April 2023 Update: I’m thrilled to announce that Dr. Charles Meakin, my integrative oncologist and former US Medical Director of Care Oncology has opened MeakinMetabolicCare.com Not only does he continue to prescribe the protocol, the offers one-on-one coaching and off-label drugs, if indicated. Chuck has been a partner in my healing since the very beginning and has treated me while I was living in Hong Kong, London and the US. I’m so happy more will have the chance to take advantage of his compassionate care!
July 2022 Update: It’s been almost two years since I wrote this article. I’ve been taking some version of the COC protocol (moderated based on my unique needs) for over three years now. Sadly, there have been changes with the new ownership and I would no longer advise people to use Care Oncology if they’re able to get the drugs – metformin, atorvastatin, doxycycline, mebendazole – through another provider.
While I had previously understood that the drugs were being offered as part of a patient-funded trial, this is not the case and data is not going to research. New ownership and medical leadership seems, from my experience, to be focused on making uninformed judgements and rushing patients through an increasingly expensive assembly line.
In the early days, I argued with my first COC oncologist and members of the nursing team who were deeply opposed to keto and fasting but they were quickly replaced as COC matured. Today, after I was told how few COC patients survive in the program as long as I have, I was given a list of everything I’ve done wrong (to wind up cancer free?) before giving my history. I was told “I clearly don’t do keto” after a cursory glance at my bloodwork and no attention to my record. I would have filled her in but she cut off my every attempt to relate my history. Eventually, the stress of her interrupting me triggered my aphasia and I couldn’t speak much, anyway. I assume she was pleased that she kept the $330 appointment under 15 minutes.
I’ll be looking for a new way to source these drugs and will share it here once I find it!
[Update: So happy to have found MeakinMetabolicCare.com]
There are three prongs to my metabolic approach to cancer treatment: diet, stress management, and clinical treatments. For me, clinic treatment includes everything from sauna therapy to HBOT to Vitamin C injections and more. Among these, I believe the Care Oncology Clinic metabolic protocol using off-label drugs was most critical to my recovery.
How I discovered Care Oncology Clinic
The months after I was diagnosed were a period of frantic research. I was still working full time at the paper, but every free moment was spent pouring over research and literature. It didn’t take long for me to learn about the Warburg effect and Thomas Seyfriend’s extraordinary work on the metabolic theory of cancer. I read every book I could on the subject and found what I consider to be among of the most powerful cancer healing manuals: Travis Christofferson’s Tripping over the Truth, Dr. Nasha’s The Metabolic Approach to Cancer, Miriam Kalamian’s Keto for Cancer, and Jane McLelland’s How to Starve Cancer.
After reading these books and the supporting research, I knew that metformin and other off-label drugs could target my cancer’s lack of metabolic flexibility and enhance the benefits of my fasting and ketogenic diet.
I remember the thrill of elation and urgency that I felt when McLelland’s book mentioned a clinic in London that was offering these off-label drugs as part of a clinical trial funded by the NHS. I didn’t even finish the chapter before I headed to Google and discovered that Travis Christofferson himself had formed a non-profit to bring the same clinical trial to the US. I’m still overwhelmed by these incredible people and how their stories are saving lives, including mine.
What are Off-Label and Off-Patent Drugs?
“Off label use” of a drug is using it for a reason other than its approved use. For example, Benadryl is approved by the FDA for treating allergies. It also happens to make some people super sleepy and can therefore be used off-label as a sleep aid. Similarly, Metformin is approved by the FDA for treating high blood sugar as a result of diabetes but also happens to have a well-know effect of preventing cancer, slowing cancer progression and improving survival rates.
One trick with off-label use is that it’s not covered by most health insurance plans and rarely offered by doctors as it could open them up to lawsuits.
Well shoot, you think, everyone knows Benadryl makes you sleepy and metformin prevents and treats cancer, why doesn’t the FDA just approve those uses?
The reason is money. The clinical trial process required to attain FDA approval costs millions – sometimes billions – of dollars. Most of these off-label uses are for drugs that are also off-patent.
Off-patent drugs are those that are no longer covered by patent and so can be offered as generics by other pharmaceutical companies. When the patent on a product runs out, the price normally plummets as different manufacturers can now compete with each other on price. The downside of this is, without the opportunity to charge high prices for the drugs, there’s no incentive to pay the millions needed for a clinical trial to get FDA approval.
