Neoplasene-The Latest Head of the Escharotic Hydra

A reader recently drew my attention to a form of CAM that is particularly dangerous and irresponsible but that like the mythological Hydra manages to raise its ugly head again and again despite efforts to kill it. Its latest incarnation in the veterinary field is as Neoplasene, yet another example of how CAM can achieve success through marketing unsupported by any evidence of real benefit.

According to the marketing materials, the ingredient in Neoplasene is “one of the prominent candidates deserving of the wonder drug designation.”(1) Pretty exciting, no? The promoters go on to follow the well-traveled road of CAM marketing, explaining why scientific medicine has missed the obvious truth, and only the iconoclastic promoters of the “wonder drug” can see it. “[Pathologists] clearly have not made reliable sense out of biopsy analysis…they just aren’t up to the task of reliable diagnostics.”(1) Of course, that doesn’t really matter since “this author…believes that inordinate attention is paid to diagnostics because, until now, little could be done to eliminate neoplastic disease so instead of treatment mainstream protocol has been to study the symptoms a lot and treat the disease a little.”

Oh, instead of studying the disease, we should be treating it!!! Gosh, how could we have been so blind? Oh, maybe because of “the barriers to the development and use of really effective cure oriented chemical treatment of neoplasm which are intertwined with political, economic and regulatory realities.”(1) See where this is going? “Cancer treatment and research are big business. Tremendous resources of facilities, personnel and funding are allocated to address education, equipment, real estate, personnel and patented designer drugs. Big organizations have momentum; they do not change direction easily or quickly…It has been viewed by drug developers that patentability may not be attained on some pharmaceuticals.”(1) So we in mainstream haven’t seen that “these alkaloids clearly attack neoplasm preferentially” and “this fact has been known and largely ignored by pharmaceutical researchers for nearly two hundred years” because of institutional inertia and the fear that we won’t make back the cost of developing such a miraculous cancer cure.

Such clichés seem as obviously ridiculous and unbelievable as the fake moon landing sort, yet they are just as persistent, and even more dangerous in that they drive people away from real medicine and into the arms of CAM.

The Neoplasene marketing materials go on in some detail, using testimonials and sloppy semi-scientific verbiage to clearly claim that the product treats, and even cures cancer, despite a few lame disclaimers to the contrary. And what is this miracle elixir the bloated bureaucracy of scientific medicine has overlooked?

Neoplasene is a derivative of bloodroot, which is one of several caustic herbal products known as escharotics(2). When applied topically in sufficient concentrations, these derivatives burn the flesh and cause tissue necrosis, often leaving thick scabs called eschars, and tremendous local devastation of healthy tissue. The danger of these products is well-illustrated by case reports in the scientific literature(3,4). Though the promoters claim the chemicals somehow recognize cancerous tissue and spare healthy tissue, there is no clinical evidence of this. Some preliminary in vitro research certainly shows the chemicals can kill cells. And there is some limited evidence that they may even be better at killing diseased cells than healthy cells in culture.(5) But when you smear the stuff on your skin to “draw out” the neoplastic cells and leave untouched the healthy tissue, you’re likely to wind up with a gaping hole and a lot of plastic surgery to look forward to. If you’re especially lucky, though, some deeper neoplastic cells will be left behind, and the provider of the salve can then explain why the recurrence or metastasis of your cancer despite its apparent removal by the product is not their fault. Probably chemicals in the water or something.

The promoters of Neoplasene acknowledge, while downplaying, the risk of tissue damage from topical use of their product. They say you should “expect a wound to manage. It size will be in proportion to the extent of the tumor and the amount of Neoplasene compound applied…expect some scarring.”(1) The relevance of their earlier claim that “bloodroot chemicals and Neoplasene are simply not escharotics. They do not burn flesh” isn’t entirely clear, since they seem to be arguing that causing tissue to die and slough off leaving a bloody great hole is fine, so long as it’s through some mechanism other than chemical burn. Hmm.

The FDA has actually gone so far as to ban importation and marketing of bloodroot and other escharotics for cancer treatment, an all-too-rare example of government challenging “Big CAM” which further illustrates how frightening these products are(2). And yet these products are easily found on the Internet and used by a depressingly large number of CAM-oriented veterinarians, likely with a genuine belief that they are curing cancer through a miraculous means ignored by the corrupt and blind medical-industrial complex. I can’t say whether the active use and promotion of such products in the veterinary field, free from government sanction, is due to a loophole in the law or just the fact that the Hydra has many more heads than the FDA has paid investigators.

The only FDA-approved use of a bloodroot derivative, sanguinarine in dentifrice, is no longer popular as it proved to be a significant risk factor for leukoplakia, a potentially pre-cancerous disease(6). And while removal of low-risk, superficial skin tumors can be accomplished with escharotics, there are safer and more effective methods. Far from being a “wonder drug,” these products are an inappropriate and dangerous substitute for real scientific diagnosis and therapy of cancer. And contrary to the nonsense about the venality and blindness of the “cancer industry” and their own great insight, the promoters of Neoplasene are simply the latest head of the corrosive hydra that is bloodroot derivative cancer salves.

1. Fox, T.S. Discussion of and clinical guide for: the treatment of neoplasm, proud flesh and warts with sanguinarine and related isoquinoline alkaloids. Buck Mountain Botanicals, Inc., www.neoplasene.net, 2008.

2. Barrett, S. Don’t use corrosive cancer salves (escharotics); Quackwatch. www.quackwatch.org, 2009.

3. McDaniel, S., Goldman, G.D, Consequences of using escharotic agents as primary treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer. Arch of Dermatol 2002; 138:1593-1596.

4. Moran, AM., Helm, K.F. Histopathologic findings and diagnostic difficulties posed with use of escharotic agents for treatment of skin lesions: a case report and review of the literature. J Cutan Pathol 2008; 35:404-406.

5. Ahmad, N., et al. Differential antiproliferative and apoptotic response of sanguinarine for cancer cells versus normal cells. Clin Cancer Res 2000; 6:1524-1528.

6. Mascarenhas, A.K., Allen, C.M., Moeschberger, M.L., The association between Viadent use and oral leukoplakia-results of a matched case-control study. J Public Health Dent 2002; 62:158-162.

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89 Responses to Neoplasene-The Latest Head of the Escharotic Hydra

  1. Bruce Boatner says:

    Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful analysis. I enjoyed it very much, and found enlightening the external sources you referenced. Some of them (e.g. Shermer’s book), I already have in my library. And I apologize for any speculations regarding your motivations, which has no place in meaningful dialogue.

    Yes, the interrelationships between personal beliefs and perceived realities are complex and fascinating. Most structured belief systems (organized religion being the 500-pound gorilla in the room), certainly do not stand up to the rigors of scrutiny. This is what I fondly refer to as “Voluntary Insanity”. (We practice ritualized cannibalism in our church, but you guys are crazy!)

    This may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but essentially I agree with everything you said (or should I say, I cannot disagree). You are right – it is largely a matter of semantics and scientific method. I am basically bringing a knife to a gunfight when it comes to trying to “prove my case” (which in itself is a non-sequitur). What’s the old expression? When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail? It would appear to me that the anecdote is the extent to which I will be able to approach my goal of validating the effectiveness of Bloodroot. Someone in my position will never have the wherewithal to mount a proper scientific study, which may in fact better serve the public interest.

