Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is Remission from Mesothelioma Possible?

Mesothelioma, even after decades of medical research, is one of the most aggressive and least treatable of all forms of cancer.

Nonetheless, a very tiny percentage of patients go into remission from mesothelioma, and I can report two cases, one anecdotal (but I have seen the films myself), and the other from the medical literature.

Dr. Demetrio Sodi-Pallares, who lived from 1913 to 2003, was in his time considered the premier electrocardiologist in the world. A professor at UCLA, Michigan, and Baylor medical schools, he was the author of twelve books and over 300 papers in the medical journals.

In the 1960's Dr. Sodi, as he preferred to be called, was on faculty at Baylor Medical College with the pioneer of bypass surgery, Dr. Michael DeBakey. Competitive with DeBakey, Sodi perfected an alternative procedure, a "bypass to bypass" requiring no surgery and minimal medication.

While bypass surgery is something everybody knows about all over the world, Dr. Sodi's glucose-insulin-potassium (GIK) infusion procedure was only recognized as valid by the American Heart Association 53 years after he developed it, although it is used in 11 countries today. Dr. Sodi, of course, was encouraged to return to his native Mexico City at the age of 65. Dr. DeBakey is still on faculty and will turn 100 on September 7, 2008.

Back in Mexico, Dr. Sodi (to his wife's consternation) built a medical office over his swimming pool and flower gardens and opened his doors to hopeless patients who had no money. One of his patients had mesothelioma.

Dr. Sodi had learned more or less by accident that successfully treating heart disease sometimes brings about a remission from cancer. In the 1980's, a construction worker with mesothelioma who was getting no relief from treatment at the public hospital came in, after ordering labs and x-ray, Dr. Sodi put him on a three-tier program:

Avoid all added salt and foods preserved with salt.
Eat 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
And make sure you take a nap for 3 hours 5 days a week,

The nap occurring on a pulsating magnetic mattress of the kind regularly available for back pain treatment today.

That's not the sort of regimen that's going to get a medical school to keep you on faculty after you reach age 65. It was exactly that simple. Dr. Sodi's fee? Zero.

I was a house guest of Dr. Sodi's some 15 years later. He showed me the films of the shrinking and then disappearing pleural effusions, and then introduced me to this and several other patients. What was striking about this man was, other than that he could function in the polluted environment of Mexico City, was that he had unusually rosy skin. That may or may not have anything to do with remission, but it was memorably.

So what should I expect someone reading this post to take away from my story?

Well, it's not the only story of remission out there. Others are scientifically documented.

While I had great confidence in Dr. Sodi's integrity, and still do, a case study conducted in a free clinic built over an abandoned swimming pool in a doctor's front yard really doesn't rise to the level of scientific proof.

But it is consistent with some finding about the prevention of mesothelioma I'll be writing about in a later post. If 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is good, by the way, that doesn't mean 20 would be better. There apparently is an upper limit to the usefulness of diet in preventing and possibly supporting mesothelioma, as I'll discuss in a later post.

If that were all the proof of remission to be found, I wouldn't post it. But the fact is, a carefully documented remission from mesothelioma has been documented in the medical literature.

Dr. Roger K. A. Allen of the Wesley Medical Center in Brisbane, Australia documented the case of a 61-year-old woman with mesothelioma who went into remission within months, and has stayed in remission for years. (You can find the full text of the publication, "Apparent Spontaneous Complete Regression of a Multifocal Malignant Mesothelioma of the Pleura,here.)

Dr. Allen notes that he has treated over 600 mesothelioma patients and that there were multiple runs of the biopsy to make sure that the woman (1) had mesothelioma and (2) it went into remission without any treatment at all.

By no treatment at all, Dr. Allen writes that there was also no alternative medicine, no changes in diet, and no prayer--but it seems unlikely he could really account for those variables. The Australian patient had been in remission for five years when the paper was published in 2007.

And there are also people who have had mesothelioma who haven't stayed in remission, but who have lived a very long time. The Royal Brompton Hospital in London reports a mesothelioma patient who was in remission for six years, then had to have a single tumor excised, and then lived another six years, twelve total, and was still living at the time the paper was published. (You can read an abstract of that report here.)

Mesothelioma is a grave diagnosis, but it's not utterly hopeless. Don't count yourself out.

You may also be interested in:

Asbestos, Diet, and Mesothelioma: Could Eating Right Prevent One of the Deadliest Cancers?
Mesothelioma Revisited
What About Nutritional Supplements for Mesothelioma?

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