There can be a drug that everyone knows helps cancer but if there’s no way to make money off it, it will likely never go through the approval process. PSK is one of the most commonly prescribed cancer drugs in Japan. Because it’s an extract of a medicinal mushrooms that can’t be patented, we’ll likely never see it in the US. Same for fasting and keto. These show breathtaking results in small trials; because there’s no money in fasting, it faces an almost impossible road to becoming an FDA approved treatment.
What is Care Oncology?
Care Oncology Clinic is a non-profit that was formed to complete the final clinical trial process and gain approval for the use of inexpensive, off-label and off-patent drugs for cancer through a patient-funded model.
That is, they’re able to offer inexpensive drugs which have already been determined by the FDA to be safe and effective against cancer to patients who desperately want them. The money patients pay – which is negligible compared to other cancer treatments – funds the “phase 3” trial required to eventually become standard of care.
You can see why I was so excited when I finally discovered them.
Who are Care Oncology?
The original Harley Street clinic in London was founded by Dr. Robin Bannister and Gregory Stoloff. I was very fortunate to meet Robin at a COC staff party and his compassion is overwhelming. His personal story is touching and tragic, but he has funneled all his energy into saving lives by finding a way to get lifesaving drugs to patients.
Travis Christofferson, the author who raised awareness of effective off-label, off-patent treatments for cancer, went on to create the Foundation for Metabolic Therapies for Cancer and help bring COC to the US.
The clinic still has a physical presence on Harley Street in London but treatment can be offered remotely in, I believe, the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and most of Europe. Even while living in Hong Kong I was able to consult remotely and pick up my drugs in the US every quarter.
I’ve received treatment from both the US and UK teams and can confidently say that their staff is comprised of the most compassionate oncologists I’ve worked with. This says a lot given my treatment at three Hong Kong hospitals, the Mayo Clinic, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and two brain tumor specialists. Additionally, their nursing team is amazingly responsive and usually answers questions within 24 hours. What amazes me most, though, is that they’re so kind and personal. Anyway, enough gushing.
What is the Care Oncology Clinic (COC) Protocol?
The protocol consists of the following medication:
- Metformin, a well-known diabetes drug with well-documented cancer prevention and treatment effects.
- Atorvastatin, a statin used extremely commonly to treat high cholesterol with added anti-cancer benefits.
- Mebendazole, a common anti-parasitic with anti-cancer effects. If you’ve heard about the guy who credits a dog-dewormer with his cancer recovery, this is the human version of fenbendazole, the drug he used.
- Alternating months of doxycycline, a common antibiotic with, you guessed it, anti-cancer benefits.
The dosage varies depending on the patient’s unique situation and is usually adjusted over the course of treatment.
I’ll note here that these drugs are meant to be complimentary and used in addition to conventional treatment, not instead of the standard of care. In many cases, the benefits are synergistic with each other and with other treatments.
Are there Side Effects to the COC Protocol?
The drugs above all have reported side effects, one of which is improving cancer outcomes. There’s also the approved use: reducing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, eliminating gut parasites, and killing bacteria. Aside from these, though, are another host of potential adverse effects including diarrhea (metformin), forgetfulness and body aches (atorvastatin), nausea (mebendazole) and killing off the body’s good bacteria (doxy). Most people won’t experience any adverse side effects but some may.
Personally, I had experienced some GI, memory and body ache side effects in the beginning. All got better over time and all were nothing compared to cancer or chemo but these are still powerful drugs.
How Much Does Care Oncology Clinic Cost?
In the US, the Care Oncology experience begins with a free phone call to confirm eligibility for the trial. If basic criteria are met, the first video consultation is scheduled and costs $800. They’ll prescribe the first 3 month’s medication to be delivered for about $100-200 USD. This could be more or less, the price has been changing regularly.
Every 3 months you’ll have a follow-up video appointment for
$295 $330 now to review your progress through blood work and a consult. You’ll then get delivery of your next 3 months for the same $100-200.
In the UK, the drugs cost me about $130USD for three months, delivered. I’m not sure the cost of the consults but they may be covered under the NHS.
If you’re lucky enough to have a doctor who will prescribe the drugs for you outside of COC, that’s awesome. However, your results won’t be included as part of the clinical trial data. The more people who participate in the patient-funded COC study, the sooner these drugs are approved for all.
