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THE CANCER ISSUE / IN PRACTICE

Sal beat the odds, and I'll never know why

October 20, 2008|Marc Siegel | Special to The Times

But a follow-up study of Siegel's patients published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 1993 found that women with breast cancer who went through his program died at the same rate as those who hadn't.

Sal's case would seem to run counter to conventional science. Was this just luck? In all studies of cancer, there are some patients who simply survive no matter how grim the prognosis.

Did that single chemoembolization save him or did he have a genetic predisposition to remission? Patients such as Sal fuel the myths of the Siegels and Revicis of the world without providing any real evidence to support their fringe treatments.

I am intrigued that Sal appeared to respond to the quackery dispensed by that aging huckster and his followers, but in the end, I stop far short of believing in it or recommending it to anyone else.

In late 2005, when Sal was finally admitted to the local Veterans Affairs hospital for a serious infection and out-of-control diabetes, obscured in the unpleasantness of his dying was the miracle of his cancer remission.

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Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and an associate professor of medicine at New York University's School of Medicine and the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear." He can be reached at marc@doctor siegel.com.

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