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Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly.

Read the full article on the National Cancer Institute website.

Chemo “therapy”?

While chemotherapy is in common use, it should be noted that it is highly toxic and many doctors question it’s efficacy. Here we look at some of the dangers and a few possible ways to reduce the side-effects.

Caution: Chemotherapy kills

This study by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK looked at more than 28,364 women with breast cancer and 15,045 patients  with lung cancer who underwent chemotherapy in 2014. Of those treated 1,974 died within 30 days. The research was published in The Lancet Oncology in September 2016.

Chemotherapy is not as effective as claimed

This study entitled Lessons from a century of cancer chemotherapy, found:
“… the results of over a half-century of clinical trials have shown that the therapeutic approach of combined/dose-dense chemotherapy has not been successful in achieving its primary purpose, which is the induction of long-term disease-free survival in the majority of patients with systemic disease”.

This study Paradoxical effects of chemotherapy on tumor relapse and metastasis promotion concluded: In several tumor types, chemotherapy has so far demonstrated an overall unsatisfactory potential to counteract and control metastatic dissemination even when a partial or complete response has been achieved at the primary tumor site.

1. SEF Chemo: New treatment with no side-effects?

Berkeley Institute International is treating patients with SEF Chemo – a new treatment that is reportedly side-effects free. Here is some info from its website: For decades, doctors and researchers have been trying to figure a way—without success—to deliver chemo agents directly to cancerous cells without harming healthy tissue. Dr. Matsumura, and his team of dedicated scientists at the ALIN Foundation…developed a novel method in their use that produced a powerful new therapy without the dosage-limiting side effects of cancer drugs. While normal cells are protected, cancer drugs can be employed in higher doses to eradicate the dividing cancer cells not protected by the antidote.

Where conventional chemotherapy may destroy only 60% of cancer cells in the body, SEF Chemo®, using a side effect-reducing medicament, may destroy 95% of cancer cells…See SEF Chemo page

2. Low-dose chemotherapy achieved the same desired potency as conventional-dose chemotherapy.

This meta-analysis of 6 Randomized Controlled Trials says:
Six randomized controlled studies (RCTs) have provided data for low-dose chemotherapy versus conventional-dose chemotherapy for 838 cases and 833 cases, respectively. Interestingly, low-dose chemotherapy achieved the same desired potency as conventional-dose chemotherapy…Moreover, low-dose regimen seems to possess a positive advantage of lower toxicity which would exert a peculiar fascination for most patients. Thus, in routine practice, clinicians should bear the low-dose setting in mind, especially for frail individuals.

Low dose chemotherapy can be better than or as efficient as maximum tolerated dose.

Study: Chemotherapy is the main treatment for cancer; however, a conventional schedule based on maximum tolerated dose (MTD) shows several side effects and frequently allows the development of drug resistance. On the other side, low dose chemotherapy involves antiangiogenic and immunomodulatory processes that help host to fight against tumor cells, with lower grade of side effects. In this review, we present evidence that metronomic chemotherapy, based on the frequent administration of low or intermediate doses of chemotherapeutics, can be better than or as efficient as MTD. Finally, we present some data indicating that noncytotoxic concentrations of antineoplastic agents are able to both up-regulate the immune system and increase the susceptibility of tumor cells to cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Taken together, data from the literature provides us with sufficient evidence that low concentrations of selected chemotherapeutic agents, rather than conventional high doses, should be evaluated in combination with immunotherapy.

3. How effective is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy and other cancer drugs don’t prolong life for most patients.

As Dr. Ralph Moss (see Dr Mercola article below) points out, chemotherapy is used effectively to treat Acute Iymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and nonseminomatous testicular cancer. Also, a few very rare forms of cancer, including choriocarcinoma, Wilm’s tumor, and retinoblastoma. – but these only account for between 2% and 4% of all cancers.

Here is the list of those cancers and the percentage of chemotherapeutic effectiveness:

Source: Hope, Medicine & Healing (Available in bookshops)
By Francisco Contreras MD and Daniel E. Kennedy MC

Choriocarcinoma 90%
Burketts Lymphoma (stage 1) 90%
Testicular Carcinoma (stages 2-4) 95%
Childhood carcinomas (with rad/surg) 70% – 90%
Nodular Mixed Lymphoma 75%
Childhood Lymphomas 75%
Diffuse Histcocytic Lymphoma 70%
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia 60%
Hodgkins Lymphoma (stage 1) 95%
Hodgkins disease (stages 3-4) 60%

Update: The Childhood Cancer Study has demonstrated that among adults treated for cancer during childhood, late effects contribute to a high burden of morbidity, including the following:

Many medical oncologists recommend chemotherapy for virtually any tumor, with a hopefulness undiscouraged by almost invariable failure!”

