing the cancer to grow. The therapy seemed eminently logical, and to hear Burton go on about it—once started, with a sympathetic audience, he would talk for hours—I felt its effectiveness was beyond question.
As a medical researcher at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Burton had made steady, quiet progress in a new approach to understanding cancer using fruit flies, then laboratory mice. The premise he sought to prove was that animals (including man) possess a network of proteins in their immune systems whose job it is to quell cancer. Most animals do develop mutant cells, Burton felt, but in most, the special proteins avert the threat before it leads to the runaway effect we know as cancer. Burton isolated one of these proteins, which he called a tumor antibody, and injected it into mice with significant mammary tumors. He saw tangible improvement.
From there, Burton theorized that a second substance must be involved, one that emanated from the cancerous cells to alert the antibodies to the need to go into action. This second substance he named the “tumor complement factor.”
That led him to a third player in the process. When the antibodies did their job and destroyed the mutant cells, they might do it too well: too many mutant cells, that is, might be broken up and passed down for elimination, overwhelming the liver as they accumulated and, in extreme cases, killing the animal—as we’d seen with the poodle we’d put on an eighteen-day fast. To protect the liver, Burton theorized, this third factor—he called it the “blocking protein factor”—shielded the mutant cells like a candy coating, so that not too many mutant cells broke up at once.
The fourth and last factor in this elegant balance was the one that regulated the blocking protein—that made sure the candy coating was coming off at the right rate. When the liver had caught up and was ready to process more toxicity, this fourth factor—the “deblocking protein”—eroded the blocking protein factor from the mutant cells so that the antibodies could go in for the kill.
Though only a Ph.D., not a medical doctor, Burton managed to isolate and extract his four factors and then patent the process. All he needed now was to test his theories on human cancer patients. Unfortunately, he was a small fish in a small pond. Had he worked as the head of a research lab at Harvard, he felt, he would have commanded enough respect to have his theories accepted. Instead, his papers were rejected by medical journals, his grant requests either refused or granted in such winnowed amounts as to constitute insults. The FDA refused his request to conduct human clinical trials on an experimental basis. As for the American Medical Association, it insisted that in order to win its blessing, Burton would have to conduct strict double-blind tests: putting one-third of a test group of cancer patients on his own program, the next third on conventional therapy, and the final third on placebos. To Burton, that was nothing less than being asked to instigate needless deaths. When he refused, the entire U.S. medical establishment turned its back on him, and Burton, in a cold fury, moved down to the Bahamas—this was 1977—where he received support to open a cancer research lab and outpatient treatment center in a building on the grounds of Rand Memorial Hospital. The government welcomed him eagerly: Burton would bring in tax dollars, and tourists, albeit tourists with cancer. “Here I am,” he declared happily, “protected from the American Cancer Society by the entire Bahamian navy consisting of five gunboats.”
That year and the next, 20 percent of Burton’s patients recovered enough to go home and lead normal lives—not necessarily tumor-free, but with their cancers no longer aggressive and, in most cases, in remission. Most of the early successes were with cancers of the head and neck, bladder, colon, and prostate. Those cancers with which Burton was least successful—bone cancer, for example—were also those most resistant to conventional therapy, and in any case, the patients he saw had been told by American doctors that their prospects were nil. To all, upon arriving, Burton acknowledged that the treatment might fail. But it also might work. And unlike chemotherapy or radiation, he emphasized, IAT inflicted no pain or side effects—no more than the pinprick of a hypodermic needle.
For that first stay, I’d made a hotel reservation. Almost as soon as we met, however, Burton insisted I be his guest in the sprawling, waterfront home he shared with his wife Betty, whom he’d first met when she came to him for treatment. (Betty had had six CAT-scan-confirmed, inoperable tumors called chondrosarcomas at the base of her skull, and had been told by U.S. doctors that she would die imminently. That was a decade before.) The house was in a high-fenced compound, guarded by five Rottweilers. Inside were marble floors and antiques, a sunken living room with a six-foot-high TV hooked up to a satellite system, and the most beautiful seashell collection I’d ever seen—picked by Burton, Betty, and their occasional guests—in every room of the house. Adjacent to the master bedroom was a hot tub, in which Burton would often soak at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. while playing chess with an IBM computer. (Most games, he won.) He was a sybarite, I suppose, though he didn’t profit in any other visible way from his work, and certainly charged his human patients modest rates: $5,000 for the first month of analysis and treatments, $2,000 for each month thereafter. He used the house as a place to think—and think: by the next day, I knew I was in the presence of a genius whose mind raced so far ahead of mine that I felt like an awkward child. But also, the house served as his refuge, a kingdom in exile, not only from criminal elements on the islands but from the U.S. medical establishment, which had done all it could, he felt, to keep him from bringing IAT to needy people in his own country.
