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    Death Linked to Alternative Cancer Therapy

    December 4, 2000

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A cancer patient died of kidney and liver failure after refusing conventional treatment and taking an alternative medicine known as hydrazine sulfate, researchers report.

    The man obtained hydrazine sulfate, which is touted as a treatment for the wasting seen with advanced cancer, through an alternative medicine Web site. The drug has been investigated as a chemotherapy agent in the last 30 years, but the results have been inconclusive.

    Dr. Mark Hainer from Moncrief Army Community Hospital in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and associates cared for the 55-year-old man who had previously been diagnosed with cancer of his left maxillary sinus (the sinus near the left cheekbone). According to a report in the December 5th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the patient had refused surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for his cancer.

    Following the Web site's instruction, the patient took hydrazine during the first 4 months after his cancer diagnosis before developing a rash and discontinuing the drug, the report indicates.

    Two weeks later, the man was admitted to the hospital with evidence of kidney and liver failure. Seven days into his hospitalization, the patient began vomiting blood and died despite aggressive treatment, the authors report. The autopsy showed widespread death of tissue in the kidneys and liver of the patient.

    Hydrazine and similar compounds have previously been associated with liver and kidney toxicity, the researchers explain.

    Although the doctors did not test the man's blood for hydrazine sulfate, the patient's liver and kidney failure ``most likely were caused by the ingestion of hydrazine sulfate,'' Hainer and colleagues conclude.

    ``Although the Internet can be a valuable resource for patients, this case graphically illustrates the potential danger of therapies purchased online,'' the investigators add.

    One alternative medicine Web site calls hydrazine ``an effective cancer therapy'' and, accuses the National Cancer Institute of ``corruption'' and ``criminal activity,'' because studies conducted with hydrazine found no benefit of the drug. Another Web site claims that hydrazine has ``virtually no significant untoward side effects,'' the authors note.

    Detailed information about hydrazine sulfate is available from the National Cancer Institute at

    SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine 2000;133:877-880.

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