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Siller, left, and García of the Monterrey clinic. Siller, left, and García of the Monterrey clinic.

Cancer remedy draws patients and criticism

'Last-chance' cancer cure welcomed by parents but criticized for lack of peer review

A controversial and secretive cancer treatment administered by Mexican doctors has become the last resort for several Australian parents.

Stella Lu and Didy Sun are the parents of four-year-old Doris, who was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive and inoperable type of brain stem tumor with a low survival rate, often killing children within a year.

“Since the doctors told us there is no cure for this kind of brain cancer in Australia, we began to search for all the possible treatments all over the world. Mexico is our biggest hope,” Sun told the newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Conventional chemotherapy treatments distributed via the bloodstream cannot reach the area where the tumor is located.

What physicians in Monterrey, Nuevo León, are doing is feeding a mix of chemotherapy drugs through a catheter inserted in an artery, sending it to the vicinity of the tumor.

There is only one small but relevant condition keeping Doris from receiving the treatment back home: there are no peer-reviewed studies proving it works, only anecdotes of its effectiveness.

The controversial intra-arterial chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment is the brainchild of Monterrey-based doctors Alberto Siller and Alberto García, who developed their technique two decades ago and offer it through their clinic, Instituto de Oncología Intervencionista. They have refused to cooperate with the international medical community and have never published their results.

Doris is not the first Australian child to receive the treatment. The Telegraph counted a total of five couples who have turned to Monterrey for a last chance for their children.

Anabelle was diagnosed with DIPG 13 months ago. Her mother, Kathy Potts, declared that the child is “hopping, jumping and skipping and perfectly normal.” Doctors looking after her in Sydney have declared that the girl is well enough to start preschool next month.

She is scheduled to have her ninth round of therapy in Monterrey next week, treatment that her mother says has cost close to US $244,000.

“Doctors at Sydney Children’s Hospital have confirmed improvement [in her tumor size] but it is so frustrating we can’t do this treatment here. I want this treatment here, we have the technology but the red tape stops us. I would sign any waiver to have this trialled here,” Potts said.

Professor David Ziegler, a leading Sydney pediatric oncologist, is highly critical of the Mexican doctors.

“They have been doing this for 20 years, so if it works, why don’t they publish their findings? I don’t know why they don’t, but you’d be concerned that it is not working and that’s why they don’t want to release the information,” he said.

“I can’t blame them, they are desperate parents, but I think there are people out there who are ready to take advantage of desperate people,” the doctor said.

Source: Daily Telegraph (en)

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