Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy

Non-Toxic Biological Approaches to the Theories, Treatments and Prevention of Cancer

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Cancer and Nutrition - An Interview with Harry Sackren, M.D

We are pleased to include the following transcript from the radio program Bread & Roses which aired on WBA1-FM radio in the late 1970's. Ruth Sackman, President of FACT and Charles Bell, FACT board member, appeared regularly with host Dave Metzger to discuss health issues and answer listener phone calls. Despite the passage of time the information remains fundamentally sound in all its basic aspects and is an important corrective to the pseudo-concepts that are passed off today as wholistic.

Dave Metzger: Welcome to Bread & Roses. With me this afternoon are members from the Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy: Ruth Sackman, President, Charles Bell, Vice President, and a special guest, Harry Sackren, M.D., who is a nutritionist. Today, not surprisingly, the program is going to be focusing on nutrition.

Charles Bell: Thanks, Dave. We've had five or six programs with B & R so far and it's been a real nice opportunity to familiarize people with the approaches that our organization is trying to bring to the attention of the public. We also like to constantly keep in mind that the first thing we'd like to be able to do is to dissolve our organization if orthodox medicine could come up with some reasonable cures and reasonable solutions to the cancer problem.

The reason we exist and the whole purpose of our effort stems from the fact that the cure rates for cancer are deplorably poor, running roughly 8%. There are exceptions to it, but really very little progress has been made in the last 20 years since the "War on Cancer" was announced. Consequently, orthodox medicine, we feel, has to bring much greater latitude to the types of therapies that are considered, and not just stick to the radiation, chemotherapy and surgery which are characteristically almost the only tools used.

Our organization is aimed primarily at dealing with what would best be called biological or non-toxic healing modes where people learn, hopefully, how to prevent cancer and how to deal with the illness in other ways if they are afflicted. We make no claims for cures, no suggestion that there's an easy path, that it's simply routine and straight forward to get rid of cancer. However, we do think that these alternative approaches should be given much greater consideration than they are by the orthodoxy and we're happy today to have Dr. Harry Sackren join us. He is a nutritionist with many years experience and has experience also in dealing with cancer patients.

We have touched on the problem of toxicity. Dave, as you know, toxicity from our viewpoint has a great deal to do with the generation of cancer in the first place and this toxicity usually comes, primarily, from very bad eating habits and the excessive use of chemicals in food, in the workplace and in one form or another in the environment. Today is our first opportunity to take a more in depth look at the problem of cancer in relation to nutrition. So, I think I'll turn to Ruth and we can proceed from here.

Ruth Sackman: Recently, there was an item that appeared in the newspapers quoting Dr. Geo B. Gori of the National Cancer Institute in which he stated that the cancer patient, even in a debilitated state, can probably manage from 1-5 years providing there's good nutritional support. We sent for the material from NCI and it's most interesting because they're going to go into the whole background of cancer to determine how nutrition may cause cancer, how it may prevent cancer and how it may cure cancer. This has not been completed. Unfortunately, the amount of money that's been given to that particular department, which is called Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Program, has been fairly limited, but we think Dr. Gori has been doing an excellent job.

I want to read one little quote from this paper and then spend most of the time with Dr. Sackren , who's had a nutritional practice now for 40 years. "Specifically, with respect to cancer, there is an increasing number of studies relating dietary and nutrient excesses and deficiencies and imbalances to cancer development. For example, cancers of the stomach, colon, gastrointestinal tract, pancreas and liver have specifically correlated with dietary and nutrient intake." Dr. Sackren, I wonder if you want to give us some idea what you've been doing for these many years.

HS: Well, I have found in my years of practice that food, that is, the nutrients that the body takes in, is exceptionally important and in fact, it is most important in prevention of disease and in the attempt to bring the patient back to health. I have used it not only in cancer but in other disorders.

It is obvious now nutrition is basic. I don't see how it could have been overlooked all these years by so many because actually the body is made up of cells and the cells are made up of nutrients. To assume that the body is just taking in every one of those nutrients all the time in the proper manner and the proper combination is silly because food has been changing --the preparation of food, the growing of food, every aspect of food has been altered. So it is very important to watch and study what the individual takes in. Furthermore, food has been changed in so many ways. We now have additives to food in the form of chemicals of all kinds. Now we have found that they are definitely related to cancer.

HS: Do you feel those additives are cumulative?