Soon enough, I learned firsthand how stinging that rejection could be. My brother and I had begun reporting on our IAT work to holistic veterinary societies, and word got out. When an invitation came to address an audience of conventional veterinarians, we showed up with slides, IAT treatments, computer printouts—and Pinky, whom we brought along as Exhibit A. As I took the audience through Pinky’s case step by step, I could hear an angry muttering grow. Some in the audience walked out; others began asking scornful questions. To my surprise, attention focused not on Pinky’s obvious terminal cancer but on a purplish tumor of the neck which I’d ignored initially because it wasn’t life-threatening. After nearly three years of treatment, the tumor had shrunk and begun to drain, so I’d chosen to remove it. As a matter of course, I’d sent it in to a lab, where it was revealed to be fibrous tissue. Scar tissue. Which suggested to my brother and me that as a dividend of our treatment, a malignant neck tumor had turned benign.
Why, the veterinarians demanded, hadn’t I biopsied the neck tumor when I first saw Pinky, so as to confirm that it was malignant then? How unprofessional could I be? I said that at the time, we’d just focused our efforts on three different confirmed cancers that were actually killing the dog, and had chosen not to impose additional physical stress and pain by removing the small neck tumor. But our reasoning fell on deaf ears. And so was established, for my brother and me, a new reputation: as “those Goldsteins,” the good veterinarians gone insane.
For nearly a decade, that sting of rejection hurt more than I cared to admit. Finally one of the East Coast’s most distinguished veterinary surgeons, Martin DeAngelis, formerly of the Animal Medical Center in New York and now in private practice in Ardsley, New York, made me see it for what it was. Though traditional in his outlook, DeAngelis had become enthusiastic about the holistic work my brother and I were doing, and referred an increasing number of patients to us. “You just have to realize that what you were doing was scaring them,” DeAngelis said. “After all, these were veterinarians who would have recommended euthanasia for Pinky—and there was Ann Bland, the dog’s owner, sitting right there in the audience with him.” To take in what we were saying would have been more than unnerving; it would have invalidated much of what they did in the treatment of cancer. “You can’t shove it in their faces,” DeAngelis counseled. “Just do your work and let them come to you.”
At that moment, the anger and frustration of years lifted. I realized, too, that some of the fault was mine. Like Burton, I’d let the pain of rejection make me arrogant, and had actually provoked much of the adverse reaction I’d felt was so unfair. In so doing, I’d made life more difficult than it had to be, not only for me but for my brother. Most important, I’d kept Burton’s vital work from being accepted as quickly and widely as it deserved to be.
So that’s what I do now: just focus on the work. And when colleagues ask about it, I share it without taking offense at their logical doubts and concerns. I see them as allies, not enemies. I see that they have experience and knowledge that may help me administer IAT better. On an almost daily basis, I see what a difference that attitude makes.
For the IAT program, a dog or cat with serious cancer typically receives three to four injections each morning (spaced an hour apart) and three to four injections in the evening, five days a week. That adds up to more than one hundred injections a month—an annoyance, but hardly on the same scale as the discomfort of chemo or radiation (and, as Burton emphasized, with no side effects or complications). The same four immunoprotein factors are administered to all patients, and yet each patient’s regimen is unique, determined by the imbalances seen in his blood sample and by his type of cancer. The amounts of each protein factor vary from patient to patient. So does the order of the injections. And daily, the dosages change, based on ongoing analyses of each patient’s blood.
If a pet reaches the clinic in an extreme condition, I’ll usually start him on high doses of intravenous vitamin C as soon as I see him. I don’t regard it as the cure-all that Wendell O. Belfield declared it to be a decade or so ago, but I’ll use it for two or three days to pull a patient back from the brink—sort of like jump-starting a car with a weak battery. (I’ll also inject B vitamins and adrenal cortex, plus injectable homeopathics from Heel if appropriate.) Once the patient is stable, good immunological and metabolic support can maintain him. And, of course, all patients go on full supplemental programs based on their BNAs in conjunction with good-quality diets (see Chapter Three).
