Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: A “GEMM” of a bit of woo

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years of doing this little feature, it’s that there are a couple of kinds of woo. Actually, there are certainly more than a couple, but pretty much all woo can be divided into a couple of types. The first time is where the woo is based on no science at all, but rather mysticism or some other religious or “spiritual” force. This may or may not be combined with the physical or with some sort of scientific or pseudoscientific explanations to justify it, but at its very heart the woo far more religion than science. Then, there’s another type of woo that is actually based on some science. The problem, of course, is that it takes a bit of science and just goes completely off the rails with it. This usually takes the form of making wild extrapolations from known science that aren’t justified, although it can certainly take other forms as well, as in burying the recipient in “science-y” sounding jargon that is impressive to those without a scientific background (the vast majority of people) but that anyone with a bit of knowledge in the relevant field or even just a bit of critical thinking skills that allows him to notice contradictions and logical fallacies can recognize it for what it is.

This week’s installment takes this latter sort of woo to a whole new level. Basically, it takes a relatively banal observation and cranks up the woo to 11 (not unlike the level to which the Stupid-O-Meter is frequently cranked by Jenny McCarthy). One reason I appreciate it is that it even rather makes an oblique kind of extrapolation from what we as surgeons do already, namely radiofrequency ablation. What’s not to like?

Unless you’re a patient being treated with this stuff, of course.

The treatment modality is called “GEMM therapy.” Naturally, as I did, I’m sure you want to know what, exactly, GEMM therapy is:

GEMM (Generatore Elettro Magnetico Modulato) is a state of the art therapeutic device generating specially modulated, low power (0.25 watt) radio waves.

With these radio waves GEMM directly communicates with the target proteins in the cells who are responsible for regulating biological processes.

This direct communication enables GEMM to provide significant therapeutic benefits for a wide range of diseases and medical conditions.

GEMM’s therapeutic waves are at the target protein’s precisely calculated specific resonant frequency in order to give orders to stop, modify or reverse the malfunctioning processes.

Whoa! It sounds really science-y, doesn’t it? Who knew that such low power radio waves could be used to cure so many diseases? Certainly not me. This would be revolutionary if it were true. After all, radiofrequency ablation of tumors routinely uses power in the range of 150 watts, more than 600 times the level of what GEMM claims to use. Clearly, we surgeons have been hitting tumors with a thermonuclear blast rather than a smart bomb. Oddly enough, radiofrequency ablation generally is not curative and is in fact usually used in the case of tumors in the liver (and a few other places) that either can’t be resected surgically or for patients who are just not in good enough shape to handle major surgery. Wouldn’t it be lovely to use such incredibly low power? Of course it would. Do you want to know more? Of course you do. Certainly I did; in particular I wanted to know the scientific rationale that would lead the seller of the GEMM therapy to make such extravagant claims. First, the findings of a scientist named Irena Cosic are invoked to describe the resonant frequency model of protein-protein interactions. I’m not a protein chemist, but a perusal of PubMed only turned up 29 articles, including some by Professor Cosic, in particular this one, which explores whether protein function can be modified by an applied electromagnetic radiation of defined frequency in a range of infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. Oddly enough, there is nothing about radiowaves in there. So apparently resonant recognition is science, and I wonder how Professor Cosic would feel about her work being appropriated to justify woo like this:

Considerable experimental evidence today points to the possibility of modulating biological functions and structures in a controlled way by applying electromagnetic fields.

This phenomenon has been observed and used by Dr Gorgun since the 1970s when he made his key discovery of calculating the resonant frequency of any given molecule per the “Method of Gorgun”.

The “method of Gorgun”? Gee, there’s no problem with this guy’s ego, is there? I do have to admit that the name has a rather nice ring to it in a B-movie, science-fiction, evil mad scientist sort of way: “Submit or suffer the method of Gorgun!” Geek that I am, I’m a sucker for that sort of stuff. I picture the guy living in the side of a mountain on a deserted island, with hordes of underlings and uniformed bodyguards working for him, you know, kind of like a James Bond villain. But what is this method? Dr. Gorgun is only too happy to explain:

GEMM is based on the principle of applying the precisely determined electromagnetic fields to the target proteins at the selected resonant frequency to regulate the malfunctioning biological process in a controlled fashion.

A comprehensive description of the method and its effects on neoplastic cells is provided in Dr Gorgun’s article “Studies on the Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter Neoplastic Cell Culture” appeared at the Journal of Frontier Perspectives.

Looking at this paper, I noticed one thing right away. All the guy did was to apply radiofrequency energy to a bunch of tumor cell lines at a power level of 0.25 W and then make a bunch of observations. The first thing that came to mind is that, if this guy is right, perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about cancer from cell phones at all. After all, cell phones emit around 0.6 W, and scientists have trouble finding much in the way of nonthermal biological effects at that power, and yet here’s Dr. Gorgun claiming to find cell necrosis, ultrastructural changes, and mitochondrial degeneration, among other changes. Maybe on the basis of his studies we should encourage everyone to use their cell phones constantly, so that they can bathe their cranium in the healing energy. Sadly, the pictures of cells that he has published don’t look all that impressive, and no functional studies are presented (although there sure is a lot of speculation over hypotheses based on this rather thin gruel). He also can’t seem to make up his mind whether he’s seeing necrosis or apoptosis. If the latter, it’s pretty easy to verify with studies such as caspase activation, PARP cleavage, or other indications of activation of apoptosis.