HS: Well, I have no evidence myself. It seems to me logical when we found DDT in fat tissues accumulated in the body. I think there have been quite a few studies that show there's been accumulation of many of these additives. I feel very strongly that they not only are destructive to the cells and the liver which have to receive the food and break it down to their nutrients and in the process have to detoxify the chemicals which have come in with the food. So that's sure to leave some destruction to liver cells. Furthermore, there is tissue which must accumulate these chemicals. I'm sure that there is a destructive effect.

HS: We might find this out later, but we have to protect ourselves now. In other words, what everyone looks for is that definitive scientific evidence in order to make an official statement, but we could be suspicious even now about some of these elements in the food, don't you think?

HS: I agree. I think this is very important because if we wait for scientific evidence, the whole present generation will be affected perhaps disastrously before we wake up--witness this sudden interest in nutrition by the NCI. The evidence has been accumulating and it's only now - and I believe it is really due to the pressure of the public because I have found that the lay person nutritionally is far ahead of the medical profession - the public is demanding attention so they have to respond.

CB: An example might be given, too: DES which was used for some years for women for fertility and now it has turned out some 12-15 years later that it tends to lead to vaginal cancer in girls.

HS: And DES was being used in cattle feed and by injection , you know. FDA had taken some action against it, but the ranchers went into court and overthrew the FDA's decision. But finally DES was banned, so it is no longer in the meat supply but it has been replaced with another hormone which could be just as bad or even worse. While an agency has to wait for scientific evidence, I don't think we have to, do you?

HS: We certainly don't. For example, saccharin all these years has been used and they now find that it has carcinogenic properties. Estrogen has been used and that has problems. But the damage is done. I have a patient who brought her daughter with her. The mother had DES and her daughter is suffering now from a pre-cancerous condition. 'Why should we wait for that. I think we have to assume -it may be wrong - but I think it's correct to assume that non-biological substances added to food may be a potential hazard and therefore, the emphasis is on whole, natural food.

HS: Now, what foods are the most important in the diet? HS: I have found that the body does not tolerate proteins too well. Proteins have to be broken down in the liver into the various amino acids and then Utilized. The pancreas has to supply the enzymes to take care of the proteins. Although a certain amount of protein is necessary, it seems that the cancer patient does better with whole grain carbohydrates like the cereals, vegetables, soups, legumes, fresh salads and fresh juices like carrot juice and other juices and fruits and fruit juices and later on a little bit of fish and perhaps a little bit of chicken. I have found an adequate amount of protein is perhaps 45-50 grams daily.

HS: So it's a low protein diet?

HS: Yes, low protein, high carbohydrate. Not too low, but as much as a patient can tolerate.

HS: You treat any sort of disease?

HS: Yes.

HS: In other words, you're promoting nutritional support for the individual more so than treating a disease.

HS: That's correct.

HS: It's our impression that the raw foods are an important part of the diet. Do you agree with that?

HS: There's no question about that. Raw foods have the enzymes and all the minerals and vitamins and the various other substances about which we know very little. As soon as you cook food, you do change the character of it although a certain amount of cooked food is necessary, such as baked potatoes. I feel the more raw foods a patient can take in the form of juices or salads, the better.

HS: Is a ferment essential?

HS: In Europe they use fermented products and it seems that the lactic acid in the fermented product does help the digestion and makes the food more assimilable. Whether it is due to a certain small bacillus, a digestive organism there, whatever the reason is, it seems to help. Many of these cancer cases seem to have very low gastric juice so this seems to help. Sometimes in Europe they can get the yogurt or the beet juices which are fermented.

HS: There's not that much on the market here. I think there are two companies providing the fermented vegetable juices Biotta and Eden.

HS: Yes, however, those things are already canned and it would be better if we could have it fresh. Some people in Europe use sauerkraut which is fermented cabbage.

HS: Aren't these things important to provide the proper intestinal flora.

HS: Ah, very important because I believe that an altered intestinal flora are probably the cause of the initiation of the cancer. The intestinal flora are changed by many things: first, when the individual takes an inadequate amount of fiber in the food we know that the flora change. The person gets constipated. We also know that the bile acids and bile bacteria secreted from the gall bladder area and the ducts do change and they can change into precursors of carcinogens or they can form substances which can easily change into carcinogenic substances. So that is important.

I find that white sugar for any number of reasons does tend to change the flora in the intestinal tract detrimentally. The flora of the intestinal tract are very important and when the flora change, they produce substances in the intestinal tract which go into the liver and the liver has to cope with this unexpected and non-biological toxic substance and has to discard it.

DM: Dr. Sackren, can you define what flora is to the listeners?

HS: Well, a baby is born with flora. Our intestinal tract is full of germs, but they are friendly germs. A baby has bifida germs which help to digest perhaps protein substances or other substances. The flora produces certain vitamins. Vitamin B12, I believe, is produced in the intestinal tract.

As soon as you change to a high protein diet, you're changing to putrefactive bacteria, a different type of bacteria which the body is not really accustomed to. So you have to deal with new waste products - the skatol, the indole and all the substances which used to be measured in the urine. Today somehow it's been neglected but it's very important.

HS: Don't the antibiotics and the preservatives in the food destroy that good bacteria, too?

HS: Yes, the antibiotics will change the flora. In fact, some people who are very sensitive to it will be affected by diarrhea or other symptoms. So even doctors advise that you should take a form of lactobacillus which was used by the nutritionists many years ago. Now the doctors are giving it with their antibiotics.

CB: There are a couple of products on the market now, while we're mentioning that; there are 2 or 3 different brands of acidophilus cult= which you can buy and take a tablespoon a day and a couple of brands of the bifidus. At least I know one from Germany. Those can help to restore the flora. I've learned from my reading that whey is very useful in that regard because the lactose in the whey apparently causes the acidophilus to flourish.

HS: I feel that both are important. But I feel that if, for example, you take the bifida and continue to eat the protein and the sugars, you're not going to have enough benefit. If the patient doesn't change the diet, the acidophilus will not help.

HS: I think the most insidious things are the preservatives in the food which destroy germs but also destroy the good intestinal flora too, and most people aren't aware of that

HS: I think that's very true. I haven't seen any work on that, but I believe it's so. It's powerful enough to kill bacteria, so why not?

HS: Of all kinds, good and bad.

CB: I know of studies where people were very healthy despite the fact they were taking in an insufficient amount of vitamins the vitamins were manufactured in the body by friendly bacteria. So I guess that really carries a great deal of power in terms of general health. HS: Do you have any reservations about the use of megavitamins for a cancer patient or do you prefer low potency material? Don't you feel it's most important to get the elements the body needs from the food first?

HS: Yes, I think that's very important I have found that patients come to me with bushel baskets full of high potency vitamins and minerals and still are very sick, so basically it means getting on a good diet first and then if you want to add some of the minerals and the vitamins and the enzymes perhaps it can be beneficial.

However, to answer your question, I have found that in the cancer case, if they get on a proper diet and they get on the detoxification program, that is where they change the bacteria in the lower bowel and improve the liver function by getting rid of the irritating substances in the liver. Then I think they don't need supplements or very little.

CB: It's interesting that Dr. Alan Nitler from the West Coast says very much the same thing. He takes the biological approach that anything in unusual doses is potentially unbalancing in the body and he includes vitamins in that.

HS: I agree with him.

CB: What do you do in a case when you're confronted with someone who is really pretty far gone as far as cancer?

HS: Here's what happens. There are far advanced cases. They come and they've had chemotherapy for a whole year. They come to me only because the patient isn't able to swallow anything, they are nauseous. They cannot take any food. That means that the liver is very far gone. It isn't the cancer, it's the liver from the toxicity - swollen perhaps and not able to function. That is a problem. What I do in a case like that is give them instant proteins made from a good source--low temperature and enzymatically active, tasty. I put it in freshly made carrot juice and give the patient an ounce or two at a dine until they can get other food down. But those are extreme cases.

CB: Isn't it true then for the type of approach, it certainly is important to catch the patients before their biological resources are depleted, before they're on their last leg?

HS: The real answer to cancer in our society is going to be prevention. That's the end that I'm working toward. I feel that every time a patient is put on a good program, at least what I think is a good program, I feel that individual is forestalling the onset of cancer. At least the chances are increased many fold.

HS: You know it was interesting that you said to give a good quality protein with the carrot juice. I think it has been found that although the cancer patient should have a low protein diet, that they also have a protein deficiency because the pancreas has not been able to metabolize the protein for a long time, has not been able to get the protein to the cell level.

HS: There are very few good proteins, as you know, at least in my experience. When a patient is able to take food, I think they don't have to have much concentrated food like meat, fish or eggs. They can get nourishment from all their vegetables. They get it from their potatoes, the various vegetable juices.

CB: So I guess we've talked about prevention as the most promising thing to do, Dr. Sackren. Unfortunately, we're in a time when 1 out of 3 people is going to have cancer, so our organization, of course, as much as we try to do about prevention, we are always confronted with people with desperate situations who have already exhausted their health and their money going through the rigorous treatments that they're offered these days. So it's a situation where they suddenly wake up and say I should be doing something about nutrition.

DM: Okay, we have some phone cans coming through. WBAI, you're on the air.

