Last week, I wrote about alternative medicine clinics in Germany that offer a combination of alternative cancer cures plus experimental therapeutics administered improperly outside the auspices of a clinical trial. In particular, I discussed two cases. The first was British actress Leah Bracknell, who is raising money to go to one of these alternative cancer clinics to treat her stage IV lung cancer. the second was a British woman named Pauline Gahan, who was diagnosed with metastatic stomach cancer and has thus far spent £300,000 for a combination of vitamin infusions, “detox,” and Keytruda (generic name: pembrolizumab). This is a drug belonging to a new class of promising anticancer therapies known as immune checkpoint inhibitors. It’s FDA-approved for some cancers, but hasn’t yet been shown to be effective against stomach cancer, although there is one phase I trial that is promising and thought to be sufficient evidence to justify phase II and III trials. None of this stopped the clinic to which both Bracknell and Gahan traveled to, the Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic.
One thing I noticed about the Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic when I wrote about it is that nowhere did it list the doctors who own and operate it or who consult there. I did find one name, Dr. Jens Nolting, mentioned on patient discussion boards as working at Hallwang. The lack of mention of who runs the clinic and who practices there was an enormous red flag to me, I think for obvious reasons. Fortunately, a commenter with more knowledge than I and thus a better idea of what to Google for, jumped in to comment and helped out. So I thought I’d do a followup post and then segue to a report that aired on Australian TV on alternative medicine for cancer there to show the consequences of clinics like this, which are, unfortunately, a problem in many advanced countries. Thus, this post might be a bit “odds and ends”-ish, but it’s a topic that’s been of intense interest to me ever since I discovered the depths of alternative medicine applied to cancer, and I didn’t want to leave last week’s post, in essence, unfinished. Also, there is at least one interesting connection that I hadn’t realized as I wrote my post last week.
Ursula Jacobs and Farrah Fawcett
The key bit of information that I didn’t know when searching for who owns Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic was that it used to be known as the Private Clinic of Dr Ursula Jacob, a name change that occurred in 2014. She also apparently has a clinic known as the Day Clinic for Prevention and Regeneration. Her CV shows an early career that appeared rather conventional. She studied medicine at the Semmelweis University in Budapest from 1985-1991, trained in general medicine and family practice from 1991-1995. Then things went wrong, as she took a job at Leonardis Klinik in Kornwestheim in internal medicine and hematology from 1995-2000, becoming senior physician there in 1997. You might recall that Leonardis Klinik was—apparently it’s closed now—one of the premiere German alternative cancer clinics.
In fact, the Leonardis Klinik sounded very familiar to me, as did the name Ursula Jacob. I thought and thought, trying to remember, and then I decided to see if I’ve ever written about either before, either here or at my not-so-super-secret other blog. Guess what? Back in 2009, Dr. Ursula Jacob, who by then had started working at another German alternative cancer clinic, Klinik-Alpenpark, treated Farrah Fawcett with “vitamin preparations that she says boost the immune system.” She was also treated at Leonardis Klinik. She also underwent treatment that is not alternative but was probably not appropriate for her, chemoembolization.
Towards the end of her life, Fawcett became disillusioned with the German alternative medicine clinics that she had trusted, as shown in a documentary that she made about her cancer diagnosis and treatment, Farrah’s Story. As I’ve described before, Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer. She underwent what sounds like the standard chemoradiation protocol known as the Nigro Protocol. Unfortunately, she recurred locally at the anus, and the only treatment for a local recurrence of anal cancer after the Nigro Protocol is an operation known as an abdominoperineal resection (APR), in which the rectum and anus are removed, the hole sewn shut, and the patient left with a permanent colostomy. Not surprisingly, Fawcett didn’t want that. (No one does.) Unfortunately, she heard the siren call of the German alternative cancer clinics, which were doing the same thing then as they are now, combining experimental treatments with pure quackery:
Instead, she opted to put herself under the care of two German specialists, Professor Thomas Vogl and Dr Ursula Jacob.
Mrs Stewart said: ‘She believed it would be less drastic.’
Professor Vogl, 50, who practises in Frankfurt, offers cancer patients a treatment called chemoembolisation, during which chemicals are injected directly into organs at a cost of £3,500 a session.
During filming, Miss Fawcett was shown groaning and writhing in pain as a long needle was thrust into her liver by Professor Vogl.
She also underwent a surgical procedure called laser ablation, which heats up the tumour to around 38C (100F) to destroy cancer cells.
Professor Vogl later assured Miss Fawcett that all the ‘active tumours’ had been removed, while Dr Jacob, who uses vitamins to boost the immune system at her Alpenpark Clinic in the Bavarian Alps, claimed it was a ‘miracle’.
