Public Release: 

Global task force tackles problem of untreatable cancers and disease relapse 

Non-toxic chemicals in plants and foods may be key

Saarland University

Many cancer therapies are highly toxic, and even when they appear to work, a significant percentage of patients will experience a relapse after only a few months.  Typically these relapses result from small subpopulations of mutated cells which are resistant to therapy, and doctors who try to address this problem with combinations of therapies find that therapeutic toxicity typically limits their ability to stop most cancers.   

To tackle this problem, a task force of 180 scientists from prominent institutions in 22 countries was assembled by a Canadian NGO called "Getting to Know Cancer".  Interdisciplinary teams nominated a series of high-priority molecular targets (74 in total) that could be reached to improve patient outcomes in most cancers. Corresponding low-toxicity approaches were then recommended as potential candidates for mixtures of chemical substances that could reach a broad-spectrum of priority targets in most cancer types.  Many of the substances that were selected were from plants and foods.   

"We are extremely encouraged by the degree of consensus that we found within this large group of researchers" said Keith I. Block, M.D., the Medical and Scientific Director of the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, Illinois.  "We believe that carefully designed combinations of non-toxic chemicals can be developed in a manner that will maximize our chance of arresting most cancers.  Currently, clinicians have a limited number of tools to help them treat the disease once it becomes resistant to mainstream therapy, but an approach that can reach a broad-spectrum of targets without toxicity offers considerable promise".  Block is the lead author of this synthesis which has just been published (along with the supporting work from each of the teams) in a special issue of Elsevier's peer-reviewed journal, Seminars in Cancer Biology.

This was the first time that this large-scale problem has ever been considered by teams that could interpret the full spectrum of cancer biology and incorporate what is now known about non-toxic chemicals with anti-cancer effects.   In light of this evidence, the task force is calling for an immediate increase in support for research on mixtures of chemicals that can reach a broad-spectrum of therapeutic targets.   

"This is an area that merits considerable attention and where interdisciplinary and international collaboration is needed" said Dean Felsher, MD, PhD a project contributor from the Department of Medicine at Stanford University.  "Our approaches to therapy are improving, but we need a breakthrough that can helps us address the problem of relapse", he added.    

The taskforce wanted to produce an approach to therapy that would also have the potential to be very low cost, so this approach may hold considerable promise for low-middle income countries where many of the latest cancer therapies are deemed unaffordable.  


For more information, please visit Getting to Know Cancer's website at


Keith I. Block, M.D. (LEAD AUTHOR)
Medical and Scientific Director
Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment, Editor-In-Chief Integrative Cancer Therapies, Sage Science Press Editorial Board for Physician Data Query, Cancer CAM National Cancer Institute Scientific Director Institute for Integrative Cancer Research & Education
847-492-3040 tel.
5230 Old Orchard Rd
Skokie, Illinois 60077

Anupam Bishayee, BPharm, MPharm, PhD
Professor and Founding Chair
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
College of Pharmacy
Larkin Health Sciences Institute
18301 N. Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33169
305-760-7511 tel.

Dean W. Felsher, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine-Oncology and Pathology Director of TRAM Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, California
650-725-6454 tel.

Mark Feitelson, PhD
Professor of Biology
Chair, PSM Program in Biotechnology
Temple University
Suite 409 BioLife Science Bldg
1900 N. 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122 USA
215-204-8434 tel.

Nagi B. Kumar, PhD, RD, FADA
Director, Cancer Chemoprevention
Senior Member, Population Sciences Division Moffitt Cancer Center Professor, Oncologic Sciences University of South Florida, 12902 Magnolia Drive,
Tampa, FL 33612
813-745-6885 tel.
813-745-7183 tel.
Leroy Lowe
President and Cofounder
Getting to Know Cancer
Halifax, Nova Scotia
902-893-5362 tel.

36 Arthur Street
Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada B2N 1X5
tel: (902) 893-5362
fax: (902) 893-5610

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