    So let’s switch gears a minute and let me pick your brain. Let’s leave Neoplasene out of picture for the moment, though it may serve as a useful data point in your answer. I am asking this simply for my own education and edification:

    Have there actually been rigorous clinical studies using the methodologies that you cited that have attempted to validate or refute the anecdotal claims of Bloodroot – in particular its purported ability to react to diseased cells and/or exhibit other mechanisms that might make it potentially useful in the war against cancer? Can you direct me to some of these studies? Or have extensive clinical test simply not been undertaken in this field?

    Cheers,
    Bruce

  2. Narda Robinson says:

    If Dr. Fox and Buck Mountain or an independent agency would be willing to fund a clinical trial of Neoplasene on client-owned animals with cancer, I would be willing to write a proposal, seek approval for it through the university, and pursue hypothesis-driven research through a scientific investigation.

  3. skeptvet says:

    I appreciate your genuine interest in the scientific evidence. I discussed this a bit in my original post nearly 2 years ago, and there doesn’t appear to be anything new. There are no clinical studies I can find for Neoplasene per se. There are some in vitro studies which show sanguinarine, the presumed active ingredient, kills some kinds of cancer cells. This itself is useful to know, but we have to remember bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia all kill cancer cells in test tubes too, but they are not useful cancer treatments due to toxicity. There is one study which suggests that sanguinarine kills cancerous human skin cells more readily than normal human skin cells, though it kills both. This suggests the compound could be useful, but the vast majority of compounds that show such promise in the early pre-clinical stages never make it to use because of other problems. A couple of other studies have shown specific biochemical effects on cells in culture that might or might not turn out to be useful.

    There was one uncontrolled case series published in humans, involving four people with skin cancer. In two of the four the superficial tumor was destroyed by the escharatic but cancer cells were left behind which later recurred deeply and metastasized. This is one of the major dangers of this product. It can create the false appearance of effective treatment only to leave cancer in the body which will later recur. One of the four patients was apparently cured but suffered severe disfiguring scarring, and the other was lost to followup.

    There were some clinical trials in humans which showed sanguinarine to be an effective anti=plaque compound in toothpaste, bt it turned out to induce leukoplakia, a pre-cancerous condition of the gums, so it was taken off the market.

    And that’s about it for research evidence. Some suggestion of potential beneficial effects along with clear evidence of potential harm. Not enough to justify the claims made by Dr. Fox, and certainly not enough to make me use it on my own pets or sell it to my clients. It is especially disturbing that the marketing materials suggest the prodct is somehow a safer alternative to conventional cancer therapy. Conventional chemotherapy and radiation work by killing cancer cells more effectively that normal cells, but they kill both so side effects are a risk. Extensive study has allowed us to be pretty good at understanding these risks and weighing them against the benefits so we can make rational decisions about when and what to treat. The fact that such study hasn’t been done on Neoplasene makes it far more dangerous than conventional therapy because we are guessing as to the risks and benefits.

    I would disagree slightly with Dr. Robinson in that while I think more study of sanguinarine is reasonable, and that the burden to pay for it rightly falls to those who wish to profit from selling it, I don’t think clinical trials are yet justified. More limited safety and efficacy studies ought to be done before large numbers of pets are exposed to the treatment. Even with the literally hundreds or sometimes thousands of humans involved in clinical drug trials before pharmaceuticals are approved for general use, potential hazards aren’t always identified until the post-marketing screening stage. There is absolutely no difference in the potential risks for herbal products except that, as with Neoplasene, there is often much less rigorous, systematic study prior to widespread use. The potential harms of such products are well-documented (e.g. What’s the Harm and GAO Report on Herbal Products), so they need to be evaluated in just as thorough and careful way as any other potential medicine.

  4. Narda Robinson says:

    “I would disagree slightly with Dr. Robinson in that while I think more study of sanguinarine is reasonable, and that the burden to pay for it rightly falls to those who wish to profit from selling it, I don’t think clinical trials are yet justified. ”

    I see your point, Skeptvet, and I have to admit that when I’ve thought about doing this study, I have been nervous about the potential negative side effects. Perhaps another way to go about it would be to have independent veterinarians monitor the progress of Dr. Fox’s customers after an accurate diagnosis has been obtained, along with histologic analysis, grading of the tumor, and staging of the disease. Adverse effects of the product would have to be monitored and reported.

    That way, people who are already intending to use the product would do so, but they would benefit by having their animal monitored for pain, disease progression, and overall patient well-being. So, not a randomized, controlled trial, but a prospective, open-label case series.

  5. skeptvet says:

    Well, certainly objective independant monitoring is a step above haphazard anecdotes, though it can still be quite misleading. Such a study could demonstrate benefits, which would encourage wider use of the product. Or it could demonstrate no benefits or excessive harm, which somehow I doubt would change the minds of Dr. Fox or many who now use it, since such data hasn’t discouraged partisans of other alternative therapieds.

    It’s a moot point given the attitude of Dr. Fox, who paints a portrait of conventional medicine as a vast and venal conspiracy suppressing treatments known to be effective out of pure greed. Can you imagine him permitting proper diagnosis and monitoring when he says things like, “[Pathologists] clearly have not made reliable sense out of biopsy analysis…they just aren’t up to the task of reliable diagnostics.”?

    And there is an ethical dilemma as well. Could an independant group monitoring such a study allow patients to be denied conventional therapy, with known benefits and risks, in favor of a treatment without reasonable preclinical evidence of safety and efficacy? It’s one thing to allow people to select experimental therapies when there are no conventional treatments know to be effective, but much of the use of Neoplasene is for lesions that we do have established therapies that are, of course, imperfect but still effective and well-studied.

    I understand the argument that people are going to do it anyway so it mght be possible to at least glean some data from it. But what I see happening is that anyone evaluating such patients who is not pushing Neoplasene might end up feeling obligated to discourage people from the treatment if 1) Bx showed a disease not requiring potentially dangerous treatment (e.g. lipomas and other benign lesions), 2) Bx showing a disease for which effective conventional treatment already exists (e.g. MCT), or 3) a diagnosis indicating aggressive local treatment is not warranted (e.g. deeply invasive vaccine-associated sarcoma, malignancy that is found by staging to have already metastasized).

    The complex and expensive process of drug approval exists for a reason, and not simply to protect the financial interests of the “cancer industry.” It exists because it is the best way to protect patients from ineffective and potentially harmful therapies. For all its failures, it weeds out a lot of things that don’t work or do more harm than good, and whenever the process is truncated, due to the dishnesty of industry or the misguided actions of politicians, things slip through that do real harm. So while I would not make the perfect the enemy of the good and say we must always follow the optimal process, I think we do have to realize that any savings in terms of tie and cost that comes from skipping steps comes with tangible risks.

  6. I’ve used it most successfully on my Cat, Bina…have taken many tumors off her body, several the size of half-baseballs. (They dont get this big now; I address them when they’re small) Have worked with the internal product, as they still come back.

