30 April 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Sustainable and healthy fish – Fishing for answers.

Thought for the Day

Our children need to be taught how to think
Not what to think

If you do choose to eat fish, which ones are the best – for you and the environment?
For non-vegetarians, fish have health benefits courtesy mostly of their Omega 3 fatty acids, and are one of the best protein options. However, most of us are alert to the vexed issue of contamination of our fish and other seafoods by pollution, as well as the sustainability and environmental problems of overfishing and damaging fishing practices.

It is claimed that currently 70% of the world’s fish species are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. It is a scary thought to know the best estimates are that if current trends of overfishing continue, stocks of all fish currently being commercially fished will collapse by 2048. The question then, is what fish are best to eat?

Can you help? I have been researching what follows for the revision of You Can Conquer Cancer, which is nearly complete. To my knowledge the information is accurate. Does anyone know anything else that warrants inclusion? How easy is it to understand? One issue to be clear on, is that if you do choose to eat healthy, sustainable seafood, there are a number of issues to think through. However, once you do make the time to do this, you can eat with a clearer conscience.

Please feel free to share this with family or friends who are interested in the question, and add comments as usual at the end of the post.

Seafood -what to do?

1. Say no to farmed fish

The trend towards increasing aquaculture, the farming of fish, makes sense in theory, but does not seem to have the right answers as yet in practice. Most people are unaware that commercially farmed salmon are genetically modified to become what are called tetraploids; that is, they have a double set of genes so they grow faster. Then they are fed on other fish; a practice that is very inefficient and damaging to other fish stocks. It takes 2 to 4 Kgm wild fish to produce 1 kgm of farmed salmon. While increasingly vegetable proteins are being used for feed, these result in lower levels of the valuable omega 3 fatty acids in the salmon. Seaweed may be a more viable food source for fish farming, but that remains to be seen. Also, disease is emerging as a major issue amongst intensively reared fish. Increasingly, significant amounts of antibiotics are being used to manage infections (as happens continually in the intensive rearing of chicken).

So wild caught fish are preferable, but which ones?

2. Know where your fish came fromthe further out to sea and the less polluted the waters the better.

Fish that are caught in more remote areas away from built up areas and heightened pollution are obviously preferable. So choose fish that live further out to sea, that are the deeper sea varieties, and come from less polluted areas and countries.

3. Choose the smaller species rather than the big predator fish. 

Pollutants accumulate as you go up the food chain. For example, it is well known sharks accumulate heavy metals and the mercury levels in big fish can be very toxic.

4. Check out what the sustainable fish are in your area.

This is a regional as well as international issue and the need is to check your local conditions. In Australia, a good guide is found on the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s website:

The Marine Stewardship Council has developed a certification system that mostly shows up on packaged seafood and features a distinctive blue MSC label. See their website: has a very user-friendly list of sustainable seafoods, with reasons for the various listings and practical preparation tips.

5. Avoid the unsustainable fish and those that may also have health issues.

Again, say no to farmed fish

Say no to wild caught

Barramundi, Blue Grenadier, Cods, Garfish, Gemfish (Hake), Gropers, Murray Cod, Orange Roughy (deep sea perch), Shark, Snapper, Marlin, Swordfish, Toothfish and Tuna (unless troll, pole or line caught).

6. Fish that are probably better avoided, but not so bad:

Blue Eye Trevalla, Coral Trout, Flathead, Gunard, John Dory, Kingfish, Ling, Mulloway, Red Emperor, Red Mullet, Red Snapper (Redfish) and Silver Trevally.

7. Fish that are OK to consider:

Wild caught Bonito, Bream, Eel, King George Whiting, Leatherjacket, Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Mullet, Tailor, Trevally and Whiting.

Imported canned salmon and sardines are usually OK.

8. Avoid scallops from the wild.

9. Seafood that is best to avoid, but not so bad:

Lobster and Prawns (farmed prawns are likely to be better environmentally).

10. Seafood that is OK to consider:

Farmed: Abalone, Oysters, scallops and Blue mussels.

Wild: Blue swimmer crabs, mud crabs, squid, calamari and octopus.

