Physical, Traditional, and Pharmacological Therapies
Emanuel Revici – Will His Unique Therapy Ever Be Scientifically Assessed?
Emanuel Revici, M.D., is a brilliant, unconventional cancer researcher and therapist who has offered the scientific community a scientifically “open” system of unconventional pharmacological cancer therapy. The scientific community, however, never took up the challenge of pursuing Revici’s line of inquiry, so Revici went his own way, building a largely solipsistic scientific edifice the equal of which has rarely been seen in unconventional cancer therapies.
Revici is one of the most interesting of the “great men” of unconventional pharmacological cancer therapies. Born in Romania, Revici–now in his mid-nineties and still practicing in New York–has over decades developed a unique approach to illness that he has described in a major medical text he published in 1961 called Research in Physiopathology as a Basis for Guided Chemotherapy with Special Application to Cancer.1
Revici is a product of a particularly vibrant period of central European medical and scientific education. He received his medical degree from the University of Bucharest in 1920, became an assistant professor of internal medicine, practiced in Paris from 1936 to 1941, fled the Nazis to Mexico City where he directed a research institute from 1942 to 1946, and came to New York in 1947. In 1955, he purchased a small hospital in New York, Trafalgar Hospital, where he took the position of Chief of Oncology and consultant until it closed in 1978. The hospital prospered modestly for some time with an interesting research program and considerable patient demand until opposition from organized medicine and collaborating insurance companies forced its closure. An interesting and little known fact is that Revici gave Lawrence LeShan, the pioneering investigator of psychotherapy for recovery from cancer, the opportunity to conduct his ground-breaking psychological research with Trafalgar Hospital cancer patients after the leading hospitals in New York had uniformly rejected LeShan’s requests for access to patients. LeShan is among many who believe that Revici definitely “had something” of value for some cancer patients in his unconventional cancer therapies.2
Revici’s Biochemical Theory
Revici’s theory is so complex that very few of his medical and chemical peers can understand it fully, which may partially explain why the scientific community did not pursue the testing of Revici’s work, but most of those who do study him, like Professor Gerhard Schrauzer of the University of California, San Diego, consider him “an innovative medical genius, outstanding chemist and a highly creative thinker.”3
Because Revici’s theory is so broad, it applies not just to cancer but across the board to many other conditions for which he has devised treatments. He has therapies for itching, insomnia, vertigo, migraine, and hearing impairment.4 He proposed a major therapy for radiation burns (very relevant to the needs of cancer patients) which Dwight L. McKee, M.D. describes as “today the only means that is efficient in healing radiation burns.”4 He developed therapies for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, convulsions, variations in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases, the seventh-day postoperative bleeding in prostatectomies and nasal plastic surgery, and the seventh-day worsening of heart infections. He also found treatments that he claims are effective with AIDS, heart irregularities, Crohn’s disease, colitis, unconsolidated fractures, prostate hypertrophy, and, very notably, drug addiction.5
The study of lipids was one of Revici’s most creative contributions, and later research along these lines–which closely parallels Revici’s research–resulted in a Nobel Prize for Bengt Samuelsson in 1982. Let us now consider Revici’s theory and practice of cancer treatment.
Revici’s description of how his cancer therapy works is highly complex. He describes his therapy as “biologically guided chemotherapy.” He says that he uses lipids (forms of fats) or lipid substances with special properties as the biological guiding factors. The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) report, Unconventional Cancer Treatments, summarized Revici’s theory:
He believes that tumor cells … share a common biochemical characteristic–an imbalance in the normal distribution of lipids–which he views not as the primary causer of cancer, but as the direct cause of its impact on the body’s metabolism. He categorizes two general patterns of local and systemic effects of lipid imbalances, … one pattern resulting from an excess of fatty acids and the other pattern resulting from an excess of sterols [both constituents of lipids, or fats].
