Get Involved
About Us
Our Members
Cancer and Natural Medicine.
by John Boik. 1995. Oregon Medical Press. B/W illustrations. 315 pp. ISBN 0-9648280-0-6. $45. Available from ABC BookStore #B161.

This is not a good book, it is a great book. While it has its flaws and is not the first or last book on this subject, it definitely raises the standards in this field by several notches. If this volume became required reading for all oncology health care practitioners and researchers at the National Cancer Institute, then we would likely see major improvements in the quantity and quality of life for many cancer patients.

The author, John Boik, has amassed an astounding collection of peer-reviewed scientific literature on natural ways to treat cancer. As impressive as the content is the author's unassuming background. Mr. Boik is an acupuncturist with no formal training in either oncology or research. Though Boik expresses his appreciation in the acknowledgments to various talented professionals for their editing and insight, in an E-mail discussion he told me that in a two-year period of research the book almost wrote itself. Yet he has created the new benchmark in the field of rational cancer treatment. I don't like the terms "alternative," "non-toxic," "complementary," or "holistic" because of their pejorative implications. Based on the risk to benefit to cost ratio, our health care system should select the most rational therapy available, be it surgery or an herb. Cancer and Natural Medicine helps to define rational cancer therapy.

There have been other examples of intelligent people making contributions outside their area of expertise, such as Maxwell Maltz, M.D., plastic surgeon, and his advancements in psychology through "psycho-cybernetics." Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to look at the puzzle in a completely unique way. In my 11 books, I have learned intimately the plodding tenacity necessary to finish a book of substance and quality. Yet, my efforts pale in comparison to the effort invested by John Boik in Cancer and Natural Medicine.

This is a complete technical manual on understanding the cancer process and how natural agents may be able to prevent, slow, or reverse the cancer continuum. The intended audience is clinical and scientific professionals and intelligent lay persons with a scientific background. This tome will never hit the New York Times bestseller list, but offers a solid contribution in the arena of proof that natural therapies for cancer merit more research and clinical use. There are no frivolous and ungrounded cure-all statements used in this text. The author takes the viewpoint of an optimistic skeptic, not endorsing any products or therapies beyond their due.

Organization is logical and easy to follow with a manual-like outline. Beginning with an introductory section on cancer incidence and mortality, Chapter One is summarized: "Cancer accounts for 24 percent of all deaths in the United States and approximately 40 percent of the population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime." The obvious but unstated implication is that, given the epidemic proportions of cancer, we need to pursue some of the natural methods listed in this book.

General sections of the book include: cell cycles of normal versus cancer cells, angiogenesis (making of blood vessels to feed the tumor), invasion, metastasis, humoral factors (hormones, eicosanoids), acid/base balance, an exceptional overview of the immune system and agents that can influence it, conventional treatments of cancer along with associated mortality data, Chinese medicine, botanical agents, dietary macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), dietary micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), dietary non-nutrients (phytochemicals, flavonoids, protease inhibitors), other natural agents (i.e., DMSO, cartilage, enzymes), physical and psychological therapies with an extensive appendix that includes herbal formulas, survival data on numerous cancers, and an overview of research design.

Now that I have raved on about its numerous merits, let me point out some flaws and omissions. Bear in mind, given the triumphant accomplishment of Boik, I feel a little like the first critic to view the Pyramids of Egypt. Omissions include: vitamins K and B-12 (especially in conjunction with vitamin C), and chromium as anti-neoplastic agents; food and breathing influence on venous pH; immuno-suppressants of sugar and omega-six fats, heavy metals and volatile organic chemicals from agriculture and industry; rationale and methods of detoxification; marijuana (Marinol) and its relief of the nausea induced by chemotherapy, and pivotal works from Jaakkola, Hoffer, Foster, Carter, and other researchers on the synergism between allopathic and naturopathic cancer therapies.

The author's handy summary of cachexia (tissue wasting) is flawed with the statistic, "cachexia is responsible for 4 to 23 percent of all cancer related deaths." Actually, other experts, including Grant, put the number at 40-67 percent. In his discussion of EPA (eicocosapentaenoic acid, primarily from fish oil), Boik mentions that 6 25 grams of pure EPA would be necessary to achieve cachexia relief. It would be valuable to include a "relevant interpretation" of this number for the patient or practitioner. Given an 18 percent concentration of EPA in high quality fish oil, that would mean an adult cancer patient with cachexia would have to take up to 138 capsules of fish oil per day to achieve this effect. Maybe not too practical. Boik's conclusion that hydrazine sulfate "has no effect on cachexia and may even lower the quality of life" was contradicted in several unmentioned double-blind trials by Heber and Chlebowski at UCLA. Urea is listed in the "less promising natural agents" section, though urea has dramatically improved outcome in liver cancer patients, a lethal malignancy.

Once again, this is a fabulous book. My copy is already riddled with yellow highlighting, Post-it(TM) notes, and dog-eared pages. Given the $37 billion 25-year "war on cancer" that has been called "a medical Vietnam" by Stanford president Dr. Kennedy, we need to explore options in the treatment of cancer. The "big three" of chemo, radiation, and surgery have failed to make any progress in the outcome of poor prognostic malignancies, including those of pancreas, liver, brain, lung, melanoma, colon, advanced prostate, and breast.

John Boik has put forth a Herculean effort in gathering this invaluable work. If implemented widely, then Boik's work will be partly responsible for a more enlightened approach to cancer treatment.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Patrick Quillin