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Monday, February 26, 2001

Isle doctor pushes for
flexible cancer care

By Rod Thompson

WAIMEA, Hawaii -- Ray Rosenthal is a doctor, but that didn't shield him from fear when he learned he had cancer in 1998.

Avoiding chemotherapy, Rosenthal treated himself with herbs, vitamins and coffee enemas. The cancer in his intestines tripled in weight in seven weeks.

Then he learned about flexible cancer treatment -- innovative uses of standard medicines -- by Dr. Wolfgang Scheef at the Robert Janker Cancer Clinic in Bonn, Germany.

Rosenthal was treated at the clinic and cured. During a recent public presentation in Waimea, Rosenthal said, "I'm still in complete remission."

Now Rosenthal has a mission: to foster similar flexibility in cancer treatment in Hawaii.

Rosenthal is not promoting quackery. "Coffee enemas? Sorry, it's just not going to work. It can't work," he said.

Scheef uses medicines that are much the same as those in the United States. But U.S. doctors apply the medicines according to "protocols."

Rosenthal feared the protocol for his cancer would destroy his stomach. When he asked his doctor to modify the protocol, the doctor refused.

Waimea resident Kaui Doyle had the same experience with ovarian cancer. "We have to do the whole protocol," her Hawaii doctor told her.

In contrast, Scheef watched "markers" in Doyle's blood showing how the cancer was responding to medicines. When it stopped reacting to one medicine, Scheef picked another.

Kona patient Cynthia Campbell, who had breast cancer, said: "Nobody ever mentioned markers in American treatment. My surgeon said, 'We don't do that. We don't think it's effective.' "

Honolulu cancer specialist Dr. Scott Hundahl said it is true that American doctors use "approved methods" when seeing new cancers. "For recurrent cancers, it's not unusual for there to be no standard treatment," he said, which allows for greater flexibility.

And Scheef sees mostly recurrent cancers. "He sees the most hopeless cases in all of Europe," Rosenthal said.

Scheef estimates a third of the Janker Clinic's patients are cured, a third have their cancer suppressed enough that medicines make it manageable, and a third die despite the clinic's efforts.

"That sounds like it's a very good outcome," said Jackie Young at the American Cancer Society in Honolulu.

Despite this, Scheef is not well-known. Dr. Carl-Wilhelm Vogel, head of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and himself from Germany, said he'd never heard of Scheef.

Reviewing the titles of Scheef's scientific papers on an Internet site, Vogel commented, "It looks like decent work."

But he added, "If Janker cures patients not cured by the standard system, everybody would copy it."

Rosenthal said the legal climate is different in the two countries. An American doctor who deviates from a protocol may be sued by a patient. Scheef's clinic has treated 250,000 patients, and Scheef has never been sued.

Hundahl noted that German law until recently forbade the government from gathering data on patients -- data that might show Scheef's success.

Hundahl said cancer treatment in Hawaii is also successful. "Our cancer outcomes compared very favorably," he said. The problem in Hawaii is a decentralized system, which makes getting care inconvenient, he said.

Although Rosenthal helps people travel to Germany, his real desire is to see American doctors using some of Scheef's techniques. He has a Web site at

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