We interviewed Dr James Laporta, who has dedicated his life to cancer care and research and is regarded as one of the leading integrative doctors in South Africa.
In this interview, we discuss the mindset and myths around fighting cancer.
Could you briefly tell the listeners how and why you’ve dedicated your life to fighting cancer?
Cancer has become a lot more common than we realize. When faced with a diagnosis of cancer, I see people being very overwhelmed and because no one has the perfect answer.
There’s different opinions between the conventional doctors and some of the natural medicine doctors and even between specialists.
There is a lot of confusion and I just see a lot of people being a little bit helpless and lost.
I first started treating cancer just because people needed to have a roadmap going forward and also to explore alternative treatment protocols.
What I found was that when someone was diagnosed with cancer, they would get exceptionally real with themselves.
They become genuine with all emotions, with all their thoughts, and sort of engaged with treatment and a whole different level.
It became an absolute honor to start walking the healing journeys with each of these cancer patients.
Slowly I started realizing that cancer itself has something to teach all of us brings mortality to a certain level of sobriety and makes you appreciate life and a whole different level.
It also makes you deal with things that you haven’t dealt with your entire life very quickly and very effectively. And obviously cancer patients is becoming superhuman during this healing journey.
So for me, sort of cancer is a gateway to the heart of humanity and I’d love to support that in any way that I can. I’ve had a personal experience with cancer too. My father passed away when I was really young of skin cancer and it accelerated quite quickly. I remember the doctors next to my dad and one explaining with heart, what was going on what was happening.
It made the whole experience beautiful in a strange way. We are we all going to die at some point and what I learned through that is not what I saw in my medical training that most doctors actually provide. I wanted to be like that.
The Mindset Of Fighting Cancer
We all know that that certain mindset affects not only the immune system functioning but also the cancer progression itself.
Many times with the diagnosis there’s a lot of fear around it and you only want to close your eyes hold your breath and wake up when it’s all over.
Unfortunately the body doesn’t work like that.. the cancer cells are making part of your human body and the more we engage with the treatment, the more our body starts responding. You can imagine a good friend of mine has an app called the cancer dojo is going around the world as he promoting and he’s sort of motto is happy people are harder to kill.
And he gets people during the radiation to say; the radiation is like the hot boiling sun and your cancer is like an ice cream and you watch it melt away or candy floss in a rainy day.
And those kinds of mental images, support treatment to an unbelievable level. The power of your mind and the power of your body is what’s required to treat cancer. And it’s not as though it’s a failed if you don’t get it right but the experience of cancer treatment doesn’t have to be negative and full of fear.
Treatment today versus the stories of the stereotypes from treatment as we know it?
The first thing that we try and do with every patient is to allow them to become captain of the ship.
For me, it’s profound step in the right direction, that the power is often handed over to us doctors to make the calls on prognosis and on what she can do, should do and, and whether supplements are good or not.
That’s not true…
The patient is in charge of their own body and they get to make those informed choices and we get to be there to support them all hands on deck.
The minute they can take authority over the kind of healing path that they want to live and on the discipline that’s required during this profound results happen.
The first thing is feeling okay with saying: I know what’s best for my body and I want you to inform me what’s good and making rational choices with a team of professionals that support you.
Back in the day when we didn’t understand cancer treatment that well, we had certain types of drugs that were toxic to the cells. Now cells that divide very quickly like cancer cells, and are very sensitive to any kind of toxin. As you understand they require more food, they require more energy and then multiply.
When you give them a toxin, these busy cells die first, and the other cells get affected, but not to the same degree. That’s traditional sort of chemotherapy as it used to be.
Right now we’ve refined those drugs to be a lot more selective to specific kinds of mutations in the cells. So in other words, it doesn’t just kill every cell.. it kills specific kinds of cells.
And we’ve also developed things called immunotherapy. So when a doctor talks about chemotherapy they also include immunotherapy. That means that every cell has a sort of signature, just like some plants have a certain shape of a leaf.
Some cancers have a certain receptor on the cell surface that looks a certain pattern. The drug fits only that pattern to kills those cells preferentially. There’s sometimes other cells that are sort of cross interacts with but generally the side effects are better. The treatment is highly effective.
There are also new new types of radiotherapy. It’s not just mechanical radiation that that covers a large area of your body anymore. Gamma Knife surgery and stereotactic radiotherapy where they can pinpoint smaller lesions and actually apply a significant dose of radiation just to those areas to kill them off.