We no longer use some of the therapies we did in the late 1970s—the Gerson liver “shakes,” coffee enemas, or Laetrile—only because so many natural supplements have since come on the market to address those needs. Along with the vitamins and enzymes discussed in Chapter Five, we have homeopathic remedies to support each of the internal organs, from the liver, needed to fight all cancers, to the thymus, the gland that helps program the immune system in youth and then mysteriously (and, I think, unnecessarily) atrophies. A boost of homeopathic animal “thymus” is immunosupportive, and in my experience a helpful measure against all cancers. A more recent addition to the arsenal, bizarre as it sounds, is injections of homeopathically succussed cancer types from the German company Heel. For a dog with mammary cancer, for example, we’ll give injections of homeopathic mammary adenocarcinoma. As discussed in Chapter Five, the homeopathic principle of “like cures like” appears to work in this newest spin on Hahnemann’s original revelation.
In conjunction with IAT, I’ll start a cancer patient typically on six or seven supplements as specified by the BNA. Along with these, I’ll add in one or two of several supplements that have direct immune supportive effects. Among my favorites are: Immuno Complex (Professional Health Products), Betathyme (Doctors Mutual), herbal Astragalus 10 Plus or Gymnostemma (Seven Forests), the antioxidant Cell Advance (Vetri-Science), and homeopathic Thymus Drops (Professional Health Products). Also included in this arsenal will be one or more of the supplements newly promoted as anticancer agents: cat’s claw, Carnivora (an injectable extract of the venus flytrap plant), and shark cartilage.
Regarding the last of these, I’ve used shark cartilage extensively in my practice. As documented in the book Sharks Don’t Get Cancer, by Dr. I. William Lane, and then aired on 60 Minutes twice within one month, shark cartilage has an antiangiogenesis effect, which means it actually diminishes the blood supply to both cancerous tumors and arthritic joints. I have personally witnessed beneficial effects with the use of shark cartilage on both cancer and arthritis patients. My one big concern is the destruction of sharks to obtain their cartilage. Their diminishing numbers, especially in the Pacific Ocean, threaten to disrupt the food chain and unbalance the ecology, since sharks are among the Pacific’s primary predators. Potentially, the harvesting of sharks may have global environmental implications. While I’m grateful for the good it does to my patients, I continue to search for other natural products to replace it. One new promising product is called inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6). Available through some health food stores, it is derived from plants, and has proven anticancer effects.
To a conventional doctor, this grab-bag approach will seem unscientific at best. But since virtually everything we use has no side effects, why not throw in the works? In my experience, especially in dealing with debilitated cancer patients, giving more supplements rather than fewer does produce better results—which makes sense, given that all, in one way or another, help boost the immune system. Someday, double-blind studies will doubtless be done to determine exactly which of these supplements helps fight cancer to exactly what degree. But they won’t be done by me. Like Burton, I deeply object to the practice of giving placebos to one group of cancer patients, be they people or pets, when their chances of survival are so much greater with the therapies the treated group gets. If there’s an ethical dilemma here, I think it lies in the court of conventional medicine—not in the heartfelt effort to fight cancer with as many promising, nontoxic measures as possible.
That conflict informs everything from the means used to fight cancer to the end each side pursues. In conventional cancer therapy, the goal is complete and permanent removal of the malignant tumor. Zap! And the faster the better. What I seek with my cancer patients is good quality of life. When, through IAT and other holistic measures, we can help the body eliminate the tumor altogether, we’re thrilled. But I’ve also had pets run around for years on treatment with some portion of their tumors intact. As long as we’ve contained the tumor, reduced or eliminated any pain, and enabled the pet to lead a happy, energetic life, who cares if he has a tumor or not? Certainly the tumor will need to be monitored on a regular basis, but if it remains dormant, it need not arouse our concern or provoke an all-out assault with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. With pets more often than not, that’s the way to win the battle and lose the war: to eradicate the tumor and so ravage the pet’s immune system to such a degree that he’s left diminished, more susceptible to cancer and other diseases than before.