All this information may seem a little imposing at first, but it is like many things. Take your time to think it through. If you are planning to eat fish, find out what is available locally, where you can get healthy, sustainable seafood, develop a good relationship with your supplier, and then it is easy and satisfying.


If you are well and you do choose to eat fish, avoid farmed fish in the main and eat the smaller, sustainable wild fish varieties that come from non-polluted areas. Only eat seafood occasionally. For those dealing with major illness and on the Healing Diet, fish and other seafood is probably preferably avoided until you are in remission.

1. Melbourne workshops now open for bookings through the Gawler Foundation
                 Saturday and Sunday May 26th and 27th at Hawthorn

                                The Mind that Changes Everything

A highly experiential day based on the latest research as well as ancient wisdom. Understand more about how the mind functions and how we can use more of its extraordinary potential. A gentle blend of theory and practice, with many led sessions of meditation and imagery, along with ample time for questions and discussion.
Click here for more details and bookings.

2.    Gratitude -and a balanced comment on the “diagnosis” controversy.

I wish to express my gratitude for all of you who have offered support to me personally and my work generally during these turbulent last few months. If you have not been reading the comment sections on this blog, they are worth a look as many people have spoken of the benefits received through the work and it is very inspiring - particularly the many comments on the "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition" and last week's "Too good to be true?"

Here is another great letter:

 “I am an allied Health professional who has survived a serious cancer. For three years following initial medical diagnosis and two recurrences of cancer, I resisted looking into the Gawler approach.

I had not shifted from the medical model paradigm that I had been professionally trained in and based my life around. The medical model generated my income, my status, and gave me a highly regarded community to belong to. My ego was inextricably intertwined with all the positive things I personally gained from staying aligned with the medical paradigm. Can this happen with Oncologists as well?

When I was still strictly aligned with the medical paradigm, I really believed it was right to not foster "false hope,” in medically defined ‘incurable’ or ‘low prognosis’ situations. If clients questioned such medical predictions, I could easily label and dismiss this as their denial. I didn't have to think too much about it.

It took a very personal and big experience to challenge this thinking.

This was cancer. Once I did look into the lifestyle approach, I found it strongly life affirming and health giving. Since making changes as per the Gawler lifestyle program, I have survived for a further three years without recurrence. It has given me control over my wellbeing, and made an enormous positive difference to my outlook. I see that this positive change is linked closely with physical health.

I wish to offer my support to Ian and others with cancer experiences, as we face this assault to the lifestyle approach. I am also deeply grateful for the considered and courageous responses to these unhelpful assaults, from Ian and others.

I will meditate and hope that those feeding this assault will reflect and realign with more ethical action. Is there a way that those attacking can change their strategy and save face?”

From a deeply grateful survivor."


Books   You Can Conquer Cancer

CDs  Eating Well, Being Well: The plant-based, whole food way of eating that is ideal for those who are well and that forms the starting point for those dealing with major illness, including cancer.

Eating for Recovery: The anti-cancer diet that includes how to get at cancer metabolically.

Programs: The Gawler Foundation where at the residentials the food is legendary - putting these principles into really tasty meals.

23 April 2012

Too good to be true?

Thought for the day:
Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world, even if it is not true.     Richard Bach, Illusions

A lifestyle based MS program that over 5 years results in 30% better outcomes than conventional treatments.

Too good to be true?

Surviving secondary osteogenic sarcoma for well over 30 years using an approach based upon Integrative Medicine.

Too good to be true?

Leading lifestyle based cancer self help groups for over 30 years.

Too good to be true?

The Age newspaper has written another feature questioning my cancer diagnosis under the heading, you guessed it, “Too good to be true”. I guess this is better than having a heading “too awful and inconsequential to be bothered with”, but perhaps what the title does reflect is the real issue.

Too good to be true. That is the sort of statement you make when your belief system is challenged, when you cannot believe something new is real and actually effective. As human beings we have this powerful tendency to accept things that reinforce what we believe in and to reject everything that conflicts with our point of view.

