Down came his world when Mr. Biswas got the news of stage 4 lung cancer that he was suffering from. At the age of 44 there was lot yet to be accomplished, his mind clouded by various thoughts of denial, terminality of the disease, family concerns and so on. Being a non-smoker he was also perplexed by the question why me? Yet he had to fast think of treatment options his oncologist had discussed with him. While he was just understanding what allopathic science had to offer him, he started receiving numerous advices on various treatment options outside of allopath from his near and dear ones who were obviously concerned on his health and more so with the hopelessness associated with this disease in the community. This made things from bad to worse for him, and understandably he could not have possibly tried everything.
There is no denying the fact that allopathic science is the most researched, uniformly practiced science with most reproducible results. Where as, on the contrary options of alternative sciences are rather too many and lacks uniformity in practice, well-structured research, sharing and publication of results which can be in turn shared with community at large. Yet it is noteworthy, that alternative sciences has produced results in situations where allopath has failed to deliver, though few.
Mr Biswas, was an IT engineer by profession, and had been a science student, and it was not easy for him to accept anything but the logical and the scientific treatment of his disease. He approached his oncologist again with all these options of alternative medicines with associated surety of response and lack of adverse effects of therapy; and was made to understand the – “No side effect, No effect” theory of allopathic science
Logically there cannot be a drug so intelligent enough to kill only cancer cells and not harm at all the normal cells, so side effect are likely and the pessimism associated with this science is actually the truth of nature.
His oncologist compassionately, made him understand that his disease is not curable, yet the new researches in the field of lung cancer can make him live longer and better. Mr Biswas came to know of the new concept of personalized or what is also called as tailor made therapy in lung cancer – a latest edition. As the name suggest it is a therapy that suits or fits the individual disease the best. Cancer in general is a heterogeneous disease, and depending on how deep you go into its genetic make up, perhaps no 2 individual have the same disease despite having the same diagnosis; And for this reason no 2 individual fair the same with same therapy, leading to some degree of heterogeneity in the outcome.
A newly detected mutation (EGFR- Epidermal growth factor receptor) in the genetic make up of the cancer cells of lung can make them susceptible to a new targeted drug against that mutation called as Gefitinib. This drug is an oral tablet and needs to be taken once a day with very few and well tolerated side effects. As the name suggest this targeted drug act only at the site where mutation is there, which is no where but the cancer cells and hence minimal side effects are understandable.
Mr Biswas disease was also subjected to genetic test for this mutation and his luck favored him this time- he tested positive. At any time 20-40% patients especially non-smokers can test positive for it, with a 70-80% chance of a favorable result and a mean expected survival of more than 2 yrs as against 1 yr for those who test negative for mutation – another reason to quit smoking today. Mr. Biswas was started on this tablet therapy, and he was now sure that he would get time enough to accomplish his wishes and secure his family before any eventuality occurs. He did face lot of criticism, before he opted to go the allopathic way. He could not have possibly explained the intricacies of the option and its genetic basis to all his relatives which made him choose against the alternative science, despite options of 100% outcome and promise of cure.
It is surprising, that when allopathic science – studies numerous patients across the globe in different communities, religions and beliefs – the outcomes of treatment remain largely same, as against the widely disparate outcomes claimed by alternative medicines. Yet, with no documentation of cure in such settings, allopath remains the most popular treatment. In other words, even with claims of so much as cure, why is it that alternative medicine remains relatively sparingly practiced, and has not received the well deserved international acclamation so far.
Perhaps, for this reasoning Mr Biswas did not choose to go the other way.
Mr Biswas gradually started becoming better. 3 months later he got his radiology tests done and to everyone’s elation there was more than 50% decrease in tumor volume, and he hardly had any side effect of the drug.
It has been now almost 2 yrs that Mr Biswas is doing fine and has also received promotion in his job. His serial CT scans kept on showing good therapy response. Mr Biswas has all the thanks to science for his present position and the new lease of life it gave him. One day, he broke one of his secrets to his oncologist that he is also taking some Ayurvedic treatment along side the allopathic medicine which he started 6 months after Gefitinib and it was under the sheer pressure of his dear ones. For him he is sure that Gefitinib is what is working, and for his family perhaps it is the Ayurvedic treatment.
There is no denying the fact that, many hidden secrets of nature are being offered by Ayurveda and other alternative medicines and some are being explored even by allopathic science. It is also well accepted that allopathic breakthroughs are slow to come and are based on in depth knowledge of the disease on genetic front and also on evidence created by treating thousands and thousands of patients across the world over many years and then choosing the best results to be applied to the community – hence making it a slowly progressive science.
However, the sad part is that there exist hardly any platforms where in both sciences can meet to bring even bigger breakthroughs to treat cancer and possibly cure them.
What worked for Mr Biswas remains an open question to all of us – a question not to find what/which is supreme, but how we can get them to work together so as we start seeing “can” in cancer.