    I can’t imagine why you are so set against this product. I’m aware of the entrenched medical establishment with regard to remedies which are cheap and easy to use, but would hate to impugn your motives…will not. However! there is tons of evidence that Neoplasene works…good heavens!
    Two of my vets, Sang Bong Han DVM in Richmond, and Jenny Taylor DVM in Oakland have had success as well. Take another look, if you are in the least curious. One of my favorite teachers has a maxim: “Get out of judgment and into curiosity”. Works well for me…..

  7. skeptvet says:

    The issue here is what constitutes “proof.” Anecdotes about individual cases are deeply misleading for many reasons, not the leats of which is that as human beings we are imperfect and our unaided judgements can’t always be trusted. The truly open-minded, humble approach is to accept this and acknowledge that we need more sytematic and objective foundations for deciding when a treatment works and when it doesn’t; namely scientific research from test tube to clinical trials. Until such research is done, all the heartwarming stories in the world don’t add up to real evidence that something works. And given the number of people that have been hurt, even disfigured and disabled, by bloodroot products or who believed they had been cured only to die of undetected cancer later is great enough that I think using these remedies isn’t justified.

    As for “tons of evidence,” I’d lovve to see any other than anecdotes and what I cite in this article. A recent review didn’t find any more than I did, so I suspect you’re referring to “opinion,” not “evidence.” And as for your maxim, curiosity is the starting point, which is why I investigated this product. Judgement is the end result of thoughtful reflection and study, and my judgement is that there is little reason to believe this product helps, and good reason to be concerned about the harm it can do. Blind belief in something simply because it is “alternative,” “herbal,” “natural,” and so on is every bit as closed-minded as automatic rejection of new ideas. I submit that my rejection of the claims you make for Neoplasene is based on the absence of reliable evidence for those claims and an unwillingness to accept opinion, or personal faith as an adequate reason to risk my patients’ health with it.

    If you are interested in the evidence, beyond what is covered in this article, here are a few other resources:

    Recent case report of two dogs hurt by this product and review of the evidence about it.

    Examples of people injured by bloodroot products

    Why we’re often wrong about whether treatments actually work

    From Bloodletting to Evidence-Based Medicine: an example of why anecdotes and tradition aren’t reliable in medicine

  8. Jennifer says:

    I don’t know. I would LOVE to have more structured, critical lab analysis of this product, however as you correctly pointed out many common house items can kill cancer cells in test tubes. If lab results fail to provide sufficient evidence for a true situation, then what else should we refer to other than application case studies carried out by independent vet clinics around the country? Dr. Fox provides over 50 such studies on his website alone and many hundreds of other satisfied pet owners (told by conventional medicine that chemo and radiation has a median survival rate of a matter of months) have had pets survive for years on nothing but Neoplasene and a new diet. Surely if a new diet was all it took to cure cancer, we would have been made well aware of it by now. Not that diet does not play apart in cancer, but with only a matter of weeks or months to live, I doubt that alone could alter the outcome. The truth is that many promising cancer cures have come and gone by the way side in favor of patentable and more profitable treatments. Just look at what’s happening with DCA in Canada? They suspected what science is proving now back in the 1940s and still no one will fund the studies. I can not fault Dr. Fox for not footing the bill that often runs into the millions for the tests neccessary to satisfy conventional doctors. Although, I did read a recent article where he is gathering funding for just such measures. And yes, to an earlier point you mentioned, it would be nice to have a drug that prevented cancer, but for now I’ll take something that prolongs the quality and quantity of my dogs life and has worked for, maybe not all, but certainly thousands of pets. I’ll try the drug and let science catch up later. Best regards.

  9. skeptvet says:

    As reasonable as this sounds, it ignores a few crucial facts:
    1. “Case reports” are not proof, merely anecdotes which suggest things that might be worth looking into in a more systematic way. Such anecdotes have been used for thousands of years to justify practices which are useless or even actually do harm, so to simply stop at this point and imagine we don’t need better evidence is to give up on finding real treatments that actually work. We’d still be practicing bloodletting and exorcism as primary medical therapies if we took this approach.

    2. As far as cae reports and anecdotes go, they also suffer fro the problem that we simple cherry pick those that support what we believe. I have presented and linked to many that discuss people and their pets who were severely injured by this treatment, yet supporters of it ignore those and just talk about the ones that claim to show a benefit.

    3. The suggestion that research can’t be done because there is no profit in it is simply untrue. Dr. Fox is already profiting from a therapy that there is reasonable evidence is harmful and very little evidence is helpful. It is wrong to make money selling a treatment that there is good reason to believe hurts patients and no clear evidence is helpful. And if such a treatment truly were the miracle Dr. Fox claims, don’t you think big companies would be all over it for the profit they could make? Big Pharma could manipulate the system with politicans and lawyers and squeeze independant providers out and make a mint if there were a realistic chance this treatment worked, so the claim that they aren’t motivated to pursue it because of the lack of potential profiit simply doesn’t work.

    4. Finally, the idea that the lone genius knows the secret to a successful therapy for cancer and the majority of the medical profession are simply too stupid or greedy to accept it is naive and insulting. If all I cared about was money, I’d sell this snake oil myself. I care about providing real, beneficial treatment to my patients, and this simply isn’t it.

  10. Stacey says:

    Do you really trust FDA? You are a fool if you do.
    FDA can be paid off by drug companies to not disclose
    certain side effects. Also note executives of Monsanto end up
    working at FDA. Please people. Every person I know that had cancer
    died. Chemical and radiation often were not a help long term.
    In fact 4 people died on hospital
    from c hemotherapy. Don’t be fools.

    Neoplasene cannot have a patent because it is a natural
    substance…so it is not profitable for drug companies.

    America has highest cancer rates in the world. If the FDA were so
    great then why don’t they ban most of the toxic substances in our food?
    Partially hydrogenated oils are
    banned in other countries.

    Americans are foolish puppets to beloved they are protected.

    Stacey

  11. skeptvet says:

    1. Whether or not the FDA is biased or not is irrelevant. I don’t trust the folks making money selling this product when they spout theories that are clearly nonsense and can offer no evidence to support their claims. Financial bias isn’t limited to conventional medicine. The supplement lobby spends a huge amount of money lobbying politicians to prtect them from regulation and oversight, so if you think they are merely a collection of altruists out there to help your pets, perhaps it is your judgement that is questionable. You choose to trust the supplement manufacturers and distrust the government, and that is a choice driven by ideoology and emotion, not reason or evidence.

    2. Of course people with cancer often die. I’m not the one claiming I can magical change this unpleasant fact. Scientific medicine has dramatically improved our chances of surviving cancer and our quality of life while enduring it, and contrary to this kind of propoganda it can sometimes cure cancer. But regardless of the nonsense you spout about toxins, cancer is a complex collection of diseases with many factors affecting cause and treatment, and only the follish or the deluded believe in simple, risk-free answers. Neoplasene claims to cure the often incurable and offers nothing but faith to back up that claim.

    3. The herb and supplement industry makes billions of dollars selling “natural” supplements, and spends less of this profit on research than drug companies. So you are naive if you think there is no profit to be made in herbs and supplements or that the industries that provide them aren’t just as motivated by profit as the pharmas.