Dr Albert Braverman MD, Professor of Oncology, State University of New York.

4. Proof that cancer patients’ increases in survival is not ‘because of better drugs’

A study published in 2018 in JAMA Oncology found that colorectal cancer patients who improve their diet and lifestyle survive longer with a 42 per cent reduced risk of death than those who do not make the changes. This is way beyond anything drugs have to offer…and with only positive side effects!

The Failure of Cancer Treatments

Source: People Against Cancer
The inescapable conclusion is that in the existing paradigm, there is no incentive to cure cancer – only to treat it.
In response to claims by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the excellent effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments, Dr. Dean Burk, serving as head of the Cytochemistry Division of the NCI, addressed a letter to his boss Dr. Rauscher, which stated, “I submit that a program of FDA-approved [chemotherapy] compounds that yield only five-to-ten percent ‘effectiveness’ can scarcely be described as ‘excellent,’ the more so since it represents the total production of a 30-year effort on the part of all of us in the cancer-therapy field. Even that five-to-ten percent effectiveness,” he adds, “is suspect, possibly being more than offset (in the majority of patients who do not benefit from chemotherapy) by shorter survival and lower quality of remaining life occasioned by the (widely acknowledged) great toxicity of nearly all approved chemotherapies, most of which, are capable of causing cancer in their own right.”

Chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival

A 14-year study The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies published in Clinical Oncology in 2004 explored the contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to five year survival in 250 000 adults with solid cancers from Australian and US randomised trials. An important effect was shown on five year survival only in testicular cancer (40%), Hodgkin’s disease (37%), cancer of the cervix (12%), lymphoma (10.5%), and ovarian cancer (8.8%). Together, these represented less than 10% of all cases. In the remaining 90% of patients—including those with the commonest tumours of the lung, prostate, colorectum, and breast—drug therapy increased five year survival by less than 2.5%—an overall survival benefit of around three months.
Study Results:
The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.
Study Conclusion:
As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival…

Study Authors: Graeme Morgan, Department of Radiation Oncology, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, NSW; Robyn Ward, Department of Medical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW; Michael Barton, Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Liverpool Health Service, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

5. Dangerous side-effects of Chemotherapy and other cancer drugs

Chemotherapy can cause very serious adverse effects – including death.

Breast Cancer drugs Paclitaxel and Herceptin can cause fatal lung disease.

On 16 July, 2019, The Worthing Herald reported on the case Cecilia Francis, known as Celia, died at Worthing Hospital from lung disease induced by the chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and herceptin, which she was given as ‘add-on’ treatment for breast cancer, on October 28 last year.

An inquest into her death, held at Crawley Coroner’s Court on Friday, July 12, heard that the 61-year-old of Furzeholme, Worthing, had not been informed that pnemonitis, an inflammation of the lungs, was a potentially life-threatening side effect of these drugs in the literature from cancer charities that she was given at hospital.

This 2017 study shows that Paclitaxel promotes the spread of cancer cells to the lungs.

One dose of 5-FU chemotherapy can kill you if you have a DPD enzyme deficiency.

5-FU (5-fluorouracil) includes the following brand names:
Carac Tolak
Xeloda (Capecitabine)

This meta-analysis published in 2019 by The American College of Cardiology, reported that cardiovascular disease symptoms and heart attacks were observed in as little as 12 hours of intravenous infusions of 5-FU. Toxic reactions also include heart failure, seizures, and coma.

Dihydropyrimidine Dehydrogenase (DPD) is the liver enzyme largely responsible for deactivating and detoxifying more than 80% of 5-FU from the body. Without the DPD enzyme, fluorouracil-based drugs (5-FU and capecitabine) continue to poison the body indefinitely, resulting in overwhelming toxicity, collateral damage, and for some, agonizing death.

There is a blood test to check for the DPD enzyme deficiency, but most cancer patients are not given this test, or even told about it, before they are given 5-FU.

There is also an antidote to 5-FU poisoning called Vistoguard (uridine triacetate), but it must be given within 4 days, and it is very expensive.