Cancer treatment has certainly evolved. It’s very difficult to generalize types of cancer to cut types of treatment. Certain types of lymphoma, for example, has an over 90% success rate with chemotherapy. But if you look at certain types like pancreatic cancer, the treatment success with conventional chemotherapy is not nearly as high.
So it varies according to types of cancer and also varies according to stage. If you get breast cancer, that’s really early, you detected a small nodule in your breasts, and it’s less than one or two, three centimeters, and it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes treatment options vary, then it’s easy to take the lesion out or treated, but to make a smaller than take it out.
You may not have to go on chemotherapy or radiation even after that if you’ve managed to cut out the lesion entirely, but the minute the cancer cells spreads out side of where it initially grew, it means it’s an metastatic kind of cancer. (aggressive form of cancer)
When you find it in your lymph node, we can’t say for certain that it’s not sitting somewhere else in the body. And you’re going to need a lot more intensive treatments.
Early detection becomes critical in opening up different types of treatment choices.
Has there been advancements in early detection and how does that affect your chances of treatments?
You hear the GP say if you over the age of 50, or even over 40 sometimes you need to be having a regular prostate exam every few years you should be looking at a colonoscopies over the age of 50 at least one to detected early.
Women nowadays it becomes a regular thing to have pap smears but several years ago that wasn’t even considered a necessary and the only reason we do that is to try and have early detection of certain types of viruses that may cause cancers lesions on the cervix.
It’s very prevalent in South Africa and breast examinations. When you see the magazine article showing you how to do a breast examination. Don’t page through too quickly…stay there learn how to do it and very often you come up with a small nodules. 90% of those nodules aren’t at all cancerous but what one does is then go for tests. Very often. It doesn’t even get to the biopsy stage but 10 out of 100 are going to actually pick up a lesion that might be sinister.
If you act on it quickly, you don’t have to go through the full treatment of breast cancer. Early detection is very, very important. And I think there’s a lot of awareness out there, but I don’t think people take it seriously.
Not until they have cancer until they know of someone who has cancer.
What’s one cancer myth you want to debunk?
I think the one thing is there’s a myth around is that chemotherapy is either bad, or an alternative approach. Natural medicine is a gobbledygook and it’s quackery and you shouldn’t be taking any natural supplements to cure cancer. Which isn’t true we engage with integrative therapies.
So we use things like curcumin, we use high dose of intravenous vitamin C and various other botanical acids. We support nutrition in a way that patients can go through chemotherapy, actually feeling quite healthy.
The other myth is around diet. Diet is quite a contentious issue. A lot of us follow a very high inflammatory, high protein diet. Certainly if we take that down to more natural vegetables, a plant based kind of diet and reduce the kinds of meat to fish and grass fed, pasture raised animals. That goes a long way. Creating the body to be a cleaner kind of state and a less inflamed state.
But it doesn’t treat cancer. This, this is the method, I see so many people coming through that are tired from either cancer or treatment itself. And they are thin and they really don’t have a lot of appetite and they struggle to actually get themselves going in the morning and then they go and have a salad or they eat some raw food, that’s not going to work that they’re never going to get the kind of energy they need.
So in that kind of case, you know, having a really good bone broth has been cooked over 12 hours and all the bone marrow is in there and a lot of vegetables are cooked up and it’s easy to digest.
That makes a big, big difference to the energy of the patient and to treating even the side effects of various kinds of treatment.
So diet really depends on where you’re at on the treatment phase. And I don’t believe that any one diet works. A diet fads often cause more stress to the patient and stress causes cancer to grow faster. And and diets also take away the enjoyment of life.
We all have a certain time that we’re going to go and I see patients unnecessary suffering the last few months or even years of their life by following extraordinarily restrictive diets.
Yes, too much sugar is bad, but a little bit of sugar is not bad. Your cells need sugar to survive. If you don’t eat sugar, you will always have sugar circulating in your body, it’s when we go overboard with sugar starts damaging us. So too much sugar or too much of the wrong kind of meat.
We recommended a good balanced Mediterranean diet with low carbohydrates, not too much wheat, not too much of any other inflammatory compounds or too much sugar. And I think you’re right on the money. And then obviously being sensitive to your body wants and needs at the time and being able to to follow that accordingly. I’ve seen the best results when people follow that.
Is there anything out there that is beyond chemotherapy that’s that exists I say that that people could consider?
There’s a lot of exciting and advances in cancer treatment. The most popular cancer treatment going is around personalized oncology.
