Alternative medicine no cancer cure - doctor

A doctor comforts a patient (Getty)
It's rare patients ask mainstream doctors about alternative treatments (Getty)

The Samoan government is teaming up with a controversial Mexican cancer clinic to offer "cheaper" treatment to its citizens.

The clinic - Hope 4 Cancer, based in Tijuana - claims to be able to cure cancer through a range of "non-toxic" therapies, such as sound waves, electromagnetic pulses, heat and even coffee enemas.

But oncologists are warning Kiwis to think twice about spending money - and just as importantly, their time - on alternative cancer treatments.

"I understand at a personal level why people who have exhausted all standard treatment options would want to try anything they perceive may have the smallest possible chance of benefit for them," Cancer Society medical director Chris Jackson told Newshub on Monday.

"I talk to them about what they do have to lose."

Hope 4 Cancer's flagship treatment is virotherapy - using viruses that they say target cancer cells. Specifically the clinic offers Rigvir, a viral treatment developed in Latvia nearly 50 years ago, which is not approved for use anywhere but Latvia, Georgia, Armenia and Mexico.

Dr Jackson says Rigver is like many other cancer treatments - it only works in very specific circumstances, in this case on certain types of melanoma.

"To say that Rigver therapy for advanced cancer in general is effective is an extraordinarily bold generalisation - you just can't make that claim with any kind of validity.

"If I said Keytruda was the answer to every single cancer, that would be a ridiculous overgeneralisation."

 Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi first approached Hope 4 Cancer early last year.

"The reason why they want to setup a clinic here in Samoa is because most of their patients are from New Zealand and Australia, and so it would be easier for these patients to travel to Samoa rather than spending a lot of money going to America, which is expensive," he told the Samoa Observer in May.

"From my point of view this will benefit Samoa in many ways; not only that there will be a lot of patients who will travel here, but in the side of our tourist industry."

Clinic founder Tony Jimenez says Samoa is an attractive location because of its proximity to Australia, New Zealand, Asia and North America, its low cost of living and a "favourable regulation environment".

The Samoa Cancer Society in September said it was "okay" to let the alternative healing clinic open, as long as the Government still gave locals the option of seeking mainstream treatment.

But its New Zealand equivalent says people who've exhausted all their mainstream options should consider supportive care, rather than spend potentially tens of thousands of dollars on unproven treatments.

"When we talk to our patients about the difference between these therapies they do start to see in actual fact what they are seeing on the web and what they're reading about and hearing about in popular literature perhaps isn't all it's cracked up to be."

What does Hope 4 Cancer offer?

  • sono-photo dynamic therapy (using sound)
  • virotherapy (using viruses to attack cancer cells)
  • coffee enema (injecting caffeine into the intestines via the anus)
  • pulsed electromagnetic field therapy
  • vitamin therapies
  • recall healing/German new medicine, a discredited system linked to dozens of deaths in Europe
  • hyperthermia (heating tumours to 40degC).