Caller: I think it's an excellent program and a really important discussion and wish you'd have more programs like this. I had a question for Dr. Sackren. If people are eating a balanced diet and the information is available about what these types of diets are, wouldn't vitamins and supplements really be harmful?

HS: I agree with you that the more wholesome a diet a person takes, as you say, the less the need for these large doses of vitamins. But there is a place for it in medicine. CB: rd like to add one more comment if I could. I saw a study by Dr. Richard Passwater, biologist, stating that gorillas in the natural state eat greens in huge quantities and get all the vitamins and minerals their bodies require.

Caller: I'd like to mention a magazine that published some of the best information about traditional eating habits and cancer, etc. It's called the East-West Journal and for years now they've been talking about the importance of natural diet in cancer...

HS: That's fine, but I think they concentrate on the macrobiotic diet and from our experience we don't feel that that is properly balanced.

Caller: I happen to participate in this type of diet myself and I know of hundreds of others who do.

HS: We do too, and we've also gotten calls from people who have been on strict macrobiotic diets who have developed problems and because we are a cancer organization I have to make that statement.

Caller: I have a condition known as congenital hepatic fibrosis. I was wondering if this can be equated to cancer and if so can this diet be beneficial?

HS: The diet that I outlined would be beneficial in your case along with other types of liver disorders, even though yours is not really related to cancer. But a low protein, easily digested form of diet with its high vitamins and minerals would be excellent, as I see it, for a condition like yours.

HS: We must understand that this is not a case of the doctor taking care of your particular disease, but it's nutrition for every kind of problem.

Caller: I'd like to know what is the prime difference between proteolytic enzymes and digestive enzymes and where can the proteolytic enzymes be obtained ? One other question about vitamin A in reference to cancer?

HS: Proteolytic enzymes are the enzymes in the body, particularly in the pancreas which digest proteins. There are also fat digesting, starch-digesting enzymes. There's a little protein-digesting enzyme in the stomach, the pepsin, but that is not as significant You can buy proteolytic enzymes in a health food store. There are also other proteolytic enzymes, like bromelain which is a pineapple type of enzyme. These are vegetable enzymes, not enzymes produced by animals.

Vitamin A, you asked about, is quite important Vitamin A - we don't know exactly how it works - but the liver stores it and then utilizes it in many ways. Vitamin A has been shown to improve the immune mechanism of the body. It's the mechanism that helps resistance for the individual. We use a lot of carrot juice in the treatment of cancer. Carrot juice contains carotene which is a precursor, which is made into vitamin A in the liver. If your liver is working, you get your vitamin A built up that way. The more carrot juice you take, the less vitamin A you need to take additionally.

HS: Isn't it true that some cancer patients have difficulty metabolizing oil because of weak liver function so that oil-based vitamin supplements like vitamin A might not be appropriate for them?

HS: That is correct. In the individual with cancer the pancreas seems to be functioning poorly so that their fat digesting enzyme is aLso inadequate. They cannot absorb oil and assimilate it, so they're best off with the carrot juice. Carrot juice seems to be a marvelous food element. It's almost to me like a botanical. It works beautifully. It really is basic.

Caller: I'd like the name of the organization again that Dr. Sackren belongs to and how can I subscribe to the best possible journal, get the best possible diet available today?

CB: Our organization has been invited to talk on B & R from time to time and Dr. Harry Sackren is a guest of ours, but in no way represents us. He is a professional that we think very highly of. We can give you our name and telephone number. Our name is the Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy. The number is 212-7412790. We publish a magazine called Cancer Forum.

Caller: If low protein is called for, is desiccated liver in that class and if the pancreas is not functioning properly, would a pancreatic enzyme be advisable?

HS: The desiccated liver is not taking the place of a protein. It is serving to give you certain minerals and vitamins in the liver and perhaps some liver elements which we as yet know nothing about. Pancreatic enzymes are very helpful. I use it in cases where I feel the pancreas is inadequate to take care of the protein ingested. Of course, you realize that the less protein you take, the easier it is for the pancreas to supply enough to digest the protein. However, you also must be careful not to consume too little protein.

Caller: How many grams a day protein do you think are necessary for average height and weight?

HS: There's a great bit of dispute on that. In medicine there are many who say 120-150 grams is not too much. On the other hand, you find certain people who go on a vegetarian diet who go as low as 20-25 grams a day. I think there's no hard and fast rule. I think every case is different, but I find many of my patients, most of them do very well with a moderately low intake, perhaps 4550 grams a day. But it's not only the number of grams a day of protein, it's the quality of the protein that you eat that makes a big difference and what is utilized or assimilated into the cells.

