Another Cancer Quack jumps on the di Bella gravy train

By Suzanne Morrison

Hamilton Spectator

October 7, 1999

HAMILTON (CP) A Toronto doctor is bucking conventional medical wisdom by providing the unproven Di Bella cancer cocktail to patients at his new clinic.

Dr. Aaron Malkin, who opened the Isola Bella Clinic in August, heads a Canadian centre offering the famous treatment of hormones and vitamins formulated by 85-year-old Italian physiologist Luigi Di Bella.

Clinic cancer patients commit to a three-month course of treatment, at a cost of about $7,500.

The cocktail, which is made to each patient's needs, requires a health history and regular blood work, which is analysed at McMaster University Medical Centre in Hamilton. Malkin said the blood work monitors the progress of the cancer through markers released by the tumour into the patient's blood stream. He said the mixture does not kill the cancer but stops its spread, similar to certain cancer drugs.

Malkin evaluates the results of a patient's blood work with consultants in Italy. A summary goes to Italian doctors who design the appropriate cocktail, forwarding their prescription to an Italian pharmacist, who ships the treatment by courier to Canadian patients.

At the clinic, patients receive biweekly medical evaluations and unlimited telephone advice. Malkin is receiving calls from patients as far away as California and Ireland.

An ad for the clinic is to appear in a Buffalo newspaper this weekend. The Di Bella treatment is considered alternative and Ontario won't cover its costs. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons considers the treatment unproven and experimental.

In the summer of 1998, a public frenzy erupted when the elderly Di Bella arrived in Canada to a hero's welcome and standing ovations. Growing public pressure for his treatment resulted in a team of four Canadian doctors, including Hamilton cancer specialist Dr. Andrew Arnold, travelling to Italy on a fact-finding trip.

As soon as they returned home, the doctors debunked the treatment, arguing there was no scientific evidence to back it up. Malkin is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto in clinical biochemistry and spent 30 years as director of clinical biochemistry at Sunnybrook Medical Centre, specializing in cancer and endocrine research.

His sons are cancer specialists, one at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, the other at Sloan Kettering in New York. Malkin contends the Canadian doctors didn't look in the right place when they went to Italy to investigate the Di Bella cocktail.

Instead of searching out Di Bella's patients' records, which they found were in terrible shape, he says they should have been hunting down the ingredients in the cocktail.

That's what he did after Canadian investors, he won't say who they are, came knocking at his door asking him to delve further into the scientific basis of Di Bella's invention.

"By God, I was intrigued", he said Thursday of his first look into its contents.

"I can tell you it's not off the wall. How they lucked into this, I haven't the faintest idea", said Malkin. "Everybody will be doing this in five years."

Arnold said the Canadian doctors searched the literature on each component of the mixture and their impact on cancer. Clinical trials of the mixture conducted in Italy by the National Cancer Institute didn't get even a hint of a positive response, he said. In fact, Arnold said, the response was less than one per cent, significantly less than the 20 per cent required for further testing of a potentially new cancer treatment.

CP 1747ES 07-10-99