At the turn of the century, Dr. John Beard, of the University of Edinburgh, made a series of discoveries that led him to believe pancreatic enzymes did more than just aid in digestion - they could be an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer. However, his work was quickly dismissed and over the years, the claim that enzyme pills could treat serious conditions, especially cancer, has not been taken seriously. But recent evidence suggests there might be something to it. A 1993 pilot study by Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, published in the medical journal Nutrition and Cancer (June 1999), found that pancreatic cancer patients on enzyme therapy lived significantly longer than expected - in some cases, three times longer than the usual survival rate.
Enzyme therapy consists of a specialized diet, high doses of a variety of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, along with pancreatic enzymes and detoxification procedures to rid the body of "tumor debris." Supporters of the treatment believe the diet and vitamins support overall health, while the enzymes attack the cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying in the body. Some researchers suggest that the enzymes work much like chemotherapy, but leave healthy cells alone instead of destroying them along with the cancer cells.
As with many "alternative" treatments, there is little research to support these claims. Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery remain the accepted medical treatments for cancer today. Nevertheless, Dr. Gonzalez's pilot study, although small, boasted results that couldn't be ignored. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health recently awarded him a $1.4-million grant for further study on enzyme therapy and pancreatic cancer. The study is being done at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York with approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and under the supervision of the National Cancer Institute. The study will directly compare enzyme therapy with a new chemotherapy medication, and hopefully offer a much wider base of information about the effectiveness of enzymes.