Skip to content

Health & Balance

Cancer Patient's Misled Hope May Have Led to His Death

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Dec. 4, 2000 -- If you were to type the words "cancer and cure" into just about any Internet search engine, you will get upwards of 3,000 hits touting such unproven remedies as shark cartilage and broccoli sprout concentrate capsules alongside more conventional cancer treatments.

In the December issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers report the case of a 55-year-old man with cancer of the sinuses who died presumably as a result of kidney and liver failure after self-treating his cancer with hydrazine sulfate pills bought off the Net.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

End-of-Life Care

Parents are partners with doctors in decisions about their child's end-of-life care. Even though new and better treatments have increased the chances of a cure or remission, some types of childhood cancer do not get better. When a child's cancer does not get better or comes back, parents may not be sure about whether to continue treatment and, if so, what kind. Parents who are caring for a child at the end of life need a lot of support that includes family members and the child's health care team...

Read the End-of-Life Care article > >

Hydrazine sulfate has been studied as a treatment for cancer for more than 30 years. It may reduce the severe weight loss and muscle loss that can accompany cancer. It has, however, never been studied as treatment for this type of sinus cancer.

This man refused to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy -- all of which were offered as potential treatments by doctors. He had taken 180 grams per day of hydrazine sulfate for about four months when he developed an itchy rash, yellow discoloration of the skin, and fatigue.

Researchers found no cause for the kidney and liver failure besides the use of these pills. The chemical in these pills has been shown to be toxic to the liver and kidneys in animal studies, but there have been few reports of such toxicity in humans.

"This case graphically illustrates the potential danger of therapies purchased online. As promoted by a popular web site claiming that the drug has 'virtually no significant untoward side effects,' the appeal of hydrazine sulfate as a simple, cheap, and easy-to-take treatment for cancer is understandable," concludes chief researcher Mark I. Hainer, DO, a physician in the Moncrief Army Community Hospital in Fort Jackson, S.C.

Exactly how many cancer patients turn to alternative therapies in addition to or in place of more conventional treatments is unknown. One large-scale study found that 9% of U.S. cancer patients report that they have tried some type of alternative and complementary therapy.

"Unfortunately, cancer patients are much more susceptible to the lore of unproven remedies since the specter of chemotherapy, surgery, and poor prognosis makes them vulnerable" to quacks, Gilbert Ross, MD, medical director of the American Council on Science and Health in New York, tells WebMD. "Various peddlers of medicinals will seize upon the 'grasping at any straw' approach of these patients [and] the worst thing that can happen is that a patient who has a potentially treatable or curable condition will delay care while hoping for supplements to work," Ross says.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
jet plane landing at sunset
Slideshow
poinsettias
Quiz
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz