Talk:Alternative cancer treatments

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Cannabis[edit]

I'm sorry, I just don't understand why cannabis is in this article. There is IMHO a huge difference between cannabis and the other treatments mentioned in the article: while it is true that it has not been conclusively proven that cannabis cures cancer, there is evidence that it could. Many studies ([1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]) suggest this. To be more specific, there is a growing body of evidence about the potential antitumor properties of cannabinoids, and while that doesn't mean that it cures cancer, it is just absurd IMHO to associate it with mostly pseudoscientific theories. Has any study determined the effectivness of homeopathy against cancer? And the same applies to light therapy, dance therapy and virtually all the other treatments mentioned in the article. For this reason IMHO cannabis should be removed from the article.--MarkyRamone92 (talk) 18:23, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

Please review WP:MEDRS; the sources cited about cannabis meet this standard, and a cursory review of the studies you cite do not (primary studies animal or in vitro studies, not MEDLINE indexed, or other reasons). To change the text of the article you will need to find high quality MEDRS compliant sources that dispute the current sources. When you find them, please suggest a specific wording change in the article cited to the specific source. Yobol (talk) 18:31, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, we need maintain synchronization between the content here and the content at Medical cannabis#Cancer. If it changes there, the summary here can follow. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 19:26, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
Marky, the problem may be one of misunderstanding the subject. This is "alternative" treatments. "Alternative" does not mean "pseudoscientific" or "quackery" or "useless". The opposite of "alternative" is neither "effective" nor "evidence-based" nor "scientific".
The opposite of "alternative" is "mainstream" or "conventional". What's "mainstream" is determined by societal acceptance, not by scientific evidence. (In this modern we-all-love-science age, we all hope that what's scientifically supported will be accepted, and that what's not will be rejected, but this is not actually how things always work out.)
Cannabis use is not a mainstream treatment for killing cancer cells. It is therefore an alternative one. Even if the evidence were irrefutable, if the treatment did not achieve social acceptance, it would remain an alternative treatment. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:13, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
@MarkyRamone92, WhatamIdoing, Alexbrn: This article includes medical cannabis within a list of "ineffective" (as opposed to "alternative" or experimental) cancer treatments. This description might be misleading, since some anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids have already been demonstrated. Jarble (talk) 17:44, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
We need here to be in sync with what is in Medical cannabis where it is stated that there is no evidence cannabis treats cancer as a disease. If it changes there, we would need to re-WP:SYNC it here. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 17:48, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I recognize that cannabis has not been conclusively proven to cure cancer, but still I think that it does not belong in this page. First of all, because other treatments mentioned are patently pseudoscientific: while the possible use of cannabis to treat cancer is currently being investigated, I think we can safely assume that nobody will ever investigate the anticancer properties of dance therapy. Secondly, cannabis and its medical use are a hot subject at the moment, and IMHO we should wait for further information. The very sources cited to include cannabis in this page do not state that it doesn't cure cancer, but simply that "At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend that patients inhale or ingest Cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms", which is not the same.--MarkyRamone92 (talk) 10:25, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
What we have here is a list defined as containing "therapies that have been recommended to treat or prevent cancer in humans but which lack good scientific and medical evidence of effectiveness". So long as our Medical Cannabis article contains its current content, that qualifies it for inclusion here. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 11:03, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Separate sections for treatments[edit]

There should be separate sections for treatments with separate levels of efficacy:

1) Treatments with known efficacy: Some forms of Traditional chinese medicine plus chemotherapy (PMID 23469033)

2) Treatments with unknown efficacy: Medical cannabis and other therapies that have not yet been tested

3) Treatments with no efficacy: Only treatments that are demonstrably ineffective should be listed here

Right now, this article lists many treatments as "ineffective", although some of them have been subjected to zero clinical trials, as is the case for cannabis. This is an extremely misleading article. The lives of countless patients are at stake here, so we really need to get this correct. -A1candidate (talk) 02:16, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