As anyone knows who’s dealt with cancer either as a doctor or as a patient, there isn’t just one “big C.” Among the more than three dozen standard varieties we treat, the range of aggressiveness and treatability is as wide for pets as it is for people. In my experience, one of the most responsive to therapy is brain cancer, surprising as that may seem. Among cats, in particular, we’ve had a string of successes, of whom Jupiter, a nearly twelve-year-old black domestic shorthair, is perhaps the most dramatic example.
When Jupiter was first brought to the clinic, he was totally blind. His pupils, overly dilated, showed no response to light. Why? Because, as a CAT scan revealed, a huge tumor had wiped out at least a third of his brain and put debilitating pressure on his optic nerve area. The Animal Medical Center had scheduled surgical removal of the tumor, but the attending surgeon had changed his mind, declaring that even if the operation was successful, removing a tumor of that size would leave Jupiter in a vegetable-like state. Instead, he recommended euthanasia. When I took blood samples, Jupiter’s eyes rolled back in his head and he fell backward. I thought he’d died right there. Asked by his owners what his chances of survival were, I guessed 2 percent—and a zero percent chance of regaining his vision, since that section of the brain was already gone.
But Jupiter proved to be one of those 2 percent miraculous recoveries. Within the first week he showed rapid response to IAT and all the supplements we could get into him. After thirteen months of therapy, we had him reevaluated by the Animal Medical Center. The AMC could detect only a “slight deficiency” in his nervous system, which might suggest the presence of the “former tumor.” As doctors at the AMC stated to me, Jupiter’s restored vision and obvious energy were proof enough that the tumor was gone. Yet, they requested that another CAT scan be performed so they could know for sure. To their considerable irritation, I counseled Jupiter’s owner to refuse—and she did. Why put a thirteen-year-old cat under general anesthesia and take all the X rays constituting a CAT scan of his skull if they weren’t needed to save his life? As much as I would have liked to have had those results, I couldn’t sacrifice the well-being of my patient in the name of science. Consequently, the AMC’s final report on Jupiter concluded that he seemed to be in remission, but added that that probably had nothing to do with the treatment we’d given him. On the other hand, the report added drily, as long as the treatment wasn’t toxic, it might as well be continued. Indeed!
One other point here: I tend not to draw a strict line between benign and malignant. Medically speaking, Jupiter’s good news was that he had a benign tumor in his brain. But his bad news was that his recommendation was euthanasia. I feel that a tumor is cancer and ought to be addressed, regardless of its classification. For that reason, I also disagree with conventional doctors who often suggest that a patient with a small benign tumor should be left alone. Any tumor is a sign that something has gone wrong with the immune system: it’s a wake-up call that ought not be ignored. At the same time, any tumor may respond to treatment. And that includes the tumors classified as malignant.
Though different in kind, cancers that affect regions near the brain—such as the mouth and face—tend to respond well, too, in part because they’re localized. One of my most memorable cases involved a golden retriever named Brunzi, whose owner, Carol Marangoni, has since become not only a good friend but a representative of Alternative Solutions to Animal Health, Inc., the foundation I’ve helped start to further research into holistic therapies. Carol tells the story better than I can:
In October of 1992 I was devastated when I received a biopsy report on a lump that had been removed from Brunzi’s face. The lab report said “Diagnosis: squamous cell carcinoma. Prognosis: guarded.” I read that report over and over with mounting anxiety. The thought that I might lose “my little boy” at five years of age was unbearable to me.
When I first spoke with Marty Goldstein about Brunzi’s diagnosis, he was remarkably calm. Too calm, I thought. He advised me to keep Brunzi on a supplement program and periodically monitor his progress through blood testing. He did not recommend any formal cancer treatment and he implored me not to panic—telling me that my fearful emotional state would be conveyed to Brunzi with detrimental effect. My initial reaction when I hung up the phone was “Is this guy nuts?” How could he be so calm? How could he not recommend an aggressive treatment program? Above all, how could he expect me not to panic?
So I immediately took Brunzi to a different vet. Not just any vet, but the chief oncologist at a prestigious veterinary teaching hospital. After examining Brunzi and reviewing the lab report, he recommended a course of therapy that involved surgically removing all seven lumps that were on his body, implanting small metal disks at each incision, and administering pinpoint radiation at all cancerous sites. (The reason for the metal disks was to precisely identify each site to radiate.) The oncologist told me Brunzi would need to be anesthetized and radiated approximately three times a week for six to seven weeks, and that I could expect ulcers to develop internally and externally at all radiated sites. At the same time, he outright dismissed my inquiries about Marty Goldstein’s alternative treatment for cancer.