More studies showing the dangers of chemotherapy
A study published in The Lancet (Sept. 2016) found: Out of 28,364 patients with Breast Cancer who received Systemic Anticancer treatment (chemo), 700 died within 30 days of treatment start date. Out of 15,045 patients with Lung Cancer who received Systemic Anticancer treatment, 1,274 died within 30 days of treatment start date. Some of these patients died of disease progression or from other causes.

Read the full article in Lancet Oncology

This study published in 2017 says chemotherapy “ may increase cancer cell dissemination and induce a more aggressive tumor phenotype with increased metastasis.”

Breast cancer patients initially treated with tamoxifen have a twofold increased risk of uterine corpus cancer, with particularly high risks seen for rare tumors of the mixed mullerian type.

Platinum-based chemotherapy for ovarian cancer increased the risk of leukemia three- to fourfold, and risk rose with increasing cumulative doses to reach eightfold.
Source: Second Cancers – Landmark Studies (The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute.)

This study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), concluded: Although palliative chemotherapy is used to improve QOL [Quality of Life] for patients with end-stage cancer, its use did not improve QOD for patients with moderate or poor performance status and worsened QOD for patients with good performance status. The QOD [Quality of Life near death] in patients with end-stage cancer is not improved, and can be harmed, by chemotherapy use near death, even in patients with good performance status.

Press Release issued by the US National Cancer Institute:

Study finds elevated risk of certain rare blood cancers after chemotherapy for most solid tumors

The study concluded: We report an increase in the number of patients with elevated risk for developing tMDS/AML [Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Acute Myeloid Leukemia] after cancer chemotherapy in the modern treatment era. … Although the absolute risk of developing tMDS/AML is low, its treatment is often resource intensive and associated with substantial morbidity; overall survival is poor, highlighting its clinical significance.

This study found:
Large-scale, United States population-based data demonstrate excess tMDS/AML [Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Acute Myeloid Leukemia ] risks following chemotherapy for nearly all solid tumor types, consistent with expanded use of known leukemogenic agents in the 21st century. ..Overall survival following tMDS/AML diagnosis was poor (1270 of 1619 patients [78.4%] died; median overall survival, 7 months). For patients treated with chemotherapy at the present time, approximately three-quarters of tMDS/AML cases expected to occur within the next 5 years will be attributable to chemotherapy.

Ulrich Abel, PhD, of the University of Heidelberg, is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on chemotherapy.
In the 1990s, he conducted a study on the benefits of chemotherapy. He reviewed several thousand publications and sought the views of oncologists in over 350 clinics before publishing his results. Here’s what he found:
“With few exceptions, there is no good scientific basis for the application of chemotherapy in symptom-free patients with advanced epithelial malignancy”.

In his book Chemotherapy of Advanced Epithelial Cancer , he stated: “There is no evidence for the majority of cancers that treatment with these drugs exerts any positive influence on survival or quality of life in patients with advanced disease”

Speaking in Stuttgart in 1990, he stated:
“The success of most chemotherapies is appalling. There is no scientific evidence for its ability to extend in any appreciable way the lives of patients suffering from the most common organic cancer. Chemotherapy for malignancies too advanced for surgery, which accounts for 80 percent of all cancers, is a scientific wasteland.”

This 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) concluded:
This systematic evaluation of oncology approvals by the EMA in 2009-13 shows that most drugs entered the market without evidence of benefit on survival or quality of life.

This study entitled Lessons from a century of cancer chemotherapy, found:
“… the results of over a half-century of clinical trials have shown that the therapeutic approach of combined/dose-dense chemotherapy has not been successful in achieving its primary purpose, which is the induction of long-term disease-free survival in the majority of patients with systemic disease”.

Risk of stroke

This study concluded: although this study does not provide definitive proof of a causative role of chemotherapy in ischemic stroke, a relation is suggested by the short interval between administration of chemotherapy and the occurrence of ischemic stroke. The risk of ischemic stroke after chemotherapy is predicted by the use of cisplatin-based chemotherapy, the first 10 days after chemotherapy, the first cycle of chemotherapy, but not cancer histologic type. The infarct is usually located in the middle cerebral artery and cardiovascular risk factors are not common.

This study concluded:
The Quality of Life near Death in patients with end-stage cancer is not improved, and can be harmed by chemotherapy use near death…

Chemotherapy worsens outcomes in Stage II colon cancer patients.