A relative predominance of fatty acids leads to an electrolyte imbalance … and an alkaline environment in tumor tissues; Revici refers to this as a “catabolic” condition. In the opposite case, a predominance of sterols reportedly leads to a reduction in cell membrane permeability. … Revici refers to this outcome as an “anabolic” condition. Patients determined by Revici to have a predominance of fatty acids are treated with sterols and other agents with positive electrical charges that can counteract the negatively charged fatty acids. Those determined to have a predominance of sterols are treated with fatty acids and other agents that increase the metabolic activity of fatty acids.6
One of the best summaries of Revici’s work is in a 1985 monograph by Dwight L. McKee, M.D., a young physician who worked with Revici for a number of years. McKee describes the law of organization Revici believes applies to all matter, wherein a primary electropositive part was bound to a secondary electronegative element at every level of biochemical organization. These entities form a hierarchic progressive series in an organism.7
Revici posits that there are two forces in biochemistry: electrostatic and quantum forces. Electrostatic forces move toward entropy (movement toward inertness and breaking down of order), while quantum forces balance the entropic tendency by moving toward organization. The catabolic tendencies of the organism are electrostatic or entropic, whereas the anabolic processes are quantum or negentropic (bringing an increase in order). Normal biological processes represent a balance of these forces while abnormal biology represents an excess of anabolic or catabolic processes.7
Revici was able to categorize the pathogenesis of diseases as either anabolic or catabolic. Revici’s theory led to the recognition that two respective diseases may respond oppositely to the same agent depending on their anabolic or catabolic character. According to McKee:
Revici devised a system which can be used to recognize the anabolic or catabolic character of a disease and can serve as a guide for pathogenically based therapy. Blood leukocytes, eosinophiles , serum potassium, C reactive proteins, and especially different urine analyses such as surface tension, pH, specific gravity, calcium and chloride excretion are used in this way. … Separating the agents according to the anabolic or catabolic character, he introduced a new capitol concept in pharmacology.”8
In further research, Revici demonstrated that anabolic and catabolic substances differed in their properties under ultraviolet light; anabolic agents emitted energy, whereas catabolic ones absorbed energy.9 This correspondence between anabolic, light-emitting, negentropic agents and catabolic, light-quenching, entropic agents has deep resonances with the Oriental medical division between yin and yang, the female and male forces of the universe. As McKee notes:
As a generality, Revici pointed to the anabolic character of females in any species, which he found to be rich in sterols, and the catabolic character of males, which he found to be rich in fatty acids. He showed that this proclivity applies in almost all biological processes, even in the characters of tumors, with a tendency for predominance of sterols in females and fatty acids in males [McKee’s emphasis].10
Based on this theory of cancer causation, Revici employed anabolic or catabolic agents as antagonists in the treatment of neoplastic diseases. According to McKee, Revici got good results with a number of such preparations: “He found a specific antineoplastic action of lipidic bivalent negative selenium preparations … Revici obtained especially good results with selenium incorporated in tung oil, as well as incorporated in other unsaturated fatty acids as such or in their triglycerides” [McKee’s emphasis].11
In further research, Revici was able to incorporate a wide range of elements in these “lipid envelopes” which, according to his theory, delivered the chemical agent directly to the tumor site because of the affinity of these lesion sites for concentrations of “free lipids.” Says McKee,
The result is an entire series of agents exceptionally low in toxicity. Due to their lipidic character, these agents act specifically upon the lipidic constituents of abnormal foci [such as cancer]. … Through this method, Revici has opened up an entirely new field for the therapeutic use of these elements, and especially those that are active but otherwise too toxic.12
After many tests for the specificity of a patient’s cancer, Revici designs an individualized chemotherapy for each person. This is usually given orally, and by and large, is apt to have few side effects.
