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Letter to the Editor

Ovarian Cancer Treated with Shark Cartilage and Bovine Cartilage
Patient Report  

Editor:

    In the April, 1996 Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, the segment on "Shark Cartilage vs Bovine Cartilage," pp 40-47, especially caught my attention because of the apparent suggestion by John F. Prudden, MD that potentially lifesaving information and nontoxic products may legitimately be kept out of the public domain. My wife, Kay, had terminal stage III ovarian/endometrial cancer and owes much to the work of I. William Lane, Ph.D. and the attendant publicity.

    In June of 1992, a hysterectomy revealed a malignant cyst on the left ovary that appeared to have metastasized throughout the abdominal cavity. (The original biopsy sample was lost, but her oncologist classified it as ovarian cancer.) Now, there was "no choice" but to start chemotherapy, which Kay did.

    First, it was to be a series of six IV's of carboplatin halted after five infusions by a blood clot below the left knee. Heparin and coumadin were given for the clot. A laparoscopic probe revealed the cancer was still there. Next, six mitoxantrone doses were drained into the abdominal cavity via a porta-cath. The resultant abdominal pain was especially intense so that an onocostint abdominal scan showing continued tumor growth - including a new hourglass shaped cluster on the left side - was a marked disappointment.

    Later, Mitomycin-C with 5fluorourocil (5-FU) also taken through a series of six I.V.'s proved ineffective as well as shown by an ominous rise in the CA-125 (ovarian) tumor marker.

    Despite this rise, the gentler tamoxifen and megestrol would have to do as her immune system "could not be pounded anymore." (Little did she know that the vomiting, the retching, the weight loss and the pain from the chemotherapy would have a legacy undreamed of.)

    So it was just two years into her treatment, June 30, 1994 Kay was told her case was essentially terminal and the only realistic hope was to slow the cancer down. Desperate, Kay and I immersed ourselves in researching alternatives a field little known to us.

    On July 12, 1994, she started on the Cartilade brand of shark cartilage to the tune of 60, and later, 90 grams per day - half taken in two oral doses and the remainder by two retention enemas. (Later, January 4, 1995 she changed from Cartilade to the Benefin brand.)

    After about one week on cartilage, her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms disappeared. The cartilage regimen, although time-consuming and with a taste hardly ambrosial, continued its apparent work with the elimination of an abdominal pressure that had dogged her for months. But strangely, the effects of the chemotherapy kept resurfacing in ever-increasing crescendos. The CA-125 tumor markers, meanwhile, took a roller coaster path but, thankfully, slowly downward.

    By March of 1995, with the addition of acidophilus to her diet, the digestive upsets subsided and things were looking up.

    Then, a head tremor "no doubt caused by the chemotherapy" resulted in a MRI "just to be sure." Our biggest jolt to date came when told that a 4centimeter tumor was pressing against her brain stem. "It has to come out immediately. It's virtually certain to be a metastatic tumor and may be impossible to excise completely...but the procedure should buy some time," her doctor said.

    Kay, an elementary teacher and myself a high school teacher, both retired...Kay 61 years old and I 65, had had the most thoughtful moments of our 42 year marriage in those long and heavy hours. Kay didn't have to say, "Everything failed" for her thought found its mark and I knew she usually was right in such matters.

    Should we give up and let nature take its course? Kay was scheduled to go to the hospital at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday March 25, 1995 and a close neighbor came by the night before and she and I debated the issue as Kay slept. Nevertheless, Kay and I arose early for the hour-long drive to the hospital. In the car, Kay started to discuss funeral arrangements and in a fit of discomfiture I whispered, "I think it's working." She obliged by remaining silent the rest of the way.

    While slumped in the waiting room, I pictured the dignified surgeon skipping out and announcing, "Well, guess what? No tumor!" But it didn't happen that way. Instead, midway through the 7hour procedure, his nurse came out and told me the brain tumor was encapsulated and probably benign. "Just relax," she said. The tumor was a meningioma with no atypia and the operation was a complete success (although, curiously, the head tremor remains).

    At this time, March 23, 1995, Kay had gone off shark cartilage for fear its strong anti-angiogenic power might interfere with healing. (Because of more surgeries to follow, she remained off shark cartilage for a considerable time, taking bovine cartilage instead.)

    Soon, the old pains returned with a vengeance and she was hardly able to eat and losing weight. A surgical probe August 8, 1995 revealed an extensive abdominal infection involving the pancreas and antibiotics were administered. After a few weeks, her gallbladder was removed. Again, no cancer was found.

    On October 4, 1995 she underwent a three-hour operation to free her intestinal tract from the adhesions caused by past chemotherapy as well as to search for any malignancy. No malignancy was found. Corroboratively, a second onocostint scan had been negative.

    But before the end of 1995, another leg blood clot formed and segments made their way to her lungs and once again she was against death's door. Meanwhile, her arthritis symptoms remained at bay with the continued ingestion of the bovine cartilage, but then her tumor marker started inching up.

    In January of 1996, Kay returned to taking shark cartilage (65 grams of Benefin daily) while still remaining on bovine cartilage (VitaCarte).

    I can't say what this all means but her tumor marker is going down again and she is feeling almost as good as she did before the cancer. Clouding the issue even more is the fact that she had been taking other supplements, including herbs, vitamins and minerals. Significantly, she has been off of all conventional cancer treatments including tamoxifen and megestrol since march of 1995.

    Having become more conversant with alternative medicine, I take it personally when scientists argue about maintaining patents and keeping possible treatments behind sealed agreements. If it hadn't been for Dr. Lane's persistence and penchant for publicity, I doubt that Kay would be alive today.  Has anyone for any reason the right to keep a potentially lifesaving, nontoxic treatment under wraps? I'm sure you understand why I don't think so. She is standing in front of me.

John V. Bevan, Ed.D.



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