Czech Hospital Testing Banned Cancer Therapy
By Justin l'Anson Sparks
PRAGUE (Reuters Health) Jun 06
A Czech hospital is undertaking human trials with controversial cancer treatment known as "devitalisation" in the face of a government ban on the technique and questions about its efficacy and safety.
Devitalisation, the invention of Czech surgeon Dr. Karel Fortyn, involves ligature of arteries and veins to and from tumours or parts of affected organs, without removal of the tumour.
Before his death last year, Dr. Fortyn launched a media campaign to champion his technique. As a result of numerous television programmes, one of which claimed that Dr. Fortyn cured a man of advanced stomach cancer in 1957, there is widespread public interest in the affair.
The Czech health ministry last year initiated trials in patients with stage 4 melanoma and metastatic colorectal cancer but halted them after only 6 months.
The ministry's trials were primarily designed to test the validity of Dr. Fortyn's claims that necrotic tissue created in primary tumours through devitalisation caused an immune reaction that prevented and even eliminated metastases.
Full details have not yet been published, but the ministry of health has added devitalisation to its list of "unlicensed" treatments.
Professor Jan Dvoracek of the Ministry's research department recently informed the country's most respected medical journal, Zdravotnicke noviny, that 80% of patients who underwent devitalisation operations had died since the trials were halted last October.
"Provisional results have suggested that leaving decomposing tumours in the body simply causes infection and allows cancer cells to spread," added Petr Kubicek, spokesman for the Czech Medical Association. "That is why human trials have now been banned."
But at least one clinic, the private Horska Krkonoska hospital in the town of Vrchlabi, is continuing with its own human trials of the technique.
The hospital's director, Dr. Vladimir Dryml, has vowed to continue with his trials come what may.
"The Ministry's human trials last year were flawed because they were badly documented, not properly coordinated, and individual cases were not properly followed up, which is why after all this time they still cannot provide us with the facts and figures," he told Reuters Health.
Dr. Dryml has not given any detailed information about his patients. "Devitalisation has the ability to cure metastases, and while I'm not going to go into the range of cancers I'm currently treating, I can say that I currently have a female patient who was given days to live and who is still alive after a month," he said.
The Ministry of Health has acknowledged that it is powerless to enforce any immediate end to the hospital's unlicensed programme.
A Ministry spokesman, Otakar Cerny, said: "It's true that we haven't taken any formal measures against the hospital, but that is partly because our lawyers are still uncertain about what our legal position is."
A central tenet of Dr. Fortyn's theory revolves around his claim that when left to necrotize in the body, malignant tumours do not cause other complications.
His findings were based on experiments carried out on healthy sections of the colon, inguinal node and kidneys of pigs, which after "devitalisation," atrophied and became fibrous but did not cause septicaemia.
One of the surgeons who was involved in the ministry-sponsored human trials, at Bulovka hospital in Prague, Dr. Frantisek Antos, told the Zdravotnicke noviny journal that his patients did develop infection, and experienced an acceleration in the spread of the disease.
The Ministry's decision to stop the human trials has also been strongly supported by Professor Terezie Fucikova, who is responsible for analysing the immunological data.
"I'm not going to leak any details about the trials, but let's just say this is a technique I wouldn't want to have myself and which I wouldn't advise anyone else to undergo," she told Reuters Health.
In spite of such gloomy reports, supporters of the technique are un perturbed. According to the Czech Patients' Union, a network of surgeons and hospitals is continuing with the human trials.
"I can confirm that such a network exists and that we are keeping patients informed about where they can get the treatment," Lubos Olejar, president of the Union, told Reuters Health.
"All operations and results are being documented for eventual publication when the time is right, alongside other 'sanitised' paperwork which is being kept to satisfy insurance companies and keep the Czech Medical Association happy."
We actually do not know anything else about this therapy, BUT it just sounds exactly like the way the U.S. used to handle "unaccepted" or "unconventional" therapies.
We will try to follow this and see if it is a valid, useful idea.
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