My Experience with Care Oncology Clinic
Within days of discovering the existence of Care Oncology in Jane McLelland’s book, I had an appointment. I was living in Hong Kong and so had the drugs delivered to a friend in the US where I picked them up and started taking them July 2019.
My blood tumor markers were already on their way down as of May 2019 after starting lorlatinib. I was still following my whole foods, plant-based functional keto diet and had intensified my fasting routine. All this to say: It’s impossible to know where to attribute the fact that my first scan after beginning the COC protocol was the first scan that showed I was No Evidence of Disease.
I’m writing this ten months after that scan and I’m still taking the protocol and I still have no active disease. As I’ve slowly, gently, and somewhat nervously backed off the heavy doses of medication and supplements that I used while the cancer was still spreading, I’ve modulated dosage of some COC drugs. Nevertheless, it will be many years before I consider abandoning them altogether. The miracle I experienced while taking the protocol isn’t something I want to put at risk.
I’ve been on the protocol since October 2019 and my experience with the UK COC team really has been as great as you describe it here.
Awesome!! It’s so good to know you’re having a good experience consulting them from outside of the UK! Ndaba is so amazing – along with Ralph, Robin, Declan and the whole team out there! So good to hear from you, Ida!
Hello Maggie, your absence on social media for a while made me really worry. Came to your web site to see any news and came across your last post on Care Oncology. What a great information I got, both you are doing great and so much new about the treatment you got. Sending you hugs and best wishes. Please keep on going girl!
Hi! Thank you so much!! I hope to get back to Instagram soon – I miss that community so much! Thanks for finding me here! xoxo
Hi. I was wondering if you had diabetes or sugar problems before or after your diagnosis, so that they sent you metformin, or they prescribed it because cancer is metabolic, thank you. Blessings
Hi! No diabetes or other metabolic issues. Metformin is a well known metabolic treatment for cancer. Here’s a great article from the New York Times about it https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/opinion/repurposing-drugs-cancer.html
Metformin is discontinued for sugar maintenance due to side effects. All of these drugs have side effects
Doesn’t the Keto diet regulate the sugar? I have been following Dr. Nasa Winters’s book and diet for 16 months.
I have lost 20 lbs and I have kept it off. I’m more concerned about the fat from Keto and believe the Cholesrstrol medication may help regulate fat, leaving nothing for cancer cells to eat. but the doctor wants to put me on Astrzeneca because it inhibits damage to blood cells. Any thoughts?
I have decided to do chemotherapy. I found you while researching fasting. Your site is amazing Lots of food for thought.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m very sorry for what you’re suffering. You’ve found great information in Dr. Nasha’s book and she is an inspiration to me as well.
I’m afraid I can’t offer medical advice or comment on your particular case. However, you’re absolutely correct that keto reduces and regulates blood sugar. For me, the addition of metformin helped reduce my blood sugar even more. I also experienced some adverse effects but they were nothing compared to the adverse effects I suffered from chemo and radiation.
You hit the nail on the head that these medications all have side effects – the most important side effect being they lead to better cancer outcomes even though they’re only currently approved for treating high blood sugar, high cholesterol, bacterial and fungal infections. The goal of the Care Oncology trial is to get that side effect to become an FDA approved primary effect. Right now, doctors may know the cancer-fighting benefits of these drugs but could risk losing their insurance if they prescribe them off label. Here’s hoping they are approved soon and more lives are extended!
Thank you for sharing such intriguing info! I was diagnosed end of 2020 with HER+/ER+ breast cancer stage 2. A month later a small tumor was found in my lung that turned out to be a neuro-endocrine tumor (no relation to the breast cancer). I’ve had lung surgery to remove that cancer. Now I’m undergoing chemo with MD Anderson to treat the breast. Whew. Here’s my question: did you use this therapy at the same time as chemo? If so, how amenable was your oncologist? I’ve been considering exploring a truly integrative cancer center, but this could be a more affordable alternative. Thoughts? Thank you!
Hi Cheryl! I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. There’s never a good time to be diagnosed with cancer but 2020 is especially fraught.
