Professor Alex Herzog is recognised by most cancer patients who have researched integrative oncology or hyperthermia (oncotherm) in Germany. Professor Herzog’s paper “Dangerous Errors in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Bony Tuberculosis” describes a patient who was misdiagnosed with metastatic cancer when in fact he had TB of the bone.
This case demonstrates that even today, misdiagnoses can be made. Professor Herzog’s report, published in 2009, makes for fascinating reading in relation to the recent case of Ian Gawler.
Since the 31 st December 2011 when the Melbourne Age published the headline: Cancer experts challenge Gawler’s ‘cure’ there has been interest from cancer patients, the general public and some doctors, as to what happened in Ian Gawler’s case. How could TB be mistaken for cancer and the obvious question; why it has taken 30 years to explore an unexpected remission from Australia’s most famous cancer patient?
To answer the above as briefly as possible. No one questioned Ian Gawler’s diagnosis. It was presumed he had metastatic disease. There had only been one diagnostic biopsy in Ian’s medical timeline 1974 – 1978 and that was in January 1975. That biopsy positively identified as osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), resulted in his right leg being amputated. From those times there is a lot of evidence in the medical literature, that amputation alone was a cure for some with this disease.
Because Ian’s prognosis was thought to be poor (if in fact it had been bone cancer) very few medical practitioners became involved in his case during that period; we were mainly in charge of whatever resources we could muster! When Ian first consulted Ainslie Meares in December 1975, Meares also presumed Ian’s illness to be metastatic cancer. When he wrote his famous MJA published abstract in 1978, Regression of osteogenic sarcoma metastases associated with intensive meditation; it is likely he had no idea Ian had suffered from TB, he certainly had little of the case history; Ian had only attended Meares groups for 6 weeks, stopping the sessions due to his rapid deterioration. His symptoms at that time were not typical of osteogenic sarcoma but with later knowledge were symptoms of TB. Unknown to Meares, Ian had practised a smorgasbord of techniques including imagery, yoga and Buddhist methods forbidden by Meares, as his method was based on stillness and silence. Without an adequate medical history and background, as well as publishing copious errors of fact; Ainslie Meares’ acknowledgement and endorsement of Ian Gawler, gave his ‘remission’ story great credibility and served as the fuel that fired an entire alternative medicine movement.
That credibility has never been questioned until now; Prof Haines and Lowenthal have come forward as the only two oncologists who had followed the story, throughout the decades suspecting error. My 2010 MJA letter addressing errors in the story provided them with a series of anomalies that they suspected existed, but were never able to track down.
The question of timing – why now? Why explore a remission from 30 years ago? If Haines and Lowenthal are correct with their recent IMJ published hypothesis; and I believe from first-hand being there experience, that they are; then the medical history books must be re-written and Ian must subject himself to appropriate medical scrutiny with regards to his history, presenting his samples for independent pathological examination. Cancer patients base their treatment decisions on Ian Gawler’s story; I hear it in my practise from people with advanced cancer at least 4-5 times per week – “Well if Ian did it , then so can I!” If it wasn’t secondary cancer that he had – cancer patients must know this fact.
It is interesting to compare these two images. Above left Ian Gawler’s chest wall 7 July 1977. Left: Scan image of a patient with TB (not Ian Gawler) Note: tubercular adenopathy – abscesses of the lymph nodes. These can become calcified abscesses.
Now – back to Professor Herzog’s paper: This is a medical journal report that highlights the fact that TB can mimick cancer Please select the link to read the PDF: Herzog – Dangerous Errors in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Bony Tuberculosis
In brief: Prof Alex Herzog published a journal article about a patient with tuberculosis of the bone mistaken as metastatic cancer.
The patient had been in a University hospital in Germany and had started induction chemotherapy before he visited Professor Herzog who diagnosed that there was no metastatic cancer but tuberculosis. The patient received treatment and was cured with a combination of antibiotics over 2 years. The article can also be found on the public medical record at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19890413 The message is clear – biopsies and accurate diagnostics are necessary when dealing with any cancer related situation.