October 23, 2009

Commentary: Somers' cancer advice is risky

Posted: 05:47 PM ET
By Otis Brawley

Editor's note: Dr. Otis Brawley is chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and a practicing oncologist. He is's Conditions expert and answers viewer questions weekly on Live.  Dr. Brawley will be on Larry King Live tonight, 9pm ET

Dr. Otis Brawley says open-mindedness has helped advance traditional medicine.

Dr. Otis Brawley says open-mindedness has helped advance traditional medicine.

(CNN) - This week, the comedic actress Suzanne Somers is promoting her newly released book, which espouses the virtues of alternative medicine and, more important, explains why one should avoid conventional medicine.

She is a wonderful actress, and I wish she would stick to her first chosen profession. I know some people will hear her message, follow her advice because of her celebrity status and be harmed. Her medical advice may even cause death.

She joins the list of celebrities who have advocated alternative and complementary treatments for disease and non-proven conventional medicine. I have spent much of my professional career documenting disparities in outcome, higher mortality and more suffering among minorities, poor people and even the uninsured middle class who have limited or no access to conventional medicine, the therapies Somers criticizes.

Mind you, I am not critical of the concept of alternative and complementary medicine. When used wisely, it can be useful. Indeed, open-mindedness to other ideas is how we advance conventional medicine. Today, conventional medicine has the extract of a tree bark called aspirin or the root of a plant called vincristine because of observations from those who practiced non-conventional medicine.

My problem is with some and not all of the advocates of alternative and complementary medicine. My problem is with those who reject the scientific method. Some actually do not reject the scientific method. They seem not to even realize that there is such a thing to reject.

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Filed under: Larry King Live • Medical

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carol kesling   October 23rd, 2009 8:15 pm ET

well said doctor ....

Dr. Ramirez   October 23rd, 2009 9:19 pm ET

Dr. Brawley is simply treating patients with what he learned about in
medical school in this country. That does not in any way include any knowledge of factual, proven, centuries to decades old research on curing cancer through alternative procedures. There are countries around the world where people routinely cure their cancer naturally. I have seen this with my own eyes. I have friends who have been cured this way. While he is a very educated man and probably cares about his patients, he is completely ignorant of the reality the exists with regards to anything that heals 'outside' the realm of pharmaceutical -company -controlled treatments for all kinds of conditions and diseases. This is sad. In fact, it is exactly attitudes like his & statements like those that he has made, treatments and advice he is giving his own patients everyday, that is killing cancer patients by the 10's of thousands every year in this country. There are
some whose life he may or may not prolong for a short time, but his treatment destroys the quality of that life through the suffering of the
horrible treatments when, in fact, there are completely alternative therapies which are non invasive, have zero side effects other than to
exterminate the cancer cells within the body. Denying the truth, does not change the facts. It's a matter of finding the right people who know the truth of where to go to get these treatments. And, just like there are bad doctors and bad drugs, there are inscrupulous people
who will try to fake this treatment just to make a quick dollar. Do your homework people and you can cure your cancer as painlessly and cheaply as treating simple common ailments daily. Those who stand to make massive amounts of money on conventional therapies, will scream 'liar' to those telling you the truth.

just me   October 23rd, 2009 9:22 pm ET

She's got to sell her book. Balloon story!!! Attention Attention
I had Dr.s who have save me and some family members.
Sorry- to many people trying to sell bull.

John   October 23rd, 2009 9:40 pm ET

I hope this interview from Suzanne will awaken many people to the fact that there is an entity in this country whose goal has been to
cover-up & debunk truthful information about cancer and most other diseases which are really not death-sentences. I can count 8 to 10 individuals I know right now, who have gone underground, left the country or whatever they had to do and came bouncing back completely cancer-free. There are different methods and some work better for certain types of cancer. If I ever get it, I couldn't care less. I know exactly what to do. It will be no more worrisome than stumping my big toe. Let these blind M.D.s practicing conventional medicine
keep shamelessly hurting and killing most of their patients with treatments that have even been banned in certain parts of Europe
because they seek and accept truthful scientific research, not hide it!