Please understand that I was not predisposed to look kindly upon “alternative” health care. I come from a very conventional background—my father was a conventional physician, I myself was trained as a research scientist, and I was surrounded by conventional-approach colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry in which I worked for years. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I considered Marty’s alternative form of treatment for Brunzi’s cancer.
When I told Marty that the oncologist wanted to remove all the lumps on Brunzi’s body, he asked some very straightforward questions. “Suppose you remove all these bumps—you still haven’t addressed the underlying cause. Why did Brunzi develop these cancerous bumps in the first place? And what’s going to stop him from growing seven, fourteen, or fifty more cancerous bumps just like the ones you want to remove?” Marty went on to explain that all living beings have cells with the potential of becoming cancerous, but that these cells don’t take control and become cancer if the body’s immune system is functioning properly. What caused Brunzi’s immune system to function poorly? Probably a variety of factors: genetics (Brunzi had allergies and even mange as a puppy, both of which are considered immuno-suppressive diseases); poor nutrition (dog foods made from pesticide-and chemical-laden crops, with preservatives, additives, and meat from diseased animals that are considered unfit for human consumption); and possibly too many vaccines.
Marty’s approach, which I decided to follow after all, was a multifaceted one, designed to enhance Brunzi’s debilitated immune function. He put Brunzi on a variety of glandular, enzymatic, vitamin, and mineral supplements, based on his metabolic nutritional analysis. He monitored Brunzi’s progress through blood testing and put him on a course of Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT). In accordance with his advice, I also changed Brunzi’s diet. Whenever possible, I began cooking fresh foods for him, using organically grown grains (mainly brown rice), veggies, and free-range meat. I used a super-premium dry dog food, and continued with his food supplement program as Marty recommended.
Brunzi never received radiation, chemotherapy, or additional surgery. He was retested approximately every six months, and his supplement regimen was modified accordingly. He was also routinely tested for immune function (IAT retesting), but did not need to repeat that course of treatment. Over the next four years, Brunzi often developed new lumps or bumps, but they all wound up being either benign or cystic, or just went away as I worked on his health and immune system. When Brunzi finally died in 1997, at ten years old, he’d lived twice as long as expected by his conventional veterinarian—as long, indeed, as golden retrievers without any debilitating disease tend to live. Of equal importance, he’d lived a happy and pain-free life, free from the adverse effects of additional cancer treatment.
High on the list of other cancers that respond particularly well to IAT is bladder cancer. One of our star patients was Sophie, a black rag doll of a pooch, whose bladder cancer was declared so aggressive by a board-certified veterinary surgeon from New York City that surgery was ruled out as an option. Sophie would be lucky to live at most nine months afterward, and should be put to sleep instead. I had a sonogram performed to see just what I had to deal with: a tongue-shaped tumor, undulating in the bladder like a flag, 2.3 by 2.7 centimeters. In this case, I thought surgery might help. If the tumor could be reduced somewhat, IAT might have a better chance.
So the referring veterinarian did what he could, managing to remove 75 percent of the tumor. A biopsy confirmed that the cancer was transitional cell carcinoma, and a follow-up sonogram showed, as expected, that what remained of the tumor was already beginning to grow again. So in late April 1986, with the tumor at 1.1 by 1.1 centimeters, we started in with IAT and a slew of supplements. A month later to the day, we had another sonogram done. It showed no evidence of cancer. The summer passed, the therapy continued. Still no tumor. In a sonogram that fall, the tumor was back, at about half its size presurgery, but the sonographer added that while the lump appeared large enough to be the malignant tumor, it looked fibrous—like scar tissue. From a sonogram done a month later, the sonographer concluded that the tumor was “definitely fibrous, indicating chronicity.” In other words, the tumor was dead.
One day about four months after that last sonogram, Sophie excreted blood and a chunk of tissue. We assumed the worst, and immediately had another sonogram done. The chronic mass was still there, but we could see on the sonogram that a chunk of it was missing. We submitted the excreted chunk for biopsy; it came back as fibrous scar tissue. Sophie, her immune system augmented by IAT, had not only beaten her cancer but eliminated it. Instead of being euthanized or dying a few months after surgery, she died years later—of old age.
