Cancer Free? The AMAS TestDecember 17, 2018
Cancer Free? The AMAS Test
References: Jenny Hrbacek's Cancer Free?, Andrew Weil, Cancer Letters, Science Direct, Peptides of Biological Fluids,
Right up front, read the standard, balanced, traditional medical world's assessment of the AMAS test by Andrew Weil, and wonder why on earth I would write a column about it. Well, consider that Dr. Weil is ensconced in a medical school and is getting his advice from oncologists who make the vast, vast majority of their income from selling traditional chemotherapy, that you know and I know, in solid tumors doesn't work very well. I admire Dr. Weil deeply, but I'm also skeptical of the pervasive influence of money. I'm doing this column because I keep having clients asking for it because it makes sense to them, and as part of a basket of testing, it makes sense to me.
The question is, is it valid? Does it say what it says it will do? So, what is the AMAS test? It is a blood test, approved by Medicare, that measures for the presence of the antibody to a protein called malignin, present on most cancers. It is non-specific. It goes up and down with successful treatment. And it rises and falls with immune function. So, as the cancer overwhelms your immune system, which inevitably it does, it turns "false" negative. So a negative test may be an indicator of grave prognosis. Its accuracy goes roughly as follows. Of 1,026 known cancer patients, 92.7% had a positive test with a mean level of 273. Normal controls have a mean level of 59 and outpatients out of a hospital without cancer are around 64. Up to 135 is considered normal.
Now, if you take known cancer patients whose level is below 135 (the so-called false negative), out of 135 patients, 90 will be dead within a year. Their immune system is being overwhelmed and they are in trouble. The cancer is winning. This appears to me to be an interesting test. The antibody shows up when you have cancer. It can kill the cancer cell in a petri dish but inside your body, the cancer cell can hide and escape. It goes down when you are successfully treated. Where would you be helped with its use? How about when you have a positive mammogram and are skeptical that you've been fully evaluated? How about before you start taking estrogen therapy if you are worried about having cancer being initiated by the hormones.
How about when you are losing weight and can't find any reason for it. How about when your doctor says your cancer was successfully treated, and you want to make sure. It's a tool. It should be part of a basket of ideas that you know how to follow and monitor. It may not be the best, most precise, most accurate, but don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough. The problem is the dry ice. It has to be shipped on dry ice. That's a bit hard to do. But where there is a will, there is a way.
WWW: What will work for me. I'm really curious about this one. It certainly appears to raise some people's ire, but like all medical tests, it is a tool. I'm interested to see what they track record we can generate. In any case, I have the kits on order and found a source of dry ice that you can buy by the pound.
- What does the AMAS test test for? Answer: The presence of an antibody to a protein called malignin.
- What is malignin? Answer: A protein put out by just about every cancer.
- When your cancer is very advanced, what happens to the test? Answer: It starts to fall and drops off as the cancer overwhelms the immune system and races out of control.
- How can you tell the difference between an early cancer and one that is getting out of control? Answer: You can't. You have to get a series of tests and see what the slope of change is.
- Is this test useful? Answer: You bet, particularly when you are in a position of wanting to know early about the presence of a cancer. Example: you have had a mastectomy at age 35 and were told you were cancer free. You have just gotten married and met the man of your dreams, and you want to have a child. Is there cancer still in you. Would you be reassured?