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[Editor’s note: This Friday we have a guest blog from Braden MacBeth. Welcome Braden!]

I found myself in the weird part of Amazon a few months ago. As it turns out Amazon is a big fan of sketchy health documentaries. You can view dozens of documentaries free of charge with Amazon Prime that support anti-vaccine views, peddle unproven cancer therapies, and all other sorts of nonsense. Which brings me to a documentary called Cancer Can Be Killed. Cancer Can Be Killed was produced by Jeff Witzeman and released in the summer of 2017. Witzeman claims that his wife’s bladder cancer was cured using these all-natural treatments provided by a clinic in Germany. In its opening scene Witzeman tries to pull the audience in with:

What if I told you that cancer can be killed naturally with no chemo, no radiation and no radical surgery in the form of organ removal? You’d probably say, yeah, that’s not real. So, I guess I’m gonna have to prove it you.

There’s no need for hypotheticals Mr. Witzeman, that’s not real. The “evidence” presented by Witzeman is always in the form of testimonials, testimonials make up at least 1/3rd of the film and are not a substitute for scientific evidence. The film goes exactly how you would expect; there is a laundry list of common alternative cancer treatment scams presented directly at the start. After presenting what in his mind is evidence, he then argues that the only reason the treatments presented aren’t standard is because the “medical system” prevents it somehow. Witzeman concludes the film by asking viewers to sign a petition to pass legislation that would force insurance companies to pay for these “natural” treatments.

The first thing you should know about the film is that none of the “treatments” showcased are new, and none of them have been proven effective. Many of the treatments showcased as effective not only have been proven be ineffective, they can be hazardous to your health. There are three “doctors” presented in the film, two of whom are not actually doctors, and all of whom have a history of slimy business practices, and their reasons for providing these alternative treatments are far from altruistic. But I guess I’ll have to prove it to you.

Bad science, bad treatments

Hyperthermia

There are a number of “treatments” on display in Cancer Can Be Killed with varying degrees of illegitimacy. The film tries to start out strong with a treatment that is used by real doctors, hyperthermia, but Witzeman’s doctors just choose to use it in a manner that the evidence suggests is ineffective. Hyperthermia is heating parts of the body to a high temperature, usually near the site of a tumor, which makes the tumor more susceptible to radiation and chemotherapy. However, Phillip Battiade (more on him later) states “to be honest it’s very rare on of my patients does chemotherapy or radiation, we seem to be able to manage things without that”. But there is no evidence to support the stand-alone use of regional or whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of cancer, and we’ll learn later you shouldn’t trust a word Phillip Battiade says.

One of the main premises of Witzeman’s arguments in the film is that the “medical system” prevents all of these miracle cures for cancer. At the end of the film Witzeman asks the audience to sign a petition to propose legislation that would legalize standalone hyperthermia treatment. Witzeman states that Battiade “can’t do the “magic” that he does here in the States because “the FDA prevents it”. I am unable to find any legislation or binding recommendation by the FDA banning or limiting the use of hyperthermia. The device featured in the film, the Celsius TCS, is not FDA approved, however there are other hyperthermia devices that are approved such as the BSD-2000.

All-natural ineffective IV treatments

Witzeman tells us that “German Cancer Treatment” is focused heat (hyperthermia), ozone therapy, and IV vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Which is total nonsense, science-based German cancer treatment is the same as what is the US, the laws of the universe do not change based on geography (of course, not all German cancer clinics use, or even include, science-based treatments). Let’s start with ozone therapy. The FDA states that “Ozone is a toxic gas with no known medical use in specific, adjunctive, or preventative therapy.” There is no evidence that ozone therapy is an effective treatment for any disease or disorder. But that won’t stop quacks from peddling ozone therapy for every disease in existence. Ozone therapy can be very dangerous, because apparently ozone is a toxic gas, and it can kill you like it killed Leslie Bramston.