Kellie   October 23rd, 2009 9:41 pm ET

I promise what I'm about to say is all true and I can't sleep on this any longer, I want to let the public know the truth. People with this illness have come to this clinic from all around the world and they come desperate to be healed and many have paid Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski for a dose of his "HOPE". Antineoplastin includes synthetic urine and is mainly used on patients with brain tumors or patients who qualify, so he says and apparently someone with the FDA thinks the same. However, this physician, Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski makes the bulk of his money from starting and keeping more the 85% of patients on another drug called Sodium Pheylbutyrate, which does NOT work and He knows this. I work there at his clinic and he said this to me and a few others all at the same time. So, this drug Sodium Phenylbutyrate, monthly cost to patients run well over $3500.00 monthly per patient, times more than 200 patients, you do the math. His exact words were "This drug Sodium Phenylbutyrate is not working but we need to come up with a way to lower the patients dosage but, continue to charge them the same amount of money. So, there will probably be alot of calls from patients about this and we need to come up with something to tell them."

Jackie Conafay   October 23rd, 2009 9:46 pm ET

I don't believe Suzanne Somers story regarding being in a hospital and being misdiagnosed, its the same as when she had breast cancer, sold her bio-identical book, then, years later tells us she didn't have breast cancer. What a croc! She is selling books.

Cindy   October 23rd, 2009 9:53 pm ET

My good friend's wife had kidney cancer. They cured it in a few months at home and the doctor did not know what to say to them
when he found out.

Dr. Robert Irons   October 23rd, 2009 10:03 pm ET

Dr. Burzynski has NCI (National Cancer Institute) clinical trials in progress, but he is only allowed (by the Institutional Review Boards, IRB) to enter patients into his trials who are considered 'untreatable' by conventional care. Therefore, the outcome of patients are likely to have less success (as Dr. Black suggests), but have more beneficial changes – including increased survival time and quality of life. What this means is that he is only allowed to try his therapies on the most hopeless of cases – those conventional medicine cannot treat. The bottom line is that his therapy provides hope for those with little hope, by using more natural, less-toxic treatments, that have the potential for success and/or benefit – with a good quality of life (unlike the quality of life provided by conventional care).

Dr. Black is completely mis-stating the facts, and can't even say Dr. Burzynski's name correctly. If, as he says, "scientific method" is to be followed, then let's see proper clinical trials carried out. Let us also hear him assess alternative treatments using the scientific method – instead of the vague generalities he is using. Then, we CAN see sufficient numbers to provide evidence of treatment effects – as Dr. Black says is needed. No need for a second opinion?! ~"It matters that they are treated by a qualified team and institute." That sounds like programmed, institutionalized thinking.

Dr. Gonzalez is very intelligent and well-trained – as evidenced by his mentors and career – and has excellent records (real world cases) of alternative, natural treatment of conventionally-diagnosed "terminal" cancers that have seen excellent survival results – based on the Kelley protocols. There needs to be an unbiased assessment of these treatments.

THANKS to Larry King for bringing this issue to the forefront, and allowing both allopathic and alternative doctors to present their rationale and case for their respective approaches to cancer treatment.

AND, THANKS TO Suzanne Summers for her courage, will, and drive to write Knockout, and bring to light treatments and alternatives that give people OPTIONS in their battle against this most dreaded and life-threatening disease.

Joanne Callahan, MBA   October 23rd, 2009 10:11 pm ET

I am a former patient of Dr. Burzynski. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1/2001. I have been cancer free for 6.5 years and did no chemo or radiation. Dr. Burzynski's care and treatment were superb, thorough and cured my cancer. I had no down days or reduced quality of life.

I now speak to many other cancer survivors who under go traditional treatment, have their immune systems destroyed, lose all quality of life and then die, because they listen to their doctor and traditional cancer experts who do not inform them of the successful and healthy options like Dr. Burzynski and Dr. Gonzalez, among others.

As Ms. Sommers says, it is a billion dollar industry that does not want competition or outsiders. It is criminal that they do not inform their patients of these options. I have published, in an on-line peer reviewed journalm, my case. I would be very willing to speak on behalf of Dr. Burzynski's clinic and my results. These options need to be known.

john strickland   October 23rd, 2009 10:12 pm ET

After four years of in and out of the hospital my insurance company filed bankruptcy, so i went to the mayo clinic in scottsdale Az. Was told I .had a stomach ulcer. Several months later I was back at my local hospital, this time I was informed I had liver cancer. After several more test they got it right this time. I had sugery in Sept. 2004, then chemo and radiation. I still have checkups every six months but am still cancer free. Didn't every find out what stage my cancer was but my sugeon said the turmor was the size of a big lemon. The traditional methods for treating cancer worked for me.