    4. “Fool” and “foolish” generally refer to persons or actions lacking in judgement or unwise and ill-considered. No word better describes trusting the unsupported claims made about neoplasene without evidence and risking your pets’ health by using this product.

  12. carmen says:

    Interesting article Mr. Skeptvet. I don’t know much about Neoplasene so I can’t really comment on it per se. However, I’d like to ask you: how much about nutrition did you get taught in vet school?

    Yes, everybody is motivated by money, but there isn’t a single herb and supplement company that has the financial clout of any of the big pharmas. Not even close.

  13. skeptvet says:

    As a general practitioner, I have a solid basic foundation in the science of nutrition based on both veterinary training and the many continuing education courses and resources available to me. Certainly, I do not have the expertise of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. But if you are implying, as I suspect you are, that veterinarians in general are not sufficiently knowledgeable about nutrition for their recommendations to be taken seriously, I disagree.

    As for the size of the herb and supplement industry, it is undoubtedly smaller than the pharmaceutical industry. It is, however, much the same in quality, if not quantity, with the glaring exception of being far less closely regulated. Therefore, the criticisms justly made of Big Pharma apply to at least as great an extent to the billion-dollar herb and supplement industry.

  14. Ann says:

    Another anecdote?
    Our 5 year old cat was diagnosed with breast cancer. Our vet operated, removing a nipple, tissue, and a large mass of tumor. The wound was left open and slowly closed. We treated inside the wound with neoplasene for over 2 months. I was only looking with my eyes, but it certainly appeared that the neoplasene turned the cancerous spots from yellow to gray upon application and the healthy pink tissue it touched stayed healthy and pink. The dead necrotic tissue did “slough off” and the wound closed. My sixteen year old son did the daily treatments and wound care.

    We also changed her diet, from the cheapest cat food I could buy to a raw meat and grain free kibble.

    Nine months later, she is running around chasing mice and acting like any other cat. Cured? I don’t know.
    The cost of the neoplasene? About $50.

    I am a single parent and our only other affordable option was to put her down.

    My mother had breast cancer twice. The first time (late 1970’s) she had a radical mastectomy only and lived for 23 years until the second bout, which she treated with hormone therapy and chemotherapy. She died.

  15. skeptvet says:

    Yes, another anecdote. It’s always good to hear about a case that works out, since we all want our patients to get better. But when we relied on anecdotes in medicine (that is, for all of our history except the last couple hundred years), we ended up being wrong a lot morre often than we were right. Neoplasene kills tissue, which does slugh off. It just kills any tissue it touches. Was some of the tisue it killed cancerous? Maybe, though it’s unlikely since if any significant amount of cancer had remained, the mass would likely have recurred. More likely, he neoplasene killed healthy healing tissue and slowed he closer of the wound. Either way, without carful, rigorous scientific study, we’ll never know.

    As for breast cancer in humans, outcomes have improved as our understanding of the varieties of breast cancer and the way different cancers need to be treated has improved. We do smaller surgeries and get better results than 50 years ago, thanks to scientific research. Any individual may have a better or worse outcome than another, but for most women, the chances get better and better because we don’t rely on individual stories but on clinical trials. It’s not wrong to wish there were simpler and cheaper answers, but it is improtant to at least know that you just as likelywasted $50 and got lucky, which is great so long as your story doesn’t convince the next person to make the same choice and then get unlucky.

  16. Trey C says:

    Yes, another anecdote…just remember that everything that becomes “accepted” as beneficial is always something that hadn’t been tested before it had been tested. There is a lot of danger in dismissing something based on a lack of evidence. Remember that evidence is ‘for’ or ‘against’, if it’s evidence at all. “Not enough information” isn’t evidence in either direction.

    So, I’m very thankful that my vet was willing to explore treatments that have not yet been accepted as conventional medicine, but show promise based on case by case, anecdotal, individual experiences. My dog has oral melanoma. We had it removed and four weeks later, while she was still “healing”, were surprised to find at one of her follow-up visits that it had returned with a vengence. The prognosis was death within a couple to maybe a few months. At that time it was determined to be in the lymph node closest to the site. Due to the severity and it’s position, a 2nd surgery was determined not to be an option. They had no more suggestions and we were running out of time and money.

    We set out to find a better answer than a death sentence or the misery of standard chemo for an old dog…which made no promises to cure, but possibly adding another couple of months to her life. We also considered the newer oral melanoma vaccine, but were told by the oncologist that the prognosis for her still remained a matter of months even with it. All of these options going way beyond our budget…and we’ve had a cat leg pieced back together for $5000, a cat tumor removed (the week after our dogs 1st surgery) for $1300, 1st dog surgery and follow-ups $2000+, we have eight rescued pets (7 of which came directly off of the street)…we are not people that hold back what we have when we have it to spend and our furry family needs medical attention.

    We found one vet in our area that practiced both conventional and integrative medicine. She went over the findings from the previous vet, agreed that there was no option within conventional medicine, and then went over the dietary and “holistic” options we could try. She cautioned us about expectations and prepared us for what we’d see and what our dog might need from us and allowed us to make the decision without pressure. Between our consultation and the 1st treatment 1-1.5 weeks, the cancer continued growing like crazy. She was so surprised on our first treatment visit. This was the fasted growing cancer of it’s type she’d ever seen. Between the visits, it had substantially affected the entire area under our dog’s tongue and over her gum line & at the jaw joint…and that was what we could see. Within that week in between, our dog started having trouble chewing and swallowing and was eating only small amounts or refusing food all together. We didn’t have anything to loose, but our beloved dog.

    We have finished the injection treatment (topical was not an option) and begun the oral treatment. Our dog’s tumor (if you can call it that when it’s this big) has shrunk by more than 40% and the cancerous tissue on her neck (not at the injection site), that we didn’t know was present when we had the consultation has also responded. Her lymph node seems to not be the rock hard knot that it had become. In addition, she is back to eating normally, has regained the weight she’d lost throughout this ordeal, and she feels good enough now to want her walks, car rides, trips to the beach (her favorite – although right now she isn’t aloud to go for a swim), and ever bit of food we are willing to give her.

    I find it sad that any professional would demean people who have had success and dismiss something that might prove beneficial to their own practice (and more importantly patients) as another tool in their arsenal of possible treatments. I hope that anyone reading this site that is a vet is curious enough to look into this and other “alternative/integrative/holistic” options, as well, as dietary support…and…I hope that anyone researching this because they are desperately trying to save their pet is not shamed into submission to the diagnosis by the implication that they are stupid to look for all of the possibilities, even beyond their own personal “experts”, because there are other qualified “experts” out there that have other opinions. Get a vet that is well grounded in conventional medicine, but also is willing, to consider other options, because they know both the benefits and the limits of conventional medicine and have the capacity to profit from both, so will not be afraid to help you and your pet find the best and most effective treatment or combination of treatments available. You don’t have to dismiss one to consider the other.

    It is to the bravery & tenacity of our vet to put her patients first that we owe our dog’s life…and we aren’t the only ones in her practice experiencing these dramatic results. She certainly doesn’t dismiss conventional medicine, because she practices it, but she wanted to find options for when conventional medicine wasn’t enough. Whether it ends up being a full cancer free life or whether it ends up being a matter of a little extra time with a lot more quality we are glad that this option exists and glad that someone was knowledgeable enough to offer it to us as an option.