All of these objections, of course, pale in comparison to the single biggest knock against this stuff: It’s all cell culture! Where are the animal models? Even if Dr. Gorgun observed exactly what he said he observed (and if he has why hasn’t anyone else observed anything so seemingly dramatic?), he’s looking at nothing other than a bunch of cells on a dish, and, worse, he hasn’t even done even the most basic molecular or biochemical studies to determine whether what he claims to be occurring is, in fact, occurring.

But what about this journal, this Journal of Frontier Perspectives? I had never heard of it before. It turns out that it’s based at Temple University; sadly, it also turns out that Temple has an institute called the Center for Frontier Sciences (CFS) that is every bit as buried in woo as the now-defunct (and unlamented by anyone but woo-meisters) Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Institute. Martin Gardner wrote a devastating article about CFS for the Skeptical Inquirer ten years ago and described the publications in this journal thusly:

Its periodical Frontier Perspectives, issued twice a year, has grown to more than eighty pages. I had not seen a copy until physicist C. Alan Bruns, at Franklin and Mitchell College, in Lancaster, sent a copy of Vol. 7, No. 1, 1998, to CSICOP’s office, which in turn forwarded it to me.

Reading through its pages I could hardly believe my eyes. I had expected the magazine to be concerned with such outstanding frontiers as superstring theory, the nature of dark matter, the genetic origins of altruism, how organic molecules fold so rapidly, speculations about a “multiverse” in which endless universes, each with a unique set of laws, explode into reality, or supercomputers operating with quantum mechanics.

The “frontiers” covered in this peculiar journal are nothing of the sort. They are reports on research so far removed from reputable science that it is no wonder academic journals refuse such papers. Let me quickly review a few topics that dominate the Fall/Winter 1998 issue of this magazine.

Homeopathy is one of the center’s favorite “frontiers.” I don’t need to remind SI readers that this is the nineteenth-century crank contention that certain substances, diluted to a degree that no molecules of the substance remain, have great potency in curing an enormous variety of ailments. Because homeopathic remedies consist of nothing but distilled water, it becomes necessary for its defenders to assume that, in some mysterious manner totally unknown to chemists, the water retains a “memory” of its vanished substances.

Cyril Smith, a British electrical engineer, writing on “Is a Living System a Macroscopic Quantum System?”, relates “homeopathic potencies” to the Earth’s electromagnetic fields that cause dowsing rods to turn. The Center obviously regards the ancient art of water witching as another of today’s science “frontiers.” In 1989 it sponsored a conference on dowsing, chaired by Terry Ross, identified as a “well-known dowser.”

Well, alright! Homeopathy and dowsing, two of the hoary old men of the woo brigade, woo so potent that it will live forever. Long after I’m nothing more than a crumbling skeleton, there will be homeopaths and dowsers. I wish it were otherwise, but the human mind’s capacity for self-deception is insatiable. But that’s not all that goes on at the CFS. Alt-med, the study of Tarot readings, and even U.F.O.s, complete with alien abductions, have been credulously “researched” there. I simply had had no idea of the power of the concentrated woo in Philadelphia. Now that PEAR is no more, I’m afraid CFS will just take up the slack.

But back to Dr. Gorgun and, because it’s my area of expertise, cancer. Apparently, GEMM therapy can cure incurable cancer:

Dr Gorgun has been successfully treating cancer patients for over 30 years with GEMM Therapy. Hundreds of terminal cancer patients who have been given no hope by orthodox medicine have been cured or their conditions have been significantly improved by GEMM Therapy.

GEMM device is sending precisely calculated therapeutic radio waves to the cancer cells for manipulating the sensitivity of the malfunctioning glycoproteinic sensors in the mitochondrial membrane. The treatment forces the cell to stop continuous ATP production that normally results in rapid mitosis that leads to cancer.

When the ATP production is halted, without energy to carry out the normal activities, the cell quickly goes into necrosis, the cell death. In well differentiated cell type tumors that are normally less aggressive, the ATP production does not stop completely but barely enough to keep the cell in a vegetative state. Later most of the tumors of this type has been calcified and remain quite over a very long period.

Good God, the man appears to be abusing poor Otto Warburg? Will poor Warburg never cease to have his work abused by pseudoscientists? He’s probably rolling over in his grave–nay, spinning–at all the abuse of his work by woo-loving pseudoscientists! Of course, if it were that easy to stop cancer cells from producing ATP, wouldn’t you think that scientists would be doing it already? After all, they’ve been zapping cells with electricity, X-rays, and radiowaves ever since they first figured out how to grow them in cell culture! I guess we scientists must all be that stupid. Or we must lack Dr. Gorgun’s unique scientific vision. Or something.