janet eskridge   October 23rd, 2009 10:18 pm ET

I just wanted to let know that I saw your show about cancer and Suzanne Somers and all I can say is SHAME ON YOU Ms.Somers! All she is doing is putting a book out there for people to buy so she can fatten her wallet. I am a 3 year breast cancer survivor.I had inflamitory,it is a very aggrevisse form of the diease.I went through chemo,radation and had surgery,and I 'mdoing and feeling GREAT!Since when does a movie star have the knowlege of someone who has dedicated their life to treat people with cancer? thank-you ,Sincerely,janet eskridge

bellablue   October 23rd, 2009 10:29 pm ET

Thank you for setting the record straight, Dr. Brawley!!! I personally do not believe ONE WORD of the "cancer episode" Suzanne Somers wrote in her book. I felt like I was reading a "novel"!! It is unfortunate that the word "celebrity" allows unqualified persons to pitch misinformation to the public that CAN AND WILL BRING A PERSON TO DEATH, if they take the information they have heard and read to heart. For Suzanne Somers "IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY"!! Her husband "drives" her desire to bring in the $$$$$$ while he "manages" her life!!!!! She is obsessed with her body, sexuality, bio-identical hormones, organic foods, and 100 pills a day of supplements. Is it any wonder her body had a reaction? Oh, and by the way, according to the research I have conducted, "Valley Fever", is a disease that DOGS get from living in the dessert.

G.Dixon   October 23rd, 2009 10:41 pm ET

Ms. Somers, in my opinion, is not "giving medical advice" as stated by Dr. Brawley. She is in fact opening much needed discussion regarding health care. She may not be a medical professional, but she is and intelligent, informed person seeking the best approach to her health. This is commendable Dr. Brawley.

charlie   October 23rd, 2009 10:47 pm ET

This is an argument I've seen many times. There will be many opinions that spawn from this evenings show. I do feel one of the biggest diservices that came across tonight came from our host. There was repeated disruptions and digs pushed onto Mrs. Somers. Aside from halting her in mid sentence multiple times I heard phrases like "we're not doctors" as the final words to complete a segment before commercial breaks. Then interestingly enough we were blessed with an ad purchased by avotar and then shortly followed by a headache pill. Larry had a great opportunity to help build a positive medical relationship that potentially would have laid the foundation for new practices. Fortunately I lead a life of heavy alternative and preventative health care so I will make up for it tomorrow. Sir, your biased attitude is not as hidden as you think it is and you have finally lost another viewer. You have a forumn that can influence change yet your apparent un interesed attitude is a diservice to your viewers.

Donna   October 23rd, 2009 10:55 pm ET

I'm sorry but I just can't give Suzanne Somers any validity. I agree with Dr. Brawley, I feel like Somers is just out to get attention and make money. Her health concern always seem to be about the same time as her latest book. I'm afraid some people will listen to her just because they like her, and may do great harm to themselves in the process. Miss Somers needs to stick with her shopping channel appearances.

Silvia Binder   October 23rd, 2009 11:16 pm ET

Dr. Brawley is a clearly well spoken and well trained professional who is protecting his medical training in oncology treatment, the education he received many years ago, following the undynamic truth of treatment. Clearly, his statements presented political and industry groups. He attacked that he did not know, which is another way of treating cancer patients. Another way, which does not need to be proven by statistics, but proven by real people. No wonder he came across uncomfortable. Oncologists, they say, are the worst in the medical profession. They deal with the worst, yet most of them fail to look for what actually works. WHY? They are bound to their training, their relationships, their live style and income.
Doctors like him would risk too much. The truth becomes too distant. Believe that it is not he patients they are concerned about.
Did you know that Harvard Medical Students voted their medical training a "D" because of the pharmaceutical influence on med-students?
It is the pharma industry that sponsors the education of our medical doctors in the U.S. Just think about the natural consequences of such a thing.

Tracy   October 24th, 2009 12:14 am ET

I like Suzanne, and believe in here way of thinking in using other means then chemo.

Her story though, would be alot more credible if she would share the hospital name. After what they did what they did to her, tried to drug her, cut her open, and put her through such mental anquish, why ON earth would she protect the hospital?? It was just really hard to believe tonight.

Dr. A   October 24th, 2009 12:45 am ET

I wish Larry King Live would stop giving equal time and voice to people who have no scientific training with professionals in the field. People like Suzanne Summers and Jenny McCarthey have no idea what evidence-based treatment is or why it is so crucially important.

During the interview, Dr. Black pointed out what seamed to be several inconsistencies in that charlatan's articles yet was practically ignored by Larry.

