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Monday, August 2, 2021

Cancer patients fly to private Cancun clinic for alternative treatments and a dose of sun

Travelers overcome objections by mainstream physicians, paying cash for therapies in Mexico

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Hope4Cancer is an outpatient clinic in Cancun, offering treatments not necessarily approved in the United States. Photo: Courtesy

A terminally ill mother living in Australia shocked doctors after her tumor was reduced by 75 percent following alternative treatment in a private Cancun clinic.

In October, Kate Malvenan was given just six to 24 months to live following a lung cancer diagnosis.

The 40-year-old non-smoker, who is originally from England but now resides in Queensland, Australia, said she always ate healthy and exercised.

Rejecting conventional advice, the single mother of a 3-year-old girl remortgaged her house to pay for over US$42,000 in alternative therapies at the Mexican clinic, Hope4Cancer. By then, her cancer had already spread.

Treatments reduced her tumor from the size of an apple to the size of a grape. No traces of cancer remain in her lymph nodes, although her liver still has not completely cleared, according to the (U.K.) Daily Mail.

Hope4Cancer is an outpatient facility, so patients typically stay at the beach in the hotel zone. They are normally indistinguishable from tourists who visit just for fun and relaxation.

Another couple came to the clinic all the way from Denver, Colo., earlier in 2018, for treatment they couldn’t get in the United States.

“I’m off to a hospital to improve my life,” Richard Brightmire, 61, told ABC News, as he and his wife left their hotel at sunrise and loaded into a waiting van.

Although his high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment was developed in the U.S., it’s not approved by that country’s Food and Drug Administration, which demands lengthy scientific trials.

In the U.S., prevailing therapies — surgical removal, radiation seeds, freezing and hormone therapy — can have devastating effects on urinary and erectile function.

The alternative HIFU approach is legal just about everywhere else in the world, including Europe, Canada and Japan, ABC reported. The Denver patient paid $25,000 out of pocket for the still-experimental treatment.

Urologist George Suarez, medical director of USHIFU, which developed the technology, travels to Cancun most weekends to provide the treatment.

“This is completely hands off, image guided,” Suarez said as he prepared to insert an ultrasound probe inside Brightmire, who lay on the operating table under anesthetic. “Once I place the transducer into the patient, I should not need to touch the patient until I’m finished. Everything will be done by the computer.”

The survival rate under HIFU is the same as conventional treatments, but patients are drawn to the promise of fewer side effects.

“Our goal is to treat this man, eradicate his cancer and return him to baseline function as far as sexual function, urinary function and rectal function,” Suarez said.

But it’s a procedure that Patrick Walsh, a urologist at Johns Hopkins and one of the world’s leading experts on prostate cancer, said he would never recommend to his patients.

“I think it’s entirely experimental,” Walsh said. “That any enthusiasm that’s been engendered for it is really coming from the industry that makes the machine.”

Walsh is referring to the Sonablate 500, the high-tech machine used to perform the procedure. Suarez has part ownership of the company that makes it.

Three months after the treatment in early February 2018, Brightmire reported that a follow-up PSA test came back with a zero score, which is exactly what he was hoping for.

It will take years to determine whether Hope4Cancer’s 21st-century treatment leaves him cancer free for good.

Sources: Daily Mail (U.K.), ABC News (U.S.)

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