I suggest we are moving towards the end of a major paradigm shift in medicine that has been in progress for the last couple of decades. A paradigm is a prevailing set of assumptions, and medicine is slowly but steadily adjusting to the fact that the public wants to be more empowered when it comes to making decisions around their health choices, and they want a more integrated, more holistic approach. I contend Haines and Lowenthal are attacking because they represent the old ways of medicine and so far have been unable to adapt and move with the times.

So in this latest Age article I wonder how much of the old paradigm affected the journalists’ judgment? I was amazed that they did not include a quote they had access to from the surgeon who removed my lung in 2004. Professor Peter Clarke, an eminent, senior surgeon and authority on TB said “If he had had widespread TB rather than recurrent osteosarcoma he would be dead. I have no doubt he had localised TB secondary to impaired resistance after chemotherapy leading to a focus of destruction in his left lung with recurrent opportunistic infection requiring resection of the diseased lung. If he had generalised TB it would have affected both lungs.”

Neither did they report a medical historian from Yale, Dr Kathryn Irving, who wrote to the Internal Medicine Journal (IMJ) and said that the Haines and Lowenthal article “written about an episode that occurred more than 30 years ago, can best be explained by some oncologists’ discomfort with losing their authority to dictate patient choices” and that “Haines and Lowenthal’s mission to debunk Gawler’s cure runs the risk of sounding like a paternalistic attack on a therapeutic competitor”. (Unfortunately, this article is only available to subscribers of the IMJ so it cannot be linked to).

However, earlier in the week The Age did run another story featuring a GP who has changed his mind. Dr Rod Anderson also wrote to the IMJ saying he had experienced melanoma himself and had recommended people with cancer to the Gawler Foundation for many years. However, now he believes I did not have secondary cancer, that no one has recovered after going to the Foundation, and so now he will stop his recommendations.

Logically, and rather unfortunately, we have to conclude that Rod Anderson is either incompetent or a fool. Here is why. Having recommended his patients, competency would require him to follow up and seek feedback. If the feedback from people going to the Foundation was bad, he needed to stop recommending. If he did not obtain feedback, he is incompetent. If the feedback was good, which would explain him continuing to recommend patients over many years, and yet now he stops because of what happened to me over 30 years ago, he is a fool. As far as I know, Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin, was an exemplary man. But if 30 years after penicillin had come on the market, his history had been found to be flawed in some way, would we have said penicillin was useless and should be withdrawn from the market? I do not think so! Only a fool would suggest that.

Further, Anderson has not read, or has chosen to ignore “Inspiring People” and “Surviving Cancer”, two books that recount the stories of many people who have attended Foundation programs and survived against the odds. I have a deep concern for patients of this man who now may miss out on being recommended to significant help because of his limitations.

And this is the real problem. What of the people with cancer? Where are they left amidst all this controversy?

It has been said that new ideas that challenge old paradigms go through four stages. First they are ignored; then ridiculed; then attacked; then taken as being self-evident.

It has been tough being attacked over my personal history, but any concerns readers feel need to be focused on those vulnerable people, both patients, family members, friends, doctors and other health professionals who may be adversely swayed by the attacks of Haines and Lowenthal.

There is a real need for those of us who believe in the integrated approach I represent, and that the Gawler Foundation teaches, to speak up wherever we can and to be advocates for this approach. That is why I continue to speak up on this. It will be good to meet with Melbourne supporters at my weekend workshop in May - see below.

So what does all this say of The Age? Why are they running so hard with this? Why are they giving space to someone like Anderson, and leaving out the voices of Clarke and Irving?

It is a strange world we live in. That is true, but I am not sure it is too good.


1. Melbourne workshops now open for bookings through the Gawler Foundation
                 Saturday and Sunday May 26th and 27th at Hawthorn

                               The Mind that Changes Everything

A highly experiential day based on the latest research as well as ancient wisdom. Understand more about how the mind functions and how we can use more of its extraordinary potential. A gentle blend of theory and practice, with many led sessions of meditation and imagery, along with ample time for questions and discussion.
Click here for more details and bookings.

2. Griefwalker – a challenging but rewarding exploration of death. A film available online.

A universal experience whether or not we can admit it, death is the sole counterpart to life. From the moment we take our first breath, death is our only guaranteed experience. This is something Stephen Jenkinson, a Harvard educated theologian and one of Canada’s leading palliative care educators, not only understands but something he loves. And he wants you to feel the same way. Jenkinson insists that in order to love life, we need to love death. Captured with a cinematic eye, this lyrical, haunting documentary exhibits an unparalleled understanding of mortality. Worth a look.