This has been discussed before (see above) many times. The neutral way to present the effectiveness of touted treatments for which there is no evidence of effectiveness is that they don't work. Other adjectives that could work here include "bogus" or "discounted"; however, "ineffective" is about as correct as we can get in a title. The more precise definition of what's in the list is given in the opening paragraph: "a list of therapies that have been recommended to treat or prevent cancer in humans but which lack good scientific and medical evidence of effectiveness. In many cases, there is good scientific evidence that the alleged treatments do not work". Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 06:14, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
That is not how evidence-based medicine works. We don't assume complete inefficacy when there are no clinical trials to support inefficieny. Please read the categories of evidence in clinical decision making. -A1candidate (talk) 12:03, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Good luck with (say) crystal therapy then! It's wise to follow some RS here, for instance PMID 15061600. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 11:07, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
"The lives of countless patients are at stake here" only if your hypothetical patients are gullible enough to believe everything they read on the internet. I think that we can realistically assume a normal amount of basic common sense among our readers. The target audience for this article is someone who wants to learn about the subject, not someone who wants to self-treat cancer. WP:MEDMOS has warned against writing for "patients" and "professionals" (instead of "readers") for years. Let's not fall into that trap now. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:33, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
  • This is not about writing for "patients" and "professionals". It is about staying faithful to medical literature and not assuming inefficacy by engaging in OR.
  • Livingston-Wheeler, Di Bella Multitherapy, antineoplastons, vitamin C, hydrazine sulfate, Laetrile, and psychotherapy can all be labelled ineffective per PMID 15061600, but other treatments need a source to justify their inclusion.
-A1candidate (talk) 23:01, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Repeated removal of well sourced content in short time[edit]

Content with a reliable source has been removed twice in a short period diff and diff. This material is supported by a reliable source, no policy based argument against it's inclusion has been made here. I have restored the content. - - MrBill3 (talk) 02:25, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Yes, and the argument used (that GNM is not a "treatment") is wrong, as our article on that topic makes plain. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 04:14, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Edit warring behavior continues without discussion here. I am reverting changes that are not consistent with the sources at Ryke Geerd Hamer. - - MrBill3 (talk) 14:33, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

German New Medicine[edit]

Because there is an almost fetish like obsession among contributors to preserve the misinformation in this article, there is no point in trying to correct the page but to rather allow this important information to be known to the 0.00000001% of users who look at the talk page. The citation for German New Medicine, titled Cancer Quackery: The Persistent Popularity of Useless, Irrational 'Alternative' Treatments does not contain ANY reference to either German New Medicine or Ryke Geerd Hamer. It is as though someone simply looked at the title, added it, and assumed (correctly) that most people would be too stupid to check. Professortimithy(talk) 17:40, 29 Aug 2014 (UTC)

It's on page 2. Blackguard 23:00, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks User:Professortimithy for finally using the talk page. In the future, keep doing this. This is how we do things. We collaborate, including with non-academics, and without personal attacks. -- Brangifer (talk) 23:18, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Professortimithy while making accusations like "fetish like obsession", you edit war. You then come to the talk page and make a false statement, Cassileth does indeed contain specific reference to Hamer and to German New Medicine. In making a personal attack that "most people would be too stupid to check" you apparently demonstrate an inability to read a journal article. Your accusation that an editor placed the content and ref incorrectly is completely inappropriate. Your statement that you are "not going to collaborate with the non-academic" is not only not appropriate if you wish to participate in editing Wikipedia it seems rediculous as it seems the academic standard you uphold doesn't seem entail the ability to check a source and includes personal attacks and falsehoods. I strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with The Five Pillars of Wikipedia. - - MrBill3 (talk) 01:52, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

Cancer and alternative medicine/CAM[edit]

Here are a couple new articles from Medscape dealing with AM/CAM:

  • Citation template: <ref name=Stern>{{Citation |last=Stern |first=Victoria |date=02 September 2014 |title=Mythbusters: Complementary and Alternative Treatments in Cancer |publisher=''[[Medscape]]'' |url=http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/830552_print |accessdate=07 September 2014 }}</ref>
  • Citation template: <ref name=Miller>{{Citation |last=Miller |first=Gabriel |date=02 September 2014 |title=Asking the Experts: Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Cancer |publisher=''[[Medscape]]'' |url=http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/830553_print |accessdate=07 September 2014 }}</ref>

Registration is easy and free. Medscape is a good RS, sometimes as a MEDRS, and other times for expert opinions. -- Brangifer (talk) 17:21, 7 September 2014 (UTC)

And perhaps a better one: Integrative oncology: really the best of both worlds?, David H. Gorski, Nature Reviews Cancer (2014) doi:10.1038/nrc3822, Published online 18 September 2014 - paywall though. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 12:52, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Ernst quotation[edit]

Edzard Ernst is quoted as saying,

"... any alternative cancer cure is bogus by definition. There will never be an alternative cancer cure. Why? Because if something looked halfway promising, then mainstream oncology would scrutinize it, and if there is anything to it, it would become mainstream almost automatically and very quickly. All curative "alternative cancer cures" are based on false claims, are bogus, and, I would say, even criminal."

Ernst is factually wrong: escharotic pastes are "alternative" (this century; they were state of the art for medieval medicine), and they do actually permanently cure some skin cancers. They're not rejected because of a failure to cure cancer; they're rejected because they cure only about 10% of skin cancers, and modern medicine can cure about 98% of them. A cure for 10% of patients is still a cure.

Some are accepted in some societies but not in others. I believe I've seen editors mention at least one anti-cancer drugs with some alleged efficacy in Russia and one based on mushrooms in Japan, and both of those are unaccepted, "alternative" drugs in the rest of the world.

Finally, Ernst is blissfully ignoring the problems of time (what's alternative and effective today might be mainstream a generation from now, which is not "very quickly"), regulation (nothing is adopted "automatically"), and randomness (science can't assess a treatment that hasn't come to the attention of someone with the skills and resources to assess it). And in between the time whenever any such treatment is being used and when it is accepted, it's (a) still alternative and (b) still effective.

What Ernst ought to have said, if he had wanted to be precise, is that in a perfect world, all life-improving and life-prolonging cancer treatments that are more effective than what we already have would ultimately become mainstream. That doesn't mean that absolutely every treatment currently labeled "alternative" is completely worthless. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:56, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

I get this deja vu feeling when I read this. Have you written this objection before? It sounds very familiar. The key is in your last words--"currently labeled"--which implies that some treatments may indeed be proven to be useful and will ultimately be accepted. That's his point, so the two of you actually agree and this is a very minor quibble. Otherwise a discussion about whether what he's saying is precisely true in all details, or what he "ought to have said", is OR. We quote him and attribute the statement. He's basically right, it's expert opinion, and a RS, so we include it. -- Brangifer (talk) 04:03, 15 September 2014 (UTC)
I don't believe that including this quotation improves the article. I don't believe that it's WP:DUE to include it; I don't believe that it's WP:BALANCEd to include a soundbite from a divisive figure without providing the more common mainstream POV (which is that things considered alt med are unlikely to be "very quickly" embraced by the mainstream even if they do work); I don't believe that it's appropriate to promote one definition of "alternative medicine" over another (the "things that don't work" definition as opposed to the far more prominent and far more widely accepted "things that aren't mainstream" definition used in scholarly sources rather than in science by press release claims); I don't believe that it improves readers' knowledge of the subject; I don't believe it helps readers to leave them to guess what "very quickly" means; I don't believe that it is desirable to omit the fact that conversion from mainstream to alternative status is a two-way street; I don't believe that it says anything that we don't or can't say better (and specifically more precisely) ourselves. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:50, 15 September 2014 (UTC)
Well, at least we now know what you "don't believe". You do realize that we can't "say better (and specifically more precisely) ourselves" without sources? That's OR and editorializing. If something's missing, you could add properly referenced content, but, OTOH, we don't need to reproduce all the nuances contained in the whole alternative medicine article. He is speaking specifically about the topic of this article, and it's a significant expert POV shared by others in the mainstream. -- Brangifer (talk) 23:57, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, we need reliable sources. We do not, however, need direct quotations to convey this sort of information.
Some of what's in this quotation is already present and already sourced, so it's unnecessary: Ernst says, "All curative 'alternative cancer cures' are...I would say, even criminal", and we've used words like "fraud", "con artist", and "criminal" throughout the article for years.
I don't see any advantage to this soundbite, unless the real goal is to prove that Wikipedia editors have such a strong pro-mainstream POV that they can't even write with the impartial tone that NPOV requires. Speaking of NPOV, we had a discussion earlier this year at WT:NPOV about the problems with some types of quotations and the advantages of summarizing the content in short, impartial words. User:PBS or User:Dezastru might be able to give some perspective on it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:53, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
PS: Here's another, quite mainstream POV on medicine adopting proven new ideas "very quickly":

"If you look at history of medicine, it’s interesting how long it takes for evidence to get into the thick skulls of doctors. So when Pasteur proved the germ theory of disease it took about thirty years for the medical profession around the world to accept the germ theory of disease. Amazingly. It took twenty-odd years for doctors to accept that aspirin reduced the risk of dying of coronary heart disease after you’ve had a heart attack. It was well proven, it took twenty-odd years for doctors to accept that. It takes a long...it’s a conservative profession. It takes a long time to convince them of new ideas, and this [that H. pylori causes ulcers] was no different, because it was so radically outside of what they were expecting."

Radical indeed. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren’s work proved not only that Helicobacter pylori was the true cause of ulcers, but of stomach cancer, as well. In 2005 – more than 20 years after Marshall swallowed that batch of bacteria – they were awarded the Nobel Prize."[20]

WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:01, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
  • I agree with User:WhatamIdoing - the quote is not very helpful and uses dubious vague language in "bogus by definition" (that doesn't deconstruct very well). Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason (Sir John Harington (writer)) works as a joke, but would not as a serious observation. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 10:06, 25 September 2014 (UTC)


I have been alerted to this conversation by WhatamIdoing mentioning me in this conversation. I think it would help to link to the archived conversation which WhatamIdoing mentioned above: Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view/Archive 47#Proposal: revision of section on Impartial Tone.