However, just a few weeks later, Miss Fawcett underwent a scan that showed the original tumour was larger than ever and that the cancer had spread to her liver.
Chemoembolization is a legitimate treatment for liver tumors, as is laser ablation. Basically, chemoembolization involves injecting chemotherapy and small synthetic particles directly into the hepatic artery. The chemotherapy attacks the cancer, and the particles embolize (travel along the artery) until they lodge and block the blood flow to the tumor. Similarly, this laser ablation sounds like nothing more than a fancy version of thermal ablation of tumors that uses laser instead of radiofrequency waves to generate the heat. Although these treatments can be palliative, it is very uncommon for them to be curative; so it is not at all surprising that Fawcett’s tumors came roaring back. As for the “immune boosting vitamins” administered by Dr. Jacob, there’s no good evidence that such treatments do anything at all other than to produce expensive urine.
Not surprisingly, both Dr. Jacob and her apologists are quick to blame anything other than her treatments for Farrah Fawcett’s death. First, here’s what Dr. Jacob said:
I asked Dr. Jacob where Farrah went wrong in her cancer treatment. She replied that when Farrah returned to the United States, she went back to receiving high-dose chemotherapy.
Dr. Jacob doesn’t like chemo because it’s so toxic. If she uses chemo at all, she only uses it in low doses — about one tenth of the amount that conventional cancer doctors give. And she sometimes recommends chemo-embolization, as she did in Farrah’s case.
Dr. Jacob considers chemo a bad idea unless a chemo sensitivity test is used to match a patient’s cancer cells to the chemotherapy drug that’s most likely to kill them. The test indicates that a specific kind of chemo will work, and thereby avoids the hit-or-miss approach of conventional cancer doctors, who will administer one chemotherapy drug after another (in high doses, of course), hoping to find one that works.
If a chemo sensitivity test shows that no chemo is likely to work against a particular cancer, Dr. Jacob says NO chemo should be used.
Chemosensitivity tests of the sort that Dr. Jacob advocates are not generally used because their predictive value has not been validated and in general has not been very good. These sorts of tests are very old, dating back almost to the dawn of chemotherapy for cancer. That’s why the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) concluded in 2011 that in vitro chemosensitivity testing has promise but should only be used as part of clinical trials, the same conclusion it came to in 2004. Moreover, given the advances in genomic testing, chemosensitivity testing is downright quaint and difficult to do.
Dr. Jacob also blamed stress for Fawcett’s death:
Dr. Jacob also reminded me about another factor that contributed to Farrah’s death: the stress of a family crisis. During her struggle against cancer, Farrah’s 25-year-old son, Redmond, got in trouble with the law. He was put behind bars on April 5, 2009, two months before she died, for a drug offense.
And Andrew Scholberg blames—of course!—sugar:
Unfortunately, Farrah had a weakness for Coca-Cola, which is jam-packed with sugar. Coke was Farrah’s favorite beverage, as her best friend Alana Stewart noted in her diary entry for June 1, 2007. Even in the midst of her cancer treatments, Farrah couldn’t stop drinking Coca-Cola. Believe it or not, each 12-ounce Coke contains an astounding 10 cubes of sugar! That’s right. Drinking one Coke is like eating 10 sugar cubes.
Farrah’s German medical team is not to blame for her death. In fact, they helped Farrah extend her life and gave her a better quality of life. My reporting points to at least three factors beyond the control of Farrah’s German doctors that contributed to Farrah’s death:
- Her addiction to sugar
- Stress from her son’s drug conviction and incarceration
- Her decision to revert to high-dose chemo, a toxic treatment
Sugar does not “feed” cancer. That is a myth.
Of course, Farrah Fawcett’s death was not the fault of alternative medicine or the doctors who administer it. Deaths like hers never are. The bottom line is that, unfortunately, Farrah Fawcett’s best chance of surviving her cancer was to undergo APR. It’s a horrible choice. No one wants a permanent colostomy, but I’ve taken care of a number of patients over the years who’ve had one. It is quite possible to live a fulfilling life with one. Once Fawcett declined that option, her odds of surviving her cancer plummeted dramatically. It was possible that local ablation of the tumor might have resulted in long term survival, but highly unlikely. The die was cast when Fawcett refused surgery.
Dr. Ursula Jacob today
So what is Dr. Jacob up to today? At her (apparently other) clinic’s website, she advertises a fairly standard variety of alternative medicine quackery (but I repeat myself), including detoxification and intestinal cleaning:
We offer individually designed examinations of the stool from which we can build an individual programme of detoxification, working on the colon and lymphatic system in order to repair the damaged systems and restore balance to the flora in the gut.
We’re talking enemas, of course. I’ve yet to see an “intestinal cleaning” and “detoxification” protocol that doesn’t involve enemas, coffee or saline.