    For what it’s worth, the actual claim about Neoplasene is that it does not kill all tissue…it specifically targets cancer tissue. There is a scientific explanation for this that makes sense. This is the claim and this has been our observation.

  17. skeptvet says:

    Another anecdote. Emotionally compelling, but not reliable. Examples of how such are as misleading as they are persuasive are easy to find (for example, here). And cases of the harm this product does are as easy to find as anecdotes about its benefits (for example, here and here)

    So either we accept an eternal game of deuling anecdotes, or we try to find something more reliable. Fortunately, we’ve found it in the scientific method and evidence-based medicine. Unfortunately, many people don’t care and still rely on anecdotes. You got lucky, and I am happy that things worked out for your pet (so far, though oral melanomas are notoriously prone to metastases, and I hope you don’t have to one day find that the tumor you believe is cured has spread elsewhere). But I am sad that stories like these lead others into relying on treatments that have not passed the bar of legitimate scientific study.

  18. Trey C says:

    This isn’t about emotion…this is about logic and logical progression. Saying something dismissive doesn’t necessarily make the grounds that it’s being dismissed on true. I am not saying to go straight to the nearest herbologist and picking up a “cancer tincture”, but I think that was clear in my previous submission also. I’m not advocating stupidity, nor irresponsible impulsivity.

    Again, everything that has held up to the scientific method, had a period in its existence that it had not yet been through that process. The cost of getting anything approval under drug guidelines is prohibitive to all but the most powerful drug companies, which is why most things that can get by without going through this process do (those that help, those that harm, and those that do nothing).

    When it comes to deadly diseases, conventional medicine has the same drawbacks as some of the more promising alternative medicines, if you consider a failure of the medication or surgery to result in death or continued spread of a disease leading to natural death or the necessity of euthanasia or severity of side effects or secondary infection or amputation…and you can find statistics from scientific studies that attest to that. Personally, I would not generally turn to alternative medicine when there is a treatment in conventional medicine without first considering, and generally, utilizing conventional treatments.

    I did not suggest forgoing conventional medicine…nor am I suggesting going down to your local psychic healer for vial of snake oil…because I am a skeptic, as well.

    Here are the basics of what I think:
    *conventional medicine has failed to deliver
    *personal research is due
    *you find something that looks promising
    *and a company that holds its product to high standards of consistency
    *a number of veterinarians cautiously endorse it (especially if they have experienced firsthand cases of success, as far as, improvement or cure)
    *you commit to the protocol regardless of convenience and expense before you go forward
    *you continue to work closely with your veterinarian
    *you give it a limited time period to see if there are changes, as you would any treatment to determine if you continue (if there is improvement & your animal is feeling OK) or move on to the next (either because it isn’t showing success or because your animal is going downhill in either the specific condition or wellbeing)

    …then you are doing the very best that you can…RESPONSIBLY.

    I’m also not saying to keep your pet alive in tremendous pain for an extended period of time while you figure it out.

    I don’t know about you, but ask yourself…would you quit looking for a cure, if it was, say, your child, or your spouse, or yourself? If you consider this “emotionally compelling”, then you have me there…because it is, but the rest is not.

    It isn’t “luck” or an accident to get the results ‘cautiously’ expected/hoped for from something that made the claim and explained the mechanism…and if it was missed in my previous submission…her cancer was spreading and inoperable (a second time – having gone the conventional route first & having sought out a second opinion), so wherever she was going outside of a “lucky” miracle, she was dying…and dying quickly. I’m game for those, too, but I’m going to do all I can do, while I wait for them.

    In the treatment we are doing now, even if the success we’ve seen thus far continues – and we are cautiously optimistic – not starry eyed followers, the oral in a lower dose is to be continued even after successful initial treatment, to keep any stray or new cancer cells from getting a foot hold. This is the same for human cancer survivors.

    In those that failed, as well as those that succeeded, I’d love to know where owners or vets obtained their “medications”, whether they followed the protocol to the letter, and whether they followed up, and whether they used any other support, such as diet. I am aware, as I’m sure you are, that even pet owners don’t always give the best preventative care, nor do they always follow protocol, or follow-up, and this can be a factor in the success of any treatment.

    Scientific study is the “ideal”. I agree with you that it would be great, because it could be controlled enough to account for all of these factors and, if successful, would bring a new treatment into mainstream awareness and use, as well as, revealing risks, limitations, and side effects, or help develop new protocols or support treatments…but until then, looking for options beyond what is endorsed by our government remains the responsibility of those who need an answer.

    It should also be noted that the scientific & medical communities, sometimes forget that they are still humans, with the natural human inclination to an aversion to change. Most discoveries are met with a fair amount of academic push back before they ever become truly accepted or before outdated and/or dangerous practices are withdrawn, even after testing. Many dentists, doctors, and vets hang on to antiquated practices after safer alternatives are discovered or new protocols put in place (for example metal filling with mercury…still in practice). Also to note, some medications are withdrawn after extensive testing, when the passage of years reveals negative effects that could not have been predicted.

    To make the leap…I have known in my life a people who have died of cancer that were treated conventionally, and people who are in long term remission that were treated conventionally, and three that after conventional medicine failed went for cancer treatments outside of the U.S. and are also in long term remission, as a result of treatments that are not approved in the U.S. (one considered conventional medicine outside of the U.S., one considered alternative medicine outside of this county, and one that was completely diet).

    These are only three anecdotal cases…but if what you want is life, when death is eminent, then you are not crippled by the pronouncement, but compelled forward in pursuit.

    Not emotional in anything but motivation…
    logical progression of actions…
    with responsible caution…

  19. skeptvet says:

    “*conventional medicine has failed to deliver”
    On what sense? It’s not perfect and can’t fix everything, but it has far outdone any approach in history, so perhaps part of the problem is our expectations? Spoiled by the early successes of vaccines, antibiotics, and the like, we have come to expect miracles, and when scientific medicine can’t deliver them, we seek them elsewhere. This is psycholgically understandable and natural, but it is also fundamentally irrational and so likely to lead to more failure than success.

    “*personal research is due”
    “Personal research” is an oxymoron, if you mean individual trial and error, which is guaranteed to be unreliable. If you simply mean pet owners looking for possible therapies beyond what conventional medicine offers, that’s perfectly fair. Unfortunately, the methods by which the plausibility and evidence concerning such methods is evaluated tend to be untrustworthy (argument from authority, anecdotes and testimonials, etc)

    “*and a company that holds its product to high standards of consistency”
    What standards? In the absence of meaningful regulation, the fox guards the henhouse and you have only the company’s word for their quality control. When commercial veterinary probiotics (another promising but not thoroughly studied area) were investigated, the vast majority did not contain what the company’s claimed on the label. The vast majority of homemade recipes for pet food published in books for lay people are not nutritionally balanced. Who is setting and moniotring the standards?

    “*a number of veterinarians cautiously endorse it (especially if they have experienced firsthand cases of success, as far as, improvement or cure)”
    You can easily find veterinarians who endorse homeopathy, energy medicine, and prayer, but that isn’t very persuasive evidence that these approaches work.