These interviews drive me nuts! They completely disregard the one thing that is of importance here.... Evidence !

julie   October 24th, 2009 12:56 am ET

I got hodgkin's disease when I was 19 and in nursing school. I went through 3 separate rounds of chemo to cure me. I'm 46 years old now, with a masters in neuroscience. I run an intensive care unit. My issue is with the family jeopardizing the child's life. Its not that I'm closed minded to alternative sources of medicine, Hodgkin's disease is one of the easier cancers to kill, if you don't pussyfoot around. I delayed my treatment as well, and nearly died from the folly and foolishness. I want to see documented research proving any alternative medicine venues that cure any cancer. The courts were right in ordering the child returned for legitimate treatment.

Jern   October 24th, 2009 1:09 am ET

I am not a doctor, but have worked as a medical secretary for 40 years. I'd like to know where Dr. Bursynski got his 1) education 2)training 3) his specialty and 4) where he practices medicine. Suzanne asked why the doctors don't share their findings. One of my jobs was to arrange medial conferences scheduling many different specialist (doctors in different disciplines) to present. Plus all the doctors I've worked with keeps up-to-date on their specialty and subscribes to many medical magazines.

Martha   October 24th, 2009 1:11 am ET

I am an avid believer in alternative treatments and I whole heartedly support Suzanne for her courage in presenting the information that she truly believe to be the pure and simple truth. This information is based on solid research and I have to admit that I was appaled at Larry King for the manner in which he treated her. I feel that he was very disrespectful, even hateful and condesending at times, and I don't understand why he allowed her to be on his program if he could not show her any more respect than what he did. I do not feel that she is just trying to sell her book, because there's too much passion, validity and hard work clearly involved in the information that she has presented. She certainly does not strike me as an out and out liar as he somewhat opened the door for his viewers to peek into nor does she strike me as someone to purposely present false or insufficient information to the american public. I am 100% supportive of her and I hope that she does not allow anyone to deter her in helping us to educate ourselves and realize that we do have options. My final words ..... wake up america!! Dead doctors don't lie.

Dr. Onc   October 24th, 2009 1:18 am ET

There was definitely a bias towards alternative medicine in discussion today. Dr. Black and Dr. Browley pointed out several times that the traditional medicines go through a very rigorous process and in fact that is why the survival rate for majority of cancers in rising over last several years. This is not true for alternative therapies, they always avoid rigorous scrutiny, which brings out the truth about efficacy and also side effects of these alternative methods. Believe me, they are not without side effects.

The discussion should not be whether chemotherapy works or not, because it works in some and not in other cancers. More important question is whether alternative medicines has been compared to chemotherapy in a particular type of cancer, say pancreatic cancer, and which one is better.

People may start having doubts about traditional approach towards cancer treatment , which is very unfortunate. I hope people understand this!

bashir Ahmadmd   October 24th, 2009 1:32 am ET

based on personal experience I find it very distressing for some lay person like ms.summers to make a case for deceptive therapies practiced by mr.bruzinsky and give false hope to the very people who hang on to any thing that may help them.In the process many of the patients end up getting hurt physically and in their pocket books.
My person request to you is that such a programme on your show ends up being harmful than helpful.Bring experts not some one like ms.summers,she has now become self styled expert.By the way I have no doubt that ms.summers had acute histoplasmosis not unknown in california and x-ray can be confused with cancer

Terry Washington State   October 24th, 2009 3:23 am ET

Doc, I'm inclined to agree with you. As much as Suzanne can be entertaining even engaging; it's my belief she should be putting her efforts into her next televised sales pitch that doesn't include medical diagnostics.

I'll leave it short and sweet. Noting the caveat that I have not read Ms. Sommers book. I wish her well, however; at the same time, would hope she thinks of the people that are cancer survivors because of western medicine. Hell that it is. If it were only as simple as eating the right food and thinking the right thoughts, etc.

Karla   October 24th, 2009 7:17 am ET

My husband was diagnosed 3 yrs ago with Soft Tissue Sarcoma Last Stage 4 and it spread to his lungs, liver, bone marrow and brain, and was given just a month left to live and was sent home with Hospice.

But because our amazing oncologist decided to "take a chance and see if chemo would work" did!!!!!

Its because of her chance that my husband is still here right next to me in great health!! Its been a long road, but I still have my husband!

And its all because of CHEMOTHERAPY!!!!

People need to remember, Suzanne Somers is an actress, her business is to sell and make money. And, in order to do that, she's selling a gimmick...the gimmick is to not believe in modern medicine.
She has an agenda, and all the money in the world. But what do we have, smart advice as to NOT listen to washed up movie stars who think they know medicine!

Leave the medicine to the experts!!!