BOOKS  You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler

                 Surviving Cancer  Paul Kraus

CDs   The Gawler cancer program  Ian Gawler

           What to do when someone you love has cancer  Ian Gawler

PROGRAMS  The Gawler Foundation

18 April 2012

TB or not TB – The Age gives me a voice

After another article printed in The Age Monday 16th debating whether I did or did not have secondary cancer, or whether it actually was TB all along, happily they accepted and printed my reply as an Opinion piece. Here is the link. They called it "Article an insult to doctors who diagnosed my cancer'.

But there is more! I am being interviewed again today for another feature on the story scheduled for the Saturday Age. It is amazing how much interest this is generating.

This is a good time to be sending letters to the editor as they are taken seriously and can help to inform opinion. Also, maybe this is a good link to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter - if you are on it!

This is an extra blog for this week; scroll down if you have not already seen the main blog that explains why you may be paid to meditate.

Also, I have added with permission a comment that seems to warrant wider readership than maybe just in the Comment section:

I recently saw the report on ACA featuring cancer survivor and integrative medicine advocate, Ian Gawler and a Dr Lowenthal, an oncologist.

I have to say that I am dismayed and appalled at, as I understand it, the apparent lack of acceptance by too many allopathic practitioners of all that cancer patients can do for themselves beyond allopathic medicine.

When I was diagnosed over 3 years ago with systemic metastatic renal cell carcinoma, I felt very much in an information vacuum. Treatment options open to me included neither surgery nor radiotherapy, and whilst chemotherapy had in the past shown mediocre success with mRCC, a relatively new drug, Sutent, albeit with unrelentingly unpleasant side effects, was showing promise. The options are few, and 'unfriendly'.

Oncology offered me at that difficult time no advice of integrative therapies, of the importance of taking control, emotional health optimization (especially combating fear and demystifying cancer), the importance of relaxation techniques, meditation, healing visualization/imagery, exercise and breathing, spiritual connection, vegetarian & optimization of diet (beyond a 'balanced' one - whatever that is??), nutritional juicing, eradication of toxins (dietary and emotional), consultations with empathetic 'holistic' GPs, positive hope (in recognition of the real evidence of many thousands of 'spontaneous' remissions of diverse cancer types and stages within Australia and around the world), and the valuable literature and audio bank out there describing how greatly cancer patients can assist themselves! I had to find that out myself over the past 3+ years.

I began my quest with Ian Gawler's program and follow it to this day, plus some refinement appropriate to my personal circumstances. Suggesting that Ian Gawler's recovery was due to fringe procedures such as coffee enemas and psychic surgery is like saying Easter is actually about chocolate eggs and Christmas is about Santa - it completely misrepresents the true story.

I cannot fathom the purpose of detractors of integrative treatment models. Bolstering public faith in traditional allopathic medical treatments? Pointless, unless cancer patients are voluntarily opting out, which, since options are limited and their hopes are sky high, would not be so. Dismantling 'false hope'? No such thing. So why deny cancer sufferers tentatively hopeful confidence invested in an integrative treatment model, and benefits that may derive from it. Why discredit Gawler's vital work and its proven benefits, and, thereby, that of others like him (witness the books, 'Surviving Cancer - Inspiring Stories of Hope and Healing'; 'You Can Conquer Cancer'; 'You Can Beat The Odds'; 'Living Simply with Cancer'; 'Life, Happiness and Cancer' and many other survivors' accounts - in which the common theme is patient willpower, control, determination, open-mindedness, and, ultimately, success!). Allow us the hope, if not of complete remission, if not of tumour regression, if not even of stability, at least allow us the hope of the human spirit in trying!

