WHAT did Apple icon Steve Jobs and the famous actor Steve McQueen have in common?

The most obvious one is, of course, their first name.

Both battled with cancer, Jobs, with pancreatic cancer, and McQueen with lung (actually chest wall lining) cancer (mesothelioma).

Both had sought unconventional (non-FDA approved) treatment for cancer, at one point in their struggle for survival.

And both succumbed to their disease.

Both events created a debate about the dangers of unproven alternative therapy, especially for cancer.

In 1985, Jobs was ousted from Apple and he invited back in 1997.

In six years, he was able to save Apple form the brink of bankruptcy, with the launching of the iMac and a few years down the line, with the iPod.

So he was on top of the world in 2003.

It was at this time when an abdominal CT he himself had asked his physician to order, in spite of “having no symptoms” (which he had claimed), that a tumor had been discovered in his pancreas.

The biopsy report showed it was a rare form of pancreatic cancer, a neuroendocrine type (insulinoma), which was slow-growing, indolent, and amenable top surgical removal, with a promising prognosis.

The vast majority of patients surviving with this neuroendocrine cancer survived at least 10 years following surgery, unlike the most common type (98 percent) of cancer of the pancreas (adenocarcinoma) which is very aggressive and kills within six months, even with surgery.

One question was why he underwent a CT scan, when this test was not done as a part of routine medical examination, especially in the absence of symptoms.

Whether he was having symptoms, which he kept to himself, or not, no one knows.

But in that particular instance, he was “doubly lucky” to have had the CT scan, because (1) it detected the pancreatic cancer early and (2) his cancer happened to be the more treatable form of pancreatic cancer.

Alternative therapy

Steve Jobs’ twin luck could have saved him.

Statistically speaking, those two were a miraculous blessing in themselves.

However, Jobs, for whatever reason, known only to himself, elected not to undergo the conventional medicine-based surgical treatment for this type of pancreatic cancer.

Instead, he decided with determination not to listen to anyone, to seek alternative therapy for nine months, using “special diet,” hoping to avoid surgery.

With his brilliant and “modern” mind, people were puzzled why he did not follow and apply his own progressive and aggressive principle and philosophy in running Apple in dealing with his cancer.

Feeling disappointed about the obvious failure of alternative treatment, Jobs finally decided to undergo surgery.

But the cancer by that time had already spread.

What followed the delayed state-of-the-art conventional treatment, thereafter, was, as could be expected, unsuccessful to save him.

According to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs bitterly regretted up to his death his decision to opt for alternative therapy instead of promptly agreeing to have surgery.

One of the proponents of alternative treatments, who is not a medical doctor, is marketing a questionable management for cancer.

His name is Nicholas Gonzalez, the originator of “Gonzalez Therapy” for pancreatic cancer, which involves “a variety of juices, coffee enemas, dietary manipulations, a dozen or more supplements, as many as 150 pills per day.”

Public criticism of his treatment justifiably says his therapy, “besides having no biological plausibility, has been convincingly demonstrated not to work.”

Unfortunately, innocent and gullible people are victimized every day by these quacks and scammers who rob the ignorant consumers not only of their hard-earned money but of their dignity, health and, in some cases, even of their life.

Obviously, there are exceptions among victims, like in the case of Jobs, who was certainly intelligent, well-informed and not gullible.

He appeared to be a control freak, even with the medical care of his pancreatic cancer, where he “vetoed” his physicians and colleagues, who were recommending surgery.

The story that came out after Jobs demise was that Apple Director Levinson, a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and a fellow director, Bill Campbell, tried to persuade Jobs to have surgery on behalf of all the other board members who wanted the “best thing” for his health.

“But Steve is Steve. He can be pretty stubborn,” said an insider, according to published report.

Steve McQueen’s choice

Steve McQueen had approached his cancer treatment differently.

After exhausting what conventional treatment could offer his highly aggressive and realistically hopeless mesothelioma which, by nature, is not curable in practically all cases, he opted to try alternative therapy in Mexico as a last resort.

Unlike Steve Jobs, McQueen had wisely tried medicine-based treatment first.

Like most, I thought that McQueen’s sequence of choices was the more scientific and more intelligent one.

Today, the market is flooded with countless fraudulent medical claims, from alkaline water, water ionizer gadget, colon-cleansing pills and enemas, chelation treatment, breast and penis enlarging creams or pills, herbals and juices that cure diseases from A to Z, including cancer, anti-aging hormonal agents, mega-dose vitamins and other supplements.

These baseless claims and worthless products are not only very expensive but they are also useless and unnecessary and, more importantly, they could be dangerous down the line.

Some people have died from kidney or liver failure and other complications caused by using some of these unproven items.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is impressively vigilant, stringent and efficient in its rules to protect the public from unsafe medications, ingredients and food items.

The conventional medical/surgical treatments available in the country are based on a standard of quality care, guided and mandated not only by a government licensing board and hospital peer review councils but by professional and medical specialty boards.

Professional competence, evidence-based medicine, and accountability are the hallmarks of medical and healthcare delivery in the United States, and some other countries.

Most painful experiences in life allow the wise and open mind to gain something positive from them.

Steve Jobs’ choice, which he himself had recognized a mistake, albeit too late, should be a reminder to all of us that science is here to help us prevent, fight and cure diseases, as safely and as effectively as possible.

When it comes to health and illnesses, evidence-based medicine with its proven outcomes and the mind-boggling progress in science and technology are superior and our best allies.


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