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ThorGoLucky
Snuggle Wolf

USA
1447 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2009 :  12:54:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ThorGoLucky's Homepage Send ThorGoLucky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Perhaps a list of argument points. I have been having in-person verbal debates/arguments with woo people at pubs, and I have found standard phrases and comebacks/counter phrases. Here's the big one that always comes up:

Woo: "You need to be open to possibilities"

Reply: You need to be open to the mundane and consider what has already been discovered to explain phenomena. Also, are you open to possibilities like you will go to Hell if you don't join the innner-circle of Muhammad? The possibility (probability) that there is no life after death? The possibility that ... (and many other examples of possibilities that the woo person would hate to be true and not be open to)

I found this reply to be a subject changer for the woo person.
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  14:19:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Very interesting discussion.

It seems to me (I have spent my life dealing with the cold logic of computers) that the separation of "woo" from medical fact is near impossible due to a few factors.

1. It is ethically impossible to do a double blind study of many ideas. For example, there has been no "double blind" study of radiation therapy vs an alternative therapy. B17 has been mentioned, so I will use it as an example. The term B17 comes form some scientist's belief that it is a B vitamin, and vitamin means "necessary for life".

So, how could one ethically compare these two therapies, since it would seem it dooms one test group or another to death?

In fact, I know of no study that proves radiation therapy vs "pretend" radiation therapy has a better outcome. In other words, it is ethically impossible to test radiation therapy against the same procedures but (since it would need to be double blind) a pretend session.

Other than the obvious fact that radiation kills cells, and in fact produces cancer, where does the idea that radiation helps come from? It comes from conjecture, as a study to prove it works on humans is ethically impossible.


Remember, at one time "invisible beasties" were thought ludicrous as a cause of disease. Yet we now know about germs. Any law which restricts innovation or even paradigm shifts would quickly impoverish the society that puts that law in place. New ideas would move to countries with more freedom.

One price of scientific advancement is the necessity that many new ideas will be wrong before the one breakthrough new idea comes along.

History is loaded with wrong science. In fact, it could be said that science has always been wrong up until the current day, and I bet many of our current ideas will be disproved with future discoveries.

Please, let us not talk of banning those we disagree with via laws. Oppose their wrong ideas with logic, evidence and effective observations.

If we can not defend our position logically, then can we say we are better than those that think otherwise?

Ted
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25973 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  15:09:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Farseeker, welcome to the SFN!

While double-blind studies are the "gold standard," that doesn't mean that every other type of scientific medical investigation is no better than conjecture. Retrospective correlational studies combined with a solid biological mechanism can provide the evidence needed for a cause-and-effect relationship lacking any direct experimentation. For example, once all other variables are accounted for, patients undergoing radiation therapy live longer than patients who don't get it.

Nobody is going to do a double-blind study on whether setting the bones in a broken arm works better than not setting them, before putting a cast on. We know the answer, especially if it's a compound fracture. "Double-blind" isn't a necessary condition for "science."

Most of what's lacking in the medical "woo" is a plausible biological mechanism for their proposed therapies, much less a known-to-work mechanism.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  16:09:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
correlation is not causation.

Biological mechanisms are not "mechanisms" as if we knew things to the level we know how a clock works, they are theories, at best. I do not wish to imply that we do not have some very fine theories that work well enough for the effects we want, but we really know so little as a solid "fact".

I can xray the arm to see if it is healing. I can autopsy those who died to notice the mending process. We still do not know enough about the mechanisms involved to prevent the epidemic of osteoporosis. And just recently the Japanese have discovered the role of vitamin D2 in bone formation. Also, fairly recently there is a revolution surrounding vitamin D3 amongst researchers, some concerned with bone formation. There are literally thousands of studies surrounding vitamin D3, yet pioneers were scoffed at. It is fair to scoff at research, but it is unfair to apply a double standard.

It is not that I support any particular "alternative" practice, but rather that I am skeptical of conventional medicine as founded of "fact" in every case. If we poorly understand the underlying biology, they I am, skeptical of any theory that pretends to be a fact.