    See, my problem is not that people turn to alteratives when conventional medicine can’t fix something, It is tthat the standards they apply to these alternatives are far lower than what is required by science, and as a result they come to believe in and then testify to the effectiveness of therapies which are very likley ineffective. Let’s not forget the best and brightest in medicine stood by bloodletting, purging, and many other totallly useless or even positively harmful therapies for literally thousands of years. We simply are more falible as individuals in our judgements than we can possible accept, and so without a scientific evaluation, our conclusions are overwhelingly likely to be mistaken. Saying this is not hubris, it’s humility.

    “In those that failed, as well as those that succeeded, I’d love to know where owners or vets obtained their “medications”, whether they followed the protocol to the letter, and whether they followed up, and whether they used any other support, such as diet. I am aware, as I’m sure you are, that even pet owners don’t always give the best preventative care, nor do they always follow protocol, or follow-up, and this can be a factor in the success of any treatment. ”
    Your own biases show here, where you are willing to accept your own experience of success as valid but quick to suggest that others’ experiences of failure represent improper technique or some other error on their part. Another reason why unblinded, subjective trial and error so often fails to yield the correct answer.

    “Most discoveries are met with a fair amount of academic push back before they ever become truly accepted or before outdated and/or dangerous practices are withdrawn, even after testing. ”
    This is not evidence of human resistance to change, though undoubtedly such is as widespread in scientists as in any other group of people. It is precisely how the process is supposed to work. Widespread acceptance of a new idea in the absence of rigorous scientific evaluation would simply lead to the acceptance of more wrong ideas than right ideas, since most new ideas turn out to be wrong. It is the process of a community challenging and criticising a hypothesis, and subjecting it to rigorous study and then only accepting it when the evidence is undeniable that makes science more trustworthy than other methods of evaluation. Sure, the process can take what seems like a long time. But adical shifts in thought and wild ideas that turn out to be true often go from scorn to universal acceptance in 10-20 years. Whereas wrong ideas that are accepted on good authority or based on anecdote (like humoral medicine and bloodletting) often persist for centuries, even millenia even though they are wrong. Push-back may be a form of bias i individuals, but in the comunity of science it is precisly how we sift the wheat from the chaff.

    Ultimately, the limited evidence available for this product is enough to justify further preclinical and animal model evaluation, and if it survives that maybe even clinical trials. It is not enough to responsibly recommend using the product in actual patients. Our need for something to do in desparate circumstances is understandable and fair, but what desparation drives us to believe and to do is all to often wrong. I don’t say this as a moral judgement but as a fact well-established by the history of medicine and science. I would never tell anybody it is wrong to seek hope. But I do tell people that what they have hope in may not, as in this case, be deserving of their trust, and that those who are selling them this hope are not giving them the brutal honesty they may not want but that they deserve.

  20. J says:

    To skeptvet and Trey C (specifically): As the wife of a cancer survivor and also the owner of a great dog now battling apocrine adenocarcinoma (anal sac), I think I have the added benefit of addressing this as a genuinely two-sided coin. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in ’92 at the age of 28, his oncologist said, “This is the protocol. It’s going to brutal. However, it’s your body. I can give you the telephone number and a contact for an alternative clinic in Texas. I won’t tell you what to do, but I will tell you that if it was me or a loved one, protocol first, alternative second if protocol fails; or, alternative as adjunct if protocol permits. It would be irresponsible of me to ‘suggest’ that you try an alternative approach instead of or in place of protocol, but that decision ultimately resides with you. I am simply giving you the information so that you can make a fully informed choice, so that you feel empowered, that you have your own voice. You don’t have much time to thoroughly weigh your options, but call the office later to let me know because your surgery is booked for Monday.” My husband said, “I’ll take that number in Texas for a rainy day. Do you have a pen?” He signed his consent forms without blinking.

    He is still here today, and we will always be at peace with our decision – and not just because we had the ultimate positive outcome. Many advances have been made as to surgery since then (the old man had two) and chemo (he got assaulted with Napalm, practically). The point I’m trying to make is, it WAS brutal, and although the PROTOCOL HAS SINCE CHANGED, in my first hand opinion, you almost have to be certifiably crazy to opt out of what presents your best chances – even if they are fair to middling – AT THE TIME. Now I suppose I can make an unwitting and unintended ‘argument’ for bloodletting here, but the reality is that bloodletting, although pervasive and entrenched, didn’t have the benefit of a lab. People got well in spite of. I think that goes without saying.

    I am behind Trey C in this regard: he went the conventional route. I don’t see the ‘harm’ in the hands of a responsible veterinary oncologist when all else is lost. Further (and not addressed), what does a dog know from placebo effect? Either it’s going to work or it isn’t, either it has worked or it hasn’t. As to my own dog, he has received a full course of conventional radiation and chemotherapy with marginal therapeutic results. He is eventually going to succumb, that is the reality here, so I say not why, but why not? I have absolutely nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain, so for the same reason I said you’d have to certifiably crazy to forego protocol, I think that also applies to dismiss even trying Neoplasene when I’ve exhausted all of my dog’s proven options.

    So, that coin I mentioned. There are those who mean well but do harm. There are those who mean well and even drugs with actual benefit in the hands of the wrong people do harm. I CANNOT IMPRESS ENOUGH on anyone and everyone out there who is dealing with cancer that there are legions of unscrupulous dirtbags out there who deserve the Perp Walk of Shame at the very least. Cancer is a horrid disease, and there are charlatans aplenty (who damn well know they are charlatans) who prey on the desperate without conscience. It’s hard to emotionally remove yourself from an emotional decision, but I consider myself a reasonable person, and I don’t think I am acting irresponsibly with my dog’s health on this one.

    skeptvet is doing a very admirable job of cautioning people against the draw and reel of ‘miracle’ cures. As in all things, some folks will believe what they want to believe even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, especially when faced with their own mortality or the mortality of a loved one. I’m not, however, one of those people. I am simply giving my dog the chance he deserves in the hands of a highly competent and compassionate veterinary oncologist when all conventional methods have been exhausted. This is not the same thing as choosing Neoplasene over convention, which I would never have done.

    I won’t waste my dog’s time left on earth disproving and debunking Neoplasene or doing everything possible to dissuade myself from trying it when there is absolutely nothing to be lost here under the circumstances. I’m not a fool. I’m not a fatalist, either. His veterinary oncologist, to her credit, has – and is – looking askance at Neoplasene for a variety of reasons, but we are in general agreement and consensus that in my dog’s case, at this juncture, nothing ventured is nothing gained. Obviously he will be monitored medically (and very stridently at that). I will post back when I have a good handle on how it’s going. I think that will prove a service to anyone who is in a similar position, good result or bad. Blessings and good luck to all.

  21. skeptvet says:

    While I agree with much of what you say, I strongly disagree with the “nothing to lose” argument. As an example, an NIH study of one alternative protocol for incurable pancreatic cancer found that not only did people on the alternative not live as long as those on conventional therapy, but their quality of life was significantly poorer! (see this story and this one) And as you say, desperate people often get taken advantage of chasing false hope.