Then there’s intermittent hypoxia:
Intermittent Hypoxia (sometimes known as ”Altitude Training”) is used to improve oxygen supply to the cells which can regenerate the brain and the body, used together with specific amino acids, the overall cell energy can be improved. This leads to better performance and a natural ”anti-aging”.
This is utter woo babble (like techno-babble in Star Trek, just with woo).
Then there’s boosting the immune system, the all-purpose (and vague) claim, beloved of quacks everywhere:
We carry out blood tests that can show how severely the individual systems are damaged from which we devise therapeutic treatment plans. We work with natural anti-inflammatory and immune complex-depleting substances, photopheresis and regenerative therapies.
Then there’s reflexology:
Reflexology, is a therapy involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on stimulating reflex areas that relate to the internal organs of the body which can improve the circulation, relieve stress and stimulate self-healing processes.
Or, as I like to call it, a foot massage with delusions of grandeur.
I think you get the idea. These German alternative medicine cancer clinics thrive based on the desperation of cancer patients with the means to travel to Germany or at least the means to raise the large sums of money required to travel to Germany and be treated at these clinics. Hallwang, run by Dr. Ursula Jacob, is just one of them.
The other quacks of Hallwang
Thanks to my reader, I also learned who else works at Hallwang. These doctors include:
- Dr. Fatiha-Nora Mühe
- Dr. Asir Kopic
- Dr. Emina Kopic
- Dr. Greg Schwarz
Oddly enough, there’s not much to be found online about these four doctors. Dr. Fatiha-Nora Mühe appears to be an internist.
Dr. Asir Kopic appears to be an oncologist, and has a website. That website lists him as the chief physician of Hallwang from 2012-2014, but not beyond. So it’s not clear whether he still practices at Hallwang. It is, of course, quite possible that he still consults at Hallwang, but now maintains his own Stuttgart private practice with what appears to be his wife, Dr. Emina Kopic, who is listed at the same website as an “orthomolecular therapist.” Remember that “orthomolecular medicine” is a form of quackery popularized by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. The high dose vitamin C treatments that he advocated to treat everything from cancer to the common cold are basically part of orthomolecular medicine, which advocates superdoses of various nutrients to treat diseases. As I like to put it, in orthomolecular medicine, if some is good, more is always better.
I’ll get to Dr. Greg Schwarz in a minute. First, however, I can’t resist mentioning that my commenter pointed out that the website for the Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic is registered under the name of Dr Albert Schmierer, who is CEO of “Dr Zinsser Pharmaceuticals.” He’s described thusly:
Dr. Albert Schmierer is one of the leading German researchers in the field of cell mitochondrial as well as homeopathic treatments with a keen interest in anti-ageing medicine, including cell therapy with the emphasis in cell mitochondrial treatment for rejuvenation, regeneration and fighting premature ageing. He is also the chief pharmacist for mitochondrial and homeopathic therapy at the Private Hospital Dr Ursula Jacob GmbH as well as the owner and CEO of Dr Zinsser Pharmaceuticals.
ZÉLL-V started its operations in 2007 with the mission to enable every individual to enjoy a healthy, vibrant, beautiful and quality life. As the process of ageing remains untreatable with conventional medicine, ZÉLL-V aims to defy ageing by harnessing the body’s own healing and revitalising power through cellular therapy.
With this, ZÉLL-V has partnered with international medical experts to develop an exclusive formulation – the most advanced cellular therapy to activate cellular repair and regeneration through the use of cutting-edge biotechnology.
Obviously, this is more woo babble, but what does it mean, if anything? It means “live cell therapy,” which, translated, basically means grinding up animal glands and injecting them:
Cellular therapy is a complete biological treatment using fresh cells or cell factors to stimulate intra-cellular repair mechanisms and cell rejuvenation and regeneration, thereby slowing down the natural process of ageing and counteracting chronic degenerative diseases.
Cellular therapy was discovered by Professor Dr Niehans by chance in 1931 when he saved a woman writhing with convulsions after an operation on her thyroid gland by injecting her with a suspension of animal parathyroid glands – an unknown treatment at that time.
The woman went on to live another 30 years, well into her 90s. Later, at his clinic in Montreaux, Switzerland, Professor Dr Niehans went on to administer live cell injections to thousands and thousands of patients, including many of the crowned heads, presidents, Pope Pius XII and numerous Hollywood stars.
Today, ZÉLL-V cellular therapy is widely used across the globe. Possessing limitless potential to restore people’s health, youth and quality of life, cellular therapy is touted as the future of medicine and health maintenance.