It seems to me that our bodies are biochemical factories, which are more complex than current theories can predict.

Another example is the recent discovery that DNA can be changed by the environment. Again, I speak of peer reviewed studies based on biochemistry.

I never said that there are only two choices, conjecture and proof. Yet the less proof, the less one should rely on the hypotheses or theories. History is full of dead theories!

When it comes to medicine, I see a deplorable lack of flexibility and way too much reliance on "authority". Call me skeptical...

Ted
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  17:08:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hi
After re-reading your blanket statement that radiation treatment extends lives, I did a little google research. It did not take long to discover that the medical profession is using radiation treatment in cases where there is no proof. Note the PMID number.

I quote from wikibooks
" * Tufts; 2009 PMID 19755348
-- "Systematic Review: Charged-Particle Radiation Therapy for Cancer." (Terasawa T, Ann Intern Med. 2009 Sep 14. [Epub ahead of print])
o Literature review. 243 articles,
185 single-institution retrospective,
9 non-randomized trials,
8 randomized trials

o Outcome: No statistically significant or important difference in overall, cancer-specific survival or total serious adverse events
o Conclusion: Evidence is needed

That is what I was talking about. A medical mythology abounds that is followed without skepticism by many, and that has given rise to "myths" of effectiveness.

Of course, you are right, one needs to be skeptical of all claims by "alternative" medicine. My point was, one also needs to be skeptical of orthodox medicine as well.

In the case of alternative medicine with credible biochemical foundations, such as the therapeutic use of vitamins, we are now seeing it (orthomolecular science) slowly infiltrating conventional medicine. Many doctors now recommend Niacin (B3) for certain conditions, and so on.

In fact, I am heartened by a new form of medicine, called "functional medicine", that looks to determine the cause of illness and then treat the underlying cause, instead of conventional medicine's approach of, too often, just treating the symptoms.

I think it is time we were skeptical of all authority, including orthodox medicine.
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  18:10:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
After re-reading your blanket statement that radiation treatment extends lives, I did a little google research. It did not take long to discover that the medical profession is using radiation treatment in cases where there is no proof. Note the PMID number.


You may want to read that article carefully (here). It is a comparative study, comparing one specific type of radiation treatment to others. This is a long shot from no evidence that radiation treatment is effective.

Also, referring to your first post, you seem to suggest that we have as much evidence for radiation treating cancer as we do homeopathic drugs treating cancer. Would you back such a statement?

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 08/03/2010 18:14:08
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  20:51:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was not making a sweeping statement about all radiation, just a statement about lack of proof, a lack of skepticism for radiation treatment, with one specific example as evidence. I assume the doctors and patients that took the radiation were doing so expecting positive results.

It is clear that a surgeon harms a body in order to repair it. Radiation does no repair. I agree that in some cases it extends life, sometimes at the cost of quality of life, but it seems to me it is not immune from the placebo effect, so we do not have any idea of its actual value, though I am not implying there is no value.

What are "homeopathic drugs treating cancer"? I have no opinion on homeopathy and cancer, though I see no credible evidence supporting it.

I do know that few people actually die of cancer itself, they die from what cancer does or from attempts to poison it. Either cachesia (wasting caused by chemicals released by cancer cells), or radiation/chemo combo, or the physical damage caused by tumors.

However, there are treatments in Germany and Japan and Switzerland and England that are not allowed in North America, for cancer and heart disease, our two biggest killers. Why?

For example, I had a heart attack. My doctor put me on beta blockers, statins and blood thinners. My quality of life sucked, so I got off of all of them. I discovered Japanese research into a natural blood thinner called "nattokinase", so I took that instead. No side effects for me. My cardiologist said he was not allowed to recommend it, as it is not approved. Why? Are the Japanese not medically competent?

And in England a cardiac surgeon wrote a book called "the Cholesterol myth". Again, it seems that orthodox medicine swallowed poor studies and a bad theory based on faith. They recommended margarine instead of butter (trans fats instead of butterfat, what a joke) and so on. My point is that medicine seems to regard itself as a science, but it is loaded with "authoritarian" pronouncements instead of facts. I favour biochemistry. I want to know the underlying mechanism for the procedures given me. In short, I am a skeptic!