The problem to which WhatamIdoing has alluded with the quote "If you look at history of medicine..." is that the Ernst quote is packed with inaccurate statements to present a specific point of view. I will detail some of those after an explanation of how I "know" this. As it happens this issue has been debated by the chattering classes in London over the last couple of months on that favourite platform of theirs: BBC Radio 4. This has been over two specific issues. One is advise given by the National Health Service over the use of certain drugs and methods, and the other is over experimental treatments for Ebola. From these discussions it has become evident that the current standard, orthodox, medical double blind trials are not always possible. This happens for thee reasons.

  1. The model for such testing usually involves private drug companies investing in R&D in the hope of making a profit. If a drug or method is generic and can not be patented then private investment for a trial will not be available. The possibility of funding from public sources is a hit and miss. Currently due to government cutbacks in Britain, such money is next to impossible to obtain.
  2. So given (1) it is possible that treatments based on generic methods and medicines may not be backed up by a full clinical trials until some time after their adoption. (Once adopted by a health authority, an interim statistical analysis can then be used to see if there is an indication that the treatment helps to lead to remission, and provide evidence that a full clinical trial should be funded; or that if no significant statistical evidence is found, for the health authority to discontinue the usage). A good example of this method in practice was the British adoption in the early 90s of laying babies on their backs to reduce cot deaths. This recommendation was initiated without the results of a clinical double blind trial.
  3. The second reason is that the test population available may be too small to run a standard double blind trial -- understandably no one in their right mind would infect a test population with Ebola to test a new drug, so until the recent outbreak there was no one on whom to test new drugs. In the case of rare cancers -- like Ebola until recently -- there may not be a big enough population at any one time to run a double blind trial that would produce statistically meaningful results.

The article currently says "In many cases, there is good scientific evidence that the alleged treatments do not work." If this is true then it is not an alternative medicine but quackery. But a better sentence would be "Some/many/most(?) alleged alternative treatments have failed to stand up to rigorous scientific testing, while for other alternative treatments there is no verifiable scientific evidence that the treatments work."

So looking at the sentences in the quote:

  1. "any alternative cancer cure is bogus by definition" -- This is giving a specific and narrow definition that excludes all alternative cancer cures that are not "bogus". It is also questionable under the terminology usually used for mainstream cancer treatments which are often not said to "cure" a cancer but to put a cancer into "remission". What is more accurate to say is an alternative cancer cure "is one for with there is no verifiable scientific evidence that the alleged treatment works."
  2. "There will never be an alternative cancer cure." -- This is just rhetoric to reinforce the last sentence: of course under Ernst's definition of "alternative cancer cure is bogus" there will never be a cancer cure.
  3. "Because if something looked halfway promising, then mainstream oncology would scrutinize it, and if there is anything to it, it would become mainstream almost automatically and very quickly" -- As I have shown above, in addition to WhatamIdoing's quote, there are systemic reasons why this may not be true.
  4. The last sentence is true because it is a tautology, because it defines the target of the sentence by defining it as a set of purported cures that are bogus, which by definition excludes cures that work even if they have not been subject to successful clinical trials.

Also the quote fits the rhetorical rule of three which is a popular method of putting over a point of view (often used to great effect by Sir Winston Churchill).

What I have mentioned here are all reasons not to use this quote (not even as a source), but instead to do as WhatamIdoing suggests and construct the points (Ernst fails to make in a clear and precise way), using non-tautological sentences. What are the reasons for using this quote? -- PBS (talk) 11:50, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Sponsorship of this page by the American Cancer Society[edit]

There are 128 references to the American Cancer Society. This alone shows this page is utterly biased. A majority of items are defined as ineffective by the American Cancer Society and by no other institution. This isn't using varied sources.

Furthermore this page is supposed to be entitled Alternative cancer treatments, but the content is actually purely anti any form of alternative cancer treatment outside of the commercial conventional medicine. This illustrates further mass bias.

Is this page the reason why Wikipedia wanted to collect money from organisations to publish their point of view, objectively without facts or accepting any other evidence? This page is probably one of the most sinister ones on Wikipedia.

The ACS is a good source for a mainstream medical take on cancer-related topics; Wikipedia reflects such a mainstream view. If you want flakey information and conspiracy theories you'll need to look elsewhere (or change Wikipedia's policies). Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 06:47, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
Nonetheless such a predominance is not ideal. But the picture is the same at About complementary and alternative therapies from Cancer Research UK (WP:COI declared) and other mainstream sites (NCI, NHS Choices etc). CRUK in fact goes into more detail on the difference between complementary and alternative therapies, which our pages don't seem to cover properly. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 15:45, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
added a bit now diff. It's a catch 22 if you like; the moment there is decent evidence for something, it stops being alternative & becomes conventional. But this now rarely happens. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 16:05, 20 November 2014 (UTC)