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Orthomolecular Supplements, Part 1


Between 1978 and March, 1999 I have seen over 1040 patients suffering from cancer who came to me for nutritional and psychiatric counseling. This is no longer a surprising combination as it was when I first started to practice psychiatry in 1952. I attended my first annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Los Angeles, in 1952. I did not meet another psychiatrist there with a PhD in Biochemistry. Since then many more scientists with the double degrees have become active in this field but of these very few actively pursue this particular combination. Orthomolecular theory and practice drives these two together. I have retained my interest in the biochemistry and clinical aspects of nutrition combining this with my education in medicine and later in psychiatry. The recovery of my first patient in 1960 from terminal bronchiogenic cancer of the lung arose from this coalescence of these two disciplines.

By 1960 my research group in Saskatchewan had discovered the first biochemical substance that was clearly related to the schizophrenias. Not knowing its structure we called it the mauve factor until it was later identified as kryptopyrrole. We tested thousands of patients and found that over 75% of all schizophrenic patients excreted this substance in their urine. It was also present in about 25% of other psychiatric groups, in about 10% of severely stressed physically ill patients and in about 5% of normal people but they were mostly first order relatives of schizophrenic patients. It disappeared with recovery of the patients no matter how they were treated. I was particularly interested in the fact that out of eight patients with cancer of the lung, this factor was present in 5.

In 1960 a retired psychotic professor was admitted to our psychiatric department at University Hospital in Saskatoon. He had a bronchiogenic carcinoma of the lung and when he became psychotic it was concluded he had secondaries in his brain. He was placed on terminal care, expected to die in a month or so. Earlier he had been discharged to the care of his wife and a nurse but after several weeks had to be readmitted since they could not cope with his behavior. As soon as I discovered he was on our ward I had his urine collected and we tested it for the factor. He excreted copious quantities which we were able to use to help us identify the substance. I then advised his resident to start him on niacin 1 gram after each meal and on ascorbic acid 1 gram after each meal. By then I knew that this combination of vitamins used in megadoses was very helpful in treating any patient with this factor in their urine no matter what they were diagnosed.

Fortunately for this patient the resident accepted my advice (the patient was not under my care but I was Director of Psychiatric Research at the hospital). He was started on the two vitamins on Friday afternoon and he was mentally normal by the following Monday. I knew this patient before he became ill as I had treated his wife. After he had recovered I advised him to remain on these two vitamins. In 1960 our research unit was the only one in Canada, and perhaps in the world, where 500 mg tablets of these vitamins were available. They were specially made for us. If smaller tablets were used in these large doses they would make our patients sick because they contained so much filler. I told him that if he would pick up a supply each month I would give it to him free. This meant he had to see me each month and this gave me the opportunity of assessing his psychiatric state. I did not expect he would recover from his cancer. He had been told of his dismal prognosis and I did not contradict that.

Abram Hofer

To my surprise he kept on coming back. About 12 months later I had lunch with the Director of the Cancer Clinic which had been following his case. He told me that the tumor had become less and less visible with each X ray every three months and that it was now no longer present. He lived about 30 months after he was diagnosed terminal. I had hoped that when he died he would be autopsied at University Hospital. Unfortunately he died at another hospital and I did not hear this until several days later. He did not die from his cancer. Two years later a woman I had treated for depression several years earlier consulted me again. This time she was depressed because her 16-year-old daughter had Ewings tumor (a highly malignant sarcoma) in one arm and she was slated for surgery to amputate her arm. This was the standard treatment. I told her about the previous patient and his recovery and suggested that although there was no evidence it would help it could do no harm and might possibly be of some value.

Her daughter agreed to take niacinamide 1 gram after each meal and ascorbic acid 1 gram after each meal. Her surgeon agreed to postpone surgery for a month. She recovered and the last time I heard from her family she was married and leading a normal productive life, with both arms. I concluded that vitamin B-3 was the most important component and that the vitamin C was helpful. In Saskatchewan under my direction we did the first double blind controlled therapeutic trials in Psychiatry, completing six by 1960. Therefore I was aware of the powerful influence of placebo. However when two terminal patients recovered on the vitamins it became powerful evidence that there was more than placebo at work. I did not see any more cancer patients until 1977 after I had established my practice in Victoria, BC. In British Columbia specialists will not accept patients until they have been referred by their general practitioners. As a psychiatrist I saw patients referred with psychiatric problems but in most cases the referring physicians would not indicate why the referral had been made and I would only discover the reason when I finally saw my patient.

A.S., an elderly woman appeared and when I asked her why she had come she replied that she had cancer of the head of the pancreas. She had developed jaundice. Her surgeon discovered she had a large tumor in the head of the pancreas which occluded her bile duct. He promptly closed, created a by-pass, and when she recovered from the anesthesia advised her that she had about 3 to 6 months to live. She worked in a book store. She had read Norman Cousins book Anatomy of an Illness and thought that if he was able to take so much vitamin C with safety she could too and she began to take 10 grams each day. The next time she consulted her doctor she told him what she was doing. He referred her to me since he was familiar with my interest in megadoses of vitamins. I reviewed her program and increased her vitamin C to 40 grams daily trying to reach the sublaxative level. I had been using multi nutrients for my schizophrenic patients for many years and since I had no idea which, if any, of these vitamins might help I reasoned that she would have a much better chance if she also were to take more than one nutrient. I then added vitamin B-3, selenium, and zinc sulfate.