Ted
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  21:17:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Farseeker
It is clear that a surgeon harms a body in order to repair it. Radiation does no repair.
Well, that's assuming your conclusion. In the case of cancer, radiation and surgery are "repairing" the body in exactly the same way: by removing cancerous tissue (cutting in one case, radiating in the other) and then letting the body heal itself. And the precision of radiation techniques are improving all the time, allowing surgeons to "cook" only cancerous tissue and sparing healthy cells. I'm not sure why you would think there's something fishy about that in principle.

The Wikipedia article on Radiation Therapy mentions the wide spectrum of radiosensitivity in various types of cancer cells. Unless individual cells are conscious, I don't think that can be explained away with the Placebo Effect.


And welcome to the SFN, Farseeker.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/03/2010 21:29:09
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  21:41:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Did I miss it? Have we learned how the placebo effect works at the biochemical level?

In a double blind study not only must the patient be kept ignorant, but also the doctor. We do not know why people will get better (statistically, enough to skew results and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid it) when they believe something works. This is not only drugs, but the placebo effect also comes into play if we use anything that the person believes will work.

I do not see how your comment about the cells being conscious has anything to do with the placebo effect.

The placebo effect can easily come into play if I take you and put you into a big machine and say "this thingamajig" will help you.

Why do I wonder? Because I am a skeptic and worry when I am asked to take things on faith.

BTW, it is well known that radiation causes cancer. Also, radiation is often backed with chemo, so which does the job?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  22:18:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Farseeker
In a double blind study not only must the patient be kept ignorant, but also the doctor. We do not know why people will get better (statistically, enough to skew results and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid it) when they believe something works. This is not only drugs, but the placebo effect also comes into play if we use anything that the person believes will work.
How can doctors and scientists independently discovering that various cancer cells exhibit widely different radiosensitivity have been affected by the placebo effect? It's directly observable, repeatable and consistent.

I do not see how your comment about the cells being conscious has anything to do with the placebo effect.

The placebo effect can easily come into play if I take you and put you into a big machine and say "this thingamajig" will help you.
I assume, perhaps erroneously, that some scientists have examined the affects of radiation on isolated tumor cells independent of a host.

BTW, it is well known that radiation causes cancer. Also, radiation is often backed with chemo, so which does the job?
BTW, is well known that chemicals also cause cancer. Why reserve your skepticism only for radiation? And radiation isn't always used in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy. It can be used alone.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25973 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  22:46:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Farseeker

correlation is not causation.
Duh. That's why I didn't say that correlation alone was enough to determine cause and effect.
Biological mechanisms are not "mechanisms" as if we knew things to the level we know how a clock works...
Oh, forcryingoutloud. We do indeed have some "clock-level" biological mechanisms described, like the Krebs Cycle, but that was hardly my point. And if you're not in favor of any particular alt-med woo, then why are you even arguing this? Oh, I see why:
It is not that I support any particular "alternative" practice, but rather that I am skeptical of conventional medicine as founded of "fact" in every case.
You want to argue against a straw man. Well, have at. I'll have little part of it except to point and laugh. For example:
Another example is the recent discovery that DNA can be changed by the environment.
Recent? Seems to me that we've known that for decades.
I never said that there are only two choices, conjecture and proof.
No, you strongly suggested that without double-blind studies, everything was conjecture. Go back and re-read your first comment here.
When it comes to medicine, I see a deplorable lack of flexibility and way too much reliance on "authority". Call me skeptical...
I'd call you skeptical if you didn't trot out the authority of studies which allegedly demonstrate things which you want to be true. Why is it okay for you to rely on such things, and not doctors?

You also wrote:
After re-reading your blanket statement that radiation treatment extends lives...
Yeah, just ignore the "for example" and try to turn it into something I didn't mean, why don't you? If you're going to argue against straw men often, perhaps you should avoid preaching about proper skepticism.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  23:03:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If the patient believes something will work, then the placebo effect is present. If the doctor believes it will work, then the placebo effect is present. Why else do double blind studies?