Neither oncology, not its allopathic god, indeed nobody, yet has a cogent answer for the occurrence of so-called 'spontaneous' remissions. That traditional allopathic medicine could be still so rigidly shackled to its marvellous yet limited science, and allow absolutely nothing beyond it (actually, I suspect many allopathic practitioners are swaying toward integrative mind-body wisdom) including by cancer patients themselves, is more than, as Gawler said in the ACA report, 'disappointing', it, in my opinion, is disturbingly myopic. Certainly, it is terribly disheartening to vulnerable cancer sufferers needing to, with great hope, courage and determination, put all options, allopathic and otherwise, 'on the table' for intelligent scrutiny. Easily accessible patient information is vital.

Cancer treatment, it seems to me, needs to go beyond the current traditional linear model of assessment–diagnosis–treatment–outcome. A more collaboratively linear/lateral approach, embracing integrative treatment strategies would actually support conventional treatment models and, more importantly, would markedly benefit patients.

16 April 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: How long before you are paid to meditate?

1.Meditation is associated with 30% health cost reductions over 5 years.

2. GPs strongly support the use of meditation

3. Over 6,000 research articles support the use of meditation

4. Meditation produces physical changes in the brain

Thought for the week

At the end of the talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, "Why didn't you fight back against the Chinese?" The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, "Well, war is obsolete, you know " Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he said, "Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back...but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you."

There is not one but four delightful, fresh roses on the table. They are glorious buds; a superb pink, and they smell divine. I am sitting having lunch at my old place of work and marveling once again at the attention to detail. Ruth and are leading a meditation retreat at The Gawler Foundation’s Yarra Valley Living Centre and my mind turns to wondering how long it will be before people are paid to come to these programs?

At the moment our participants have paid their own way; a relatively modest amount and one hopes they receive good value for their money. But think of this. If the Government wanted to save significantly on the health budget; if the health funds wanted to be more profitable or be able to afford better services, paying people to meditate may be one of the most cost effective things they could do!

Results of a large 5 year study published last year in the American Journal of Health Promotion (see ref 1 below) compared meditators who were matched for age, sex and place of residence with an equal number of non-meditators.

The results? After the first year, the TM meditators’ expenditure on doctors had decreased by 11%. After 5 years, the regular meditators (about 20 mins twice daily) had reduced their cumulative health costs by nearly 30%. That is quite a reduction. As you might expect for people getting older, over the 5 years the non-meditating group’s expenditure rose.

This study’s findings were similar to earlier ones. In a previous Canadian study, the meditation group exhibited reduced medical expenses between 5% and 13% relative to comparison subjects each year for 6 consecutive years. In a subsequent Canadian study of senior citizens, the meditators’ five-year cumulative reduction for people aged 65 years and older relative to comparison subjects was 70%.

In a sample of American health insurance enrollees, TM participants had reduced rates of illness in all disease categories. An eleven-year, cross-sectional study in Iowa found that subjects age 45 and over who practiced the TM technique had 88% fewer hospital days compared with controls. Their medical expenditures were 60% below the norm.

“This latest article has major policy significance for saving Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits or raising taxes,” said Robert Herron, Ph.D., the study’s author. The study suggests that it may be possible to make significant health cost savings, and to increase the health and wellbeing of the whole community by making meditation available for Medicare and health Fund rebates.

But would doctors support meditation being used more widely? Based on the widespread acceptance of meditation by General Practitioners we can be reasonably confident they would. A survey of nearly 500 GPs published in the Medical Journal of Australia (see link below – ref 2) found that over 80% had referred patients to meditation practitioners and 34% had actually trained in meditation.

The authors of this research concluded that these findings generate an urgent need for evidence of these therapies' effectiveness. That was 12 years ago and things have certainly moved on.

In 2012, over 6,000 studies in the scientific literature (ref 3) demonstrate how powerfully meditation enhances our health, prevents illness, facilitates healing and leads to a heightened sense of wellbeing.

But is there evidence that meditation leads to physically detectable changes? Well yes, there is that too. Another recent break-through study has indicated that an 8 week meditation program can change brain structure!

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The study, published in the journal of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, (ref 4 ) is the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter. The meditators in this study averaged 27 minutes of practice each day.

"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, the study's senior author. "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

The analysis of MRI images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.

Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.

None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.

So posting this blog was delayed due to last week’s A Current Affair report. Ruth and I did relish the retreat. The participants seemed happy enough to have paid, but I wonder how long it will be before Government and/or the health funds begin to provide incentives for meditation?

