Vitamin C as cancer treatment – Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial

By Grant Jacobs 20/01/2012 65


In New Zealand we received news some time ago that well-respected physicist Paul Callaghan was trying vitamin C therapy for his cancer. Paul Callaghan is also well-known for his science communication efforts.

News today is that he has reviewed his trial of this treatment. He has been reported as saying he found ’absolutely no evidence’ it worked.

Kate Newton’s article is worth reading – it’s a nice example of clear journalism to my mind. Readers should note the scientific approach taken, measuring the outcome of the treatment, e.g. ’tracking its effectiveness through a blood test for protein carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which indicates cancer levels.’

Of this self-study he is quoted: ’I have, as a result, learned enough to say that there is absolutely no evidence of any beneficial effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C in my case.’

Newton goes on to relate Callaghan’s concern over how advocates of alternative remedies are promoting his efforts.

As an experiment on just one case (Callaghan) it can’t be generalised, but it proceeded through recording the effect on the cancer and concluding from these measurements, rather than the ’it worked for me’ type of anecdote that one often sees related by alternative remedy advocates.

Finally, I wish Callaghan the best of luck with the remainder of his treatment.

Further reading

Some readers may recall I wrote briefly on high-dose vitamin C as a treatment for whooping cough as part of longer examination of IAS spokesperson Michelle Rudgeley’s remarks to a journalist* and similarly earlier for severe pneumonia.**

Footnotes

I saw a suggestion online that there may be radio coverage of this–Paul Callaghan is frequently on Radio New Zealand, so this sounds reasonable–but have been unable to locate this (assuming it exists). If this is case, let me know – it’d be good to add it for readers to hear.

Quick heads-up: if you’re interested in science communication, you want to be following ScienceOnline2012, e.g. via twitter. Be prepared for the sheer amount going on, though.

* Rudgeley has since repeated her claims on the IAS website.

** For (part of) the backstory, see this earlier article looking at the local media coverage.


Other articles on Code for life:

Animating our DNA*

Monkey business, or is my uncle also my Dad?

Haemophilia – towards a cure using genetic engineering

Teaching bioinformatics at high school

What books do you think geeks should read?


65 Responses to “Vitamin C as cancer treatment – Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial”

  • From the article:
    “I’ve been deluged with correspondence from people who have wanted me to endorse products, try products. That was a really negative side.”

    He had seen his name cited in articles promoting vitamin C and said he knew publicity about his experiment had caused other people to try it.

    “In my case, I have done so openly, with the knowledge of my medical advisers, and with the sort of dispassionate scepticism that you would expect of a scientist. I was never advocating this treatment. I was just curious.”

    That reaction was entirely predictable, use for most people does imply some sort of endorsement. And who in the altmed community would pass up the opportunity to point out that a respected scientist thinks enough of the therapy to try it himself?

  • The Science Media Centre has placed a copy of Paul Callaghan speaking to Radio New Zealand (in the Kiwi Summer programme) online:

    http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2012/01/20/sir-paul-callaghan-on-alternative-treatments/

    I’d like to add to the SMC’s words by pointing out that Callaghan’s trialling vitamin C treatment has been touted well outside New Zealand on various ‘alternative remedy’ sites and fora.

    (I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to the radio interview. I will update the article at a later time to include a link to it.)

  • In an online discussion group I belong to the question of health supplements was raised by the sister of young woman recently diagnosed with the rare retinal disorder (azoor) for which there is no known effective treatment, and for which the outcome is uncertain (but it sometimes resolves spontaneously). Fear of blindness was the big underlying worry. This is how the discussion played out:

    Q: Do you think she should start taking vitamins? I just bought her fish oil. Is that good for her, or will it harm her?

    A: People on this group have different views on vitamins and other health supplements. There is no one answer, so it’s important that you and your sister make up your own minds and do what you both feel is best.
    This is my view. I’m sure the fish oil is fine. It certainly won’t do any harm. But I think that the best anyone can do is eat a good healthy balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Including oily fish like salmon in your diet is good too. And don’t forget regular exercise and plenty of rest.
    Mainstream medicine can be very frustrating when it doesn’t have all the answers. But that is usually because nobody has all the answers, and doctors have a duty not to promise more than conventional medicine can deliver.
    Many people turn to health supplements and alternative remedies when they have health problems that mainstream medicine can’t fix because they want to take positive steps to help themselves or their loved ones. While the supplements won’t do any harm, I think they can sometimes make life more difficult. Firstly, because health supplements usually promise more than they can deliver, so you can end up spending a lot of money on something that makes no real difference in the long run. Secondly, worrying about whether the health supplements are working or not (am I better today than I was yesterday, or worse, or the same?) can make you more anxious and worried than you are already. Thirdly, in my experience, purveyors of alternative remedies start circling like vultures when they get the smell of human vulnerability in their nostrils – after talking to alternative practitioners you can end up worrying far more about your health than you need to, and feeling pressured into taking  supplements that you don’t need and which won’t make any difference to your health.
    In my view, those of us who don’t get on the health supplement treadmill probably do just as well as those who do and have more fun while we’re doing it.
    That’s my view. But, as I said, others have different views. You and your sister need to make up your own minds.

    Q: that makes a lot of sense. We’re working on not just her but the whole family eating healthier because of her condition. My family is all for it. Also the doctor didn’t tell her to do anything – just to let it go and see what happens. Is that normal? Shouldn’t she get meds or something?

    A: The doctor is right –  and wise. We’re so used to getting a prescription that it’s surprising when we don’t, but the reality is that there is no known effective treatment for azoor. Anti-virals and corticosteroids have been tried, but there’s no evidence that they work, and since they have side effects that nobody wants you’re better off without them and – as you say – eating a healthy diet and leaving the rest to mother nature. Good luck

  • […] Vitamin C as cancer treatment – Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial | Code for Life Quick heads-up: if you’re interested in science communication, you want to be following ScienceOnline2012, e.g. via twitter . Be prepared for the sheer amount going on, though. * Rudgeley has since repeated her claims on the IAS website. […]

  • Welcome Lynley,

    Sorry I’ve been slow to reply – thanks for your comment.