Because generations turn so much more quickly with pets than with human beings, the cancers I’m seeing now appear more and more often, I’m sorry to report, in puppies and kittens—a sure sign, to me, of their genetic origin. Not long ago, a fifteen-month-old Scottie named Scarlet was brought to me after her third surgery to remove malignant tumors. So malignant was her cancer that it was diagnosed as undifferentiated sarcoma, which is to say that it was growing so wildly it hadn’t even differentiated into a specific cell type. Both Cornell’s veterinary school and the Animal Medical Center received biopsies. Both agreed that the dog would not live to see her second birthday. Nevertheless, we started her on IAT and supplements. On the fifth day of therapy, a tumor resembling the one she’d just had removed grew right at the incision of the last surgery. On the seventh day, it was gone—and no more malignancies appeared. Despite the fact that Scarlet moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and we lost hands-on contact with her, her owner stayed in touch and let us know, in the end, that Scarlet lived nine years past her two-year life expectancy. Which to me suggests the silver lining in cancer cases that hit pets so young: genetically based as they are, inevitable as the first tumors may be, a young dog or cat may also be strong enough to fight his way back to health, and even to heal his genetic tendency to manifest a malignancy, so that his offspring may not inherit it. Believe it or not, I have actually witnessed the reversal of conditions considered genetically based so that their symptoms don’t manifest.
Of all the cancers I treat, among the least responsive to holistic therapy, even among young pets, are lymph cancers. They usually hit so quickly, often appearing over much of the body’s lymph tissues, that chemotherapy is often necessary. In fact, this cancer is so responsive to chemotherapy, with relatively few lingering side effects, that it can be eradicated clinically overnight. I see it as buying time, getting a patient into clinical remission, in order then to support him with IAT and supplements. One tendency I’ve noticed again and again is the “potentiating,” or enhancing, effect of alternative therapy on conventional therapy. Chemo used to treat lymph cancer works far better, with fewer side effects, when alternative therapies are used, too, which enables a doctor to administer lower doses of it at less frequent intervals.
Happily, this double-barreled approach has proved unnecessary with atypical lymph cancer. One of the first cases to indicate that was Jake, a Labrador–Great Dane mix who was, despite her name, female. At the Animal Medical Center, an X ray had shown a tumor eroding the bones of her hip, lower back, and tail, fusing them together. She couldn’t squat, she had difficulty defecating and urinating, and when I did a rectal exam, the tumor felt as big as a lemon, pushing down into the rectum from above. Because of the location, surgery wasn’t an option. In removing the tumor, a surgeon would have severed the connection between the pelvis and the back—the pelvic carriage that actually supports the legs. Dr. Cindy Wasserman at the AMC, in charge of the case, advised me that she had ruled out a biopsy. The tumor was so inaccessible and, she said, therefore untreatable.
To Jake’s owners, a nice young couple, I put the prognosis in no less blunt terms after sending a blood sample down to the Bahamas. Jake’s prospects were slim, all right. But I felt she stood a ghost of a chance, if only because the tumor might not be bone cancer, which would make it about 100 percent untreatable, but rather another cancer type invading the bone. And if it was bone cancer, I told them, maybe Jake would be my first success.
Within the first three weeks of therapy, several lumps appeared on Jake’s skin around her rectum, almost like an allergic reaction. Sensitive to the criticism I’d received in the Pinky case for not taking a biopsy of an incidental tumor, I submitted one of the lumps to a laboratory. It was diagnosed as round cell sarcoma, most likely lymphosarcoma. I reported this to Burton when sending a follow-up blood sample. He advised that we just keep on with the therapy protocol, as Jake’s follow-up immune report looked good. Over the next several months, the tumor shrank steadily, centimeter by centimeter. Finally after two and a half years, I did take a follow-up X ray and sent it to the radiology consultant service affiliated with the Cornell veterinary school. The head of the service, Dr. Victor Rendano, reported, in writing, the following: “The follow-up X rays show that the lytic [or eroded]area is no longer identified in the sacrum [back]and the bone. The appearance of the bone in the back would be compatible with bony remodeling consistent with a healing process, and change would be consistent with the satisfactory response of the cancer to therapy.” In his own dry, medical terms, the radiologist was telling us that Jake’s cancer of the bones was not only gone but had healed to a point where normal tissue had regrown in the formerly cancerous region. She lived two and a half cancer-free years and died at almost thirteen years old, a ripe old age for a Great Dane.
With primary bone cancer, medically known as osteosarcoma, the only stories I could tell until about two years ago were unremittingly negative. The success I’ve had since then is due, I’m convinced, to the introduction of ozone therapy in treatment. As discussed in Chapter Five, ozone therapy involves the intravenous channeling of ozone through the bloodstream, predicated on the idea that ozone breaks into pure oxygen, which promotes healing. I believe that disease is associated with, and further fosters, an oxygen-depleted environment. Whether the lack of oxygen allows it to grow or the disease destroys the oxygen, the relationship between the two is what has spawned ozone therapy. Because bone cancer was so impenetrable, I began using ozone therapy as an adjunct to IAT—essentially because I had nothing to lose, and no other treatment, conventional or alternative, was affecting it. In three or four cases, it appeared to be a swing factor in producing results superior to those I expected when dealing with a bone tumor and to those predicted by veterinarians or institutions that saw the cases before I did. So I started doing more of it.
Ozone therapy requires an ozone generator, which few veterinarians have as yet. It also requires practicing in one of the few states that allow the use of ozone for therapy. New York State does allow it, and if the results I achieved with a ten-year-old Rottweiler named Sassi can become more widely known, perhaps other states will start to recognize ozone for the extraordinary therapy it is.
Sassi had a tumor in the gum of her upper jaw. At Virginia Polytechnic veterinary school, near where her owners lived, she was examined, her tumor biopsied as a squamous cell carcinoma, and radical surgery recommended. If the owners approved, the operation would remove a whole section of Sassi’s upper jaw, and she wouldn’t be able to eat well for weeks. Her owners knew about the cryosurgery done at Smith Ridge, and brought Sassi up to see me. I examined her, did cryosurgery, and actually sent her home that night with her tumor destroyed but her jaw intact. That night, she ate a regular meal.
For well over a year, there was no recurrence of the tumor. Sassi was on supplements and appeared healthy and well. Then came the call that Sassi had developed a bone tumor in the upper part of the bone that connects the shoulder to the elbow, the humerus. This was confirmed at VPI by X ray and biopsy. The recommendation there: amputation or euthanasia. Once again, Sassi’s owners brought her up to Smith Ridge. First I put her on high levels of intravenous vitamin C as a “jump start” and started her on IAT. Along with the usual supplements, I used the homeopathic remedy silicea at high potencies, since I’d heard reports of its success in helping reverse bone cancer. I also added injectable homeopathic bone, “Os Suis” from the German company Heel. Now, I sensed, was also the time for intravenous ozone. In all previous cases of bone cancer for which I’d used ozone, I’d injected ozone gas directly into the tumors. But due to this tumor’s location, deep in the musculature of the upper arm, I couldn’t reach it directly. Instead, Sassi was given ozone intravenously, and by painless enema into her rectum.
For months afterward, Sassi did well. Her tumor remained totally unchanged, as shown by follow-up X rays at VPI—astounding with such an aggressive cancer—and remained small enough not to be painful, enabling her to lead a normal life. A year after her visit, her health appeared to falter. Up she came again for another “pick-me-up” round of intravenous vitamin C and ozone. The bone cancer appeared not to have grown at all. During that period, though, it was clear she had developed some sharp, undefined pain in her neck. The obvious conclusion was that the bone cancer had spread to her upper spine, but a full X-ray series, again at VPI, revealed no evidence of any growth, progression, or spread of the tumor. At VPI, the best guess was that Sassi might have arthritis—by now, she was eleven years old—and so she was put on Rimadyl, a drug I warn against in the “Arthritis” section of Chapter Seven. Though classified as one of the NSAID’s—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—which are considered to have milder side effects than steroids, Rimadyl has produced side effects that are very disturbing indeed, and appeared to lead to at least three deaths among dogs in my practice. Within several weeks, Sassi was euthanized.
I don’t know whether Rimadyl contributed to Sassi’s death. Perhaps some other cause is to blame. She was, after all, eleven years old, and her unspecified pain was so acute at times in that last stage that the relief she did get from Rimadyl may have warranted its use. But the last report I received about her, just prior to her death, indicated no spread of the original cancer.
