Listen up medical researchers! If you want the medical establishment to accept, or at least consider, your new health ideas that seem promising, you better have the right credentials, politics and media skills to put it across. And having the right friends doesn’t hurt, either. Otherwise, no matter how wonderful your insight, the backlash against it is going to be devastating. Mainstream medical practitioners don’t take kindly to outsiders impinging on their turf.
Consider John Beard, born in 1858, trained as an embryologist, nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1906 for his work in embryology and the author of The Enzyme Treatment of Cancer. A novel idea occurred to Beard as he was staring through his microscope at cells known as trophoblasts, the cells that form the outer layer of the placenta and attach it to the womb. As they begin to develop and divide, Beard noted, trophoblasts resemble cancer cells. They multiply rapidly and accumulate like a tumor. They develop a new blood supply to feed themselves as tumors do. Plus, they invade the walls of the uterus the same way cancer cells invade the organs of the body.
However, Beard found that at a certain point during normal development of the placenta the trophoblasts give up their cancer-like proliferation and behave themselves. Through a mysterious process, the body signals the trophoblasts when it’s time to settle down and call off the invasion. Remarkably, the trophoblasts listen and obey.
According to Beard, in humans, the key event that apparently halts trophoblastic cellular anarchy is the development, in the fetus, of the pancreas, the main gland that releases enzymes needed for digestion. Therefore, he thought, the enzymes released by the pancreas could be the body’s way of telling the trophoblasts to cease and desist. And he was struck by an idea. Maybe the same enzymatic signals could halt cancer.
Subsequently, work with cancer patients seemed to show that Beard was on to something. Injection of pancreatic enzymes, which had already been isolated by other scientists, frequently produced an anti-cancer effect.
And what was Beard’s thanks for his remarkable insight? A good deal of scorn and the relegation of his findings to the ash heap of medical history. His call for treating cancer with enzymes was laughed off. The more so since pre-World War I surgeons had just begun to use their scalpels for cutting out tumors and weren’t about to drop their knives in favor of a more benign therapy.
A big part of Beard’s dilemma was that he didn’t know how to manage his public relations. A few years later, Madame Curie, a much more media-savvy scientist, sold the journalists of her day on the idea that radiation (a new term she had coined with her husband) offered a high-tech, risk-free cancer cure. In her enthusiasm she never suspected that radiation itself was toxic — even though radiation eventually killed her when her bone marrow succumbed to years to exposure. Matter of fact, her lab was so filled with deadly beams that today her contaminated papers are still stored in lead-lined boxes.
The book The Enzyme Treatment of Cancer and Its Scientific Basis is a reissue of John Beard’s seminal work from 1911. It explores his examinations of embryos and discusses how cancer’s infiltration of body tissues mirrors the way a placenta implants itself on the walls of the womb.
The new edition of Beard’s book features a foreword by Nicholas J. Gonzalez, M.D., a nationally known physician who has explored Beard’s concepts and used them to devise enzyme based nutritional programs for cancer and other degenerative diseases.
The average reader may find much of Beard’s book tedious. For example, a few of the chapters replay his conflicts with the medical establishment of his day, pointing out how he was misquoted and his work misinterpreted. While alternative medicine still copes with that type of treatment from mainstream doctors, the specifics of Beard’s difficulties offer details mostly of interest to historians.
But for those who wish to understand the ins and outs of early cancer research, this book conveys a first-person narrative from a meticulous scientist who made some startlingly prescient observations about cancer. His, insights echo modern research: For example, scientists at Princeton are even now studying how metastasizing cancer uses enzymes and certain types of cellular signals to take root in bone. And researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) only recently discovered the stem cells that give rise to carcinoma — cells that Beard would have called “vagrant germ cells.”
All of which makes you realize that another problem Beard had was that he was too far ahead of his time. And we’re still waiting for mainstream medicine to catch up.