    While I’m writing: you’ll find your comments will be posted immediately from now on, so do jump in with contributions! (First-time commenters are moderated to weed out spammers.)

  • Lynley,

    I see some similarities with the Phoenix Stafford story being covered by the Nelson media to the situation in the conversation you posted, with the oncologists for Phoenix apparently having said that they cannot do more (at least that’s what has been reported in the media) and the family turning to ‘alternative’ remedies.

    The family are raising funds for ‘alternative treatments’; local media have presented this fund-raising campaign as a feel-good story. I feel a bit torn about the media coverage, considering the treatments they are considering or trying.

    It’s lovely that people are willing to put their time and money in for others, but at the same time you would hope that what the money goes to is for the better. (Some commenters elsewhere to my reading are wanting to speak out but feel unable to say much, presumably for fear of backlash from others; I feel reluctant to say too much here, too.)

    The family say, for example, that they are giving the child a mixture derived from apricot pit kernel (a natural source of cyanide) and that the funds being raised are in particular to pay for an unnamed blood test that is to cost $6000, e.g. from the mother: “we are consulting with a alternative medical practitioner who is helping me with wot phoenix needs ryt now an wen the results cum bk from the blood test he will then direct us to wot he feels will help phe better.” Other treatments they mention are ‘detox’, ‘nutritional supplements’, etc.

  • Alison,

    Yes, that will be the one. From what I’ve read, they’ve been making a home brew take on it, but someone has pointed at a seller of the product and they are looking into that.

    My own impression (readers, note emphasis) is that they family are looking at and trying everything. It’s part of where the conservation Lynley posted struck a chord.

  • Of course the challenge with trying a range of “therapies” is that they could easily make people sicker, or if one were to have a positive effect it would be impossible to tell what it was.
    I think the real danger here is that people are willing to try “natural” remedies because those peddling them use the “because it is natural it can’t hurt you” line which we all know is not true. The idea of using apricot pit kernal (aka natural cyanides) scares the hell out of me because the use of this has caused deaths before due to cyanide poisoning. I’ve been reading up on the history of medicines and this is the sort of stuff they were doing centuries ago – feeding patients various potions etc with no evidence to support their use. It is barbaric.

  • “the challenge with trying a range of “therapies” is that they could easily make people sicker, or if one were to have a positive effect it would be impossible to tell what it was.”

    My thoughts, too. I meant to say this explicitly but am finding this awkward ground to traverse. I was hoping to write something neutral looking at the treatments that they are considering, but the information offered to the public is for the most part is too vague – the apricot pit kernel one is the only one I know of thus far that is precise and well enough defined to comment on. (I have some familiarity with the background of this remedy and medical history, too – but you know that.)

  • Michael,

    one can certainly empathise with the parents. What on earth do you do when doctors tell you they can’t do anything more?

    As I was saying (I hope readers see) – hence the connection to the conversation Lynley posted.

    I have a guess as to what the blood test might be, but I would prefer the parents to say what it is. I don’t particularly like second-guessing, esp. with the situation. (I have to admit that given what this is—best as I can tell—the main reason the funds are being raised for I would have liked to have seen this said clearer than it has thus far.)

  • If the public is being asked to fund tests and alternative treatments, the public has a right to know what those tests and treatments are, and what evidence there is that they actually work. The public also needs to know whether the Mapua GP is behaving ethically.

    I hope a reporter will ask these questions. And how about those of us concerned about the professionalism of the GP draw this case to the attention of the Royal NZ College of GPs, the Medical Council and the Health and Disability Commissioner.

    The online conversation I had about health supplements and vision loss worked out better than I expected. I was really talking to the gallery. I had kept silent when several members of the group had compared their dismayingly long lists of supplements. I saw the question from a new list member as a chance to provide another point of view without putting the other list members down. My correspondent’s positive response was a bonus. It probably helped that I have the same eye disorder as her sister, which gives me the authority of personal experience. Also, in the emails leading up to the question about supplements we’d discussed fear of blindness and desperation and helplessness one feels when faced with ailments for which modern medicine has no answers.

    It’s interesting to read the comments on the online Stuff articles about the Phoenix Stafford case. People are raising questions about the treatment, and the responses show the hazards of doing that – the questioner is seen as a cold-hearted brute who doesn’t care whether the child lives or dies.

    The problem is we’re not just dealing with alternative v. mainstream medicine, we’re dealing with yet another 21st century manifestation of one of the great drivers of human conduct throughout recorded history: fear of death and the quest for enternal life. This is not an area where logic, reason and common sense hold much sway.

    I felt the saddest and most revealing aspect of the Phoenix Stafford story was in the 17 Jan article in the Press headed “No more doctors can do for boy,9″. Almost as an aside, the paper reports:

    ‘The family also had to cope with Phoenix’s great-aunt dying of cancer last year. Up to this point, Phoenix’s spirits had been high.

    “We told him they had different cancers but he was very upset… As soon his great-aunty passed away, he was gone. I found him hiding under the computer, just crying.”

    …. Pidduck said she was not giving up and would now try alternative treatment, which she had not considered before because she had been so confident mainstream medicine would work.’

    Understandable as the mother’s response is, the boy is obvious very unwell and very scared of dying, and his mother’s apparent refusal to face that possibility with him is probably making life much harder for both of them. I just hope there’s someone among their close family and friends who can provide wise counsel as well as support for both mother and child at this devastating time.

  • Lynley,

    Your first paragraph and first sentence of your second paragraph are precisely my thoughts on this (and the approach had thought to take if I were to write an article on the issue – a call for more informed coverage when people turn to public for fund raising).

    Regards the issues of talking about these things, especially on online forums, social politics does reign and not always for the better.

    “ It probably helped that I have the same eye disorder as her sister, which gives me the authority of personal experience.”

    I had quite forgotten that. As a Dunedin local I recall reading something about this in the ODT at some time ago. For what it’s worth, you might be interested to know that I am—apparently!—to host a ‘disability’ themed edition of the Diversity in Science blog carnival some time later in the year. (Not until July or August.)

  • I had a good laugh after reading this blog and most of the comments… Sir Paul trying high dose vitamin C is seen as a “trial” and the fact it didn’t work in his case is evidence it doesn’t work… Yet Alan Smith uses it thanks to the ball of his family and lawyers, and the same peaple call it anecdote and not evidence it works.

    Obviously Sir Paul, one of NZ’s top scientist is a ‘woo-ist’ and when the chips are down will give anything a go… except he didn’t try everything… he tried something that he thought/hoped might work…

    The tragedy is that so-called evidence based medicines has failed to help him much at all…

    Anecdote is anecdote… evidence is evidence… in this case anecdote is claimed to be evidence… in Alan Smith’s case the opposite is the case… how hypocritical!

  • Ron, if you read Sir Paul’s comment carefully he says specifically that there is no evidence that the high vitamin C therapy did not work in HIS case, which is true. There is no presumption that just because high vitamin C use has not worked in his case that it is an invalid treatment. The problem is with people assuming that just because Sir Paul has attempted the treatment that this autimatically means there is some validity in the treatment – something which has not been established.
    I would agree that the choice of the word “trial” is problematic. Usually in medicine I think the observation of a single patient is typically referred to as a case study.
    Glad you got a good laugh out of the blog and blog responses. I find that a bit difficult to do when discussing someone with a life threatening disease.

  • Oops the first sentence above should read “is no evidence that the high vitamin C therapy did work in HIS case”

  • Two comments re Michael’s post… First, Sir Paul’s ‘trial’ of the vitamin C should put paid to any DHB claiming that it is too dangerous to even try HDVC,…

    Second, our adult children have a friend who has had brain cancer for 10 years… he married and has two lovely daughters (4 & 2)… and he was told 3 weeks ago he had four weeks to live (true story!) Our D & SiL have met with the cancer victim and his wife the past three fridays for dinner, to celebrate his life and to have a good laugh… as tragic as death is, my experience is it is those who are not dying who get precious about stopping humour/enjoyment… As tragic as Sir Paul’s circumstance is, why should I not find humour in rabid skeptics using anecdote to make/break and argument?????? I make no apology for that and I don’t believe it is distasteful at all… Sir Paul has done what most people would do and do do… he has grasped at straws in his time of need… no compassionate human being I know would deny him that right… Part of his legacy as a scientist, and a respected one at that, will be that it’s ok to try things in the hope that they might work… and people should not decry them for trying… and doctors should not condemn people to death while denying them that right… any doctor that is that incompassionate should be struck off as arrogant AHs, in my humble opinion…

  • I’d suggest Ron is, as he has frequently done in the past, (opportunistically) lifting out a word then using a different possible meaning of the word to have others have said things they haven’t.

    ‘Trial’ was used in the common-language sense of the word, as in ‘trying something out’, rather than as a short-hand for ‘clinical trial’ (Readers will note I wrote “self-study”, and the penultimate paragraph “As an experiment on just one case […]” Similarly, readers will note the SMC wrote “personal trial”.)

    This seems a(nother) waste of time, another case of Ron trying to create the tit-for-tat that he seems to like to play with.

    It should be clear that neither case can be generalised wider, which is more important – Callaghan pointed this out himself, as I did myself.

    While I consider this a waste of time, a few words on other claims he has made for other reader’s clarity.

    Points can be made without labelling people ‘rabid’, accusing people of things, etc. Ron you have been asked plenty of times to do better, but you persists with this nonsense – it’s got ‘troll’ written all over it.

    “Two comments re Michael’s post… First, Sir Paul’s ‘trial’ of the vitamin C should put paid to any DHB claiming that it is too dangerous to even try HDVC,…”

    You make a generalised statement, but know that the DHB in question was asked to look at one person in one particular situation.

    You are also being logically inconsistent. You just said his case was anecdotal, which among other things means his case can’t be used as evidence supporting wider claims, but now you use his case to support a wider statement.

    “doctors should not condemn people to death while denying them that right”

    You’ve written words to this effect before. Your statement presumes that the remedy not given ‘works’. I can’t see good reason to revisit stuff you have pushed before and it’s not helped by you accusing others of things (your point can be made without that as I wrote earlier).

  • Ron said; ““Two comments re Michael’s post… First, Sir Paul’s ‘trial’ of the vitamin C should put paid to any DHB claiming that it is too dangerous to even try HDVC,…”

    Grant’s response; “You make a generalised statement, but know that the DHB in question was asked to look at one person in one particular situation.”

    Actually, Grant, the DHBs response across the country was to flatly refuse Vit C treatment to anyone… including those with terminal pneumonia… it was not a one-off response at all. The response was to prevent further Alan Smith experiences…

    I’ve never pushed HDVC… only commented about the hypocrisy that its ok for Sir Paul to try HDVC in the HOPE that it might make a difference, but ordinary plebs have been denied that right when asked for the treatment in hospitals.

    Skeptics on these blogs have consistently used anecdote to argue in favour of pet positions, or against in situations they oppose, and then consistently poke the “woo” finger at anyone who disagrees with them… At a personal level, it affirms to me how shallow their arguments/logic is.

  • Ron,

    Sir Paul’s study indicates that the therapy did not work for him, and no doubt has given doctors some ideas about the safety of HDVC. However, aside from his cancer Sir Paul is in reasonable health, so one should not assume that HDVC is safe for all patients particularly those more acutely I’ll than Sir Paul.
    I personally would like to see a clinical trial using HDVC and perhaps this case study will provide doctors with some ideas around doing so.
    With regards to your family friend, I applaude your spending time, and good humour with him. I think life is precious and we should make the most of it. This is ever so more poignant for those who are severely ill.
    Humour is very subjective, so laugh at what you like. However, to me some of your comments are not only inaccurately represent what people have said but also come across in a very sneering way which I find unimpressive and which just contaminates any reasonable discourse here.

  • Michael, this is what I mean about anecdote trumping so-called evidence…

    You say, “Sir Paul’s study indicates that the therapy did not work for him, and no doubt has given doctors some ideas about the safety of HDVC.”

    Over 10,000 intravenous HDVC doses are given in New Zealand every year… over 500,000 in the USA… and you are suggesting that one patient’s use might give [NZ] doctors some assurance about IVHDVC safety?

    I had my tongue firmly in cheek when I commented about safety in earlier post…

    The fact is, so-called skeptics bag anecdote when it suits and use it as prima facie evidence when it suits… just like everyone else in society… calling oneself a skeptic does not make one scientific or even accurate and informative. The bottom line is, Sir Paul did what anyone who wanted to live would do… he tried something in the HOPE that it would work…

  • Here we go again, Grant… censorship!!!! LOL… evidence doesn’t stack up? so CENSOR, CENSOR, CENSOR!!!!

  • Ron,

    You have been told many times I don’t censor – please stop this nonsense of accusing me of this. You know *are* on permanent moderation, this is not censorship and is your own silly fault through your persistent accusations, rudeness to others, etc. And, yes, on occasion I will miss approving a comment – it happens; get over it and stop thinking this blog centres around you.

    FYI I happen to busy with other things – you and you petty song’n’dance routine is a long way down the priority list, so sometimes your comments will be approved a fair time after others comments have come through. You’ll just have to live with it.

    You’re on notice again, usual rules apply.

  • Ron,

    You again demonstrate your inability or unwillingness to understand what others have written.
    No one here is saying that Sir Paul’s case study demonstrates that HDVC works or does not work. So no one is claiming any prima facie evidence. You keep ignoring this point so it is the last time I will bother to make it.
    I simply stated that doctors might learn something from Sir Paul’s case because it was well monitored.
    You continue to confound what is a medical trial, what is a case study and what is an anecdote.
    Anecdotes are stories about a person or event, where evidence is not gathered carefully or objectively, so are typically dismissed as a source of evidence. However, an interesting anecdote could be a starting point to pursue something more evidential such as a case study.
    A case study is a close examination of how a treatment affects a single patient. Because it is monitored carefully some valuable information might arise. However, any such information will not demonstrate conclusively that a treatment works or does not work. It does not provide a prima facie case, as you erroneously suggest that skeptics are implying.
    A medical trial involves multiple patients, is typically double blinded where possible, and attempts to produce statistically valid conclusions by using a large number of patients.

    Your comment that over 10,000 HDVC treatments are administered a year in NZ is intriguing, particularly after your suggestion that doctors discourage this therapy. Who are they administered to and for treatment of what disease(s)? One would think with this many treated it is the perfect population for a clinical trial. Could you please share your source of these figures?

  • Michael, Ron’s actual words were the DHBs response across the country was to flatly refuse Vit C treatment to anyone… including those with terminal pneumonia… it was not a one-off response at all.
    So yes, I too would like to know who’s delivering this treatment & – if it’s not part of closely monitored medical treatment – who’s keeping the records, done the ethical assessment, monitoring the results, & so on.

  • Michael. let’s critique the blog…

    “Kate Newton’s article is worth reading – it’s a nice example of clear journalism to my mind. Readers should note the scientific approach taken, measuring the outcome of the treatment, e.g. “tracking its effectiveness through a blood test for protein carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which indicates cancer levels.””

    Now reflect on the vitriol when Alan Smith’s family argued the same… only in their case the markers weren’t some biomarker, they were the fact that every specialist in town had said he had zero hope of surviving, that he had ‘white-out’ pneumonia, and that it was terminal… that he was started on IVHDVC, started making a dramatic recovery, then took a downturn which was revealed was because the doctors had stopped his trial without telling the family, and then when he was restarted on a somewhat lesser regime of oral HDVC he mad a slow but full recovery… he survived a terminal illness and it’s chance… Sir Paul’s treatment failed to affect the markers and it is proof it doesn’t work…

    The blog continues,… “Of this self-study he is quoted: “I have, as a result, learned enough to say that there is absolutely no evidence of any beneficial effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C in my case.””

    Alan Smith can trump this big time… “Of this self-study [Alan Smith] is quoted: “I have, as a result, learned enough to say that there is absolutely positive evidence of beneficial effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C in my case.””

    Are you disputing or even doubting the claim of 10,000 treatments [and >500,ooo in the USA?] Gosh, even TVNZ has reported that… http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/scientist-turns-alternative-therapies-cancer-4414249

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5664162/Sir-Paul-uses-intravenous-vitamin-C-treatment

    According to Dr Gerald Lewis, Physician, Cardiologist, Clinical Pharmacologist MB ChB, FRCP(UK), FRACP, MD (Otago) there have been over 10,000 doses per year given in 30 medical practices and specialist clinics every year for 25 years in New Zealand… it is not new… I’ve verified that from estimates I’ve obtained by medical practitioners involved in that practice. Hear’s a talk Dr Lewis gave on it…
    http://vimeo.com/32285142 he refers to 333,000 doses in the USA… he’s actually using a ref that surveyed practitioners at two conferences… the manufacturer sales are 2-3 times that amount..
    http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObjectAttachment.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011414&representation=PDF

    Why haven’t doctors learned from Alan Smith’s experience… that was extremely well documented, monitored, and above all, he had a transformation by being ‘dead’ to being a full functioning human again.

    Alison, I’m also surprised you too obviously haven’t searched the literature… there are even studies published this last month on IV vit c reducing stress…
    http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-11-7.pdf

  • Ron,

    Now reflect on the vitriol when Alan Smith’s family argued the same…

    To my reading you’ve switched targets here and consequently are comparing different things. My recollection is that the (main) objection was the claims that ‘it worked’, not that some measurements were taken or not.

    (There’s no need to add loaded language, just because someone objected strongly does not make it ‘vitriol’ – you seem to be trying to personalise this.)

    The point about the measurements is that the it’s not based on ‘I think that’ (i.e. simple anecdote), as Michael was explaining to you earlier.

    Sir Paul’s treatment failed to affect the markers and it is proof it doesn’t work…

    You’re making out others to have written this; they haven’t as has already been explained to you. (Look at the comment you are replying to for example, Michael wrote “No one here is saying that Sir Paul’s case study demonstrates that HDVC works or does not work.”)

    Alan Smith can trump this big time…

    Smith (or you) can’t correctly make that statement until after the contributions of all the things that might have contributed and the extent that they did are tested – the catch being that you can’t do that off a single case study; you need trials to establish that. (Single cases can’t resolve multiple variables.)

    While I’m writing, essentially by definition, one anecdote cannot trump another. (One careful case study might look to be more useful than another, but that would likely depend on already knowing what the meaningful variables are likely to be.)

    Gosh, even TVNZ has reported that… (etc.)

    Lift the standard please, there’s no need for rudeness.

    Why haven’t doctors learned from Alan Smith’s experience… that was extremely well documented, monitored, and above all, he had a transformation by being ‘dead’ to being a full functioning human again.

    As has been pointed out to you earlier, you can’t learn more from this than a single case study. (You also seem to presuming a particular interpretation.) Ditto for Callaghan’s case, as he noted himself (as I did too). As an additional practical matter unless it’s published formally as a case study, there is a limited amount that others can take from it.

  • Grant argues; ”
    Now reflect on the vitriol when Alan Smith’s family argued the same…

    To my reading you’ve switched targets here and consequently are comparing different things. My recollection is that the (main) objection was the claims that ‘it worked’, not that some measurements were taken or not.”

    Exactly… but the skeptics sing from the hill tops that Sir Paul’s vitamin C didn’t work (ignoring the fat that neither did his ‘proven’ medical and pharmaceutical and radiological treatments…!

    So Grant… why is one wrong/right and the other right/wrong?

    You also seem not to understand that measurements are a means to an end… the ultimate test of success/failure is life itself…

  • Michael said, “I simply stated that doctors might learn something from Sir Paul’s case because it was well monitored.”

    Grant quoted, “Of this self-study he is quoted: “I have, as a result, learned enough to say that there is absolutely no evidence of any beneficial effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C in my case.””

    Grant said, “As has been pointed out to you earlier, you can’t learn more from this than a single case study.”

    I’m confused… even skeptical of skeptics confidence in being able to claim what’s right/wrong…

    The indisputable fact is that expert doctors had considered Alan Smith’s case was so hopeless that they were insisting on turning his life support off so he could be trundled out of a hospital bed and buried… the family involved lawyers to get him treated with IVHDVC… and ‘purely by chance, not the IVHDVC, he is now alive and well and fully functional… And Grant has the audacity to claim, “Smith (or you) can’t correctly make that statement until after the contributions of all the things that might have contributed and the extent that they did are tested – the catch being that you can’t do that off a single case study; you need trials to establish that. (Single cases can’t resolve multiple variables.)”

    mmm… Grant, what could the variables have been… these medical specialists had stated with absolute surety that he was dead and nothing could resurrect him… the ONLY thing that changed was the families input into his treatment… NOTHING else… just that… well, actually, it could be that he got ‘the vibe’ that at long last someone actually wanted him leaving the hospital walking, not being trollied out in the middle of the night.

  • Alison, not at all… Michael and other expressed doubt about the fact that there are over 500,000 treatments of IV HDVC given every year… it is not experimental… doctors concerns about safety are simply evidence of their lack of or unwillingness to open their eyes and apply even basic literature searches… and even demonstrates their ignorance of the fact… my point with regard to that post is that there are trials on IVHDVC occurring all the time…

  • Ron,

    As in the other thread, you are being argumentative, shifting ground, etc. I don’t see much point or value in this.

    “Exactly…”

    Good – at least you accept your error in making a false comparison. I have to say it’s nice change for you to accept something for once.

    “but the skeptics sing from the hill tops that Sir Paul’s vitamin C didn’t work”

    This is bit silly – my piece is understated and I explicitly cautioned about over-reading into the observations.

    FWIW – It was posted in part because those touting high-dose vitamin C as a remedy world-wide have been ‘singing from the high hills’ that Callaghan’s merely trying it means it’s worth taking. Of course this is a fallacy as it’s evidence for or against it that would make it worth taking, or not, not if someone tried it or not – but that natural remedy promoters for you!

    A point here – if you’re going to point at ‘skeptics’ (your label, not mine) you also have to point even stronger at the natural remedy promoters, advocates, etc (see prev. paragraph). You’d also have to, to be consistent, point at those who touted Smith’s case beyond what can be drawn from it.

    ”(ignoring the fat that neither did his ‘proven’ medical and pharmaceutical and radiological treatments…!”

    Argumentative. Because someone didn’t write on something doesn’t mean they’re ignoring it. See second paragraph of previous point.

    “So Grant… why is one wrong/right and the other right/wrong?”

    You keep playing games with this, at least in your own mind, jumping back and forth between statements that apply to single case events and wider ‘it works’ (or not) statements that apply to populations then saying people have said things they hadn’t. Michael mentioned this earlier & I drew your attention to it.

    You have been playing this game for several weeks (or is it months?) on sciblogs now. Either you think your ‘thing’ twisting anecdote v. evidence is the latest and greatest in natural remedy trolling or you really are at sea about different levels of evidence and what can be derived from them. Either way, I think you’d do better to put a sock in it 😉

    ”You also seem not to understand that measurements are a means to an end… the ultimate test of success/failure is life itself…”

    Argumentative – it’s avoiding the point and you’ve played this line before on sciblogs. I don’t see the value of revisiting ground that’s already been covered.

  • Ron,

    ”I’m confused…”

    You shouldn’t be really. Callaghan is quoted as saying “in my case” – single case study as been repeatedly pointed out to you. How many times does this need to pointed at for you to ‘get it’?

    “And Grant has the audacity to claim” […] mmm… Grant, what could the variables have been […]

    Wow, that’s really disingenuous. Framing my words in a different context to make me out to have said something I haven’t. Nothing more to say than that this is really, really disingenuous.

  • mmm… Grant says, “FWIW – It was posted in part because those touting high-dose vitamin C as a remedy world-wide have been ‘singing from the high hills’ that Callaghan’s merely trying it means it’s worth taking. Of course this is a fallacy as it’s evidence for or against it that would make it worth taking, or not, not if someone tried it or not – but that natural remedy promoters for you!”

    Not sure what the final phrase means, but, of course, if a TOP scientist tried IVHDVC (and Tai Chi and chinese herbs) why should ordinary plebs be denied that right to try it????? Are you saying that we have a class system when it comes to medical treatment?????

    As for, “A point here – if you’re going to point at ‘skeptics’ (your label, not mine) you also have to point even stronger at the natural remedy promoters, advocates, etc (see prev. paragraph). ”

    What a laugh… it, surely, is the advocates of the science religion who should be held to their own belief???? Why on earth would others be expected to hold to that belief more strongly…

    Grant, the hypocrisy here is that skeptics (are you denying that you are a skeptic?) can not use evidence that they ridicule (anecdote and single cases) as evidence to poo hoo others when their point of view is different.

    And by the way, I have NEVER advocated the use of HDVC… only criticised denialists such as yourself for not only ignoring evidence, but actually, not doing their homework before tapping their key boards. There is no safety issue with the use of IVHDVC… so therefore there is no harm in giving it a go… if it works for the individual… great… if it doesn’t, what harm is done?

  • Ron said, “And Grant has the audacity to claim” […] mmm… Grant, what could the variables have been […]

    Grant respnded; “Wow, that’s really disingenuous. Framing my words in a different context to make me out to have said something I haven’t. Nothing more to say than that this is really, really disingenuous.”

    How have I been disingenuous? The anly recorded variable in Alan Smith’s case was the initial IV HDVC and subsequent oral VC… he was put on IVHDVC… he improved… was taken off if (without telling the family!!!) and he headed south… treatment was reinstated and he improved again… in fact he made a full recovery after doctors were hovering over the life support system off-switch and preparing the death certificate… What are you suggesting… it wasn’t vitamin C at all, but simply a miracle? I wonder what Sir Paul’s reponse would have been if his markers had stayed down after an initial fall… I wonder what caused the initial fall…?

  • Ron,

    I think this is enough, thank you. It’s clear you’re just being argumentative for the sake of it. (In places you are travelling in circles, too; repeating claims/accusations/etc won’t make them right.)

    How have I been disingenuous?

    Explained in the quote you wrote the above in reply to.

    “why should ordinary plebs be denied that right to try it”

    The medical system doesn’t ‘deny’ that ‘right’; they don’t offer these things as (first-line) treatment. You would expect them not to be obliged to offer a treatment that on current evidence is unsound & likewise not be obliged to provide something they considered was not in the client’s interest. This is old ground that has already been covered in an earlier blog, etc.

    Are you saying that we have a class system when it comes to medical treatment

    You can speak for yourself; I haven’t said either way.

    Grant, the hypocrisy here […]

    An alternative hypocrisy—light-heartedly handing your word back to you here—might be that you persist in accusing others after they have tried to politely correct you rather than consider you might be wrong 😉

    Think about this, please. (In your own time, not here.) It’s a key reason I think you’re already said enough.

  • Alison, not at all… Michael and other expressed doubt about the fact that there are over 500,000 treatments of IV HDVC given every year… it is not experimental… doctors concerns about safety are simply evidence of their lack of or unwillingness to open their eyes and apply even basic literature searches… and even demonstrates their ignorance of the fact… my point with regard to that post is that there are trials on IVHDVC occurring all the time…
    Methinks you are using ‘trial’ in the loose sense & not the sense of a formal, monitored, regulated scientific trial of a prospective treatment. It doesn’t matter in the slightest how many ‘treatments’ per year involve HDVC if those delivering the ‘treatment’ are not keeping & collating reliable records. And unless the data are from blinded trials, or else case-controlled, then there’s no reliable means of determining whether it actually had any effect.
    And if those ‘treatments’ are for things like stress, then it is indeed moving the goalposts when the original discussion was around the efficacy (or otherwise) of HDVC for life-threatening or terminal conditions.
    (And what’s with all the ellipses?)

  • “why should ordinary plebs be denied that right to try it”

    The medical system doesn’t ‘deny’ that ‘right’; they don’t offer these things as (first-line) treatment.

    Goodness gracious me Grant… These patients are being condemned to death (literally) simply because some Dr God can’t stand the thought the anything other than a registered pharmaceutical medicine might work… oh, yeah, that’s right, Medsafe DID register the IVHDVC medicine…

    These are not being denied as a Quote “first-line” treatment… they are last line treatments being denied.

    Alison, the author of the blog used the word trial in the heading and in the text of the blog…

  • Grant said, “You would expect them not to be obliged to offer a treatment that on current evidence is unsound & likewise not be obliged to provide something they considered was not in the client’s interest.”

    Grant, are you saying that the prospect of life, regardless of how small, is not in the “client’s” interest????? How sad… it really does highlight a gross lack of ethical or moral concern.

  • Ron,

    Your latest comments take my words and twist their meanings to insinuate that I have said things I’ve haven’t – again. As I asked earlier – no more of this, please.

    Regards your comment to Alison, I explained the use of ‘trial’ in my first reply to your latest run here.

    See also the first paragraph of my previous comment.

  • Grant, I have not twisted what you said… What you said is, You would expect them not to be obliged to offer a treatment that on current evidence is unsound & likewise not be obliged to provide something they considered was not in the client’s interest.”

    How on earth have I distorted this… please explain so that I can work out what you are getting at… how on earth can I have interpreted it other than I have?????????? How can turning the life support off rather than trying something with an incredibly safe profile as IVHDVC be in the patients (or family’s) interest?????????????