There is a great deal of evidence to support the notion that meditation may well be the best self help measure any of us can practise. Actually, meditation is worth paying for; in fact, it is a bargain!


1. Herron, RE: Changes in Physician Costs Among High-Cost Transcendental Meditation Practitioners Compared With High-Cost Non-practitioners Over 5 Years;
American Journal of Health Promotion Sep 2011, Vol. 26, No. 1 pp. 56-60

2. Pirotta MV et al; Complementary Therapies: Have they become accepted in general practice? MJA 2000; 172(3): 105-109

3. A complete bibliography on published meditation research is kept up-to-date and publicly available at:

4. Hölzel B K et al; Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36

BREAKING NEWS - The Age again!

What is going on at The Age? There is another article in today's paper 16/4/12, questioning my cancer diagnosis. Anyone who feels to respond with a letter to the paper would be welcome. 


1. Women’s retreat in Bali:  “Opening New Horizons” with Robyn Jones.

June 18th-22nd in Ubud, Bali.

Robyn is an old colleague – well not that old; just we worked together for many years and I have a lot of respect for her; she is an experienced Gawler Foundation group leader of many years standing.

Robyn is leading this retreat that is specifically designed to help develop and practise meditation, refocus, move forward and honour your potential with daily relaxation, Qi Gong and yoga; to feel nurtured and to experience Balinese massage and body therapies in the supportive company of like-minded women.

Enquiries:; 03 59671116

2. Bookings now open for Brisbane - 14-17 June at the Relaxation Centre

I will be presenting a series of talks and workshops at the Relaxation Centre from the 14 – 17th June. There is a special day workshop for health professionals and others on “Understanding death and helping the dying” on Friday 15th – similar to the one I presented at the Happiness conference – a day all about dying well!  Thursday night on food and nutrition, the weekend on “The mind that changes everything “, with mindfulness, meditation and the power of the mind. Link here for bookings.



BOOK    Meditation - an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

CD   Meditation - A complete guide

DVD  Meditation live:  Ian Gawler

07 April 2012

The Spanish Inquisition comes to A Current Affair

Channel 9’s A Current Affair has chosen Good Friday to air the program they recorded featuring myself, Prof Ray Lowenthal and two wonderful women who are currently attending a cancer group I facilitate at the Gawler Foundation. Many thanks to Sandy Dean and Ruth McGowan who communicate very well.

On the program, Lowenthal claims there is no evidence at all that I had secondary cancer. That is an extraordinary and outlandish statement given all the clinical evidence and medical investigations carried out at the time, and imaginably it is deeply disturbing to my treating doctors who did all that was necessary at the time to investigate, confirm and help treat my cancer. Lowenthal was not one of my treating doctors, nor did he speak with them or examine their original records. What a cheek !

Lowenthal claims my recovery 35 years ago, from what by any estimation was a major, life threatening illness, was due to the fact that I had TB, not cancer, and that the TB was successfully treated with anti-TB drugs. However, as well as completely disregarding the evidence of my diagnosis, he also knows I definitely did have chemotherapy. He seems to overlook the fact that chemotherapy is seriously immune suppressive, and if I only had TB, the chemotherapy would have caused me huge complications and almost certain death. By contrast, I had no significant adverse reaction to the chemotherapy and clearly am still alive. Being a chemotherapist himself, I wonder why Lowenthal has overlooked this fact as well.

But Lowenthal does reveal a disturbing possibility. Unfortunately, there may still be sections amongst the oncology world that are antagonistic to patients being self-empowered and using self-help techniques. Lowenthal obviously prefers to attack me personally rather than accept the fact that many cancer patients, like myself are really interested in and committed to what is best described as Lifestyle Medicine.

Lifestyle Medicine is not about giving herbs or charging large fees, but focuses on empowering people and helping them to mobilize their own healing resources through things like good nutrition, exercise, healthy emotions, positive thinking and meditation. These things are clearly low cost, non-patentable and readily available.

Lifestyle factors are recognized as being therapeutic in heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes, and we have recent groundbreaking published evidence of their major benefit in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. Why are they not commonplace in cancer medicine?

