Many years ago I woke from fitful sleep. My mind churned. I could not get the image of my gentle, trusting client and her sweet golden retriever being abused by the New York, snake-oil salesman who called himself a veterinarian. The image occupied my mind at all hours of the day and night. "It was absolutely unconscionable that anyone in the veterinary profession could be so abusive," I thought. Finally, I simply had to do something and I decided to fly to New York and get the offending veterinarian's license revoked. As my readers and clients know, the rest of the story is how I got involved in the integrative veterinary health movement, and it illustrates vividly how human behavior and science work in the advance of knowledge and technology. But there is now emerging information that makes this story even more interesting.
One of the "snake oils" used to treat that dog for cancer was a mixture called Poly-MVA. This agent was created by Dr. Merril Garnett. He applied the theories of Nobel laureate, Dr. Otto Warburg (1931), who discovered that cancer cells function with less oxygen and are inefficient in their use of energy. They are also susceptible to certain compounds that target this weakness. After 30 years of testing over 20,000 products, Dr Garnett discovered Poly-MVA. His discovery created an entirely new field called electrogenetics, which is the study of electrical activity on the DNA. Poly-MVA appears to shuttle electrons in such a way that the susceptible cancer cells die while normal cells continue to survive.
At the time of my visit to New York, there were no veterinary papers in existence about Poly-MVA. No reputable veterinary oncologists knew anything about it and it was an expensive vitamin mixture. Those three facts lead me to decide -- incorrectly -- that it was a dishonest scam. From that point of incorrect evaluation, my actions aligned to protect and preserve the integrity of our veterinary profession and my own patient, so I left the comfort of my Los Angeles office to expose the "fraud."
I almost did a very harmful thing, but because my parents had emphasized scientific method I was forced to put my own ego, negative emotions and false conclusions away -- and actually investigate the area objectively. It was hard because no veterinary schools were working on this product and no one was interested. Veterinary oncology was a young science and simply was not pursuing complementary and alternative therapies in the '80s. But this pioneering, holistic, veterinarian named Martin Goldstein, DVM, had extensive experience and felt he saw positive results. What I discovered as I looked objectively was that it appeared that Poly-MVA was relatively safe as patients could consume large doses with no apparent difficulty. It was hard to determine efficacy, though. Interviewing several other human doctors indicated that Poly-MVA might be effective in improving patient's quality of life and that it was not a magic bullet for cancer. It seemed to help brain tumors more than others. It was not an inexpensive therapy, and I had difficulty recommending it for many clients whose finances were challenged.
I wanted more evidence.
Gradually, scientific investigators began looking at Poly-MVA. Studies involving mice in the '90s supported conclusions that the product was very safe and relatively nontoxic to normal cells. Poly-MVA may protect DNA. These studies also showed that cancer cells in the laboratory died readily on exposure to the substance. Poly-MVA also seems to protect cells against ischemia, and may be cardioprotective and radioprotective. It may also reduce high blood sugar in some circumstances.
In a recent discussion with a knowledgeable researcher it was discovered that the original work involved use of a much higher dosage than was being clinically applied. When that was discovered, the use of higher doses brought about improved results. The first major clinical veterinary study of its kind looked at 800 animals treated for various cancers and showed a clear improvement in quality of life. This study's findings and its prestigious oncologist author (Greg Ogalivie, DVM, DACVIM) now creates energy to further investigate and understand the uses for Poly-MVA in integrative veterinary oncology. More trials are currently being designed and implemented, and hopefully this will build evidence which we can all use to select better therapies for our patients.
As I considered all this, I laughed out-loud upon realizing the rest of the story. I began my quest into integrative medicine so many years ago to prove that this substance was quackery because I "knew" that there was no such solution. Through my scientific training and through common sense investigation, we found that it was useful and began treating patients with Poly-MVA over 15 years before further study demonstrated its usefulness. And now through proper scientific method, we are understanding that the dose needs to be further evaluated. We also know that certain vitamins like Vitamin C can interfere with its actions. We still have much work to do and many unanswered questions.
That is what integrative veterinary medicine really is - Susan Wynn, DVM, CVA, CVCH, AHG, past president of the AHVMA and author of several major textbooks on integrative veterinary medicine states, "Integrative medicine is simply knowing your tools. It's knowing how to use things. "
That process involves loving patients, clients and professionals enough to do the work of developing our knowledge and technology so that we can safely and effectively use these techniques. And it does involve being able to value truth sufficiently to be able to use our scientific tools to complete the work, which takes time -- often long periods of time. As we look at this present story we see precisely this effort coming to fruition as veterinary oncology advances sufficiently to begin investigation and support of integrative medicine; as consumers become educated enough to seek such therapies; as insurance companies and governments realize the wisdom of paying for integrative medicine; as methods of funding such research emerge; and as private parties unite with universities to create more complete research through the creation of integrative veterinary medical departments.
We do live in interesting times.
Gandhi said: "First they ignore you. Then they insult you. Then they fight you. Then you win." Of course that only works if you are forwarding the truth and if you have the stomach, persistence and blessings to reach the end of the path. Some of these paths take more years than one person lives. Some others see lives of brave and intelligent people interrupted or destroyed by those who professionally assassinate or degrade in their false efforts to "protect or preserve." But in the end it is those brave, intelligent pioneers in medicine who lovingly seek truth and move us towards better healing. We owe them much.
How has integrative medicine assisted you or your family? Did you know that you can send your stories and a letter from your doctor verifying the facts to the AHVMA Foundation and they may be published on the "stories" section of the Web site? Integrative medicine is about loving enough to act. Share your stories today and help spread the good news and support veterinary research of these important tools.