“Can We Honestly Justify The Continued Use of Chemotherapy?”

Back in February, Dr. Block participated in an extended version of Robin Daly’s Yes To Life (yestolife.org) radio show on UK Health Radio. Titled “Pioneers in Integrative Oncology,” Dr. Block was selected to participate as one of 6 panelists who “have made a hugely significant contribution to the evolution of cancer care, paving the way for much of what is now accepted as good integrative practice.” The other participants were Dr. Bernie Siegel, Ian Gawler, Ralph Moss, PhD, Petrea King and Michael Lerner.

To listen to the show in its entirety, please visit:  https://yestolife.org.uk/radio_shows/pioneers-of-integrative-oncology/

Dr. Block had the opportunity to address 3 questions. We will post a transcript of each of those questions here on our blog in the coming week. This first question will be answered in two separate posts.

We’re starting with a question that is getting asked more frequently and one that Dr. Block was pleased to see included in this interview, as it speaks to why we believe – and the science supports – that a truly integrative treatment plan is a patient’s best option to achieving a full and enduring recovery.

Robin: “As our knowledge of epigenetics and nutrigenomics expands, it becomes increasingly clear that the DNA damage inflicted by some conventional treatments has the potential to significantly accelerate growth and repair pathways in ways that may be undesirable in people with active cancer. While my practice currently focuses on helping clients make the most of integrative care, I find myself wondering if our evolving understanding of cancer behaviour has arrived at a point where chemotherapy in particular may be considered to harm more people than it helps. Can we honestly justify its continued use?”

Dr Keith Block – It’s actually a fabulous question. It’s a very complex question because as chemotherapy is more often than not utilised, I would embrace the question as a legitimate question because of the level of toxicity, the limited use as a single tool in context of the multi-layered system that we understand today. It would be hard for me to believe that any one or two or even three bullets would be enough to hit the 50 or 500 bullseyes that make up the biology that’s driving malignancy. Our medical model has been fixated for way too long, specifically in this idea that we’re going to find a magic bullet, a silver bullet that’s going to knock down just the right bullseye and everything else is going to follow.

The only exception to what I’m talking about is immunotherapy and some of the newer drugs and newer approaches with regards to immune treatments can have a multi-targeted impact, even though it might be one drug that’s given, it’s working with multiple arms of the immune system that can have a rather profound effect. But the problem here is that so far it works in amazing ways, but only in a very small number of patients.

I would argue that this speaks even more aggressively to integrative care because we know from a number of randomised controlled trials, gold standard research that if we get the microbiome diverse, if we get those bacteria having dozens and dozens and dozens of cousins, that diversity will drive up the effectiveness of immunotherapy markedly. If we get rid of agents and strategies that actually narrow our diversity of our microbiome, it does just the opposite. If we get rid of them, we enhance. Examples of that are tricky because sometimes it’s life threatening, sepsis or pneumonia or some infection that has to be treated with an antibiotic. But we know that antibiotics as well as probiotics, not prebiotics; as well as probiotics narrow diversity. Fermented foods, high fibre diets, healthy diets, cashews, Jerusalem artichokes, for reasons that we don’t fully grasp and understand, drive up favourably diversity. There’re things that we can do to really influence this from the perspective that you asked the question.

Additionally, and maybe from my perspective much more importantly, the real question about chemotherapy may be solely the way it’s currently given. That said, science first shows, most importantly, that incomplete chemotherapy reduces survival. If you get significant side effects, the classic thing doctors do is drop dosing or delay treatment or widen the interval between treatments, all of which diminishes outcome, shrinks survival. Well documented in multiple studies. There’s a breast cancer study that was done several years ago, almost 500 patients with early-stage breast cancer. Of those patients where they received 25% to 30% fewer treatments because of quality of life and toxicity from adverse effects, those patients were unable to complete their treatments or they delayed it, they had shorter survival. It was rather pronounced, and I would argue that it’s a no brainer.

Integrative treatment approaches improve quality of life. They reduce toxicity. They allow patients to complete full courses of treatment. The data speaks for itself that it improves outcome and survival. What we know and what the research shows is that anything that leads to the need to reduce treatment dosing, anything that leads to a delay in the interval between treatments, interrupted treatment schedules, or anything that leads to a patient abandoning mainstream treatment, leads to shorter survival and worse outcomes.


In Part 2, Dr. Block will explain how the timing of the administration of chemotherapy (chronotherapy) – particularly in the context of an individualized, comprehensive, integrative treatment regimen – can improve treatment tolerance, have a profound impact on patients’ response to treatment, enhance clinical results, and boost overall survival.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *