Patients receive pancreatic enzymes orally every 4 hours and at meals daily on days 1-16, followed by 5 days of rest. Patients receive magnesium citrate and Papaya Plus with the pancreatic enzymes. Additionally, patients receive nutritional supplementation with vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and animal glandular products 4 times per day on days 1-16, followed by 5 days of rest. Courses repeat every 21 days until death despite relapse. Patients consume a moderate vegetarian metabolizer diet during the course of therapy, which excludes red meat, poultry, and white sugar. Coffee enemas are performed twice a day, along with skin brushing daily, skin cleansing once a week with castor oil during the first 6 months of therapy, and a salt and soda bath each week. Patients also undergo a complete liver flush and a clean sweep and purge on a rotating basis each month during the 5 days of rest.
As unlikely as it may seem, in 1999 American taxpayers began paying for people with cancer of the pancreas to be subjected to that regimen, in a trial sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the NCI, conducted under the auspices of Columbia University. Gonzalez provided the treatments. A few months ago, on Science-Based Medicine, I presented a multi-part treatise on the “Gonzalez regimen” and the trial. It demonstrated that all evidence, from basic science to clinical, including the case series that had supposedly provided the justification for the trial, failed to support any real promise for the treatment.
It showed that the impetus for the trial, as has been true for other regrettable trials of implausible health claims, can be traced not to science but to the reactionary politics of anti-intellectual populism: initially to Laetrile and to the “Harkinites,” and more recently to the Honorable Dan Burton (R-IN). It reported that there had been major problems with the Gonzalez trial from the outset, and that for at least one subject the regimen had been more torture than therapy. It reported that for unclear reasons the trial had come to a halt a couple of years ago, and that it appeared that there would never be a report of its findings.
That series of posts also argued what was later summarized here: that, for good reasons, the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct had nearly revoked Dr. Gonzalez’s medical license during the 1990s—only to retreat from that position after two misguided academics had testified that his regimen might benefit cancer patients.
The apparent non-outcome of the Gonzalez trial would be the final insult among its numerous, serious ethical violations. These were discussed, at some length, here and here; they include the fallacy of 'popularity,' which has been the NCCAM's primary rationale for human trials of implausible health claims. On June 2, 2008, one month after the last posting of the series, new information about the Gonzalez trial became available in the form of a determination letter from the federal Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP). In part, it stated:
The complainant alleged that a minimum of 72 subjects were to be enrolled under the IRB-approved protocol, but that the study was terminated with only 62 enrolled subjects, in violation of HHS regulations… CUMC [Columbia University Medical Center] reported that the Data Safety and Monitoring Committee (DSMC) for this protocol recommended that the study be terminated before it reached its full enrollment of 72 subjects. At its September 30, 2005 meeting, the DSMC recommended that the study be terminated due to predetermined stopping criteria. This information was submitted to the CUMC IRB on October 17, 2005, and the study termination was approved by the IRB.
What this means, in summary, is that the trial must have found the Gonzalez regimen to be either much better or much worse than standard treatment for cancer of the pancreas. It is certain that it was much worse, of course, because otherwise we would have heard about it years ago. I have offered additional evidence for that conclusion, and an explanation for why this information has not been reported by the responsible investigators, in a longer version of this posting.