The example of Paul Niehans injecting parathyroid glands is a highly dubiosu story. It’s not that it’s all that implausible on one level. After all, the hormone made by parathyroid glands (parathormone or parathyroid hormone, abbreviated PTH) is critical for regulating calcium levels in the blood. Indeed, severe hypocalcemia (low calcium) is a known complication of total thyroidectomy because the parathyroid glands are intimately associated with the thyroid gland. If all four of them are injured or accidentally removed with the thyroid, potentially fatal hypoparathyroidism can result. That’s why a common practice is to remove one or more of the parathyroids, mince them, and implant them into a skeletal muscle, a practice known as parathyroid autotransplantation. The cells survive, thanks to the blood supply of the muscle, and keep producing parathormone The story above is, of course, nonsense, as a quick look at even Wikipedia will tell you, as the function of the parathyroid glands was known as 1908.
In any case, live cell therapy is basically a quack treatment based on the concept that there is some sort of “essence” in various animal cells that can rejuvenate and repair human tissue, as described here:
In order for this to happen, ZÉLL-V Cellular Therapy supplies the human body with young and active cellular material obtained from sheep embryonic or early foetal cells and placenta. These active cellular materials are young and full of vitality, as such, once taken into the body, they are able to imprint their vigour upon the body’s weak and old cells, thereby ‘teaching’ them to regenerate themselves, resulting in an overall improvement and restoration of our bodily systems.
Even more ridiculously, these animal organs and glands are often produced in pill form, to be consumed rather than injected, so that, even if there were something in the cells that could affect human physiology, chances are that it would be destroyed by the digestive tract. Quackwatch, of course, has an excellent discussion of live cell therapy and why it is quackery. It’s also not safe. There have been reports of fatal immunological reactions, gangrene at the site of injection of sheep cells, among other problems.
None of that stops Zéll-V from selling sheep placenta pills for up to $1,920 a package and claiming all manner of health benefits. I was, however, amused to learn that there are organizations called the German Society for Thymus Therapy and the International Association for Organ Therapy Specialists Switzerland and Germany.
So, regardless if all of the doctors I’ve discussed up to now still practice at Hallwang, there is no doubt that, between Dr. Jacob and Dr. Schmierer, Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic still delivers the quackery.
The Australian connection
But wait. I’ve overlooked someone. Actually, no, I haven’t. What I did notice in my searches is that Dr. Greg Schwarz is no longer at Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic. In fact, he’s moved to Australia to join Gore Street Medical in South Hobart, where he is described as having “returned from working at a specialised cancer centre in Germany,” bringing “his expertise in nutritional medicine and environmental medicine to Gore St Medical” and this:
Dr Schwarz is a medical practitioner focussing on integrative health care, targeted, individualised, holistic therapies for complex, chronic medical problems including cancer, autoimmune conditions, inflammatory conditions, fatigue including ME/CFS/fibromyalgia, neurological conditions including autism and dementia support, gastro-intestinal conditions, allergies and food intolerances, recurrent and chronic infections, and general preventative health.
And what sort of therapies does Gore Street Medical offer? The usual. Here are just a few:
- Herbal medicine
- Hobart hyperthermia
- Bowen therapy
- Traditional Chinese medicine with acupuncture
And, of course, there are iron and vitamin infusions and heavy metals chelation.
I was particularly amused by the woo babble in this video describing bioresonance:
Yep, it’s all about the “vibrations,” man. Basically, a machine determines the “bioenergetic” resonance of a compound suspected of causing problems and then determines if that’s what’s causing a patient’s symptoms. Yes, it’s basically a machine that goes ping, as in an expensive machine that doesn’t really do anything useful but sure looks impressive to the rubes.
In the end, the cancer quackery of the German alternative cancer clinics has produced a small metastasis to Australia in the form of Dr. Schwarz. Gore Street Medical contributes to the problem in an excellent short report that aired a week ago on Australia’s Science Channel:
Be it Germany, Mexico, Australia, or even the US, unfortunately cancer quackery is a problem everywhere. The German cancer clinics epitomize much of this problem, and there’s no sign that they’re going away any time soon. Patients not only end up undergoing ineffective treatment, they spend lots and lots of money doing it. I searched GoFundMe for Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic, and came up with five pages of patients trying to raise money to go to Hallwang. The GoFundMe pages had names like Saving Dad, Help Michelle’s Fight, Claires Medical Fund to Germany, Please Help My Mum Get Treatment!, and Hayley’s Cancer Treatment Fund.
As the Australian report above points out, conventional medical treatments must be supported with science and evidence from randomized clinical trials. As I pointed out last week, clinics like Hallwang rarely, if ever, publish their results, but that doesn’t stop them from taking advantage of the desperation of cancer patients by offering them false hope at a very high price.Cancer quackery from Germany to Australia David Gorski