1 Milliern 1 On the Progress of Curing and Preventing Cancer: The Need for More Philosophy 1 By: David W. Milliern 2 Diagnosed with mesothelioma and months to live, James Rhio O Connor did something that would be, in most cases, inadvisable: He deviated from the doctor s recommendation, which was to take his wife on a cruise and make preparations to begin hospice care. Rhio began a system of holistic health care that focused on nutrient dense whole foods, vitamin and herb supplementation, exercise, and an emphasis on health through mind-body healing (Palmer). In his book They Said Months. I Chose Years!, Rhio talks about how holistic self-care permitted him to live years, even though his pleural mesothelioma was inoperable; and he emphatically asserts his belief that a wide range of natural substrates brought him back to health (O Connor 40). This phenomenon of recovering through the use of alternative medicine is not unique to Rhio. One of the key impetuses for the writing of this paper is the author s personal experience with individuals who employed a regimen brimming with vegetation, herbs, and vitamins, and completely devoid of high glycemic carbohydrates. The overwhelming success of these anecdotal cases, contrasted with traditional treatments of chemotherapy and so forth, brings about the question: What progress has been made in curing and preventing cancer? When viewing the discussion on breast cancer between Harvard Medical School professors Dr. Paul Goss and Dr. Bruce Chabner, the philosopher of science might become uncomfortable very quickly, because, in nearly one hour of discussing the success of aromatase 1 This essay has been written in the honor and memory of James Rhio O Connor. For more information, visit Cancer Monthly s website: or 2 Attributive CC 2012 (contact:
2 Milliern 2 inhibitors over Tamoxifen in treating breast cancer, there is no mention of physiological mechanism, nor is there any talk of causality (Goss and Chabner). Furthermore, they even admit that, in a number of cases, it was obvious that the use of Tamoxifen yields an undesirable result within a subset of their patients. The watchword is treatment, and one will find that this is ubiquitous throughout the literature published in the major medical journals. In examining any swathe of medical studies, one will find one overwhelmingly pervasive methodological approach to the study of cancer; a statistical approach that yields little understanding. It is important not to confuse correlation with causation, because the former rarely indicates the presence of the latter. Rather than studying the physiology of the human organism, which is basically ignored by many studies, cancer theory is much more closely related to econometrics than it is to the causation-minded theories of, say, physics. With the ever-increasing percentages of people diagnosed with cancer, it should be clear that prevention and cure not the sometimesefficacious treatment should drive the bulk of cancer research. Immediately linked to (and coextensive with) the dearth of research of underlying causation of cancer is the fact that a theory of cancer is no more certain than it was in 1971, when the War on Cancer was declared. That a shift has occurred, favoring treatments over etiological study, may not be so surprising. As Lehigh University philosopher of science Steven L. Goldman notes, when science definitively distinguished itself from philosophy, the scientists, thereafter, took up doing their own philosophy, resulting in failure (Goldman). There are two reasons for this: 1) When a scientist subsumes a general set of methodologies, the scientist also adopts the general set philosophical assumptions made by that paradigm and 2) The scientist s rigorous adherence to a paradigm and its methodologies and language tends to induce dogmatism that cannot see beyond the periphery of its own limitations. On the second point, scientists are extremely well trained
3 Milliern 3 within a worldview, so that they can operate within that context with an extraordinary competency. The philosopher, by comparison, though he or she may have technical prowess in a particular science, does not have the obligations of strict adherence to the dogma that the pure scientist has. This emphasizes a dichotomy with respect to the first point: That philosophers are trained to shrug off the constraints of thought that ultimately delimit the world of the scientist; and this intellectual ronin-like quality is what makes the philosopher a potentially invaluable complement to the scientist. The philosophical assumption that medical doctors have adopted is material empiricism. When Rhio took an approach that emphasized mind-body medicine, his practices fell beyond the horizon of material empiricism. Therefore, the oncologists could have never prescribed the program that worked so well for him, because material empiricism says that the mind is, at best, an illusory manifestation of the physical goings-on. An example of an important paper, authored by scholars of medicine and neuroscience, where the interpretation employed material empiricism to reach a bizarre result, was decharms (et al.) work on pain management through a patient concentrating on a visual representation that represented pain as a flame; rtfmri was used to produce the representation of the pain, which corresponded to the height of the flame on the monitor in front of the patient (decharms 18626). The researchers inferred that the perception of pain was diminished, as the patient was able to mentally control the flame, i.e. his or her pain (decharms 18630). How an illusory executive function could achieve this, according to a materialist paradigm, was never asked. Further, the materialist paradigm committed a second major oversight in not checking whether the relevant pain neurons were still firing. A lack of pain perception, while the physical organ carries on as before, suggests a mind-body
