The pharmaceutical companies seem to own the healthcare world. Botanical substances tend to be pooh-poohed—no matter the science—in favor of expensive drugs that go through an approval system that the American people, and their legislators, seem to trust. But many pharmaceuticals are based on botanical substances. Taxol, for example, is a substance from the Pacific Yew tree that has proven to be of benefit to those with metastatic breast cancer. So why, then, is it so difficult to have a botanical substance sourced, tested, and approved for sale?
The answers to these questions lie in the very well-researched, well-written, and finely edited book by Sylvie Beljanski, Winning the War on Cancer: The Epic Journey Towards a Natural Cure. Beljanski’s father discovered the cancer-fighting properties of two botanical substances, and had many studies to support his findings. Unfortunately, he died in France before he could see his work come to fruition. His daughter, Sylvie, an attorney, fought to retrieve his research papers, and eventually, buy and have his entire laboratory, shipped to the United States, where she continued his work, endeavoring to get these life-saving compounds out to those who need them the most.
Serendipity plays a large role in her journey, as does calamity and governmental intervention. Pao Pereira, one of the trees that is a source for one of Beljanski’s medications, is most readily available in Brazil. Despite efforts to farm this tree for its medicinal bark, just as she seemed to gain traction in the medical world, the Brazilian government confiscated the trees and set her back almost to square one. But as one door closed, another opened.
This is an inspiring book about a woman on a mission. She not only wanted to clear her father’s good name from charlatans exploiting his efforts, but she wanted also to bring these life-saving drugs to those who suffer from a variety of cancers. She tells her story with great passion, both the small victories that pile up one upon the other, and the disasters that threaten to derail the entire program. Indeed, she devotes her life to this work, at the expense of her marriage, and at times, her health.
It is these particulars of her personal health and her marriage that I could have done without, but I understand that the inclusion of these details helped tell the story of her very problematic journey to bring a natural cure for cancer to the world. There are other details about RNA fragments that could be expanded, some information about Gingko biloba, and a brief nod to the compound that helps with hypertension, all of which could be expanded in order to help more people find good health. But the real meat of this book is the journey that a botanical compound needs to navigate in order to be tested and found effective, and eventually approved by the FDA for general use.
This is a book that will appeal, first of all, to anyone struggling with cancer, or who has a family member, or even knows someone so afflicted. (And don’t we all?) Second, this book is a virtual text on the labyrinthine measures one must go through to acquire funding for clinical trials. And third, this is the inspirational story of a woman who answers the call to do something good for humanity. She may have started out wanting to secure her father’s good name, but ends up working for the good of the world. I give this book 4 out of 4 stars.