There are a number of “all-natural” IV treatments showcased in the film such as vitamin-C, Myers cocktail, Laetrile, and chelation. Vitamin C has been studied quite extensively as a potential cancer treatment, but it’s been found to do nothing for cancer. Three randomized studies by the Mayo Clinic involving 367 patients found that high doses of vitamin C did not enhance survivability. High doses of vitamin C can also cause kidney failure in certain patients.

Myer’s cocktail is simply a mixture of various vitamins and electrolytes. Myer’s cocktail has not been proven to treat any disease or disorder. One placebo-controlled study looked at Myer’s cocktail as a treatment for fibromyalgia and it didn’t outperform placebo. But for some reason if you google “Myer’s cocktail” and the name of a health condition, you will find a naturopath trying to sell Myer’s cocktail as a treatment for that condition. It’s almost as if they don’t care if their treatments are effective or not.

Laetrile has also been studied as a potential cancer treatment and found to do nothing for cancer. In the phase two study conducted by the NIH in 1982, of the 175 patients treated with Laetrile only one met the criteria for a response with Laetrile and 45% of patients had measurable disease progression. Laetrile is also banned in the US because as it turns out, it’s quite dangerous. The side effects of Laetrile mirror the symptoms of cyanide poisoning because Laetrile breaks down in the presence of certain enzymes into glucose, benzaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide. The NIH states that the symptoms of Laetrile and cyanide poisoning include nausea, vomiting, headache, liver damage, hypotension, ataxic neuropathies, fever, mental confusion, coma, and death. While the NIH states that these side effects are more severe in the oral form than injected Laetrile, they also state that the side effects can be amplified by raw almonds, beta-glucoside containing fruits and vegetables, or by taking high doses of vitamin C orally. Mixing IV vitamin C and Laetrile doesn’t sound like the greatest of ideas.

Chelation therapy is another nonsense treatment presented in the film that “helps that body detox”. Chelation therapy is used to treat heavy metal toxicity. Chelating agents bind to heavy metals in the blood and are then processed through the kidneys and removed from the body in the urine. There is no evidence, nor reason to believe, that chelation therapy treats any type of cancer. However chelating agents can cause kidney damage, liver damage, brain damage, and death.

The Suhk-Les theory of physiology and sugar feeds cancer nonsense

The ‘Suhk-Les’ theory of physiology is very popular in the alternative medicine sphere. Suhk-Les physiology suggests that by eating foods that create an alkaline soot when burnt, the pH of your blood will be made alkaline, and allegedly no disease can survive in an alkaline environment. None of this is true of course. The food you eat has no effect of the pH of your blood, as your body is equipped with an extensive buffering system to ensure your blood stays at the physiological pH of 7.4. Even small deviations of about .05 pH can cause life-threatening health problems. While it is technically true that no disease can live in an alkaline environment, the same is true for all other organisms if the pH is high enough. How biology premed students survive with higher blood pH levels while still falling ill is a mystery that requires further research.

The other prominent myth peddled in Cancer Can Be Killed is the idea that sugar feeds cancer. While cancer technically feeds on sugar (glucose), so do all of the other cells in your body. There’s no evidence that a diet with reasonable amounts of sugar causes or hastens the growth of cancer cells. However, consuming excessive amounts of sugar can cause obesity and diabetes, both of which are associated with an increased risk for certain cancers. Knowing simple biology makes a later portion of the documentary incredibly funny; there’s this segment in the middle part of the documentary with a real oncologist. Despite the selective editing, he comes across very well. They take a picture of the candy bowl in his waiting room like a he’s dentist giving out full size candy bars on Halloween, as if it’s some sort of conspiracy.

The only problem I have with his candy bowl is that those appear to be peppermints, which are objectively the most disgusting kind of candy. Come on my dude, you run a civilized, sanitary establishment; nobody wants to be reminded of Pizza Hut. You can do better.

Dubious docs

Phillip Battiade and Infusio

Phillip Battiade is introduced as “a doctor in Beverly Hills”, however his title when he appears onscreen reads “HP”. Battiade is a ‘Heilpraktiker’ which is a licensed alternative health profession in Germany. You don’t need any formal education to get a heilpraktiker license, you only need to take a certification exam. However, Witzeman refers to him as “a doctor”, and one of the patients in the testimonials refers to him as “Dr. Phil”. It seems that Witzeman or Battiade himself is misrepresenting his credentials.

Phillip Battiade owns a business called Infusio or “Global Health Organization GmbH” which has clinics located in California and Germany. Battiade claims to be a “respected Medical Practitioner (Heilpraktiker) of alternative medicine in Germany, with over 20 years of medical experience, specializing in rehabilitative medicine, biological cancer therapies, and the treatment of chronic syndromes such as Lyme disease, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia“. He is a respected medical practitioner who has trouble treating Lyme disease apparently. In his YouTube video The Message Every Lyme Disease Patient Needs to Hear he says Lyme disease is “an untreatable monster” and for which we need to take a new treatment approach by “changing the cellular terrain”. He gives this “cellular terrain” spiel in Cancer Can Be Killed, because that is how he “treats” every disease in existence.

It is a matter of no interest to Phillip Battiade if the diseases he treats are real, let alone if the treatments his patients pay for actually work. It doesn’t matter to him that doxycycline treats Lyme disease quite effectively, and you can pick it up at Rite Aid for twenty bucks after you get a prescription from a REAL doctor. There are two things that Phillip Battiade loves in this world, this first is himself, and the second is getting people to buy into his “5 Steps to Health”.

Phillip Battiade really loves himself; he quotes himself on a significant portion of the pages on Infusio’s website. He claims to have spent 15 years working as a medical consultant and practitioner on a non-profit basis developing a network of some of the world’s top physicians. I don’t know who any of these “top physicians” are, but anyone who graduated from a legitimate medical school is a top physician compared to him. The only published research I can find is in the African Journal of Neurological Sciences. Mr. Battiade publishes in only the most high-impact of journals. He also claims to be fluent in eight languages. He’s shameless, he exaggerates his own achievements, and pretends to be more important than he actually is.

The one thing Battiade loves possibly more than himself is his “5 Steps to Health”, or as I like to call them the “5 Steps to Wealth”. Here’s how it works. You have an illness, and according to Phillip Battiade, it’s because your body is out of balance. To figure out what the imbalance comes from we’re going to need to run some expensive tests after consulting with the “health expert”. He will then devise a treatment plan that he thinks you’ll pay for. This generally involves the same treatments as everyone else, but he calls what he’s doing “disease specific treatment” anyways. The film gives us visual evidence of this, in the form of an invoice from Infusio to Jeff Witzeman’s wife. In total they spent $30,000 on Infusio’s treatments, some of which include things like Dioxychlor. Dioxychlor is marketed as “a natural antibiotic that kills bacteria”. What are the ingredients in Dioxychlor? Each drop contains “25,000 ppm NaCl with Combined Oxygen.” Anyone that sells this to cancer patients and claims it is a “natural antimicrobial, which supplies oxygen to the cancer cells” and “in an infusion it may help eliminate toxins, parasites, viruses and yeast” is unethical and you should not take medical advice from them.

Colleen Huber

Colleen Huber has been the subject of articles from many skeptic sites, particularly from part-time biology PhD student and full-time legend, Britt Marie Hermes. Huber is now suing Hermes in Germany for defamation because Hermes accurately described her actions in a manner that she did not like and could not control. Huber is introduced in the middle of Cancer Can Be Killed, where Witzeman parrots her claim that her clinic has a “90%” success rate. If you’ve read Hermes’ article on Huber’s research, or even read the research yourself, you know that it’s total nonsense. Witzeman refers to Huber as doctor, however she just wasn’t smart enough for medical school and left the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine sometime around 2001. She did successfully graduated from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine though, with an NMD degree. Witzeman claims that Huber published her research showing that her clinic had a “90%” cancer cure rate for all cancers, but the traditional medical community just wasn’t paying any attention. It is of course published in a predatory, open-access journal where anyone can publish anything for the low price of a thousand dollars or so.