Naturally, Dr. Gorgun has all sorts of anecdotes that supposedly show that GEMM therapy has cured glioblastoma, breast cancer, and retroperitoneal sarcoma, but, as is always the case, there is insufficient documentation to tell whether there is anything to these anecdotes or not. Indeed, the second breast cancer (G.B.) case is particularly silly. The “pretreatment” photo shows a close-up of a fungating breast cancer; the “post-treatment” photo shows the breast from a different angle in a darker photo. To me, the two don’t really look significantly different, but the caption over the first one characterizes the tumor deposits in the skin as “necrotic tissues pouring away from the breast following the GEMM Therapy application.” What it looks like to me is nothing more than the unfortunately run-of-the-mill fungating and bleeding breast cancer deposits.

In any case, if these anecdotes are truly as compelling as advertised, I have to ask the same question that I always ask: Why doesn’t Dr. Gorgun publish them as case reports in a real peer-reviewed medical journal, instead of a woo-journal? If he has the goods and can really cure incurable cancers, then I would argue that he is morally and ethically obligated to do so, rather than using GEMM in a clinic to bilk–I mean treat–patients. This is one area where a randomized, double-blind clinical trial would not be necessary. If Dr. Gorgun could demonstrate well enough that peer reviewers believe him that GEMM therapy can indeed cure (or prolong the life so dramatically that historical controls are adequate for comparison of) patients with advanced, incurable malignancies, it would be a major breakthrough. If, for example, he could provide irrefutable evidence that he could cure five patients in a row with metastatic pancreatic cancer, researchers would be beating down his door to collaborate with him and figure out how this stuff works. He’d be a shoe-in for the Nobel Prize, and his device (pictured below) would appear in every oncology clinic and cancer center:


So why is Dr. Gorgun publishing questionable anecdotes on a website instead of claiming the fame and glory that a major cancer breakthrough would bring to him? Maybe he’s just too busy with his many other research projects, such as remote sensing:

One of the most significant achievements of Dr. Gorgun is a technology he named GEFR “Gorgun Electromagnetic Fermion Resonance” for the Remote Sensing of Condensed Matter. Because it can remotely identify material, GEFR is totally different and superior to other remote sensing systems.

GEFR utilizes specially modulated very high frequency (in the GHz range) yet very lower power electromagnetic waves to scan the atomic model of any given material. The scanned information is than kept the GEFR’s memory. GEFR afterwards can remotely search the same material at any defined territory. This high-end technology can be used to detect mines, explosives, drugs or any desired material from a distance. GEFR is an unmatched, breakthrough discovery in the remote sensing field.

What is it with this guy naming everything after himself? There isn’t a huge ego there, is there? Or even a touch of megalomania? Whatever the case, Dr. Gorgun seems to be the Leonardo da Vinci of our day–at least if you believe his website. He can even produce safe nuclear energy from any material:

Normally nuclear reactions can take place from unstable atoms such as uranium as it is believed that it is almost impossible to break the extremely high energy nucleus of the stable atoms.

However by using his unique resonance approach Dr. Gorgun was able to resonate an ordinary material by sending special electromagnetic waves to a so called “material amplifier”.

In the experiments done and recorded at the Galileo Avionica’s Laboratory, the outcome was an immense 7 GigaWatt energy burst lasting for 2 nanoseconds.

I tell ya, this guy won’t just put oncologists out of business. He’ll put OPEC out of business.

Remember, though, how I mentioned how Dr. Gorgun’s woo would be a natural fit with cell phone woo? Apparently Dr. Gorgun agrees:

By applying a very low cost apparatus to the antenna, Dr. Gorgun eliminates the dangerous emission around the antenna but paradoxically beyond a safe distance the electromagnetic signals continues to propagate at the desired level.

Another very interesting outcome is that the waves propagated from the protected antenna are spherical but not plenary i.e. 3-D instead of 2-D compared to the typical nude antenna.

I wonder how Dr. Gorgun pulled that off.

Personally, I think he’s making a big mistake. I said before early in this piece that, if Dr. Gorgun’s radio waves can kill cancer so completely dead while regenerating bone in osteoporosis or kidney in end stage renal failure, then he’s missing a true chance to do good (and become fabulously wealthy). All he has to do is to work with cell phone companies to reconfigure their phones so that they work using a carrier wave that has the most beneficial shape (according to Dr. Gorgun’s research, of course!) and market that. People use cell phones all the time; so they would be exposed for minutes to several hours a day to the healing beams of woo that only Dr. Gorgun can provide. Rates of cancer prevalence will plummet; no one will have osteoporosis anymore; and no one will need dialysis anymore. Billions upon billions of healthcare dollars will be saved, to the eternal gratitude of governments everywhere. I’m surprised he hasn’t thought of it before.

There’s no need for Dr. Gorgun to thank me for this idea, though. It’s all for duty and humanity!

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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