Dr. Hulda Clark claims to be able to cure disease with a simple blend of herbs. Her bizarre claim is that every single cancer and AIDS are caused by three things: an intestinal fluke, isopropyl alcohol, and something called "ortho-phospho-tyrosine" (I'll call it OPT). Her herbal treatments supposedly cleanse the body of these elements, thereby ridding the causes of cancer and AIDS.
I first came across this con artist's writings in Borders. Borders is a pretty well-respected bookstore, and though I wish it didn't have an alternative medicine section, I understand the importance of free speech. But her book "The Cure for All Cancers" was in the normal medical section sandwiched between legitimate cancer books! Anyone with a little gullibility might assume that the book's neighbors lend it credibility.
Now, I work in the lab five days a week to help find the causes of prostate cancer. Cancer as a whole is a complex, elusive, and serious disease. Yet, not only does Dr. Clark think current cancer research is fundamentally wrong, she claims it's a deliberate government lie to swindle patients and keep them in expensive hospitals. Such tripe is already an insult to the entire research and health care industry, but to find the book on the same shelf as Gray's Anatomy... the Borders employees might as well have walked up and slapped me in the face.
But let's look at her claims: intestinal flukes and scientific-sounding compounds. First of all, there is no such thing as ortho-phospho-tyrosine. A quick internet search shows that the only reference to it is in reference to Dr. Clark. Even the nomenclature, to an amateur biochemist, is frighteningly awkward; even if something were to be found with that exact chemical structure, its name wouldn't start with "ortho-."
Second, all her claims about flukes are purely anecdotal. She shows pictures of flukes, but never describes a believable physiological pathway for them to cause any type of cancer, let alone all of them. Most of her arguments are tautalogical: Why do flukes cause cancer? Because they secrete OPT. Why does OPT cause cancer? Because it's secreted by flukes. She doesn't even offer one simple scientific test as proof, something called a Northern blot. All she needs to do is show that OPT is higher in all affected tissues in cancer patients versus healthy patients. Of course, nothing scientific is found at all.
In fact, a good 250 pages of her thick book are taken up by anecdotal testimonies. It details patients following her regimen and then notes the gradual disappearance of the offending isopropyl alcohol and OPT. But note that the diagnosis of the patients' states is based only on the presence of these elements. Only rarely in the testimonies does it actually state that clinically diagnosed cancer was cured! I wonder how many of those patients are dead by now...
Finally, if you look at the style of her writing (I laughed out loud in the store), it's composed like an infomercial. It screams at you, it runs bold text at you, it uses simplified, dumbed-down language, and it even taunts and abuses you. As Carl Sagan observed, scientists have a hard time competing with such showmanship for the attention of the public. I personally lament the poor state of writing abilities of many of my scientific colleagues, but occaisionally I see a glimmer of hope.
I also hope that bookstores will be more responsible in the future (I discreetly moved the book over to the New Age section). With luck, no one will be duped into buying and believing it.