Revici agreed with nutritional cancer therapist Max Gerson on the avoidance of salt and the reinforcement of potassium supplies in the treatment of cancer, but disagreed with Virginia Livingston’s claim that “cell wall deficient bacteria” in the form of Progenitor cryptocides is the cause of cancer, siding with Livingston’s establishment critics in maintaining that the bacteria were “erroneously considered to be etiological factors in the disease when in fact they are only associated microbes fundamentally changed by the action of the lipids … present in the lesions.”13
Assessments of Revici
There are relatively few independent scientists who have the ability to assess Revici’s system and who also have gone on record with any significant statement about it. One of these scientists is Gerhard N. Schrauzer, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego and one of the world’s leading authorities on selenium. Selenium is one of the agents with which Revici claims success in treating cancer. Schrauzer, who dislikes the controversy associated with discussing unconventional cancer therapies, nonetheless felt obligated to write to the New York Board of Regents in 1986 when the board was considering revoking Revici’s medical license.
I am writing this letter today in my capacity as a cancer researcher who is well acquainted with Dr. Revici’s research and accomplishments, hoping that you will decide not to revoke his medical license.
Dr. Revici has been engaged in research for more than half a century and has been practicing in New York for close to 40 years. He has seen and treated thousands of cancer patients, often for many years. If his methods of treatment differ from the currently accepted ones, this is due to a not insignificant extent to his vast experience in dealing with the desperately ill, with patients abandoned by conventional medicine in need of special care.
In his efforts to devise a more effective therapy, Revici conducted innumerable experiments in his Institute and published the results in a book in 1961. After critically examining this book, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Revici is an innovative medical genius, outstanding chemist and a highly creative thinker [emphasis added]. I also realized that few of his medical colleagues would be able to follow his train of thought and thus would be all too willing to dismiss his work. Because of my own professional interest in selenium, let me merely focus on this aspect of his work. Selenium containing medications were introduced into cancer therapy as early as 1911 by none less than the great physician August von Wasserman. Working with experimental animals, von Wasserman was able to show his selenium compounds produced liquefactive necrosis of solid tumors, an unheard of event at the time, hailed as a major success.
However, von Wasserman’s compounds were too toxic and thus could not be employed in the treatment of human cancer. Dr. Revici deserves credit for having discovered pharmacologically active selenium compounds of very low toxicity. The same was achieved years later by one other great physician, Dr. Klaus Schwarz, in collaboration with a leading organic chemist, Dr. Arne Fredga, of Uppsala University. The National Cancer Institute has recognized the importance of selenium only within the past few years. Would one thus not have to conclude that Dr. Revici, in this one instance, was 40 years ahead of his time? The same could be said for many of his other researches which form the basis of his therapy.
For this activity, Dr. Revici is now to lose his license to practice medicine. If he does, the message to all physicians will be to avoid innovation at all cost and to treat strictly according to the currently accepted rules. … Thus, I beg you to reconsider your decision, also in the interest of his many patients whose lives depend on him.14
Robert G. Houston of New York, perhaps the foremost advocate-scholar of unconventional cancer therapies in the United States, writes in a 1987 review of Revici’s work:
He [Revici] has been hailed by Schrauzer, … the world authority on selenium, as the foremost pioneer in its clinical application. Dr. Revici began its use in human cancer in 1948, and published a number of case histories of remission, along with x-ray evidence, in his medical textbook. …
Revici has [also] developed therapies for a wide range of medical challenges, including the treatment of pain, … drug addiction, radiation injury, … and AIDS. … His many significant contributions to medical science include publications in peer-reviewed medical journals regarding his discovery of the anti-hemorrhagic action of N-butanol in advanced cancer, … and of the diagnostic significance of changes in the surface tension of urine. … In 1950, Revici’s paper on his investigations concerning the influence of irradiation on unsaturated fatty acids was delivered to the International Congress of Radiology in London; in this and in his medical monograph … he correctly described the inflammatory effects of leukotrienes (trienic conjugated fatty acids) and their derivation from arachidonic acid, research that was paralleled decades later by Bengt Samuelsson, … who won a Nobel Prize for the discovery. …
An independent clinical trial of Revici’s therapy was conducted in Belgium by Prof. Joseph Maisin, the Director of the Cancer Institute of the University of Louvain. A foremost cancer authority, Prof. Maisin was the President of the International Union Against Cancer . He reported that in 75% of 12 terminal cancer patients on whom the Revici medications were tried dramatic improvements occurred, including regression of tumors, disappearance of metastases, and cessation of hemorrhage. Amazingly, paralyzed patients were able to walk again (Maisin, 1965)…ê.
