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Robert Schwab Headshot

In the Chemo Room

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When you are a cancer patient, you watch the news for breakthroughs and try to assess how they might affect your treatments, but you are also frequently alerted to a variety of folk cures by people who are concerned about you.

Lately along my path to wherever my disease is taking me, I've come across this list of such recommendations: Lypo Spheric vitamin C, Dr. Oz's cancer diet (bok choy, artichokes, tomatoes and strawberries), cooked and pureed asparagus, and saffron.

Early on in my treatments I was told to take flaxseed oil, which I did and still do, and to some degree attribute what success I've had fighting the cancer-cell production that threatens me every day. My fight is extending into the second half of its fourth year, so I figure I can credit myself, the doctors and nurses who take care of me, and those who pray for me and suggest alternative cures with a significant measure of success.

So when I read in Sunday's newspaper a story about an Obama administration plan to set up a government research unit to come up with new drug treatments for diseases including cancer, I had a thought:

This unit should do a little research on natural substances that hold out promise of palliative or curative benefit.

Most doctors steer clear of recommending such treatments because none of the folklore behind them represents a scientific or clinical basis for a professional endorsement.

The Obama plan would undertake research pharmaceutical companies are not doing because it costs too much and there is no assurance of a return on the companies' investments. The companies have not investigated natural cures for the same reasons.

What better way to find out if natural substances work or not? Or at least whether there may be some scientific explanation, or none, for the folklore behind the so-called cures.