Dana Farber and Testing 714X

From Boston Herald

Cancer survivor rips hospital's refusal to test drug `cure'

by Michael Lasalandra

Monday, April 2, 2001

Billy Best, who ran away from home seven years ago to avoid continued chemotherapy treatments at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is healthy today and credits an unapproved drug called 714-X for beating Hodgkin's disease. And he's angry that Dana-Farber shut down a laboratory test of the drug once hospital officials found out it was linked to a controversial Canadian biologist.`

`They seem to think the only things in the world that work are the things they've got there,'' said the 23-year-old Brighton man.A lawsuit filed against Dana-Farber by the company that distributes the drug contended that lab studies performed by one of the institute's researchers, Lili Huang, in 1999 showed ``positive chemokine reactivity.

''The suit, which alleged breach of contract, contended that, as a result of the initial test results, Huang ``was hopeful that a formal collaboration . . . could occur, culminating in a publication of the results in some reputable journal.

''But the study was abruptly shut down soon after the initial tests were done after Huang was advised by Dana-Farber to ``cease all communication and involvement'' with the drug company, the lawsuit says.

In court documents filed in response to the suit, Huang contended that ``there was no evidence at that time that the sample had the desired chemokine activity'' and said additional tests were needed.She said the company had misrepresented itself to her, telling her that the drug had been used in clinical trials in Canada and Japan and had led to a more than 50 percent remission of cancers in subjects.

The unapproved drug contains mineral salts, camphor and a variety of trace elements. It is injected directly into the lymphatic system.The suit was settled out of court last summer, and a confidentiality agreement prohibits each side from discussing the outcome. The suit sought the return of the drug samples and the test results.

The drug's inventor, Gaston Naessens of Quebec, is controverial, having been convicted in Europe of unlawfully practicing medicine in 1965.However, 714-X is allowed to be used in Canada under a compassionate use program for patients with no other options.

Best's mother, Susan Best of Pembroke, now sells Essiac tea, another alternative treatment that her son uses. She says there are many cases of patients being cured using the two.Billy, who now sells skateboards and works in the kitchen of a restaurant, ``is doing great today,'' his mother said. `

`He's six years cancer-free.''cw-2But she can't understand why Dana-Farber or any other conventional cancer hospital won't jump on the 714-X bandwagon.``This is a very promising treatment,'' she said. ``Dana-Farber knows it cured Billy and another patient of theirs.''But Steve Singer, spokesman for Dana-Farber, said no clinical trials using 714-X had been condicted on humans and neither were there any tests done on animals.``We're not aware of any clinical trials that have proven the safety or effectiveness of 714-X,'' he said. ``We're not aware of any scientifically proven benefit.''

Singer conceded Dana-Farber is conservative when it comes to alternative treatments, but said the institute is not against testing such therapies if they appear promising.He said DFCI has recently opened the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Complementary Therapies and is now writing grant applications to get funding to test some alternative medicines.

Singer also said that DFCI investigators have found that a highly touted herbal supplement, PC-SPES, may be effective against prostate cancers that don't respond to conventional hormone therapy.In a study in the January issue of the journal Urology, researchers led by William Oh tested the supplement in a group of men with advanced prostate cancer.

They reported that in 20 of 23 patients receiving PC-SPES, blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) dropped an average of 40 percent. PSA levels are a marker for the strength of the prostate cancer and the effectiveness of treatment.

Dr. David Rosenthal, medical director of the Zakim Center, said in an internal DFCI newsletter that he welcomes the results of the study, but emphasized the need to subject herbal remedies to rigorous scientific study.

``There are many anecdotes that herbal combinations work, but that's not enough,'' he said. ``You have to prove the claims.''

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