Lowenthal’s claims are dangerous as they have the potential to turn needy people away from significant benefits.  That is why I agreed to appear on this particular TV program.

Lowenthal’s attitude is disappointing in that I have been committed to this work for over 30 years, and I had hoped that by now the integrative approach that is observable in many aspects of modern medicine, would have been more fully supported in cancer medicine.

Is Lowenthal alone in his views, or is he representative of a deeper issue? Many doctors I know have told me they have been embarrassed by him. However, maybe the discussion he is provoking will lead to better clarity around these issues, and some real progress. Maybe we will even get some research into long term cancer survivors and the methods they use. Now that would make for a good program!

For more explanation from me re these extraordinary claims, click on the relevant recent blogs:

1. Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

2. And another thing

3. More on the Inquisition

3. MS – can you believe this?

To check the ACA program Click here. Please consider leaving a comment – both on the ACA website and on the Comment section below.

02 April 2012

Cancer, immunity and survival

Who said the immune system was useless in cancer medicine? Is a biologically elegant, one drug answer to cancer possible?

For years we have known some people have experienced medically unexpected, remarkable recoveries from difficult cancers. How these recoveries have occurred has received very little mainstream attention.

More than this, one popular notion, that a reactivated immune system may be behind these recoveries, was for many years denied as being even remotely possible by leading immunologists and oncologists. They claimed that the immune system did not have the capacity to identify cancer cells, and therefore could not, or would not attack them. I suspect there would be very little of that vehement denial these days as immunological principles, research and therapies have become better explored and implemented.

Also, recent ground- breaking new research points at a remarkable new possibility. A one drug answer to cancer. Well at least the theory sounds good, and here is how it would work.

Basically cancer is triggered by specific genetic damage. All healthy cells have what are called oncogenes and when these particular genes are damaged, and the cells that contain them reproduce, instead of producing another healthy cell, they produce a cancer cell.

Now if you think about it, cancer cells are pretty useless. They are primitive in their nature, they have no purpose or function, they grow out of control and would be of little consequence except for the fact they tend to get in the way and as such have the potential to be fatal.

What cancer cells do have going for them is their ability to convince the body’s defence system that they are not to be attacked.  Essentially, cancer cells have the ability to camouflage themselves from our immune systems. Without this protection, they would be identified as the problem they are and destroyed quickly and effectively.

This destruction would be very similar to what happens when we are faced with a bacterial infection. When foreign bacteria enter our bodies, the immune system recognizes the potential threat, is activated, destroys the bacteria and returns us to good health.

If the immune system and other components of the body’s defence system could detect and recognize cancer, it could and would act swiftly. So having a strong immune system is the starting point, but then getting past the camouflage is the vital issue.

Exciting new research published in January this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has demonstrated that a single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumours that have been transplanted into mice. The treatment, an antibody that blocks the cancer cells’ ability to conceal themselves, enables the immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