    Neoplasene is not a bad idea just because it probably doesn’t work, but because it often causes severe, painful, and disfiguring tissue damage. Desperation and a lack of better options is a perfectly understandable reason for reaching for alternative therapies, and I agree that when the urgency of acting is greater than the uncertainty about the outcome, sometimes trying something poorly understood makes sense. But there is this strange belief out there that no harm can come of this. Yet people who try these things aren’t always as lucky as your husband apparently was. Sometimes, they suffer terribly and waste not only their money but the last weeks of months of their lives grasping at straws. So while I understand why people do it, and I don’t blame them for it, I think there very definately is something to lose here.

  22. J says:

    skeptvet: I think you may have misread some of what I wrote. My husband did NOT pursue alternative treatment. He went with protocol and is here to tell about it. I do not and did not in the least advocate alternative medicine over protocol. Perhaps you should re-read the post in its entirety.

    When you mentioned the NIH study, it sounds as if you’re referencing a study where some folks with pancreatic cancer opted for alternative as OPPOSED to conventional, not alternative AFTER conventional failed. I did not and am not espousing alternative in place of or instead of protocol. I hope this is clear now.

    To re-iterate: beware of sharks and use your collective heads. You can take a guess at which company I’ll be using, and while I see plenty of holes in their ‘research’, I am going in with my eyes wide open. I’m a cynic at heart and a skeptic by nature, but once again, I don’t really think there is anything to be lost at this stage of the game for all reasons already cited.

    I went protocol, which was sensible and responsible, but the sand in the protocol hourglass has run out. I don’t see the point of NOT taking my chances, all things considered. If it fails, it fails. I’d feel worse about his demise all told if I didn’t give him the opportunity for a different end. All I’d be doing right now with purpose it let nature take its course. If it’s the same end, I can live with that.

  23. skeptvet says:

    Sorry I misunderstood. I read “I’ll take that number for a rainy day. Do you have a pen” to mean he had consented to the alternative protocol, not the conventional one. Regardless, while I think we agree that when there are no well-studied and understood options it makes sense to look for alternatives, I still feel it is important to point out that alternatives can actually make life worse for patients who try them even if there are no other better options. The point with the Gonzalez protocol study was not that it was used in place of conventional therapy, though that is a problem which others, not you, have with choosing alternative therapies. The point was that it was not merely useless but caused suffering, so even if conventional means are exhausted, choosing such a method would only make things worse.

  24. Just wanted to say that we’re using Neoplasene and it’s been WONDERFUL! It’s prolonging our time with our dog. We understand that he will be on it for the rest of his life. It’s not a cure, it’s a treatment. He was diagnosed with internal malignant Histiocytic Sarcoma, a very aggressive and always fatal cancer. He was treated at UPENN and we were told to expect no more than 4 months. It’s now been 7 months and Indy is happy and cancer free as of this week! He had an x-ray and ultrasound done and they can’t find any signs of the cancer! No side-effects at all. It’s been amazing! We were prepared to lose him months ago and we have FULL faith now in the Neo. Nothing else can explain it. UPENN is a very good vet hosptial and two doctor’s there are now paying attention to Neoplansene because of our case. They’ve told us that they’ve never seen anything like it and can’t explain Indy’s recovery. I understand that anything new will be met with doubt, but don’t steal hope from those of us who need it. You may yet be surprised with how this drug progresses. It’s always good to be cautious and question things we don’t understand, but don’t let that blind you completely. Best wishes.

  25. skeptvet says:

    I’m glad things are going well for you, but of course you understand this proves nothing. Case reports are a weak form of evidence, and that’s when all the medical details of a case are reported. SImple anecotes or stories like yours tell us nothing about whether or not a treatment works. After all, the same stories were used to support bloodletting, exorcism, and many other useless or harmful therapies for thousands of years. Anything that truly works this well will easily pass the test of rigorous scientific study. If it fails to, then perhaps we should consider the possiblity that it is not doubt which blinds the skeptic but hope and faith which blind the believer?

  26. Eloquently put and true to a point, however, when faced with believing that my dog has been saved by some other-worldly miracle or by an alternative cancer treatment that has had the same result for 100’s if not 1000’s of other pets; I’m going to have to bet on the drug.

    I understand that case studies are not conclusive, but you would have to prove that it fails 100% of the time to write it off completely. I have to concede to the fact that Neoplasene does not work in every situation, but that fact that it does work in others tells me that we have a lot more to understand before we are able to dismiss it as a potential alternative treatment. There are big pieces of this puzzle still missing for me and I’m not convinced that everything is known about this drug and its effects.

    And the argument that it’s detrimental and causes more harm than good is incredibly debatable. If we applied this reasoning to human medicines, chemotherapy would be the first to go. I understand that a pet’s life is not as valuable as a human’s life. For a person, there is obviously a higher tolerance that allows for pain and suffering in order to prolong life. I’m not suggesting that we should do this to our pets. In many ways our society is kinder to its animals than to its people. If we experienced any negative effects, we would have reconsidered the use of Neoplasene.

    It is a quite potent drug and protocols need to be followed. We have done everything to the letter and we are thrilled with the outcome. Is it possible that our dog developed some antibody to cancer or was saved by the prayers of us and our friends?? I guess it could be, but statically probability leaves me with the conclusion that this drug is what’s making the difference. If you chose to believe in divine intervention, I’m right there with you, but I believe it was in the finding of this drug and not in God’s healing rays of light miraculously curing him of a terminal illness.

    Could he still die form this cancer? Absolutely, but we have more than beaten the odds and his test results have come back clear after 7 months of treatment. Our doctors are as amazed as we are and they’ve come to the same conclusions that we have – something is working here other than our prayers.

  27. Zoe says:

    I have a 10 year old boston terrier that has been diagnosed with mammary cancer. Her tumors have been surgically removed and determined to be type III. She also had a mast cell tumor removed type I. She has no evidence of metastisis at this time. I have spend countless hours trying to research what our next step should be. There seems to be so little research and proven protocol out there for all possible treatments. Are lack of clinical trials and the tissue damage to tumors your biggest concern with NeoPlasene? Do you have any information about clinical trials with chemo and mammary cancer?

    I also been to UPENN, after seeing our regular vet, and then an alterative therapy vet. Chemotherapy was recommended by UPENN, but they have no trials or data that can give me any survival rate for this treatment in dogs with mammary cancer. Neoplasene is recommended by the alternative therapy vet but they have no trials or data that can give me any survivial rate either. Is the research still that limited, even with chemo?

    It’s clear you don’t recommend Neoplasene but do you feel there has been a true measure of success with chemo protocol in dogs, for mammary cancer? I am having an incredibly hard time finding any evidence that supports that. Do you feel you have seen evidence for more long term survival for dogs treated with chemo vs dogs with tumor removal only? If so can you please share that with me.

    What I find doesn’t show much difference between the outcome of the two. Chemo will certainly be a hardship, phisically for my pet and financially for me. But if it is the right thing to try and improve the lenghth and quality of her life I’m ready to make that choice. But, it is hard to know what to do.

    I have seen what Neoplasene can do to tumors and it looks really scary. Since my dog has no tumors currently the protocol would be orally only, at a low dosage, for the rest of her life. That would be done in hopes of keeping any circulating cells from getting a foothold.

    I feel I’ve taken my research as far as I can…with no clear choice. Yet I still have to make one. I’m sure you have more resources than I do and I am just hoping you might give my situation some consideration, any feedback you have would be very much appreciated.

  28. skeptvet says:

    It sounds like you’ve been very torough in investigating your options, which is an excellent sign for your pet. Unfortunately, as a general practitioner I am not going to have any more information regarding the benefit of chemotherapy in preventing metastasis of excised mammary tumors than the oncologists at UPenn. I would just make a couple of points that may be useful to you in your deliberations:

    1. If there is a lack of high-level clinical trial eveidence in dogs with your pet’s specific disease, then it is appropriate to turn to lower level evidence. For example, if humans with the same type and stage of tumors clearly benefit from chemotherapy, it is reasonable to suspect that the same would hold true in dogs, though it is not possible to definitively demonstrate that without doing the studies in dogs. From there, we go down the level of evidence hierachy quite a bit, and the conclusions become much less reliable. I am certain that if you ask you oncologist what lower level evidence there is to support the recommendation of chemotherapy (human clinical trials, observational studies is humans or dogs, etc), you will likley find at least some justification for the recommendation. You will probably not find anything aboslutely reliable, but we make the best decisions we can with the limited evidence available.

    2. Neoplasene has no evidence at any level beyond the uncontrolled ancdote and a few in vitro studies to support it. Though the evidence supporting chemotherapy is not strong, it is undoubtedly far stronger than that behind Neoplasene. There is a degree of plausibility based on the underlying physiology behind cancer and the activity of chemotherapy drugs and the widespread use of chemotherapy for many types of cancer that does not exist for Neoplasene. Likewise, the risk of chemotherapy are pretty well known, whereas those for Neoplasene are less understood. So if there is no reason to think that lifelong treatment with low levels of a caustic cubstance is going to help (beyond anecdotes and the fact that, like bleach and many other things, it kills cancer cells in vitro), then for myself it seems not to be a justifiable treatment. Unknown benefits, unknown risk, and no immediate life-threatening condition to justify a blind leap of faith.

    3. I do treat a lot of pets with chemotherapy, and my clients are frequently surprised to find that it does not really resemble how humans experience chemo. The ephasis in human medicine is on maximizing survival in most cases, and we are willing to tolerate great suffering to achieve longer life. Veterinary chemotherapy should not be worse than the disease, so we are much less aggressive about dosing, and the side effects are usually far less severe. In those rare cases in which the drugs cause significant discomfort, I usually counsel owners to consider stopping treatment. So apart from the cost, which is substantial, the hardship of chemo may not be as great as you fear.

    Above all, I would try to be as specific as possible with the oncologist about the evidence base for their recommendations, the data (such as it is) about likely outcomes with and without treatment, and the likely experience your pet will have. While the information will not be as reliable as you, or your doctor, might want, it is still better than what exists for the alternative, which is a product with no proven benefits and siufficient risks that it has been banned for human use.

    Good luck to you and your pet!

  29. Zoe says:

    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer so many questions for me. As much as I am terrified of chemo, or any treatment really, I want to fight this. Especially since my dog is so healthy right now. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight. It has helped me feel more informed with this difficult decision. Really, that’s about all I can ask for. I know each dog and their cancer responds differently, I’m hoping she continues her streak of being a one in a million kind of dog.

    Thank you again, your kindness means so much!

  30. Veterinary Pathologist says:

    Dear SkeptVet,

    I believe you have done an admirable job of explaining the lack of efficacy with the use of Neoplasene as a cancer therapy while maintaining a high level of decorum. You have the patience of Job.

    Please keep up the good fight.

    Mitchell

  31. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for the support!

  32. nospam says:

    I beg to differ w/r/t your decorum. Your sarcasm undermines your credibility.

  33. skeptvet says:

    Well, while a pleasant tone is generally preferable, humor is often appropriate leavening for serious subjects, and some ideas deserve to be ridiuled. In any case, tone has nothing to do with accuracy, so if the only basis on which you object to my ideas is the tone in which I have expressed them, that is a pretty superficial and unreliable way to approach judging ideas.

  34. Pingback: The Harm Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Do | The SkeptVet Blog

  35. I am not a vet nor do I have any medical training, but a series of 5 bladder infusions and daily oral doses of neoplasene have resulted in ridding my dog’s bladder of large, TCC related tumors. My dog experienced minimal discomfort and can now live a longer life. According to our local vet, he should be dead by now.

  36. I took the blind leap of faith as my pet had nothing to lose. He had been given a death sentence. I am very grateful for making this decision to treat with neoplasene.

  37. Simbagirls Gram says:

    Wow, the case and point that skeptvet makes to me parallels “What came first, the chicken or the egg”
    Simply there is no RIGHT answer.
    As others have said your basis for the negatives is focused on the unknowns.
    On the lack of facts gained by years of research.
    You see the more positive results presented to you the harder you pushed back. Wow that seemed a bit like what you were stating about Dr Fox in your opening commentary.
    Never the less, I came to this site to advance my research for this treatment. Your hard-line position in contrast to those posting the positive has completely helped me to go forward in considering this treatment. Thank You skeptvet.
    We go for a consult this Monday. Due to the excessive amount of golf ball size mast cell tumors, I am not expecting a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
    However, with standard protocol tried, 2 tumors removed and a full month of chemo down, the future is still a question for the chemo is not effective on the surface tumors and is basically only battling any possible spread.
    Catch is, with the surface tumors unaffected and rapidly growing in size, bursting, oozing and increasing in quantity and NO conventional treatment being presented to retreat them….
    When you are sliding on ice, PROTOCOL is not to slam on your brakes…but in this case the “known” is you are going to hit a concrete divider…Suddenly the UNKNOWN
    becomes the only choice at hand.

  38. skeptvet says:

    When you have tried everything for which there is some reasonable evidence (surgery and chemo, which are usually very effective, often even curative, for MCT), then you do have a choice. But you have to be sure to think clearly through your options, and your vet should be able and willing to help you do that. The goal is, of course, the best quality of life and least suffering for your pet.

    If all other therapies have failed, a Hail Mary on an unproven treatment might be justified. But remember, with a disease that has failed to respond to far better, proven treatments, the chances of this untested long-shot making life better for your pet are very, very small. And, this product is just as likely to make your friend’s life worse as better. There are demonstrated cases, in humans and dogs, of significant pain and suffering resulting from use of bloodroot derivatives. Even with tyerminal illness, there is something to lose, and desperate choices can make the end worse than it has to be.

    I can’t offer you advice, not having any relationship with you or your dog. But I will say that sometimes not continuing treatment is the best choice, in terms of quality and length of life. It has been found repeatedly that putting people with terminal illness into hospice, treating only their symptoms and not their cancer, not only reduces their suffering, but in a surprising proportion of cases these people actually live longer than those who continue to grasp at the straws of third or fourth-line treatments or untested remedies. Letting go is hard, but there are situations in which that is the best choice for our loved ones, human or canine.

    Good luck, to both of you.

  39. Mfernflower says:

    I’ve seen this stuff around before on and off, I always saw it as basically being the unregulated and more dangerous brother of imiquimod. My problem with these supplement peddlers is that when we improve upon a natural product why should we take the original product instead of the improved one? We don’t drink willow bark tea, We take asprin pills instead.

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