So in looking at what the type of genetic mutations your specific tumor has, not what kind of tumor it is but what mutations it has, and how it may respond to various kinds of chemotherapy is certainly a step in the right direction.
And when we can understand the unique characteristics of the tumor at what receptors they have or what kind of hormones they responded to, or what kind of pathways are specifically mutated, we can start choosing therapies that are directly target that specific kind of cancer growth or mutation or so. And that can be very, very effective. So that’s certainly where the treatments are going.
The other side of it is also immunotherapy, looking at how to enhance your body’s own immune system, so not just a few supplements that may boost it, but actually looking at blocking certain things that restrict the body’s immune cells soldier cell from actually attacking a cancer cell.
So there’s certain things that it needs to grab onto a cancer cell that could say almost like a docking station. And a lot of us produce things in our body that fold the docking station with a net, and we can’t actually land the new source complex. Now we have types of immunotherapy that can actually remove those and make the docking stations appear. And there’s also things where we taking the body’s own immune cells and manipulating them according to almost sending them on like a homing signal. So we sensitize the body’s immune cells to the specific kind of cancer that they have. And then they release like a pack of dog with a homing signal that can kind of get exactly where the cancers on which cells are cancerous. And then there’s quite a few things happening with laser therapies at the moment.
We practice photodynamic therapy at our practice over here. That’s where you inject a certain kind of molecule, whether it’s into the tumor itself or into the bloodstream. This molecule accumulates in very high concentrations in the cancer cells specifically. But in the normal cells, they just released the molecule. So in about two minutes, you find that most of your cells have released this agent, and over time that only accumulates in cancer cells, and does nothing to the cancer cells. But the minute you shine a frequency of laser light over those molecules, they become highly active and cause free radical formation. That’s the oxygen molecule split off and actually damaged cells and kill the cells. And so what we do then is we shine any note laser that goes over the area where the cancer is, we do that either through needles into the tumor or with very strong kind of lasers around the skin. And we then wait and the lasers that go through the normal tissue don’t cause any damage, but the lasers that Touch the cancer tissue that now have this molecule almost like a Trojan horse inside there, cause a reaction and we suddenly find the tumor cells dying off in the healthy cells being completely healthy. And I think that’s also where a lot of new researchers is heading. And we found that unbelievable results.
The difficulty is we not sure which tumor cells, which tumor types absorb this kind of agent the most. We’re still in that level of discovery. We’ve had unbelievable success in tumor shrink within three, four weeks to a quarter of the size, and healthy tissue with no side effects. I do think we make incredible advances or treatment.
Where can people go to learn more about you and the Malachite Centre?
You can visit our website: Malachite Centre
We like to hold the patients heart and hand through the healing journey and we accumulate all the information from what the cancer is, from their background from their blood tests, we run several diagnostics that aren’t done anywhere else in the country over here.
We really come to understand their state of health very specifically, and also their cancer very specifically, we then take the cancer cell sometimes and send it off to the UK where we actually grow it and we tested against various chemotherapies inside of lab and we also tested against various types of a botanical isolates like green tea extracts or ginger or things like that.
We then can find what the cells appear to be sensitive to which might help guide direction for treatment. We also take a large batch of genetics from the person’s own DNA, the natural genetics or the non mutated genetics and find out what kind of pathways are working well, which aren’t.
Once we’ve got all of that information, we discuss all treatment options, we contact oncologist and make sure they’re on board with what what’s happening here too.
We will try and engage the patient’s mental state around actively engaging with treatment becoming captain of the ship, looking at other psychological parameters around this involving the family near by the time you reach that point, you’ve got an incredibly empowered patient and a family that understands what’s happening in his immunity and supporting them.
We then look at various treatments that are offered from around the world. Most of them we can get down here in South Africa. We also look at the locally available treatments and we offer what we can offer them or if we don’t offer it, which is seldom but we might prefer on to somewhere else.
We really just try and find what’s the very best in the world that we have to date that we can offer them to make sure that they get that. Sometimes it becomes very tricky because sometimes these things cost a lot, and especially to get them down South Africa.
Where finances are a problem we really try and help patients to look at the mainstream therapies that they’re having, and how we can support them by reducing side effects and improving quality of life.
We do various talks around the world and off to Bangkok next week to go and talk at a conference there about laser therapies and various types of isolates and the new therapies. We’ve formed a consortium of what I’d like to think of as cutting edge treatment doctors and clinics from around the world.
We at the foreshore in Cape Town and close to the city center with beautiful offices. Anyone is welcome to come around and ask some questions.