This study followed 453 stage II colon cancer patients over a two year period following diagnosis. The study authors concluded:
In this study, stage II colon cancer patients who received chemotherapy treatment were more likely to have poor quality of life, recurrence, and all-cause mortality after 24 months compared to those who did not receive chemotherapy.

While chemotherapy is effective for a very small number of cancers (testicular cancer and childhood leukaemia), this 2017 study shows that a review into more than 1,200 published articles found that

In general, cancer survivors are also more likely to develop long term conditions, such as heart problems, lung scarring, secondary cancers and frailty. They will also get age-associated illnesses sooner than the general population, the analysis suggests.

The researchers say much of the illness and accelerated ageing is down to harsh treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which damage the body’s ability to fight back from illness and repair itself.

Some cancer drugs were also found to be associated with hearing loss, reduced thyroid gland activity, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, muscular weakness, arthritis, kidney and liver diseases, chronic constipation, and infertility.

While ageing prematurely is a better alternative to dying prematurely, the use of effective non-toxic treatments would, obviously, be a far better approach.

…in most cases a patient’s survival depends on whether he dies from the side effects of chemotherapy before the chemotherapy kills the cancer, or vice versa

The Economist

Chemo can cause cancer to return

This study states:
Interestingly, rates of tumor cell repopulation have been shown to accelerate in the intervals between successive courses of treatment, and solid tumors commonly show initial responses followed by rapid regrowth and subsequent resistance to further chemotherapy. Our results indicate that damage responses in benign cells comprising the tumor microenvironment may directly contribute to enhanced tumor growth kinetics.

Most cancer patients in this country die of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy does not eliminate breast, colon, or lung cancers. This fact has been documented for over a decade, yet doctors still use chemotherapy for these tumors.

Allen Levin, MD, UCSF — The Healing of Cancer

New Study Delivers Another Black Eye for Chemotherapy

Article Source: GreenMedInfo.com
Saturday, July 8th 2017 at 3:45 pm

Written By: Jefferey Jaxen

What if chemotherapy actually helped to spread cancer? Many within the medical and research communities are becoming emboldened to speak out against outdated and failed healing modalities still in use today.

UK Headlines were made in 2015 when a study in the British Journal of Cancer was published claiming 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Two years later on June 20, 2017, a report titled Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017 released by the Canadian Cancer Society stated for males, the lifetime cancer risk is 49% and for females it is 45%.

Another study showing the dangers and ineffectiveness of chemotherapy has just been published and it has gone viral. The study titled Neoadjuvant chemotherapy induces breast cancer metastasis through a TMEM-mediated mechanism was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine describing how chemotherapy could allow cancer to spread, and trigger more aggressive tumors. By studying the process of intravasation, or entry of cells into the vasculature, the study’s authors discovered that chemotherapy, in addition to targeting tumor cells, can also increase intravasation. The authors found that chemotherapy increased groups of cells known as tumor microenvironment of metastasis (TMEM) which collectively usher tumor cells into the body’s vasculature. The study discovered that several types of chemotherapy can increase the amounts of TMEM complexes and circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream. Why is this important? The chances of survival dramatically decrease once cancer begins to metastasize through the bloodstream and effect other organs and systems.

Is the recent study the only one painting chemotherapy as a dangerous treatment option? In 2016 a groundbreaking study was commissioned by Public Health England and published in the journal Lancet Oncology. The study represented the first time that national data has been gathered together and analyzed for 30-day mortality after chemotherapy. It found that a larger proportion of patients are actually dying after chemotherapy than in the clinical trials carried out by the drug companies. The death rate in the clinical trials of drug treatments for lung cancer was 0.8%, but in the present study the reality shows it is actually 3%.

What happens when the extended survival rate of chemotherapy as a cancer treatment is studied beyond 30 days? An Australian study published in the journal Clinical Oncology found the contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the US. In fact, the study concluded by stating:

“To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.”

By now, many are beginning to understand that one of the problems with chemotherapy is that it doesn’t address the underlying cause(s) of cancer. Chemotherapy originated from an idea and consciousness that was far from idealistic. The whole generation of chemotherapeutic drugs that are being used today, and there are over one hundred of them, developed from poisonous nerve gas created for warfare. As reported in 2012 by Green Med Info, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the developed world, and yet much of the medical and research communities are still in the dark ages when it comes to treating and understanding it. However, in the age of information, great strides are being made by doctors and researchers who are going against the grain of the failed convention ‘wisdom’ in cancer treatment. In addition, individuals are beginning to take responsibility by educating themselves. GreenMedInfo has been at the forefront with the world’s most widely referenced, evidence-based natural medical resource database containing over 30,000 abstracts and articles.