Yes, I’ve always taken the COC protocol along with my chemo. My conventional oncologists have never been excited about it but, while they insist these drugs won’t help, they also admit that they won’t hurt. I’ve gotten clearance from oncologists at the Mayo Clinic, Hong Kong Adventist Hospital and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Personally, I’m grateful to all the firepower I can muster!
Best to you!
Hi Maggie! Congrats on winning your battle and writing about it. I’m helping my sister gather all info about the efficacy of COC. She was diagnosed with Stage4 Lung with mets to the liver and skull and ALK+ mutation. She’s currently on Lorlatinib as Alectinib didnt work for her. I’m wondering if you also had a mutation? Can you recommend a COC doctor in the US? We live in Chicago. Thank you so much!
Hi! I’m so sorry to hear about your sister but hopeful that she’ll have the same amazing response that I’ve had. I have a ROS1+ mutation which, treatment-wise, is very similar to ALK+. I’ve been taking lorlatinib along with my COC protocol since I started about 18 months ago. COC does all their consults remotely. I just reached out to them over their website and had an appointment the next day. Sending you and your family the very best!
Hi, my wife found them, and after months of trying, got me to try the c o c protocol. I had chemo in June and July of 2020. And surgery August 2020. I had to have my sternum removed because of osteosarcoma of the sternum, very very rare . My first scan in late November was all clear. I have a scan coming up soon , fingers crossed. I still jog 3 miles a day. I had to come off the c o c protocol after 3 weeks, due to severe constipation . After being a very regular person. I was on the joe tippens protocol for 4 months, before going to the more aggressive c o c protocol. Best of luck to you all with whatever you do. Thanks
What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing! I’m incredibly thrilled to hear your last scans were clear and will be sending good thoughts for continued healing.
Do you think COC protocol helped to shrink tumours or slow down tumour growth?
Hi Martha, I really don’t know. I don’t intend to stop taking the protocol to test whether they come back =D I’m using all the tools available to me.
Would you be able to share the dosages you take. I am an MD who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer. I am interested in integrated this approach with my traditional chemo/radiation treatments in the coming weeks? I had a consult with Miriam Kalamian who recommended I look into this and possibly self prescribe.
Hi Jon! I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. My dosages have changed over time. I started with 1000mg per day of metformin and now take 2000mg per day. I started alternating one month of 100mg/ day doxy with 1 month of 100mg/ day mebendazole. I now take 200mg/ day mebendazole but discontinued the doxy while I’m cancer free due too gut issues. I started with 40mg/ day atorvastatin and was increased to 80mg/day but, due to side effects, I modulate my dose. Of course, you’ll want to monitor your liver function under this barrage of drugs in addition to chemo.
I adore Miriam and consider her a friend. I would note that, while self-prescribing is awesome, participating in the trial, if you’re able, helps further the goal of making this treatment a more accepted part of the standard of care and available to more people. Just something I have to remind myself whenever I pay that $330 quarterly fee =D
How do you combine the COC protocol with your fasting? I was told by the COC to stop taking the metformin during fast. Can you confirm?
Speaking only for my personal self, I fast *a lot* with COC. I also take berberine on top of it all. For me personally, this is what it takes to keep my blood sugar low and my post-radiation necrosis seizures at bay. I wear a continuous glucose monitor and never go below a safe, healthy range. I find all people are unique but, of course, always listen to your doctor and all that =)
Hi – I have stage 4 NSCLC Alk+, have been on alectinib since Nov 21. I have been through Jane Mclellands online course but havent implemented her protocol as yet although have cut sugar intake and consume known anti cancer foods. My first of 3 monthly monitoring scans in Feb 22 thankfully showed nr complete response to the meds, kidney, liver and brain mets all disappeared. They test blood regularly as the meds can cause issues I.e raised billirubin levels etc. How does the liver cope with the coc strong drug cocktail as well as the targeted inhibitor? Feel anxious if they monitor blood levels only 3 monthly?
Hi Elaine! I can only speak for myself but I’ve been taking the COC protocol with lorlatinib and loads of other supplements for about 3 years now – plus a year on steroids and keppra for my brain sitch – and have never had issues with my with liver or kidney function. COC also has treated thousands of folks and are confident in their approach – probably because these 4 meds have been in use for so long. Their nurses are always super responsive if there is an issue. Just my personal experience. Sending you much love and thoughts of healing!