When patient's positive results are reported, how much is radiation, how much is "remission" or placebo? I am just arguing against a double standard, as so often any clinical result done by alternative doctors is dismissed as either placebo or remission. There is little doubt that some Mexican clinics get good results with alternative chemicals, equal or better than radiation. Are they all liars and crooks, or have the liars and crooks poisoned the well against a few useful therapies? Are the German medical systems, the Swiss, the Japanese also all crooks and liars?

Radiation is not consistent when applied to people, else no one would die, no one would need chemo. The fact it works sometimes supports my skepticism. I do not doubt it works on some cancers, but I doubt it reliably works on all the cancers that use radiation as a therapy. Appearently, there is no refund if it does not work.
Again, if it did, why are people dying?

On Mythbusters they exposed various insects to high levels of radiation. They gave results as percentage of kill.

I assume that the radiologist picks an amount of radiation with the highest percentage of cancer cell kill that does not kill the patient. But the difference with a cancer cell in a test tube and a cancer cell in the body is the amount of radiation that the human can take. Another weak point is, if you don't get all the cancer cells, they will spread. Even worse, there is no way of knowing if the cancer cells have already spread beyond any one point before radiation therapy. That is why they use chemo as a second step. And the success rate is abysmal for many common cancers, like lung, pancreatic, etc.

Of course chemicals cause cancer. So does smoking. Chemo also causes cancer, as some of the chemicals used are both very toxic and some are even carcinogenic.

I am skeptical about most everything, taking little on faith. Having spent many years as a systems analyst, I can tell you that huge amounts of problems are caused by faulty assumptions. When it comes to health, faulty assumptions can kill.

If I remember right, medical errors and problems are in the top 10 causes of death. Drugs are withdrawn every year because they discover they kill people, despite having been accepted by the FDA as safe and effective. We must be skeptical and keep looking at the research as it uncovers more and more things.

The reason I am on this web site, is that I believe in being skeptical. And not on a few subjects but skeptical of a lot of claims on a lot of topics.
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  23:35:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
When patient's positive results are reported, how much is radiation, how much is "remission" or placebo? I am just arguing against a double standard, as so often any clinical result done by alternative doctors is dismissed as either placebo or remission.


Again you pretend that a double blind test is the only way to provide evidence that a certain treatment works. Perhaps you'll actually acknowledge it this time.

And what exactly do you propose to get rid of this double standard? Maybe we could try to understand the causal mechanism behind radiation killing cancer cells. Or maybe we could test it on tumors outside a human body. Or maybe we could test it on animals. Or maybe we could study statistics of cancer growth and shrinkage corresponding to various types of therapies.

Oh wait, we already do all that.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25973 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  23:47:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Farseeker

