En excerpt from the book :
IN CANCER THERAPY"
by Ross, R.Ph. Pelton, Lee Overholser
The Hoxsey Treatment
PERHAPS NO PROMOTER of an alternative cancer treatment has fought longer and harder against the authorities of establishment medicine than Harry Hoxsey did while he was alive. There is a strong tendency for those on both sides, the establishment and the unconventional approaches to cancer treatment, to impugn the motives of the other and to claim to be the exclusive standard bearer of honest, untainted concern for the cancer patient. Often those on both sides are sincere in their beliefs, and this can certainly be said about Hoxsey.
The story begins in the spring of 1840, when Harry Hoxsey's great-grandfather John had a prize horse with a cancerous growth on its leg, a condition for which the local veterinarian had no cure. He decided to let nature take its course and let the animal roam free in the pasture. Amazingly, the cancer shrank, hardened, and fell off. John Hoxsey noticed that the animal went to a certain corner of the pasture and ate a variety of plants— red clover, alfalfa, buckthorn, prickly ash, and others. By treating various sick horses in the area with different formulas derived from these herbs, he developed external and internal treatments for cancer and other ailments, which he later used to treat humans. The formula was passed down from father to son until in 1919 it arrived in Harry Hoxsey's hands with the admonition to use it even if opposed by the "high priests of medicine."
Attack and Counterattack
In his autobiography, You Don't Have to Die, Hoxsey details how he began opening cancer clinics in the 1920s until he operated one of the largest outpatient clinics for cancer in Dallas in the early 1950s, with branches in seventeen states. (6) He lost few opportunities for challenging the medical establishment and promoting his own cures.
The battle between Hoxsey and the medical establishment shows how nasty such fights can become. Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, published articles denouncing Hoxsey and his late father as charlatans. In his book Hoxsey quotes from one such article, in the American Weekly, by Morris Fishbein and William Engle:
All the other wicked medical fakes, firing hope and darkening it to despair, pale beside the savagery of the cancer charlatans. They look like men, they speak like men, but in them, pervading them, resides a quality so malevolent that it sets them apart from others of the human race....
They slay their patients as guiltily as if they knifed them in the heart, and they stay within the letter of the law. (6)
The article goes on to specifically name Hoxsey and his treatment. For his part, Hoxsey responded with as much emotion in his characterization of Fishbein:
The distinguished author [Fishbein] had inherited from his spiritual father the technique of the big lie: "Make up a lie that's big enough, repeat it often enough and people will believe it!" Adolf Hitler was dead, but the Hitler of American medicine ranted on. (6)
Hoxsey filed a lawsuit for libel, which he won. However, the battle continued until repeated arrests and nationwide attacks by the FDA forced Hoxsey to close his clinics in the U.S. in the
late 1950s. In 1963 Mildred Nelson, Hoxsey's chief nurse, opened the Bio-Medical Center in Tijuana, Mexico, which still offers the Hoxsey treatment.
Certainly the war between Harry Hoxsey and the FDA left no room for learned and temperate discussion. The point of unearthing this old argument is to illustrate the emotions involved on both sides. To this day the intensity of the discussion has hardly subsided when the topic comes up.
A 1990 article in CA—A Cancer Journal for Clinicians relies on unproved allegations to denounce the Hoxsey treatment, concluding, "The Hoxsey medicine for cancer has been extensively tested and found to be both useless (the internal treatments) and archaic (the external treatments)." (14) These statements are simply not true. There has been no definitive study of the formula, but there are several studies that indicate that some of its ingredients may have antitumor effects.
The external treatment that is referred to is a caustic solution developed by Dr. Frederic Mohs in the 1940s for treating skin cancers. This caustic preparation is different from the herbal preparation that is sometimes applied externally. Dr. Mohs later discontinued the use of his formula, and it is rarely used by any practitioners today. (11, 12) His microsurgery technique for removing skin cancers is still in use.
This sad tale shows the worst of both the establishment and unconventional proponents of cancer treatment. The intensity of the antagonism prevented both sides from engaging in constructive activities, and the conflict has degenerated into a series of brutal attacks—both verbal and legal. Somewhere in the middle of this the real interests of the patients were forgotten. The story of Harry Hoxsey is a cautionary tale for all involved in investigating the treatment of cancer, whatever their opinions and orientation.
The formula used by Mildred Nelson at the Tijuana center (5) contains:
- Trifolium pratense (red clover)
- Arctium lappa (burdock root)
- Berberis vulgaris (barberry bark)
- Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice root)
- Rhamnus purshiana (buckthorn)
- Zanthoxylum americana (prickly ash)
- Larrea tridentata (chaparral)
- Stillingia sylvatica (stillingia)
- Picramnia antidesma (cascara amarga)
- Potassium iodide
Burdock root has shown antitumor effects in animal studies (7, 8), while two other studies were without effect. (9, 15) A constituent of buckthorn, aloe-emodin, had antitumor activity in tests. (10) Another ingredient, cascara, also contains aloe-emodin, but one test with powdered cascara showed no antitumor activity in an animal test. (1) The fact that a particular animal test shows no antitumor activity does not indicate that a compound is without anticancer effect. Different types of cancer react differently. Studies have shown antitumor effects with extracts of barberry. (2, 4) The OTA report states that components of prickly ash (chelerythrine and nitidine) and of stillingia (gnidi-latidin) have shown positive antitumor activities in animal tests. (13) Chaparral was added to the list by Mildred Nelson and is covered in detail in the chapter on that herbal remedy. The other ingredients, red clover, licorice root, and potassium iodide, have not demonstrated antitumor effects in tests.
The clinical evidence is not conclusive. While there is some indication that the components of the Hoxsey formula may have antitumor effects, there are no published studies of the formula itself. There may be synergistic effects between the various components, but without tests, one cannot say.
The only clinical evidence for the effectiveness of the Hoxsey treatment comes from the studies of Harry Hoxsey himself. In his book he presents several case studies that are supposed to be definitive cancer cures; however, it is difficult to evaluate these reports without independent confirmation. (6)
Hoxsey wanted the NCI to review his patients records, for he sincerely believed he was curing people. In 1945 he submitted records of sixty patients, and in 1955 he submitted seventy-seven more cases. It was his contention that all were examples of successful treatment of cancer. The upshot was that the NCI contended that his treatments could not be evaluated because the records were incomplete or inconclusive. For his part, Hoxsey countered that the NCI refused to render an opinion because of a conspiracy against him by the AMA. This is where the matter stands today.
There are no reports of side effects or toxicity in the medical literature. One of the ingredients, licorice root, has produced adverse effects when taken in massive amounts. Another, pokeroot, can be toxic, but is not included in the current formulation. (3) It is unlikely that the level of the herbs taken in the formula would be harmful unless large amounts were consumed.
The Hoxsey clinic recommends taking 1 or 2 teaspoonfuls of the powdered formula in a glass of hot or cold water two or more times daily. The use of the external treatments has largely been discontinued, because they are so harsh and painful; therefore they are not covered here.