  • Ron
    “Michael and other expressed doubt about the fact that there are over 500,000 treatments of IV HDVC given every year”

    I did not. What I said was

    “Your comment that over 10,000 HDVC treatments are administered a year in NZ is intriguing, particularly after your suggestion that doctors discourage this therapy. Who are they administered to and for treatment of what disease(s)? One would think with this many treated it is the perfect population for a clinical trial. Could you please share your source of these figures?”

    Intriguing means I found the figure interesting and wanted to learn more.

    You then supplied a media reference as your source which reports
    “A Wellington doctor who gives intravenous vitamin C, who would not be named, estimated 30 clinics nationwide gave 10,000 vitamin C injections a year.”

    This again is fascinating – if this is true then there should be a lot of data available to show whether vitamin C is/is not a viable therapy. So why aren’t the doctors involved writing it up in scientific papers? Surely if it has been successful in treating patients then they would write it up in an appropriate journal and share their knowledge. To prove such a treatment is effective would be a medical coup.

  • Michael asks, “So why aren’t the doctors involved writing it up in scientific papers? Surely if it has been successful in treating patients then they would write it up in an appropriate journal and share their knowledge. To prove such a treatment is effective would be a medical coup.”

    1… there is a very large volume of literature relating to high dose vitamin c use… both oral and IV…

    2… The primary reason the ADHB and others refused to give IVHDVC was because of their totally false belief that it was unsafe…

    3… If it does no harm, why kill people rather than give it a go…

    4… Hats off to Sir Paul for at least giving it a go… and tai chi and chinese herbal medicines…

    Have you searched the literature????

    eg, http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/29/3/809.full.pdf+html

    There is evidence that warrants further investigation of HDVC in treating pneumonia… but medical gatekeepers such as those at ADHB discounted it… WHY? Why would they rather someone died than even give it a go????

  • Michael, I suggested something similar. if all these ‘trials’ are being done, then where are the protocols, & where are the results? There are fairly strict guidelines surrounding clinical trials, after all.

  • Ron,

    “I have not twisted what you said […] How on earth have I distorted this… please explain”

    Nope. If you aren’t able to read back and do this yourself, an explanation wouldn’t do any good either. You’re just being argumentative – and you know it.

    Your tone has been insinuating and rude. It is tedious that I have keep asking you for the simple, ordinary politeness that most people manage without being asked.

    Three things. Me, this blog, you.

    Me. You have written posts attacking me on and off for a long time. You take poorly veiled shots at me from other’s blogs. You have a history of latching on to people you perceive are a threat to your views and harassing them for (literally) years. You have previously written in private telling me that you intend to harass me.

    This blog. Several hundred people visit my blog every day. I want to encourage good conversation. Bottom line – I consider all my visitors, they matter more to me than you.

    You. I ask for a decent standard of conversation. It’s not difficult, it’s just asking for simple courtesy. If that’s not a ‘fit’ to your style, then that’s fine, it really is. If you don’t fit, just go somewhere else.

  • You have a history of latching on to people you perceive are a threat to your views and harassing them for (literally) years.

    You have previously written in private telling me that you intend to harass me.

    mmm…. Grant, these are very strong statements… raise the bar to a very low level… I hope you have evidence to back that up, cos, I’d hate a self-proclaimed skeptic to be making false statements… Who have I ‘harassed’ for years????

    It is you who claim to be the guardian of science… it is you who made claims and reported that Sir Paul had undertaken a trial…

    Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial..
    News today is that he has reviewed his trial of this treatment.
    I’d like to add to the SMC’s words by pointing out that Callaghan’s trialling vitamin C treatment…

    My first use of the word trial was as a cynical expose of how skeptics view anecdote as a trial when it suits them…
    I had a good laugh after reading this blog and most of the comments… Sir Paul trying high dose vitamin C is seen as a “trial”… Note use of quotes…
    Michael agreed that the choice of the word “trial” is problematic.

    Alison said, Methinks you are using ‘trial’ in the loose sense & not the sense of a formal, monitored, regulated scientific trial of a prospective treatment. It doesn’t matter in the slightest how many ‘treatments’ per year involve HDVC if those delivering the ‘treatment’ are not keeping & collating reliable records. And unless the data are from blinded trials, or else case-controlled, then there’s no reliable means of determining whether it actually had any effect.

    In other words, Grant, you have written a skeptic’s blog using anecdote as evidence to dick a treatment… you claim to be a guardian of the scientific method, and yet you crap all over it when it suits… Alan Smith’s case doesn’t count because it wasn’t a trial and was anecdote… Sir Paul’s case is presented as a ‘trial’ and provides evidence that it doesn’t work…

    mmm… now I guess you’ll call that harassment… I’d call it double standards being exposed for what they are… double standards…

    Anyways, I’m locked up with lawyers for the next couple of days, so I’ll give you some respite… my suggestion would be… if you are going to dick people who use anecdote to support their argument, don’t use anecdote to try and dismantle their argument. Skeptics should NEVER use anecdote to argue their case… yet they regularly do…

  • “mmm…. Grant, these are very strong statements…”

    Not going down this road. (You’ve done similar before, leading to you hassling me and the SMC staff over things I hadn’t done.)

    Just a thought: your statements re doctors are very strong (to be polite), ditto direct statements you have made about others in press releases; look to yourself first?

    I see that you’ve searched for the use of ‘trial’ in the article & comments and have laid out selective examples, offering some instances, but omitting others. You list my uses of it in the article, but: you can’t claim to be making a point if you ‘conveniently overlook’ my explanation that you were (and continue to) use the word in a different meaning than it was written. I pointed you back to this just a few comments ago, here is is again: http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2012/01/20/vitamin-c-as-cancer-treatment-sir-paul-callaghan-reviews-his-trial/comment-page-1/#comment-136577

    Alison’s comment re the use of ‘trial’ was in reply to you, not to me. That is, it was about you using the word trial in “in the loose sense & not the sense of a formal, monitored, regulated scientific trial of a prospective treatment”. I hope it’s not lost on you that this has you doing what you have accused me of!

