Oasis of Hope Hospital
In 2005 Ralph Moss, an advocate of alternative cancer treatments, published an article giving something of the clinic's history. He wrote that it was formerly known as the Del Mar Medical Center and Hospital and was run by Ernesto Contreras who oversaw its expansion to accommodate customers from the United States; new English-speaking staff had been hired especially to cater for this client base. According to Moss, despite the fact that the American Cancer Society had put Ernesto Contreras on a list of practitioners of "unproven methods" in 1971, the clinic claimed to have had 40,000 American customers in the 40 year prior to 2005.
Between 1996 and 1997 sociologist David Hess conducted an interview with Francisco Contreras which covered many aspects of the Clinic's operations. Contreras said that Metabolic therapy was the main offering of the clinic, and was made up of four steps:
- A restrictive low-fat, low-protein, high-carbohydrate, diet
- The use of Megavitamin therapy, shark cartilage, thymus and levamisole
- The use of amygdalin extracted from apricot seeds;
Another therapy was called the "Warburg" therapy named (according to Hess's account) after Otto Heinrich Warburg. This consisted of:
Hess also wrote that Contreras cited a number of non-physical aspects to the clinic's therapy, including religious assistance, psychology and singing and laughter sessions – Contreras claimed that people with strong spiritual beliefs recovered better, and that laughter stimulates the immune system.
In 2005 Ralph Moss reported that the clinic was using amygdalin and the Issels treatment. In 2011 Moss wrote a further report on the Tijuana clinics, and noted that their ability to attract custom had been diminished by the publication of research showing that amygdalin was not effective, by tougher regulation arising from the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, and from Tijuana itself become a less desirable destination as a result of a decline brought on by the war on drugs. Moss also noted that some American hospitals now had alternative medicine offerings, diminishing the distinctive appeal of the clinics in Tijuana.
In 2005, The Guardian reported the case of a man with cancer who paid US$40,000 for a one-month treatment in which he had high-fevers induced in the belief that the heat would kill his cancer cells. In 2010, the weekly cost of attending Mexican border clinics, such as the Oasis of Hope, was reported to be between US$3,000 and US$5,000.
Amygdalin (sometimes called "Laetrile") is a toxic glycoside. A systematic review of 2011 found "the risk–benefit balance of laetrile or amygdalin as a treatment for cancer is [...] unambiguously negative".
Issels treatment is a regime normally recommended to be used alongside conventional treatment. It requires removal of metal fillings from the patient's mouth, and adherence to a restrictive diet, supposedly to aid in cancer treatment. Cancer Research UK have said of it: "There is no scientific or medical evidence to back up the claims made by the Issels website".
According to Quackwatch, the Oasis of Hope Hospital is a "dubious cancer clinic". Richard Sullivan of Cancer Research UK has said, "the Tijuana clinics are essentially set up to deceive and it's a disgrace."
Barrie R. Cassileth commented on a small longterm followup study that had been carried out on patients of Mexican clinics, including those taking the Contreras treatments. She said that most patients did not know what stage their cancer was at, but that the mean survival time – of 7 months – was enough to conclude that "Contreras therapy is ineffective in treating late-stage cancer patients".
- Moss, R. W. (2005). "Patient Perspectives: Tijuana Cancer Clinics in the Post-NAFTA Era". Integrative Cancer Therapies 4 (1): 65–86. doi:10.1177/1534735404273918. PMID 15695477.
- Contreras, Francisco (1999). The Hope of Living Cancer Free. Lake Mary, Florida: Siloam Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-88419-655-0.
- "David Hess". Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 2013.
- David J. Hess (1999). Evaluating Alternative Cancer Therapies: A Guide to the Science and Politics of an Emerging Medical Field. Rutgers University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8135-2594-5. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Moss, Ralph (2011). "A visit to the Tijuana clinics". Townsend Letter (333): 30.
- Tuckman, Jo (21 May 2005). "Cancer patients take their hopes to Tijuana". The Guardian. Retrieved September 2013.
- "Metabolic Therapies". Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 14 February 2013. Retrieved September 2013.
- Milazzo, Stefania; Ernst, Edzard; Lejeune, Stephane; Boehm, Katja; Horneber, Markus (2011). "Laetrile treatment for cancer". In Milazzo, Stefania. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005476.pub3.
- "Issels Treatment". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved September 2013.
- Stephen Barrett, M.D. (May 2003). "Rev. George M. Malkmus and his Hallelujah Diet". Quackwatch. Retrieved September 2012.
- Barrie R. Cassileth; K. Simon Yeung; Jyothirmai Gubili (2010). Herb-drug Interactions in Oncology. PMPH-USA. p. 463. ISBN 978-1-60795-041-7. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Petersen, J. C.; Markle, G. E. (1979). "Politics and Science in the Laetrile Controversy". Social Studies of Science 9 (2): 139–66. doi:10.1177/030631277900900201. PMID 11645793.
- "Unproven methods of cancer management: Contreras Methods". CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 21 (5): 317. 1971. doi:10.3322/canjclin.21.5.317.