By 1985, Burton had been operating his clinic nearly a decade, his reputation growing with each seemingly miraculous remission. Harry Reasoner from 60 Minutes had swooped down to do an exposé, only to be so favorably impressed by what he saw that the segment became a strongly positive one, giving Burton some national recognition and bringing him more patients. Yet his rising profile also caused problems. That year, a Seattle, Washington, laboratory tested a Burton patient’s serum supply and found antibodies to the AIDS virus. Though the antibodies may have only indicated a blood donor’s immunity to AIDS, the dread word did real damage. Soon after, pressure was exerted on local health organizations, and Burton’s clinic was shut down.
Among patients who’d been treated successfully by Burton, the outcry was swift and loud. Nearly all of these patients were still on IAT, either on full therapy at the clinic in Freeport or on a maintenance program of home injections. With the clinic closed, they felt their lifelines had literally been cut. In more than a few cases, a cancer in remission reappeared. One eleven-year-old boy, saved from certain death by IAT a year before, died without his injections; I heard reports of other deaths, too. The clinic reopened on a limited basis to deal with severe cases, on the condition that Burton strictly screen his donors’ blood. Still, protests mounted. An extraordinary open-court hearing sponsored by Congressman Guy Molinari was held in a Brooklyn federal court. Burton’s patients testified, telling what IAT had done for them and demanding their freedom of choice to continue with the treatments. My brother and I came to that hearing, bringing success stories like Jupiter and Pinky with us to help dramatize our presentations. The hearing led to a decision by the Office of Technological Assessment (OTA) to investigate alternative cancer therapies, particularly IAT. Burton’s therapy were neither validated nor condemned, but he was able to operate the clinic without constraints.
The patients came back, and Burton presided, but the shutdown had taken an emotional toll. Even an apparent peace offering by the National Cancer Institute failed to mollify him. Presented with a proposal to let the agency try IAT at its own clinics—as an independent treatment, and part of a double-blind study—Burton angrily refused. If the NCI wanted to see how IAT worked, he thundered, why couldn’t its doctors come down to the Bahamas?
As rewarding as it was to know and learn from Burton’s genius, I have to admit that he was frustrating at times. Burton’s relentless war with the U.S. medical system had definitely made him somewhat paranoid, and exasperatingly rigid in dealing with the animal IAT program that my brother and I had started. Because his father and brother had both died as vegetarians in their early forties, Burton was convinced that nutrition has nothing to do with health, and was thus opposed to all the other work my brother and I were doing with our patients. He went so far as to shut down Smith Ridge’s IAT program on several occasions, forcing us to plead with his very responsible Bahamian business partner for reinstatement. The same scorn for nutrition, unfortunately, led to the deterioration of Burton’s own health. Still in his sixties, he died in 1994 of diabetes, kidney failure, and heart disease after quadruple bypass surgery.
As much as I wish he were still alive to consult on cases and answer questions, and as much as he’s missed, the clinic he created appears to run smoothly and successfully without his irascible presence. Open to new ideas, its directors now appreciate in particular what we’re doing at Smith Ridge to complement IAT with our other therapies, and are observing our success with keen interest. It’s my hope that as our success grows, it may bring to Burton, though indirectly and belatedly, the Nobel Prize he so deserves.
I tell Burton’s story in my seminars and to the owners of pets I treat with IAT. I also tell them something I’ve learned about the nature of cancer—something that always helps.
No matter how quickly the disease may appear to be growing clinically, it’s a disease which has taken time to develop—over either years in an older pet’s lifetime, or generations in the case of a young pet born with a genetic predisposition. It takes time to treat. We live in a society that expects instant results, but there is no quick fix for cancer. Even if a pet has a single tumor which treatment appears to remove, reestablishing the pet’s immune system and easing him through waves of detoxification is a process, not a procedure. There are ups, and there are downs, which is why I often use the analogy of a roller coaster to describe the process of recovery. The down periods are discouraging, but less so if an owner remembers that on a roller coaster, we go back up again.
The other analogy I use for cancer recovery is a marathon. You may be the fastest marathon runner in the world, but in this race a serious rival has started six miles ahead of you. Chances are, by the end of the race you’ll still be first over the finish line, but at mile eight out of twenty-six, you may be trailing. It’s the same with cancer treatment. At the outset of treatment, your rival is ahead of you, and you’ve got a full race to run. But put one foot in front of the other steadily, patiently, without getting discouraged, and some day you’ll win the race.
For more information, see Appendix A (page 350).