Thank you for the inspiration and hope in your story. I look forward to your new documentary in the works. I have saliva gland cancer now in my lungs and I’ve adapted quite a bit to overcome it in the last few years, achieving pretty optimal functional health in the process, by fasting 16 to 20 hours during the week, getting my weight down to a pretty ideal level, doing lots of anti-cancer stuff, meditating, cutting out most sugar, ramping up intake of vegetables and various supplements, etc….enough so that my Type II has been more or less resolved. While I was eager to jump on board with the COC protocol, I’m now facing some key decisions. I’ve been on the COC meds for a little more than three months only to get a negative scan that my tumors are still growing and are big enough for my regular oncologist to be advising a really expensive drug with lots of side effects or radiation for a type of cancer without much of a standard medical approach to resolve. I don’t know what to expect out of posting this here and I’m not specifically down on COC, just disappointed in my results and wondering what to do next, facing a major decision on whether to stay on COC. Thanks for reading, if you get to this….(I’m sure you’re super busy.) Best of luck to you and congrats on regaining your full health.
Hi Tim, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been going through and the disappointing results after some truly amazing successes! I know all cancers and people are different so there’s no way to compare my lung cancer experience with your salivary gland experience but your overall health journey is remarkable. I personally think that the COC protocol, keto and fasting may be what’s helped my very expensive drug (lorlatinib at $26,000 a month) working 6 times longer than average. But of course it’s different for everyone. Be sure to look into manufacturer’s co-pay insurance – pfizer, at least, has great assistance programs. Hopefully your hospital can help.
Sending love and thoughts of healing, Maggie
Thanks for your kind response, Maggie, and for your suggestions. Overall, I find myself relating to your overall experience, although I’ve yet to hit the dire points that you’ve overcome. My functional health is excellent from all the strategies I’ve used. (I find fasting amazing and fascinating.) I just need to keep reminding myself that whenever I get a bit of down news. I always make sure I ride my bike to my oncology appointments, pedaling up a pretty steep Pittsburgh hill to get there….since if I’m able to bike to these things, I physically must be ok. I just need to keep tinkering and adjusting and learning and I can figure this out. (I hope to get some feedback from COC on what they think may have happened and maybe check back on the McClelland stuff to consider other ways to block some different metabolic pathways.) Don’t doubt for a second how valuable resource your site can be to folks…I continue to learn lots from it. It was curious enough news to feel like perhaps a bit of a premonition, but as a journalist I was called off my weekend to do a story that a really prominent businessman had died. He was 96….and had a cancer diagnosis in his 50s. May we all be so lucky to make it that long!
Dude! Fasting, right?! I never would have believed the power until I experienced it myself.
Your story is completely amazing and inspiring! In December I interviewed Dr. Nasha Winters for the upcoming documentary and learned that she’s never been NED – 30 years after being given less than a year to live. I saw her again earlier this month and she is as vibrant, energetic and radiant as ever. Our cancers will ebb and flow – anyone but you who tries to predict an outcome is a fool.
Please keep me posted on how this period of flow resolves. We have so much to learn from each other!
Thanks….my story is either amazing and inspiring or my cancer is super slow growing and nothing has really hit me yet. (I’ll join you in preferring the former.) That’s fascinating to hear about Dr. Winters, whose book I just ordered again.
Maggie, thank you so very much for all your hard work and time put into telling your story and developing your wonderful website. Your organisation, content and attention to detail is awesome! I am a stage 4 pancreatic survivor of 27 months and have been stable at only 2.7 cm for the last 12 months. I am passionate about spreading the benefits of alternative medicine as an integrative approach to cancer and post daily on several Facebook cancer groups. I would be really grateful if you would allow me to please share your cancer story on my home page and a few of these self-help groups. There are so many reasons why your story and treatment would be useful and inspirational to so many other cancer patients. I have already learned such a lot of valuable information from your cancer journey experiences. I am always on the lookout for any other highly effective and safe alternative medicines that I see recommended or have researched online.
There are a great number of links to videos and information on alternative medicine on my Facebook home page. https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.n.watson
Noel! Your story is amazing! Yes, please, share anything you want. Anything we can do to spread awareness of the hope that is out there. I’m going to email you – I’d love to include your story in the docuseries and other media (including https://www.youtube.com/cancerVme). Sending you love!