Caller: Have you heard of the method of producing bacteria from seeds such as rye, etc. to soak in warm water for a few days?

HS: Yes, that's something that Ann Wigmore developed, called Rejuvalac. Ifs fine.

Caller: Is it healthful?

HS: Yes

CB: It seems to be very healthful in building up the acidophilus culture.

Caller: Have you heard of using the acidophilus culture to predigest certain foods like seeds?

CB: You mean, making a culture from the seeds? Caller: Yes, like kind of a yogurt from vegetable sources. HS: Oh yes, we've known of yogurt and cheese being made of nuts, too.

CB: Their are all kinds of fermented products throughout the world. Every culture seems to have 3 or 4 things that they make by fermentation, even from the fish out in Southeast Asia - doesn't smell so good, but it's good for you.

Caller: I have allergies and I cannot eat raw vegetables. I have an excellent appetite. For proteins I have an egg everyday, very little milk. I do eat cottage cheese and that's it. I don't know what to do about the fact that I can't eat raw vegetables. I take B and C vitamins and I tried talking One-A-Day Plus, but that doesn't agree with me.

HS: I have found that allergies have become a greater and greater problem in our society now. I believe that a lot of it is due to the preservatives, additives and various chemicals in food. It has done something to our immune system. I think in your case it would be difficult to tell you just what to do, but I have found that you can take some vegetables. You can't be sensitive to everything. If you can't take the raw vegetables per se, you can make a blended type of salad. You can take a vegetable and either juice it or put it in a blender and you get the minerals and the vitamins.

Caller: My husband is a cancer patient. He has cancer of the lung, it's secondary, it came from his kidney His kidney was removed and 3 years later they found cancer in his lung. He's on very high doses of vitamin C. They were pushing chemotherapy on him and he refused to take it. He didn't want anything to do with it. So the least we did, I give him high vitamins. I want to know what other vitamins would be useful for a patient with lung cancer? For the last year the cancer is stationary. I think it's the vitamin C that's making it stationary.

HS: Well, you certainly can enjoy nutritional support with a good nutritionist.

CB: In other words, an overall program, not simply vitamins.

Caller: He stopped smoking and he's on a pretty good diet, but I thought there might be other vitamins...

HS: There's no way the doctor can prescribe a program over the telephone. It is the kind of thing where you need a total program: there's acid/alkaline balance, a proper ferment as we talked about for intestinal flora, you need a controlled protein intake, enough roughage. The protein sometimes isn't being utilized. The doctor lcnows and he'll suggest either a digestive enzyme or a proteolytic enzyme to try to get the protein through the system. It is not the kind of question that we're in a position to answer on the telephone. A doctor would have to look at a cancer patient to establish a good nutritional program It's a total program Everything that the body requires. It must be designed individually.

HS: Let me just conclude this by saying that in my program, the additional vitamin supplements are the last part of the program, not the fist.

Caller: I'd like to know how do you know what brand or what type of vitamins? Some say "natural" or "organic" some say "chelated." How do you know which one to pick?

CB: That's a very tough question. The clever promotional people are busy trying to use the right words like "natural" to camouflage a lot of ingredients that aren't the best. This is a case of the buyer beware. The greatest amount of caution and thoroughness is necessary to evaluate what is really reliable, well made, if you want a natural supplement. There's no ready answer here.

HS: Doctors usually do know. I know Dr. Sackren uses good quality vitamins in his practice. You cannot try every vitamin that's on the market. Many of them have coloring, sugar, binders, preservatives - as many as 30 different things in one product that is still labeled natural providing it has about 5% natural ingredients in it and the FDA considers that a natural product. So it is sometimes wise to deal with a doctor when you're dealing with nutrition. Nutrition is much more potent that most people realize.

CB: I'd like to give a little example and that is, a popular yogurt here in NYC is constantly being advertised as "natural" and there's about 30% sugar in it. Of come, the argument can be made that sugar is natural, when sugar is really a chemical.

Caller: Don't they have to state that sugar is in it?

CB: Sure. They do, but the point is in all the promotion they keep stating that this is a "natural" yogurt. What they mean is there's nothing clearly identifiable as a chemical in it, but obviously sugar as it's manufactured today is really a chemical product.

DM: I'm afraid we're out of time so we're going to have to go. Ruth could you give the phone number.

HS: Thanks, Dave...212-741-2790.

DM: I want to thank Ruth Sackman, Charles Bell and Dr. Harry Sackren for being with us today for the program!

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