Arthur Lubus   October 24th, 2009 10:08 am ET

Larry King could beat Fox's ratings if he does a thorough commentary on the subject. Cancer is a 280 billion dollar a year industry and they don't want to hear about alternative medicines or a possible cure. Dr. Burzynski and others like him have been attacked by the Feds and the FDA. For what, trying to help people. Why doesn't the medical profession at least look into their research? I have been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and had surgery. It was to be followed up with six months of chemotherapy. I took the first treatment which lasted 3days and it almost killed me. I lost my wife to cancer of the sinuses (very rare). It attacked her brain and I could not get her to the Burzynski Clinic in time. She started chemo and died within six months. I will buy Ms Sommers book. Let's be open minded about this deadly disease and remember who is really making the money here!

Laurel McCartney   October 24th, 2009 11:48 am ET

As a breast cancer survivor of a 1990's high dose chemotherapy & bone marrow transplant treatment (mentioned in Dr Brawley's commentary), I take issue with his carefully well crafted statement. I am still alive 12 years later, while most in my study are dead. Why? I believe it has to do with the "alternative" therapies I was fortunate enough to be treated with – Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reike, Chiropratic (in Canada not considered mainstream). What Dr Brawley does not mention is that it is ALL about the money. He councils "peer review"....well how does that happen when any health practitioner who is not considered "mainstream or conventional" does not have equal access to funding? Wake up North America..the $$'s are controlled by the AMA, in Canada the College of Physicians & Surgeons. It's an old boy network that will fight tooth & nail to keep control of the money. We patients will always take a second place to the money. GOOD ON YOU MS SOMERS – for having the courage to take them on in a public arena. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

Suzanne Trautwein   October 25th, 2009 1:18 am ET

Suzanne Somers interview.

Larry, thank you for taking on controversial subjects and for maintaining an objective interview, allowing all parties to share their views. Although I am sympathetic to Suzanne's recent health crisis, it brings about a new book and once again she becomes the all knowing expert on cancer treatment.

I am a 13 year survivor of Ovarian Cancer and a 4 year survivor of Breast Cancer. I am certain I would not be here to write this if I had ignored the proven medical approaches to treatment for my cancers.

I got the cancers because of a genetic predisposition to Ovraian, Breast, and Colon Cancer passed to me through my maternal line in my genetic code.

Suzanne's message is harmful, in my opinion. It is a "black and white" approach to a very multi-dimensional issue. Certainly anyone who is given the news that they have cancer, should do research and be informed about their options for treatment. There are centers on line that use traditional treatments plus alternative treatments.

Suzanne is always selling something. I am suspicious of anyone who whips out a book in 5 months after nearly dying. Having said that, choice is the one thing we all have at the end of the day.

My advise? Save your money. All the information is on line.

Dr. Hochmitwein   October 25th, 2009 1:26 pm ET

Although we believe in the school medicine, other treatments enhance the chance of recuperating.
At our clinic we give our patients a quart of red wine every day, as it is well known to fight the radical cells and the patients are happy all day. In addition, strong coffee, preferably espresso from italian beans, gives an uplift to the healing process.
We are prepairing a new book on our methods and will present it on LKL as soon as we agree on the commission we have to pay.

JIM carroll   October 25th, 2009 2:24 pm ET


steven chaisson   October 25th, 2009 7:03 pm ET

Amazing, Cancer industry worth $200 billion with 1.5 million patients in the US. After 40 years, Chemo still cost $20,000 a dose, it cost $20 to manufacture it. Why? The investors in the health industry don't want to find a cure for cancer, it would ruin profits.

Ted   October 26th, 2009 9:15 am ET

A great majority of the medical profession thinks the hypocratical oath they took is really a license to get rich. They cheat and lie, recommend useless and very expensive treatments where the use is very little or none. No wonder they have the nickname: the white mafia.

My own experience with this perverted group is dismal. You have to go through a whole slew of physicians, where any intelligent person can see they don´t have the faintest idea what in wrong with you, until you find a caring and well educated doctor.

Gerald Jolly   October 26th, 2009 2:00 pm ET

Ted I agree with you one million percent.

Case in point.

Three weeks ago I took my wife to the clinic were our doctor works.

After examining my wife our attending physician diagnosed her havng De Quervains tendonitess, and referred her to a specialist, which we had to wait for two weeks to get in to see him.

Today we went to the referred specialist, who advised my wife that she had De Quervain tendonitess "HELLO" and referred her to a hospital for treatment next friday, the procedure is an injection of cordizone which will take less than one minute to administer.

Total cost of the medical bill $1800 dollars, for less than 2 minutes on the actual medical procedure.


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