How is this possible? Ten years ago it was discovered that leukemia cells produce higher levels of a protein called CD47 than do healthy cells. CD47 is also displayed on healthy blood cells where its function is to block the immune system from destroying them. The breakthrough has been the discovery that all the cancers tested so far use CD47 to camouflage themselves from the immune system. The research indicates that the amount of CD47 a tumour made could predict the survival odds of a patient, while blocking it could lead to an immune system inspired recovery.
In mice, blocking CD47 with an antibody cured some lymphomas and leukaemias by stimulating the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as invaders. But the new research suggests that the CD47-blocking antibody may have a far wider impact than just blood cancers.
To determine whether blocking CD47 was beneficial, the scientists exposed cancer cells to macrophages, a type of immune cell, and anti-CD47 molecules in artificial tissue culture mediums. Without the drug, the macrophages ignored the cancerous cells; with it the macrophages engulfed and destroyed cancer cells from all tumour types.
Next, the team transplanted human tumours into the feet of mice, where they can be easily monitored. When they treated these mice with anti-CD47, the tumours shrank and did not spread to the rest of the body. In mice given human bladder cancer cancer, 10 of 10 untreated mice had cancer that spread to their lymph nodes. Only one of 10 mice treated with anti-CD47 had a lymph node with signs of cancer. Moreover, colon cancers transplanted into the mice shrank to less than one-third of their original size, on average. And in five mice with breast cancer tumours, anti-CD47 eliminated all signs of the cancer cells, and the animals remained cancer-free 4 months after the treatment stopped.
Although macrophages also attacked blood cells expressing CD47 when mice were given the antibody, the researchers found that the decrease in blood cells was short-lived; the animals turned up production of new blood cells to replace those they lost from the treatment.
Cancer researcher Tyler Jacks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge says that although the new study is promising, more research is needed to see whether the results hold true in humans. "The microenvironment of a real tumour is quite a bit more complicated than the microenvironment of a transplanted tumour," he notes, "and it's possible that a real tumour has additional immune suppressing effects."
Another important question, Jacks says, is how CD47 antibodies would complement existing treatments. "In what ways might they work together and in what ways might they be antagonistic?" Using anti-CD47 in addition to chemotherapy, for example, could be counterproductive if the stress from chemotherapy causes normal cells to produce more CD47 than usual.
The research team has received a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to move the findings from mouse studies to human safety tests.
So that is something of the science and the potential for a new drug. In the media we hear of so many potential new cancer breakthroughs that eventually come to nothing. This one sounds very exciting to me.
But even more exciting, what if some of the remarkable survivors had found a way to mess up their CD47? What if their meditation or imagery disrupted it? What if something they ate or drank did the job. How good would it be if people who are living much longer than expected had their CD47 levels checked?
And what if these survivors were triggering other biologically elegant mechanisms to turn the tables on their cancers? What if they were producing angiostatins that prevented cancers from developing a blood supply and so starved them to death? What if their meditation somehow switched their faulty oncogenes off? What if… ???
Surely people who stand out, people with cancer who do live much longer than expected warrant investigation. It amazes me how many people I have helped who became long-term survivors and went back to their doctors feeling quite elated, only to be told they must have been misdiagnosed. I was one of them. This response seems to me to be intellectual laziness of the highest order, but it is probably worse. It probably reflects a negligence and lack of commitment to true scientific enquiry that is both scarey and dangerous. Scarey because true science advances when unexpected phenomena are investigated, and dangerous because if the survivors’ experiences could be reproduced, less people would die of the disease.
Clearly what is needed is a dedicated research body that looks into the phenomena of long-term cancer survivors. At the same time, such a body could give attention to the outcomes of lifestyle based programs as these programs are associated with so many remarkable recoveries. All we need is a few million dollars to get it going!
To link to the research paper, click here.
1. Chemotherapy appears safe for pregnant women’s babies.

Pregnant women and their doctors can be reassured that chemotherapy does not appear to have long term effects on children prenatally exposed to the treatment, according to research published in the Lancet Oncology.

Dutch and Belgian researchers looked at 68 pregnancies subjected to over 230 cycles of chemotherapy, assessing the children at birth and at regular intervals up to the age of 18. They tested for neurological, cognitive, auditory and cardiac functioning as well as school performance, sporting activities and general health.
 “We show that children who were prenatally exposed to chemotherapy do as well as other children,” the authors concluded.
The study could reassure pregnant women and their physicians the benefits of maternal treatment did not seem to be outweighed by any long-term consequences for the exposed fetus.
Prevalence was expected to rise in developed countries as women give birth later, but prognosis was in general not affected by pregnancy, and with the exception of haema- tological cancer, termination was unlikely to improve prognosis either.
The full paper: The Lancet Oncology 2012; doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70363-1

2. Website update
My personal website, is currently being upgraded, so some of the old features are not yet visible. In the next few weeks, the Information section will have advice for people with cancer and MS, as well as research findings and Frequently Asked Questions. Please pardon any inconvenience, but the new website looks much better, will have more information and will be easy to navigate and use.
Surviving Cancer by Paul Kraus – stories of long–term survivors who attended Gawler Foundation programs – very inspiring and informative.

The Gawler Cancer Program by Ian Gawler – in which I explain how cancer develops, including looking at how the oncogenes can be damaged and what happens after that, then how the body can be helped to reverse the process.