Dr. Revici’s findings of the anticancer value of cod liver oil fatty acids … received corroboration at the 1987 ACS [American Cancer Society] Science Writers Seminar, where Dr. Otto Plescia, Professor of Immunochemistry at Rutgers University, concluded that a diet with “inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids abundant in certain fish oils, reduces the risk of breast cancer.”15
Houston’s positive assessment of Revici was seconded by another American scientist with expertise in cancer and chemistry who was only willing to discuss Revici after expressing a strong preference for anonymity. The scientist is a European-born researcher who is internationally respected as one of the foremost authorities in his field.
The people who criticize Revici as he is today do not do him justice. He continues to practice medicine at the age of 95–and this is not a problem restricted to alternative therapy practitioners–how can he possibly be what he was in the 1960s at the height of his power? Revici has to be assessed in the context of the European traditions of medicine and cancer therapy from 1870 to 1960. In Europe, physicians have much more freedom to innovate. … Revici isn’t an alternative therapy guy really. He is the inventor of a non-toxic chemotherapy. His crime was that he used chemicals that you can buy for $2 a pound, like epochlorohydrate, which are similar in many respects to more expensive alkylating agents.
His theory of anabolic and catabolic cancers, for example, is a very nice theory and not that peculiar. German research has shown that some cancers are in fact anabolic. What Revici is saying is that there are two kinds of cancer patients. One is a healthy guy in his fifties that weighs 200 pounds and looks almost too healthy. Revici says his cancer is often anabolic. The other is a pale wispy guy in his seventies and Revici says his cancer is often catabolic. Revici basically suggests that these two guys need different treatment. I find that compelling.
The tragedy is that Revici may take some of the best of his work with him when he dies because the therapy may not work as well in the hands of others as it does in his hands. The reason is that he is as good a physician as he is a chemist and so he is able to play with these medical-chemical relationships in a way that few others could without similar training and sensitivity.
But the reason I don’t want to talk publicly about these things is that if I do, in the American climate, I end up with ketchup all over my tie. … I am tired of the closed-minded American perspective, which makes it almost impossible for an inventive physician like Revici to function as similar people do in Europe. Here physicians are supposed to just follow orders.
Of course the ultimate policy problem with Revici is that he is a man who prepares his own medications, and there are good reasons for the restrictions on that: suppose every physician was allowed to prepare his own medications. But in my judgment Revici is a kind of modern Paracelsus, and do you know how Paracelsus was finally evicted from Nuremberg? It was by the pharmacists guild, and the charge was that he was preparing his own medications.16
So Schrauzer, an internationally respected researcher, and my anonymous correspondent above, both of European background, both with impeccable scientific credentials, put Revici’s work in a positive light, reinforcing the impression that Houston’s favorable summary of Revici’s accomplishments is worthy of further review.
Dwight McKee, M.D., the author of the monograph on Revici’s work, which I quoted from above, worked with Revici for 6 years, between 1979 and 1985. McKee, a close student of unconventional cancer therapies, is also well-grounded in mainstream medicine. In a telephone interview in September 1990, I asked McKee to summarize his impressions of Revici’s work.
McKee said that he believes that many of the pharmacological agents Revici works with are active in the treatment of cancer and are “orders of magnitude less toxic.” He believes that Revici’s dualistic model of the effects of pharmacological agents has validity and significance for understanding the responses of different patients to different chemotherapeutic agents, although Revici tries to extend the model too far. He believes that Revici is also correct in emphasizing the role of lipids in cancer biology and in his assessment of the importance of the lipidic aspects of medications and their interactions with malignant tumors.
During the years he worked with Revici, McKee thinks that he saw the best results in brain cancers–where he reports Revici achieved some complete remissions, some lasting 20 years. He reports that Revici also achieved impressive control in some pancreatic cancers, extending survival for up to 5 years. He also saw effective control, though not cure, of lung cancers, especially when the therapy was combined with radiation in small cell lung cancers. He saw clear responses of lymphomas to Revici’s treatments. He did not see a large number of notable successes with breast cancer. “His lifework is a rich vein of gold waiting to be mined,” McKee said.
