Dr Josef Issels developed this treatment in the 1950’s. He died in 1998, but his wife continues to promote his work through the Issels Foundation. Dr Issels acknowledged the importance of using conventional treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy alongside Issels treatment. But he also claimed that it can have a positive effect on people who have cancer that has not responded to conventional treatments. There is no scientific or medical research to support these claims.
The idea behind Issels treatment is that it works on strengthening the body’s immune system in the hope that the body will fight off the cancer. Dr Issels believed that people only get cancer when their immune system has been damaged in some way.
The treatment involves taking the cancer out with surgery as well as trying to rebuild your immune system. Various treatments are used that are individualised for each person. This could be
- Following a strict diet (low protein and raw foods)
- Not smoking tobacco or drinking any alcohol
- Removing any infection from the body such as dead and infected teeth
- Removing certain dental fillings
The reason given for having fillings removed is that they may contain high amounts of mercury and other metals. Dr Issels claims that these cause chemical imbalances in the body and affect the way the immune system works. Some people may also be encouraged to have psychotherapy in the hope of getting rid of any anger or emotional stress from the body.
There is a lot of information about this treatment on the Issels website. The website claims that more than 15,000 people with cancer have been treated using the Issels approach. It states that many of these people who had incurable cancers were free from cancer years later as a result of following this treatment plan. The website describes the theory behind Issels, but it does not specify the actual treatments used, apart from mentioning the importance of immunotherapy and specifically vaccine therapy. For more information, the website invites you to contact an American or European telephone number.
The website explains that Dr Issels provided statistical data to support his treatment approach. One example given is the result of a 15 year follow up of 370 patients published in the Clinical Trials Journal in 1970. This compared patients who had conventional treatment and Issels treatment with those who had conventional treatment alone. The results were that a larger proportion of people (87%) having both treatments were alive 5 years later compared to the group that had conventional treatment only (50%). The number of people whose cancer came back within 5 years was also said to be less in the group who had Issels and conventional treatment compared to the group who only had conventional medicine.
We have not been able to obtain a copy of this paper in order to be able to access the methods that were used in this study. Scientific and medical research is usually published in journals that are reviewed by experts in the field. This means that any error or bias in the study is noticed. This is important otherwise the results may not be correct.
What is important to point out about these claims is that all the patients in Dr Issels' study had conventional treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as the Issels treatment. People respond differently to their disease and treatment. It would be difficult to know whether a person lived for a period of time because of the conventional treatment they had, or because they also had Issels treatment. This may be especially difficult to clarify because the combination of therapies used as part of the Issels treatment may vary from person to person. So it would be difficult to see which factors influenced the outcome.
More recent research, involving more patients, is needed to support or dispute the early research that Dr Issels carried out. But it would still be difficult to accurately measure the effect of a treatment involving a variety of different therapies.
One last very important point about this type of treatment is how much it costs. The Issels website outlines a treatment programme that involves a trip to the Issels treatment centre in Mexico. To begin with, this involves flight and accommodation costs. The website does not give the costs of treatment but asks you to send in a form with your details to find this out. It is likely to be thousands of pounds.
We recommend that you do not use alternative therapies instead of conventional medical therapy. There is no scientific or medical evidence to back up the claims made by the Issels website. If you have cancer, using these unproven methods instead of conventional medical treatment can have very serious harmful effects on your health. You should talk to your own specialist about any alternative therapies or complementary therapies that you want to try.
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