RECENT ILLUMINANTS ON THE ROAD OF
PROGRESS IN CANCER THERAPEUTICS AND
Of paramount importance for both physician and patient is it in a doubtful case to know if the malignancy is actual, or alternatively, that the issue growth is innocent. Or in a case appreciably improving under treatment, whether the malignant taint is actually lessening, or the betterment only transitory and not abiding. Or, should the improvement be genuine, what is its rate of progress. Such and similar queries have hitherto been at the mercy of inspired guess work, rather than of verifiable data.
Up to some years ago the examination of the body cells by the microscope – the optical method – was the elect course of procedure. But the scope of this was limited: it involved the actual removal of more or less of the affected part from the patient for submission to microscopical inspection. Not every patient cared, even for the sake of accuracy, to undergo this ordeal. Moreover in the case of internal organs such as brain, or lung, or liver, or kidney, the procedure for such purpose was definitely impracticable.
Another method was by palpitation: then the outline and density and fixation of the growth could be determined, and inferences drawn from such matters of fact. But such inferences were often vague and relative to the personal equation of the examiner. Actually they were impressions rather than facts, remaining within the circle of probability only. Examination by X-rays – a popular method – revealed nothing certain of the intimate character of the growth – and mainly provided data of its outline and location.
What was sought were facts peculiar to cancer alone, characteristics of it and of nothing else. The elaboration of such a diagnostic test for the presence of malignant disease has occupied the attention of innumerable workers in the field of cancer research.
At length in 1931 Dr. Bendien in the course of laboratory work found that the blood of a cancerous patient reacted very differently to a solution of sodium vanadate – no matter where the cancer was situated – to that of patients suffering from any other malady, or even in the healthy state.
Certain precautions and much technical knowledge are required for the procedure: and many errors have been made by the numerous workers who have followed up the method of Bendien. Thus some results of this method were published in comparatively recent times by investigators who achieved only 60 to 65 per cent. of success. The personal equation here again accounted for the deficit.
THE CRONIN LOWE MODUS OPERANDI
An eminent physician not unknown to Homoeopathy – Dr. Cronin Lowe – who has examined some 2,000 cancer cases by his modification of the Bendien method has obtained no less than 95 per cent. of successes in his blood analysis of the cancerous. Personal experience such as this is not possessed by all, and doubtless its shortage accounts for the different figures of other examiners.
The preliminaries are of the essence of simplicity. About half an ounce of blood is withdrawn from the patient by a hypodermic syringe, and from a prominent vein. Among other precautions requisite is that the patient at the time of blood withdrawal should be fasting, e.g. early in the morning before breakfast. Due care should be taken after withdrawal the blood is not subjected to violent agitation, or it becomes what is styled “haemolysed.”.
INDEPENDENT EXAMINATION OF THE CRONIN-LOWE
The most recent and convincing research into the value of this test has been carried out under the auspices of the Birmingham branch of the British Empire Cancer Campaign and published this year in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. Here 450 cases of various forms of malignant disease were examined in this way, and the diagnosis was verified in no less than 75 per cent. of the cases. It was observed that a high degree of frequency was characteristic of cases before the fifth decade of life. Under stated conditions the method may be regarded as sufficient, accurate and reliable.
BLOOD AS A TEST FLUID IN CASES OF CANCER.
The circulating blood comes directly or indirectly into contact with every cell in body; it is in fact an environmental fluid; change in the body cells from normal to cancerous must in time affect the character of the environmental fluid. It is this “change in character” that the sodium vanadate tests finds out.
Repeated examination of the blood in cancer cases that improve under treatment shows a corresponding change in the test finding. This improvement may be rapid or slow; but in any case is expressible in figures.
From the test figures may be deduced the degree of deficiency, or otherwise, in the blood system, of the protective elements against malignancy. The more marked this deficiency the greater the abnormality in the figures of the test.
THE KIDNEY SECRETION AS AN ALTERNATIVE TEST FLUID.
But the blood stream while biologically and chemically perfect as a test fluid for cancer, had certain practical defects in use which frequently interfered with a prompt and positive response.
The blood stream was not easy of direct access; and to obtain the fluid in sufficient quantity required a procedure analogous to a minor surgical operation. If the specimen thus obtained was subjected to smart concussion – e.g. as in transit by post, a species of clotting called haemolysis occurred, rendering the material useless for tests. Another objection of a sentimental kind was to the effect that it was often unwise to remove any further quantity of blood, however scant, especially where recent haemorrhage had occurred.
Such and similar difficulties brought about a review of the tout ensemble, in order to find some alternative body fluid free from these objection, but otherwise available for test. Bearing in mind that what was requisite was the fluid element of the blood – the serum – the laboratory chemist recalled that certain organs of the body were installed for the express purpose of separating from the blood serum any foreign noxious material therein.
According the fluid separated from the blood serum by the kidneys was examined by the cancer tests; the response to these was as immediate and definite as though the blood stream itself had been used. A wider sphere of usefulness was thus obtained for the biochemical tests in cases of cancer.
THE NEW ERA IN CANCER TREATMENT.
At length a new era of hope and encouragement has arisen for those afflicted with the dread malady of malignancy; and the inspiring spirits of the new regime are Hahnemann and Bendien. Perfection in this bilateral method is not attained at a bound, but we are no longer invited to place our faith in a problematical future which may or may not prove the heir of the ages, in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. HERE AND NOW are among the character of the new method.
We are not asked with commendable suavity by Sir William Osler to wait a couple of hundred years, nor by Sir James Mackenzie to dance attendance on the advance of biology in general; nor by a great surgeon of the day for a further fifty years to allow the protective powers of the body to furbish up their weapons. Doubtless the new method can and will be further perfected by medical genius and experience, in the same way that anti-sepsis was after Pasteur and anti-tuberculins after Koch.
But the principles of procedure in anti-malignancy are no longer on the knees of the gods; for perfection they await that accumulated success in practice which attends the accumulated experience of those with sufficient genius to apply them. For the success of the Homoeopathic element as well as the success of the Bendien procedure in this bilateral test there is requisite the same factor of brains which was declared necessary in Opies paintings.
“How do you produce such fine results in your paintings, Mr. Opie”? response of Opie, “With brains, Sir.”.