Critiques of Revici
The major critique of Revici that one hears from some patients and from his colleagues in unconventional cancer therapies is that his service delivery system is not well organized. Using our distinctions among the practitioner, the therapy, and the treatment delivery system, one could argue that the practitioner is almost unquestionably a man of scientific genius; his therapy is scientifically intriguing and respected by many–including some leading scientists–but has not been systematically evaluated by independent researchers; and the service delivery of his therapy leaves a great deal to be desired.
Revici’s patients describe waiting for hours to receive their medication in cramped offices under chaotic conditions. Some patients have reported poor results when they entrusted their medical care, as well as their pharmacological treatment, to Revici. Supporters of Revici, on the other hand, would point to the fact that he developed and operated a fully equipped hospital until organized medicine–in alliance with insurance firms–forced him to close the hospital down. Deprived of his hospital, Revici’s only choices were to give up medical practice or to continue to practice as best as his means and age allowed him to. The fact that hundreds of patients continue to seek him out create the conditions of which patients complain.
A second critique comes from a well-known research-oriented scientist, a practitioner of an alternative pharmacological therapy and a physician who has studied his work closely. The criticism is that Revici keeps changing his formulations of therapeutic agents so that no single set of formulations has been reasonably evaluated. Said the scientist: “At some point you have to define a specific formulation and go through with a clinical trial.” The physician, who knows Revici well, believes that these changes in medications are so frequent that sometimes he is “chasing placebo effects.” This physician fully believes in the efficacy of some of Revici’s therapies.
The third critique does not reflect on Revici exclusively, but on Revici and the American scientific system. Revici is, above all, a grand system builder, a man of staggering intellect who Robert Houston describes as the “Nicola Tesla of medicine” because of the sweep and breadth of his work.17 Had Revici stuck with some of his most promising areas of research, and published repeatedly in the mainstream journals that were initially open to him, weaving a fabric of research of undeniable significance that attracted corroboration from other researchers, it seems highly likely that he would be recognized as a significant figure in medicine today.
Instead, Revici is a man driven by an inner passion to explore the farthest frontiers of medicine without the time or the patience to play the game of science. His masterwork, published in 1961, was evidence enough of the quality and breadth and depth of his intellect. But–perhaps in large part because of the political climate of opposition to his work from organized medicine–his work drew little effort at confirmation.
Gold’s work on hydrazine sulfate now belongs to mainstream science. Burzynski’s work on antineoplastons sits on the edge of mainstream science and is tilting into it. But Revici’s monumental contribution remains almost entirely outside of the orbit of mainstream science. We may be the poorer for it.
1 Emanuel Revici, Research in Physiopathology as a Basis of Guided Chemotherapy with Special Application to Cancer (New York: American Foundation for Cancer Research, 1961).
2 Lawrence LeShan, personal communication with author, January 1988.
3 Gerhard N. Schrauzer, letter to the New York Board of Regents, 14 February 1986.
4 Dwight L. McKee, “Emanuel Revici: A Review of His Scientific Work,” Institute of Applied Biology monograph, New York, NY, 1985, 4.
5 Ibid., 8-18 passim.
6 Congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment, Unconventional Cancer Treatments (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1990), 115-6.
7 McKee, “Emanual Revici,” 2.
10 Ibid., 10.
11 Ibid., 14.
13 Ibid., 9-15 passim.
14 Gerhard N. Schrauzer, letter to the New York Board of Regents, 14 February 1986.
15 Robert G. Houston, Repression and Reform in the Evaluation of Alternative Cancer Therapies (Washington, D.C.: Project Cure, 1989), 30-3. Vitamin A precursors such as those Revici used are now the subject of major research interest at the National Cancer Institute.
16 Anonymous, personal correspondence with author (1991).
17 Houston, Repression and Reform, 31.