Science that shouldn’t be called science!

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Recently a study appeared, which apparently showed, that cancer patients, who make use of alternative medicine, have a 2.5 fold increase in mortality, in comparison to those who are treated according to the standards of conventional medicine. This study was published in the renowned Journal of the National Cancer Institute in Oxford.

Naturally, this narrative has already been picked up and linked in the media multiple times. And of course I know, what “alternative medicine” consists of. Expressed leniently, I would say: The people who offer “alternative medicine” make up a colourful group of namely, white, black and also brown sheep. However, I also know that alternative medicine accomplishes things that conventional medicine does not.  Needless to say, when I read these types of headlines, I feel obliged to have a look at the study and find out how research can reach such a conclusion.

I was astounded. What did the study compare? First and foremost, the group of those who used „alternative medicine“ excluded any medical treatment entirely.  This means, the respective group of those cancer patients was treated solely by non-medical personnel.  This is as if I were to compare the work of an emergency doctor and that of a paramedic or an ambulance driver.  These are quite simply not comparable “treatments”.

Furthermore, patients with grad IV tumors, those who have remote metastasis, for example in the lung, brain, liver or bone, were excluded from the study.  Clearly, this avoids taking into account those patients, who do not achieve substantially better outcomes with conventional medicine, creating a false but very large advantage for the group receiving oncological treatment.

On a final note, the authors could not specify which “alternative medicine” treatments were being used.  And who would have thought? The authors obtain grant funds from radio oncologists and companies such as Pfizer, Johnsen and Johnson and Medtronic.  This in itself need not lead to biased studies. But when a very biased study presents itself, such as in this case, then we need to look for the reasons for it. Then the authors will have to be able to handle the criticism.

I wonder how the study even passed the peer review process (this is the process, in which a submitted publication is inspected and finally recommended an approval or rejection of the publication) and was finally published in renowned scientific journal.  The paper is below any standard of scientific work.

Resources: Photo: R. Aspalter

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