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US seeks homoeo pill for lung cancer

Habibur Rahman, 23, was diagnosed with brain tumour in 1997. Since he couldn’t afford the expensive surgery, which the doctors at a series of hospitals told him might not be successful, he turned to homoeopathy. He’s been off medication for the past five months, and a recent CT scan shows no tumour. He’s happy to be alive, with minimal costs and no surgery.

It is cases like his that prompted a US government-run health institute to sign an MoU with a city-based homoeopathy clinic, to document case studies of homoeopathic treatments on lung cancer patients. In town on Friday was oncologist Jeffrey White, director, office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CCAM), National Cancer Institute, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, to announce the collaborative project with the Prasanta Banerji Homoeopathic Research Foundation. Homoeopathy, by US law, is not accepted as treatment, but the successful results of numerous cases at the Elgin Road clinic has induced a probe.

It all began in 1995, when Banerji was invited to speak about his treatment of brain tumour cases at an international oncological conference. There followed research at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas, published last year in the International Journal of Oncology. In 1996, Banerji and son Pratip paid a visit to the office of alternative medicine, at the NIH, in Maryland. After four documented case-study presentations to the Best Case Series programme at the CCAM in 1999, the institute’s interest was piqued enough to choose the Banerjis for a two-and-a-half-year project.

“It involves documenting the medical history, treatment, changes in the tumour and quality of life of 30 lung cancer patients at the clinic, which will be done by an official recruited by us,” explained White. “The reason we chose lung cancer patients is because it is one of the more frequent types and is easy to follow up on in terms of tests. The advantage here is that patients are exclusively undergoing homoeopathic treatments. In the US, it is done along with chemotherapy, surgery, allopathy and radiotherapy, so we have no way of knowing which one is actually working.”

With 18,000 cancer patients on their register and about 60 added each day, the Banerjis say it is time to accept homoeopathy as “a viable scientific treatment for the modern world”. If the study is successful, both parties hope it will attract the attention of the medical community for further research and, possibly, clinical trials in the US. As for White, he says in the past five years, there have only been four instances of alternative cancer therapies at the CCAM worth pursuing — one dietary and two others in chemotherapy, in the US — and “the Banerjis’ was the most interesting”.

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