If the patient believes something will work, then the placebo effect is present. If the doctor believes it will work, then the placebo effect is present. Why else do double blind studies?
Double-blind studies actually measure the amount of placebo effect going on, even though they're double-blind. The patient is being treated, and the doctor is treating, so they're not blind in the sense that neither party thinks anything is happening. The control groups do not experience zero effects, but instead experience normal placebo effects. If it were otherwise, no control group would be needed.
I am just arguing against a double standard, as so often any clinical result done by alternative doctors is dismissed as either placebo or remission.
Then you're arguing against a straw man. Most "clinical results" from alt-med are due to errors in methods or analysis. Criticisms of such results routinely point out small sample sizes, inappropriate controls, failures of attempted blinding, the inability of the study to test what is allegedly being tested, poor statistical analysis, conclusions which contradict the analysis and many other problems. Laypeople might suggest placebo or remission first simply because they can't mount a proper critique of an article, but laypeople aren't an appropriate group to decide the value of a study.
There is little doubt that some Mexican clinics get good results with alternative chemicals, equal or better than radiation.
Where are the studies which show that to be true? It's quite a bold claim for you to just plop it out there without supporting evidence.
Are they all liars and crooks, or have the liars and crooks poisoned the well against a few useful therapies?
False dichotomy.
Radiation is not consistent when applied to people, else no one would die, no one would need chemo.
Wow, that's just insane. Want to try to rephrase that into something more rational?
The fact it works sometimes supports my skepticism. I do not doubt it works on some cancers, but I doubt it reliably works on all the cancers that use radiation as a therapy.
No, it works differently on different cancers. Haven't you been paying attention?
Appearently, there is no refund if it does not work.
There's generally no refund if alt-med woo doesn't work. In the alt-med world, most failures of treatment are blamed on the patients instead of on the treatment not working. That's the only sure way to keep the money patients coming in.
Again, if it did, why are people dying?
Because you have a completely unreasonable definition of "working."
On Mythbusters they exposed various insects to high levels of radiation. They gave results as percentage of kill.
Yeah, and every level of radiation they used was enough to kill an adult human, but the flour beetles survived very well. Different biology, different results. What's your point here?
I assume that the radiologist picks an amount of radiation with the highest percentage of cancer cell kill that does not kill the patient. But the difference with a cancer cell in a test tube and a cancer cell in the body is the amount of radiation that the human can take. Another weak point is, if you don't get all the cancer cells, they will spread. Even worse, there is no way of knowing if the cancer cells have already spread beyond any one point before radiation therapy. That is why they use chemo as a second step. And the success rate is abysmal for many common cancers, like lung, pancreatic, etc.
Yes, you're stating the obvious. What's your point?
If I remember right, medical errors and problems are in the top 10 causes of death.
That's mistakes in practice, not mistakes in theory. You're trying to conflate the two, so that a nurse loading a syringe with a completely wrong drug and killing a patient is viewed the same as the right drugs just failing to work and the patient dying. It's completely dishonest to imply, as you have, that the "medical errors" being counted are errors of understanding biology and medicine.
Drugs are withdrawn every year because they discover they kill people...
Another straw man. Drugs are withdrawn every year because they kill too many people. Nobody is arguing that drugs are free from risk. The recent highly publicized drug withdrawals were all because the risk of death was higher on the market than what was reported to the FDA during trials (for a variety of reasons, some unethical), and not because some drug was "death-free" during trials and only killed people once it got out into the public.
...despite having been accepted by the FDA as safe and effective.
Yes, both "safe" and "effective" are relative terms, and there is no set standard for every drug and every disease. A drug is "safe" if it kills fewer people than who would die of their disease(s) anyway, not because it doesn't kill at all. A drug is "effective" if it causes more-frequent remission of disease to a statistically significant extent than leaving that disease untreated, not because it works on everyone.
We must be skeptical and keep looking at the research as it uncovers more and more things.
We must first be skeptical of our own understandings of medical science, and not leap to attack straw men that bear little resemblance to the real world.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Farseeker
Skeptic Friend

Canada
76 Posts

Posted - 08/04/2010 :  07:29:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Farseeker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Again you pretend that a double blind test is the only way to provide evidence that a certain treatment works. Perhaps you'll actually acknowledge it this time.

How do I put the above quote from an earlier post into a little blue box?

Yes, we have agreed that the double blind study is the gold standard. I did not say the only acceptable proof of efficacy, but of course every reduction in either reliability or quality or effectiveness should be matched with increasing skepticism. The very fact that good scientists get different results shows that one should not take results on faith.

And what exactly do you propose to get rid of this double standard?

Do I have to have a solution to a problem in order to be a valid skeptic? But since you asked, to fix the problem of a double standard, apply the standard fairly to all possible solutions, within ethical boundaries.

Put simply, determine the "cure rate" of, for example, radiation treatment for a specific cancer. Then compare it to, for example, the German treatment of hyperthermia. Since there are German clinics doing this, it is just a question of checking the results. Ditto for Japanese research. Ditto for Russian research. We are now in a global medical community... at least for those who can afford the cost.

[blue]Oh wait, we already do all that.[blue/]
Not sure what you meant by that comment. I am sure there are researchers in labs today trying to improve effectiveness of radiation therapy, so there are still areas to research.
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