© [Article Date] GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here http://www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter.

7. A look at just a few of the chemo (and other) drugs commonly given to cancer patients.

The side-effects listed below are only a sample of the full range of side-effects observed. Please see individual manufacturers site for further details.


Generic Name: Trastuzumab
Brand Names: Herceptin
Manufacturer: Roche

Condition or Diseases treated: Breast cancer

Information source: herceptin.com

Boxed WARNINGS and Additional Important Safety Information


Infusion Reactions; Pulmonary Toxicity

Embryo-Fetal Toxicity


Infusion Reactions

Tamoxifen (Nolvadex)

Manufacturer: AstraZeneca
Condition or Diseases treated: Breast cancer
Information source Medicines.ie

Pregnancy. There have been a small number of reports of spontaneous abortions, birth defects and foetal deaths after women have taken Nolvadex, although no causal relationship has been established.

An increased incidence of endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma (mostly malignant mixed Mullerian tumours) has been reported in association with Nolvadex treatment. The underlying mechanism is unknown, but may be related to the oestrogen-like effect of Nolvadex. Any patients receiving or having previously received Nolvadex, who report abnormal gynaecological symptoms, especially vaginal bleeding, should be promptly investigated.

A number of second primary tumours, occurring at sites other than the endometrium and the opposite breast, have been reported in clinical trials, following the treatment of breast cancer patients with tamoxifen. No causal link has been established and the clinical significance of these observations remains unclear.


According to Second Cancers – Landmark Studies: Breast cancer patients initially treated with tamoxifen have a twofold increased risk of uterine corpus cancer, with particularly high risks seen for rare tumors of the mixed mullerian type.

Avastin (Bevacizumab)

Manufacturer: Roche Group
Condition or Diseases treated: Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
Information supplied by: Genentech USA

Possible serious side effects
Most serious side effects (not common, but sometimes fatal):
GI perforation
A hole that develops in your stomach or intestine. Symptoms include pain in your abdomen, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or fever
Wounds that don’t heal
A cut made during surgery can be slow to heal or may not fully heal.

Serious bleeding
This includes vomiting or coughing up blood; bleeding in the stomach, brain, or spinal cord; nosebleeds; and vaginal bleeding.

What are the other possible serious side effects?
% = Percentage of patients who had this side effect in clinical studies across different cancers

Severe high blood pressure 18%
Blood pressure that severely spikes or shows signs of affecting the brain.
Kidney problems 7%
These may be caused by too much protein in the urine and can sometimes be fatal
Infusion reactions 3%
Infusion reactions include high blood pressure or severe high blood pressure that
may lead to stroke
trouble breathing
decreased oxygen in red blood cells
a serious allergic reaction
chest pain
excessive sweating.
Severe stroke or heart problems 2.6%
These may include blood clots, mini-stroke, heart attack, and chest pain.
These can sometimes be fatal
Abnormal passage in the body 2%
This type of passage—known as a fistula—is an irregular connection from one part of the body to another and can sometimes be fatal
Nervous system and vision problems 0.5%
Signs include headache, seizure, high blood pressure, sluggishness, confusion, and blindness

What are the side effects seen most often?
In clinical studies across different types of cancer, some patients experienced the following side effects:

Afinitor (Everolimus)

Manufacturer: Novartis
Condition or Diseases treated: Breast cancer
Information source: Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation


Alimta (Pemetrexed)

Manufacturer: Eli Lilly
Condition or Diseases treated: Non-small cell lung cancer

Information Source: Eli Lilly

ALIMTA can suppress bone marrow function, which may cause low blood cell counts.

Call your doctor right away if you have a fever, chills, diarrhea, or mouth sores. These symptoms could mean you have an infection, which may be severe and could lead to death.

The most common side effects of ALIMTA when given alone or in combination with cisplatin are:

Zoladex (Goserelin acetate)

Condition or Diseases treated: Prostate cancer
Information supplied by: Drugs.com

Less common:


Minor Side Effects

More common:

Less common:

Less common:

See also:
Chemotherapy – how to make it work better and reduce side effects.

Cancer Treatment Options

Updated 2024

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