4 Milliern 4 dichotomy. This failure in logical interpretation illustrates the need for more philosophy in medical research. The real value of the philosopher is in his or her flexibility of thought like Rhio s. A philosopher may work within the materialist paradigm, yet make assumptions that are contradictory to that paradigm. Supposing that the identity theory philosophy of mind were correct, the philosopher still may posit that there is a dualistic mind that acts as an executive faculty. Why? The thinking might be that happiness subverts stress, and stress induces the secretion of cortisol. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, a central emergency hormone, that puts cells in fight-or-flight mode; and the rule of elementary biology holds: When under duress, cells cannot repair. The philosopher has a greater capacity for innovation, and it is innovation and creativity that are required to begin dealing with cancer effectively, possibly curing and preventing it. Philosophy also permits for the unusual possibilities that seem too easy. Rhio did this with his diet and lifestyle. One scientist, Dr. Robert O. Young, has taken up the task of explaining why a vegetation-saturated diet may prevent and cure cancer. Young s theory is, essentially, that the alkalinity of (especially green) vegetation and other foods contribute to healthy tissues in the body (Young). Given the number of individuals who report tremendous successes with high vitamin dosages and large amounts of natural, unprocessed/nonmanufactured food, one begins to wonder where the studies are to explain this. Young is met with criticism, but never dispatched by evidence to the contrary of his theory. Young is not alone in his belief that a whole-food diet prevents illnesses such as cancer, or even in the thinking that the human body can be treated like something other than a unified, holistic, and single entity (Suska). Biochemist T. Colin Campbell, who directed the compiling of data that
5 Milliern 5 resulted in The China Study, has arrived at many statistical correlations that support the holistic outlook ( Foods for Cancer Prevention, Campbell). Cancer research is in need of a philosophical founding that possesses the ingenuity, creativity, and innovative capacity to link advancements in oncology, natural sciences, and the holistic approach. The cancer research paradigm can be described as a miasma of pharmaceuticals, characterized by the lack of any real etiology even the theory of metastasis has faced increasing criticism as of late (Ledford 273). If cancer cure and prevention are to progress beyond current pill popping correlative assumptions, it must build new theoretical frameworks, new methodologies that transcend the pharmaceuticals-only mindset, and a need for holistic treatment of the human organism. Philosophy can provide medicine with a fresh look at past studies that are not compatible with the accepted paradigm. The trophoblastic thesis of cancer is a good example, wherein Dr. John Beard noted in 1902 that cancer cells are indistinguishable from the trophoblastic cells of early fetus development (Griffin). This theory has been mentioned briefly in a few major publications of the past 30 years ( Gonzalez Regimen 1), but no studies have been performed to reinvestigate it; it exists outside of dogma. Potential research questions that represent the kind of speculation that may be productive and force the medical community outside of its dogma include: How do we know that acidification of the body, through the consumption processed foods, does not yield an internal environment hospitable to cancer growth, which may be initialized by hormones (e.g., estrogen in breast cancer, which is exacerbated by endogenous and exogenous aromatase, or pleural mesothelioma as initialized by asbestos) or other internal and external environmental factors? While this is only one avenue of speculation the medicine-trained philosopher would certainly produce a more beneficial line
6 Milliern 6 of speculation it presents outside challenges to medical dogma, and is a potentially viable and practical move toward prevention and cure of cancer.
7 Milliern 7 Work Cited: Campbell, T. Colin, perf. Forks over Knives Monica Beach Media. DVD. decharms, R. Christopher, Fumlko Maeda, Gary H. Glover, David Ludlow, and John M. Pauly. "Control over brain activation and pain learned by using real-time functional MRI." Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Dec. (2005): Print. "Foods for Cancer Prevention." T. Colin Campbell Foundation. T. Colin Campbell Foundation, Web. 2 Apr <http://www.tcolincampbell.org/coursesresources/article/foods-for-cancer-prevention/category/oncology- 1/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=76&cHash=f0e9b75b1c>. Goldman, Steven L., lecturer. Trading Reality for Experience (Lecture 12 of Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It) The Teaching Company. Disc 4. CD- ROM. "Gonzalez Regimen." National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute, 27 Aug Web. 9 Apr <http://www.cancerx.org/enzyme%20gonzalez%20regimen%20history.pdf>. Goss, Paul, and Bruce Chabner, conversants. Aromatase Inhibitors & Breast Cancer Therapy Milestones in Oncology. Narr. Martin J. Murphy The Oncologist Journal. Web. 3 Apr <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnbifbmim94>. Griffin, G. Edward, narrator. A World Without Cancer - The Story Of Vitamin B Google Video, Web. 3 Feb
8 Milliern 8 <http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid= >. Ledford, Heidi. "Cancer theory faces doubt: A leading explanation for how cancer migrates falls short on evidence." Nature. Vol Apr. 2011: 273. Print. O'Connor, J.R. They Said Months. I Chose Years! A Mesothelioma Survivor Story. Raleigh: Cancer Monthly Inc., Print. Palmer, Abby. "James Rhio O'Connor." Surviving Mesothelioma. Cancer Monthly Inc., Web. 27 Mar <http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm>. Panno, Joseph. Caner: The Roles of Genes, Lifestyle, and Environment (The New Biology Series). rev ed. New York City: Infobase Publishing, Print. Suska, Samuel. The Holistic Approach. True Health Services. Blogspot. 28 Sept Web. 7 Dec Young, Robert O. "The ph Miracle for Cancer - The Formula for Preventing or Reversing Cancer." ph Miracle Living. Ed. Robert O. Young. Young phorever, Inc., 5 Nov Web. 5 Oct <http://www.phmiracleliving.com/articles/ ph4cancer.html>.