Di Bella's "miracle" cancer cure shortens survival

The Di Bella therapy, a cancer treatment touted as a cure for up to 100% of patients, actually provides results far worse than standard cancer treatments, study results show.

The therapy program was developed in Italy by Dr. Luigi Di Bella, who claims to have treated more than 10,000 patients over the past 20 years. Di Bella's drug cocktail consists of a low dose of cyclophosphamide -- a chemotherapy drug -- plus various other drugs and vitamins. Di Bella is a physiologist, a scientist who studies how the body works.

With Di Bella's cooperation, a research team led by Dr. Eva Buiatti, from Azienda USL Firenze in Florence, Italy, reviewed the medical records of 314 patients who received the Di Bella therapy. All but four had also received standard treatments.

Compared with patients identified in the Italian cancer registry, who received only standard therapies, patients who received the Di Bella therapy "showed lower survival probability over both the short term and the long term for all the cancer sites considered," Buiatti's team reports in the November 15th issue of Cancer.

Specifically, patients who received only standard treatment were twice as likely to survive compared with patients treated by Di Bella. Buiatti and colleagues conclude that "results from this study do not support any evidence of the (effectiveness) of the anticancer strategy proposed by Dr. Di Bella."

The Di Bella therapy came to national attention in Italy, and the Italian courts, when a number of Di Bella's patients organized and demanded that Italian hospitals provide the therapy free of charge. So the Italian government funded a study of the Di Bella therapy at 26 cancer clinics throughout the country. A total of 386 patients were treated with the Di Bella therapy under the supervision of other physicians. In a separate report in the journal Cancer, Dr. Giuseppe Traversa, from Instituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome, Italy, and colleagues report that fewer than 1% of patients experienced a partial response to treatment. None achieved a complete halt to their cancer. Traversa's group concludes that the study results are "incompatible with the initial claim that (the Di Bella therapy) might represent a cure for any type of cancer."

"Alternative medicine is a poor alternative to conventional medicine," Dr. Paul Calabresi, from Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, argues in a journal editorial. "By replacing worthwhile mainstream therapies, it robs many people with potentially curable cancer of precious time and a chance for survival."

SOURCE: Cancer 1999;86:1887-1889, 1903-1911, 2143-2149.