    “ I’d call it double standards being exposed for what they are… double standards…”

    I can speak for myself, please. I’d call it you continuing to present it wrongly despite people having politely pointed out your errors.

    “so I’ll give you some respite…”

    I’m guessing you recognise you’re at risk of being put on furlough out again. Good call. (Seriously.)

    “my suggestion would be… if you are going to dick people who use anecdote to support their argument, don’t use anecdote to try and dismantle their argument. Skeptics should NEVER use anecdote to argue their case… yet they regularly do…”

    Don’t be fatuous. Sure I would if/when that actually happens. For the instances you are referring to, my suggestion would be that repeating your errors as ‘advice’ isn’t very clever – try instead to see where you’ve gone wrong.

    As I wrote earlier, “You have been playing this game for several weeks (or is it months?) on sciblogs now. Either you think your ‘thing’ [of] twisting anecdote v. evidence is the latest and greatest in natural remedy trolling or you really are at sea about different levels of evidence and what can be derived from them. Either way, I think you’d do better to put a sock in it ;-)”

    If you were, say, to try your style at either Orac’s* or PZ Myer’s blogs, they’d enjoy returning your games with interest. Seeing as you seem to like that style, perhaps you should go there and offer yourself to them?

    * http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/
    ** http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula

  • Grant, the only reason I commented on this post was because your title grabbed me with your use of the word trial in the title of the blog… (Vitamin C as cancer treatment – Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial )

    there were no quotes to indicate that you used the term loosely…

    My post two days ago was drawing attention to the hypocrisy of skeptics who decry the use of anecdote by so-called ‘woo-ists’ yet use it to poo-hoo woo-ists…

    (I had a good laugh after reading this blog and most of the comments… Sir Paul trying high dose vitamin C is seen as a “trial” and the fact it didn’t work in his case is evidence it doesn’t work… Yet Alan Smith uses it thanks to the ball of his family and lawyers, and the same peaple call it anecdote and not evidence it works.)

    I even put the word in quotes…

    Nek Minit… the skeptics are all over me like a rash… mmmm… does make one think, doesn’t it…

    Anyways, have a plane to catch…

    Ciao-4-niao

    I started reading your post and there again YOU used the word trial with no qualifiers… (News today is that he has reviewed his trial of this treatment.)

    My response was

  • Oops… didn’t notice the shift in curser

    Grant, the only reason I commented on this post was because your title grabbed me with your use of the word trial in the title of the blog… (Vitamin C as cancer treatment – Sir Paul Callaghan reviews his trial )

    I started reading your post and there again YOU used the word trial with no qualifiers… (News today is that he has reviewed his trial of this treatment.)

    My response was there were no quotes to indicate that you used the term loosely…

    My post two days ago was drawing attention to the hypocrisy of skeptics who decry the use of anecdote by so-called ‘woo-ists’ yet use it to poo-hoo woo-ists…

    (I had a good laugh after reading this blog and most of the comments… Sir Paul trying high dose vitamin C is seen as a “trial” and the fact it didn’t work in his case is evidence it doesn’t work… Yet Alan Smith uses it thanks to the ball of his family and lawyers, and the same peaple call it anecdote and not evidence it works.)

    I even put the word in quotes…

    Nek Minit… the skeptics are all over me like a rash… mmmm… does make one think, doesn’t it…

    Anyways, have a plane to catch…

    Ciao-4-niao

  • Unfortunately Grant, I know all too much about Vitamin C because I survey alt med ( mostly on the ‘net) since 2000. Linus Pauling, another scientist gone traipsing down the garden path of whimsy-based medicine, promoted Vitamin C for cancer . Currently, his acolyte, Gary Null , nutritionist/ political-economic theorist, advocates it as a treatment for cancer, HIV/AIDS and just about every condition known to humans, save scurvy.( GaryNull.com/ ProgressiveRadioNetwork.com)’

    Needless to say, this miraculous cure has been suppressed by the Pharmaceutical-Governmental-MainstreamMedia Cartel, who benefit immensely from selling expensive, unnatural chemotherapeutic agents. The current meme around the woo-esphere is that only independent researchers ( alt med, naturally) who are not funded by the corrupt power brokers ( the cartel) or work at corrupt universities ( all) produce reasonably trust-worthy studies. Of course, the all-powerful cartel funds people to write about how bad alt med *really* is on the ‘net, as well. You realise that I’m one- I have expensive taste. . .

  • Ron,

    No silly excuses please. You got the end of the stick – your errors were corrected quite a while back. It should have ended there, but you ‘overlooked’ these and carried right on and still are.

  • Hi Lynley,

    Would you have object if I lift the conversation you offered as a comment some time back into an article? I’m thinking it might do with more exposure. It raises some excellent points and I’m wondering why I didn’t think to ask this sooner!

    – Grant

  • Ah, that’s sad. I have very fond memories of some long talks with Paul. (I taught his daughter, he taught my brother; very small world.) We’ve lost a great New Zealander.

  • *Hugs*!

    I was impressed when reading the comments following a couple of the obituaries elsewhere of people who sound as if they’re not in the scientific community but who have appreciated his science communication efforts. He certainly seems to have made an impact outside his immediate circle.

  • When the Mayo-Clinic purported to replicate Dr.Cameron’s experiments with vitamin C and cancer at the Scottish Vale of Leven hospital, Linus Pauling (Dr.Cameron’s intellectual ally in this) requested for this replication to be done with patients who had not undergone chemotherapy. His view was that this would make the vitamin C treatment ineffective.

    Nevertheless the Mayo-Clinikc did exactly that: try the treatment on patients who had already been submitted to chemotherapy.

    See http://drmalcolmkendrick.org/2012/08/06/how-unwelcome-research-is-discredited/

    Professor Callaghan apparently had already had six months of chemotherapy before he tried vitamin C.

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