One of Huber’s close friends, Hazel Chandler, appears in the film to praise natural cancer treatments. She’s presented as just another satisfied customer despite the fact that she is the executive director of the Naturopathic Cancer Society, of which Colleen Huber is the president. The Naturopathic Cancer Society is a non-profit that gives money to people who want to receive alternative cancer treatments but can’t afford them. It’s a society run by Huber to pay for treatments that pretty much only she offers. Why wasn’t Hazel Chandler’s affiliation with Huber or the Naturopathic Cancer Society noted in the film? I have no idea if this was intentionally excluded by Witzeman or if he legitimately didn’t know.

Carlos Garcia

Carlos Garcia and his clinic Utopia Wellness are introduced last in the film as a clinic that Witzeman “knows is so good, it was raided by the FBI”. Garcia is the only real doctor on the quack-side in this film, and he’s an anesthesiologist in addition to being a complete nutter.

You’re probably wondering about this ‘raided by the FBI’ thing. I’m unable to find any direct information about the investigation into Garcia even after hours of searching. However, I was able to find an appeal by Wilson Ellis in the case US vs. Wilson Ellis that mentions it. Wilson was indicted on one count of health care fraud and nine counts of false statements relating to health care matters, for intentionally using inappropriate billing codes to seek payment for chelation services provided at his clinic. Garcia was going assist Ellis by testifying as an expert witness, as a doctor who provided and successfully billed Medicaid for chelation therapy at his clinic in Florida. Around December 7th 2005, Garcia’s clinic was subjected to a search warrant as part of an open investigation by the OIG-HHS in Florida for his alleged “active and fraudulent billing of Medicaid in the State of Florida for chelation therapy”. Ellis tried to use this to dismiss the indictment under the 5th and 6th Amendments arguing that the OIG investigated Garcia the day after he was listed as a witness for the defense, in order to intimidate him. However, the court records show that he was already the subject of the open criminal investigation before he was ever listed as a witness in the case, and Ellis’s motion was denied.

Chelation is a term that keeps coming up, as it turns out Garcia is a proud member of the American College for Advancement in Medicine. It’s a very nice sounding organization, however ACAM pretty much exists to promote chelation therapy. ACAM and similar organizations work tirelessly trying to push legislation that will legally protect and promote their flavor of snake oil. It’s really no surprise Dr. Garcia is proud member of ACAM considering how many of its members have gotten in trouble for fraudulently billing Medicaid for chelation therapy.

Now I mentioned that Garcia is crazy, allow me to elaborate just how Coo-Coo-For-Cocoa-Puffs this guy really is. In his opinion the most common causes of cancer “are dental toxins in the form of root canals or teeth that have become cavitated or abscessed, or emotional issues”. There is no link between root canals and cancer despite woo-peddlers on the internet claiming that 97% of terminal cancer patients previously had a root canal procedure. There’s no evidence to support such an extreme claim. If you thought the dental issues thing was crazy, you know nothing Jon Snow.

Carlos Garcia also states that he thinks emotional issues are a major cause of cancer and these emotional issues are very non-specific. Here are the emotional issues he believes correlate with certain cancers as shown in the film:

Head, Neck and Lung Cancers Opinion challenged, ignored or not accepted as fact.
Breast, Ovarian, Uterine, Cervical, Vaginal, Testicular, Penile, Some Prostate Cancers Feel they have been betrayed by a loved one.
Reproductive Organ Cancers The feeling that had the patient been able to do more, the loved one would not have had the negative outcome. A sort of self-imposed punishment.
Esophageal, Gastric, Colon, Intestinal, Kidney, Bladder, Prostate Cancers Feel stuck in a situation where options are few. Feel helpless to change the outcome of what’s going on.
Musculoskeletal Cancers Feel as though they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Liver Cancer Patients are very angry and re-live angry episodes. //gg no re
Pancreatic Cancers People who have been publicly humiliated. //We can be chemo buddies if you want.
Right Side Body Cancers Correspond to issues with men
Left Side Body Cancers Correspond to issues with women

What can I even say to this? This is impressively bad. It’s a collection of non-specific symptoms and doesn’t qualify as a scientific hypothesis because it’s not testable. But that hasn’t stopped Garcia from publishing an entire book about his insane cancer theories.