Six months later she called me at home in great excitement. She had just had a CT scan. No tumor was visible. The CT scan was repeated by the incredulous radiologist. Her original bile duct had reopened and now she had two. She remained alive and well until she died February 19, 1999, nearly 22 years after she was told she would die. Rarely patients make a major contribution to medicine by their interest in a disease and their willingness to try innovative approaches. A.S's recovery changed my professional career and I believe will make a major contribution to the complementary treatment of all cancer patients. Last year at a public meeting I thanked her publicly when I discussed her case before a meeting of Cancer Victors. She added that I had changed her life as well. She has also changed the life of hundreds of cancer patients who became victors, not victims. By telling her friends, relatives and customers about her recovery she changed the nature of my practice.

That first year another five patients were referred. The second case was a man with a sarcoma of the prostate which was invading his pelvic bone. He was advised no treatment was available. His doctor referred him to me and I started him on a similar program. But he was only able to take about 10 grams of vitamin C daily. I asked his doctor if he would mind injecting him with 10 grams of vitamin C twice weekly. After six months his doctor wanted to know how much longer would he need to receive his vitamin C. He told me that the tumor was gone. He stopped the injection. He lived another 9 years and died at age 80, but not from his cancer. More patients were referred to me each year. At first almost all of them were patient-generated and often it took remarkable persuasive powers for the patient to obtain the necessary referral. After assessing their physical and mental state I would talk to them about the therapeutic regimen. I outlined the program in detail describing each nutrient and why I thought they might be helpful.

I added that there was no guarantee that the vitamins would be helpful but gave them hope by describing the cases who had had a dramatic response. I added that the vitamin mineral program would decrease the toxicity of the xenobiotic treatment and would increase the efficacy of the xenobiotic program. If they needed surgery they would heal faster afterwards. If they needed chemotherapy the program would make it more tolerable and less painful and if they needed radiation the program would decrease the intensity of the side effects of the radiation and increase its efficacy. These comments were based on the literature which was developing rapidly. The program was designed to assist the body in controlling the cancer and was not a direct assault on the tumor. The attack on the tumor was carried out by the other physicians including their family doctor, the surgeons, the radiologist and oncologists. The diagnosis of the cancer and the xenobiotic treatment used was left entirely to the patient and their other doctors.

I did not advise them whether or not they should take any other treatment. Very few did not receive xenobiotic therapy. After describing the program I would arrange to see them once more unless they were very depressed and anxious, in which case I would see them more often. A few of the patients had been under my care before they developed their cancer and I continued to see them. I then sent a consultation report to each referring physician. After the second interview they were returned to the care of their family physicians. I had not planned on doing any follow up but after several years when I had treated about 50 patients I became aware that the patients who had followed the regimen consistently for at least two months lived much longer than the patients who did not start the program or did not take it for at least two months. About this time I went to a Festchrift for Dr. Arthur Sackler at Woods Hole, Mass. We met in 1951 when I was starting our research program. He and his brothers were practicing in mid-Manhattan. They were probably the first orthomolecular psychiatrists in the United States. They were treating schizophrenic patients by injecting them with histamine.

After I returned home I repeated their studies and found that their observations were correct. Out of twelve patients I treated using their regimen 8 became normal. The treatment was difficult since they had to be given increasing amounts of subcutaneous histamine until their diastolic pressure decreased to 0. It was amazing to see how comfortable they could be with that low blood pressure. Treatments were given daily on week days until the series was completed. I did not continue this series because by this time I was using megadoses of vitamin B-3 which was much easier to administer and equally effective. The histamine flush was identical with the niacin flush. At that meeting Dr. Linus Pauling delivered a vigorous and careful critique of the Mayo Clinic's attempt to repeat the studies he had done with Dr. Ewan Cameron in Scotland. The Mayo group claimed they had exactly repeated these studies but it was clear on reading their paper that they had not. Dr. Pauling did not object to their negatives findings.

He objected to their statement that their conclusions resulting from a different method of administering the vitamin C were used to condemn his and Camerons findings. In other words no scientist can claim to confirm or deny any study unless they really have repeated the original work as described by the original authors. The next morning, after breakfast, I visited Linus Pauling who was staying in the room next to mine. When I walked in he was busy with a hand calculator. He told me he was working out the electron orbitals saying that he did not understand them unless he did the calculations himself. I told him that on the basis of my fifty patients I had concluded that he and Cameron were right, that vitamin C in large doses did improve enormously the outcome of treatment for cancer. Linus asked me if I intended to publish the data. I replied that I did not. I added that in my opinion there was little point in trying to do so since it would be impossible to gain entry into any medical journal, that they would not accept any paper that dealt favorably with megadose vitamin therapy.

The New England Journal of Medicine, which had published the Mayo Clinic attack on Pauling, refused to publish his rebuttal. Linus urged me to do a complete follow up study of every patient I had treated. I was flattered and agreed that I would. He said that he would see that the material would be published. But when I returned home I decided not to do the follow up. It would have meant an enormous amount of work. I thought that Dr. Pauling was being kind to me. Two years later I received a letter from Linus in which he said bluntly "Abram where is the study". I decided that he was serious about it. By then I had seen 134 patients. I apologized and promised to start the follow up immediately. I traced every patient and determined whether they were alive, where they were, and what had happened to their lives. I contacted the patients, their families, their doctors, the cancer clinic where nearly all of them had been seen and treated. The Cancer Clinic in Victoria did a good job of investigation, diagnosis and treatment using only xenobiotic therapies.

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