Conclusion: Sadly it’s not parody

If doctors were to make a parody documentary about the things alternative-medicine peddlers believe, Cancer Can Be Killed is the film that they would make. Jeff Witzeman even shows signs of self-awareness when he asks so many times “Is this too good to be true?” Witzeman concludes the film by proposing legislation to “legalize stand-alone hyperthermia” and “demand insurance pays for natural treatments”. As previously discussed, there is no legal limitation on the use of hyperthermia treatments that I can find. Requiring insurance companies to pay for these “natural” treatments, invalidates the key premise of Witzeman’s argument. Insurance companies’ financial interests are competing with the financial interests of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. They want to pay for the least expensive treatment that is the most effective. Why would they participate in some grand conspiracy? The simple answer is that none of these treatments work, and no sane insurance company is going to pay for them.

Witzeman claims that he “followed the money” and that “cancer care in this country is $150 billion a year industry”. I too followed the money, but let’s evaluate why we spend so much money on cancer care not just in this country, but the entire world. As it turns out there are many different types of cancer with radically different pathologies that require radically different treatments. Many of these treatments require millions if not billions of dollars to develop and are only effective against types of cancer that only a few people have. This can make some treatments astronomically expensive. Treating cancer can involve a lot of inpatient care, and sadly a lot of end-of-life care – both of which involve tons of around the clock staff that need to eat too. Spending $150 billion as a whole is pretty easy when you combine all of these factors. Now while that might sound really sad, that’s real, that’s the best cancer care you can get. There’s no miracle cure in some cancer clinic in Germany that requires $30,000 up-front. All of the people that work in the real cancer care industry are motivated to give you the best evidence-based care possible. They’re using science to figure out the best care options, not making up reasons to give a vitamin IV.

Now let’s talk about a real conspiracy. Cancer is a very complicated illness even researchers and doctors don’t fully understand, and there’s a ton of misinformation online. Given that any type of cancer is a life-threatening illness, it creates the three feelings in patients that quacks love most: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It’s easy for quacks to make up an explanation of what causes cancer, how to treat it, and put those feelings to rest. It’s easy for them to make patients feel safe so they’ll pay for whatever is being peddled. Let’s not pretend that the providers showcased in this video don’t have a financial motive to get patients to go with their cancer “treatments”. It’s already been proven that their “treatments” don’t work, whether the quacks know that or not doesn’t really matter. They have a lot of reasons to prey on desperate and sick people with fake cancer treatments; Phillip Battiade in particular has at least 1.4 million of them. Huber runs her own charity to pay for treatments that pretty much only she or her friends offer. Garcia has been investigated for fraudulently billing Medicare for chelation therapy. Let’s not pretend that these people have noble intentions, they don’t.

Cancer Can Be Killed peddles dangerous health advice from unethical and unqualified alternative medicine business entities. The treatments and theories showcased in the film aren’t new, and none of them have any evidence to support their efficacy. Witzeman accuses medical professionals of either being mindless drones that only do what they’re taught in medical school or actively working to suppress treatments that would save people’s lives, which is every bit wrong as it is insulting. Cancer Can Be Killed is an absolute dumpster fire, a Wal-Mart parking lot of films. If you’re going to watch Cancer Can Be Killed, not that I would recommend it, take the claims made in the film with a big grain of salt and an even bigger bottle of Smirnoff.

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Posted by Braden MacBeth

Braden MacBeth is a Computer Science Major at Slippery Rock University. He plans on applying to medical school next year.